Saturday, October 6, 2012

Finishing's Cool!

Anta, about 1pm and 25 kilometres west of Cusco was the point at which we said goodbye to Fritz with many thanks for all his hospitality and gracious guiding across the Andes. He’d dropped us at the local mototaxi repair shop where things were in a reassuring state of disarray. It was the usual set-up, one guy who knew what he was doing and the rest observing and offering useless advice. The sun beat down through an everlasting dark blue sky. As we explained the symptoms as best we could as our mechanic began the lengthy process of dismantling the engine. Lengthy, because like all the other mechanics we’d dealt with, he divided his time between every job serially; each project getting a few minutes of attention, interrupted by anyone passing by with something new to fix. Eventually, the parts lay before him, the shredded drive gear had blown teeth all through transmission, and he told Zaya that there was no way he could fix the bike until the next morning. “But we need to be in Urubamba by six, tonight!”, Zaya said. They went back and forth until he eventually couldn't resist Zaya any longer and agreed to get it done if he could. He did. By 4:30 that afternoon we were being led out of Anta by a complete stranger and directed along the back roads and the shortcut to Urubamba. Mid-afternoon had turned a little wild, rain and wind, but by early evening the sun began a long golden decline.

We drove alongside Lake Huaypo and some of the most beautiful scenery of the trip. The snow crested mountains away in the distance reflected on the lake, disturbed only by a cool wind. Little did we know that 20 years ago Lake Huaypo was the scene of a mysterious UFO sighting. Two young boys were out hunting frogs when the lake turned into a seething cauldron out of which shot a jet-propelled air mattress. One of the boys was knocked over by the bizarre machine and suffered severe injuries which almost killed him. But that was then and now all we wanted was to get onto the main road and reach the finish line before it got dark and some idiot in a truck ran us down.

The Adventurists’ Department of Crap Maps had outdone itself, but we found the restaurant and our colleagues anyway. It was great to actually drive across the finish line and greet the other teams that had made it ahead of us. Stories were swapped, Pisco Sours were drunk and a gigantic buffet consumed. Silly games were organized and serious drinking ensued. In an homage to Burning Man, the Adventurists had commissioned a giant wooden statue of an Inca god and promptly set it alight with a shower of fireworks.

Partying carried on into the wee hours, but at midnight I took a chance and joined Dave and Hobbit as they headed back to their hotel, which, they assured me, had rooms and was extremely well appointed. They were right on both counts. Peru had given us everything we could have wished for, bar one, Machu Picchu. That was to be the ‘icing on the cake’ as Dave later said. My adventures in Peru weren’t finishing with the Mototaxi Junket, just entering the next phase.

I said goodbye to Zaya at the party assuming we’d see each other in the morning. She was heading down to Bolivia or El Salvador before heading back to the USA for her immigration exam, followed by a quick visit to Mongolia for Christmas. At the end of the party, though, she’d joined a group heading for Cusco and we didn’t see each other again. We managed to catch up via the web later and said our farewells more properly and promised to track each other’s future adventures.

One of the things I most enjoy about traveling with Zaya is her open way with people and perhaps more importantly her genuine interest in them. That makes it easy for strangers to help her find her way through the world. For Zaya little things like money, or the myriad of challenges we faced, are simply hurdles to be overcome, not roadblocks or excuses for inaction. 90% of life is turning up, the other 10% is moving on. I’m sure that one day we’ll see the film of Zaya’s travels – if she ever sits still long enough to edit it.

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