This has been a very hard stretch. Especially the first
half before we reached Cusco. I do not want to sound like a complainer, as
a rule I am not one to complain. It would be crazy to set off on a trip
like this if you were prone to dwell on the negative but Peru has been very
difficult. In order to tell our story I am going to have to talk about
several bad things that have been happening to us or around us. We have
endured unfriendly locals who threw rocks at us, our camp stove started a slow
but inevitable death, we encountered a two day blizzard, rats, bad roads, worse food, a high
speed crash, and people persistently asking for money at every turn. These
things are really wearing us down.
I often fear describing the negative aspects of a country
because this seems out of fashion in the traveling world. It is not
politically correct to tell of the ugly side of any poor country. While it
seems safe to describe bad weather and roads the local people are off limits.
I have done this in the past and received a lot of criticism. There will
be those people that read this letter and write me emotional
emails defending Peru. I can hear it now. "Tim, I spent two
weeks in Peru and had a great time. All the people were just wonderful,
honest, and cheerful. You must not be doing something correctly" I
will have to repeatedly explain to them that riding a bus through Peru or taking
a guided tour is nowhere near the same as riding a bike through Peru. On a
bike you see it all even when it is bad or ugly. The guide books avoid
mention of the dark places and steer the herd away from them. The group
tours completely deny the negative aspects exist and tell their customers a
different story. I got news for you. No place is perfect and
completely full of the shinny happy people that you see in the tourist brochure.
Peru was mostly full of great people and good experiences but it has areas that
are currently experiencing deep political problems and great tension.
These problems often surfaced in the way that we were treated on the road.
I have always been proud of the fact that I report what happens in our travels
truthfully. I do not sugar coat things even though I probably should to be
more accepted. It is just not my way. How do you sugar coat
countless kids throwing rocks at us.
Conditions got so bad that a couple times I thought Cindie was going to quit on me.
She still is having a very hard time with the hardships and worries me a lot.
She is a very strong woman but everyone has their breaking point. When she
brings up the idea of flying home all I have to say is "Well, it would be sad
to have to go on with out you". This always brings her back to looking
at the maps and dreaming of what is next down the road. I have been trying to make things as easy on her as
possible. We stay in cheap hotels as much as can and have not camped
much in this stretch. We have also pushed the budget so she
can get some pizza and salad when it is available. This breaks up the
monotony of the typical Peruvian food of chicken and white rice. Once we
made it to the modern city of Cusco her spirits lifted a little but she is
still a bit blue. I am not sure how I am going to get her through Bolivia.
I try to keep her motivated with the promise that Argentina and Chile will be
much more comfortable. I am told that these two countries, like Mexico, have a much
higher standard of living and better food. Please help me out by sending her
some encouraging email.
I try to look on the positive side. Without the hardships mentioned above we would be unable to
know our limits and the very "stuff" inside us that makes us who we are.
What an opportunity this is. How many people in this world really get to
reveal these hidden secrets about themselves? How lucky I think we
are. In the end I believe that it will make us stronger people if we can
just get through it together.
This part of Peru has not been all bad. We have seen
endless towering mountains whose beauty will forever be burned into my mind and
witnessed ways of life that I never thought existed. It has taught me more
about the struggle that some people must endure than any other place that we
have been so far. To experience this human struggle is to do no less than
change your life forever. There were complete strangers who
helped a couple of lost traveling fools along. There are always those people in even
the most difficult living situations that will always retain their heart of gold.
Cindie and I could have never made it through without their help. On a
bicycle you depend on the goodness of the human race. The
Peruvian Police have also been great. We usually avoid the police in Latin
America but learned to skip this rule while in Peru. Without their help we
would have had a completely different experience. I do wish that they were
as warm and gentile with there own countrymen but as you will read later they
can act differently if you are not a tourist. We also had a good friend from Prescott AZ (the last place we lived)
fly in and visit us. This visit was short because she had travel plans of
her own but it went a long way to cheer Cindie up. It was wonderful to see
a familiar face. We are usually strangers to everyone but each other in
these foreign lands.
She also brought us some much needed equipment including
a new stove. Another great thing was the big sack of real paper mail from
most of you, the readers of this newsletter, waiting for us in Cusco. We
received post cards and letters from five continents with warm messages and
invitation to stay when we reach their corner of the world. It was amazing
to me how well people seem to know every detail of our lives now. People
are reading more of the web site than I ever anticipated. Some parts of
our web site are purposely hard to find but many people seem to be finding
everything. I never expected that. Finally, we visited the most
incredible Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. They were spectacular in every way.
If there was ever a place where magic exists this must be that place.
Everyone on this planet must see Macchu Picchu at least once in their lives.
It is that good!
WAKE UP CALL
There is a intricate "grapevine" of information being
exchanged between international touring cyclists drifting through South America
(and the world). This information is passed through email and word of mouth by
cyclist passing each other on the road. We know who is in front of us and
who is behind us. We hear of new people starting their trips all the time
and know when people ran out of time and went home. Cindie and I are known
as "The American Couple" on the trail of information. This describes us
well. There are very few Americans traveling down here and even fewer on
Through this grapevine of cyclist information we heard some very depressing news.
We have been exchanging emails with a couple from Thailand, Wan and Mou,
who are also traveling around the world by bike. They are known on the
trail as the "Thai Couple". We occasionally email each other asking
questions about the places and bicycle touring conditions each of us has ridden
through. Cindie and I have never had the pleasure of meeting Wan and Mou
face to face but hope to some day. They are heading to North America and we
are heading to Africa. Hopefully when we reach Thailand we can
call on them if they are done with their travels by then. Wan and Mou had
some very bad luck.
When we received the first email in Spanish about the
disaster we had to sit down and think hard. It was from a Peruvian
cyclist Lucho and told the story about Wan and Mou getting robbed while on their
bikes in Ecuador. It sent shivers down
our backs. This was a big wake up call to us as to just how dangerous
these countries can be. After Lucho's email and several others in Spanish about the Thai couple getting
robbed the news broke out in the English speaking side of the trail of information. Soon our email box was buzzing in two languages
about the bad news from cyclists
traveling on five continents. Everyone seemed to know that we were in the
same area. Because we have a history of contact with
Wan and Mou I wrote them myself and asked what happened. Below is their
reply with the description of the robbery in their own words. Please remember that English is
not their first language. Not everyone's is!
Dear Tim & Cindie,
are greatly appreciate for your message. Thank you very much. We are
very sorry that we did not get to meet as our schedule is not match. We
always think of you. We have been following your journey in your web
and enjoying very much. So you did have a good time staying with Lucho
& family in Trujillo. We did send a postcard to Lucho so he could pass
our news to all our cyclist friends. We were robbed at 8KM out of
Riobamba and on the way to Ambato at 9.10am. There were 5 men and each
of them have a gun. They are well-prepared to rob us on the road, must
have been seeing us on the main road riding from Riobamba. Our computer
notebook, 3 cameras, 2 Palm pilot, 2 bicycle key locks, radio,
tape recorder, ATM, Credit Card and other things totally 25 items. Just
5 minutes after they left, 2 policemen rode a motorbike and found us in
the jungle. It was quite a big surprise why they found us at 200M
uphill far from the main road.
We are ok now. It takes us long time and many things to do to get
everything organize and continue. We are now in Cali, Colombia. We are having
a good time with Colombians. The weather is nice and warm here, just like my
country Thailand. We are going to ride in Central America countries soon. Many
people has warn us of visiting Nicaragua, Honduras and Guatemala. Do you have
any advice for us about cycling in Central America? Appreciate for your advice.