38 Tunnels & Dancing Transvestites
Updated: Apr 16
I woke up very early and couldn't get back to sleep for a while, posting a simple report and planning the day. At breakfast with Ken, Chip and Ward, we three discussed plans. KC and the Sunshine Band were going for family near Lima and Ward decided to follow me. I'd missed Cajamarca, staying on the main highway until 2 long days were under the bike's belt. I now had some trust in it and decided to head for Huaraz and some Andes scenery away from the desert sand and dunes.
Ken did some work on Chips' motorcycle carb, which was farting a bit and got it running much smoother than the previous day. Ward and I packed up and said our goodbyes, heading back north a ways to catch the road east into the Andes, sweltering in the heat of the sun.
As the valley continued, dry and sandy everywhere except along the river, the heat didn't let up. It stayed in the 90's as we wove along the narrow road, passing several sets of cops, orange corn and orange peppers drying along the roadside amidst the melted clay and straw mud brick walls of habitations and abandoned farms.
The mountains looked like rusty remains, the oranges and browns of desert and no greenery at all reminders of the incredible harshness of the land. In the distant lands and haze, the high mountains could be seen. The river was large and running fast along the roadside, many sections of pavement missing from floods on one side and eroding sand on the other.
The canyons grew and got tighter, the road becoming a narrow single lane swerving and twisting, but carrying two way traffic. Finding places to pull over became routine as cars or large trucks would come barreling around blind curves requiring immediate maneuvers.
As I got into the valley, excitement and incredulity arose. I was feeling deep emotions that were driven by the realization that after so many years of dreaming and trying to make it happen, I was now riding my motorcycle in the Peruvian Andes. It was something I greatly relished. At last, I felt the deep emotions of a true adventure. It seemed as if I were in Afghanistan or Pakistan, amidst the barren mountains and facing a rough, narrow road along a roaring river leading me to somewhere unknown. It was hard to take in and hard to let go. Another moment I'll never forget, ever.
The road got better and better, and by that I mean narrower and twistier, higher and rougher despite the crumbling blacktop. Sudden swerves and much rock debris from the vast mountainsides above kept you cognizant of where you were. Water ran across the road from streams and dripped from overhangs cut into the mountainside. Tunnels began to appear, with warning signs to honk when going through. They were only a bit wider than a car and made curves and turns in the darkness. Time after time a car or truck would exit just before I entered, and then in the darkness I'd strain to see any form of light from an oncoming car on the wall ahead. It added much interest to the ride.
After a while I stopped counting the tunnels and just focused on the road and scenery. Several times my gawking almost got me but I couldn't stop enjoying the stunning views above me.
At a road intersection, we crossed a steel bridge and stopped to see if the tiny place had some snacks or food. Two cans of tuna and crackers later we were satiated and watched the few people there. Across the way a couple and their daughter and boy were setting up a fruit stand.
As we walked to the bikes, the man came over and asked to take a picture of the bike. His daughter had her cell phone and shot a picture, but I invited them the pose with the bike and after several pics they were smiling. I went over to the stand to look at their fruit to ask about the large green beans I see in peoples hands. I was told they were "guaves" and they happily gave me one as well as two mangos.
As I walked back to the bike, the man came back to me and asked for my FaceBook, so I happily gave him a card.
The folks around waved and gave us big smiles as we rode away.
We had been riding a couple or three hours, roughly 80 miles, and still had only reached the midpoint of the canyon. Huaraz lay another 80 miles ahead. The canyon ride led higher and higher, as we continued through tunnels and switchbacks, passing through a couple of villages, the children waving happily to see us rolling through. Here and there the indigenous women walked the streets in their colored leggings, bright skirts, black wraps and tall white hats. It was really amazing to see them on the roadsides but impossible to get a picture.
As we passed through a village, there were colorfully dressed men and dancers on a side street. We both quickly pulled in and got off the bikes.
On the sidewalks people watched the dancing and music and as we walked up to shoot some photos, we were quickly dragged into the dance by the locals and two guys dressed as sexy women. Neither of us get the transvestite thing completely, as it's seen around the towns during the holidays. Aside from the two dancing guys, the crowd wore men's suits with masks and the colorful men had on various primitive masks. The music was fun and the locals were dancing but when we showed up they all began shouting for us to enter the dance and then swallowed us up. I was handed a white handkerchief and swirled around with my new buddy.
It was funny and bizarre at the same time but totally enjoyable. As the music stopped he/she kept trying to get me to go in the bar and said "cerveza" over and over. I kept trying to tell him I couldn't since I was riding but he was insistent. I finally drug him near enough to Ward, who speaks Spanish, who interpreted and he was asking for a gratuity for himself to buy a beer. I handed him a pile of coins and he was happy.
Rain was ahead, and as Ward donned his blue temporary rain suit he'd picked up, a local guy came to watch us then warned me of the tunnels ahead and how dangerous they were as the traffic would be coming straight at us.
When Ward had finished his attire, the people in the crowd were smiling and laughing. I told him he needed to go join the dancers in the fiesta. He laughed and we headed out, climbing steep switchbacks and going much higher, the sides dropping off far below. The next several miles were filled with steep drop-offs and tunnels, much longer and filled with apprehension. However I had no fear of anything, after all, I'd just danced with a man wearing panties.
I watched as the elevation climbed to 8,000 and 9,000 feet as the rains finally came. We only had about 30 miles left but it took a while on the twisty road. The winds were gusting, and Ward's rain suit would fill with wind and inflate substantially then deflate again. I got a chuckle out of it, and when we finally reached the town of Huaraz, as the altimeter passed 10,000 feet, I saw a girl staring at him from an adjacent car while the suit was inflated. I started laughing at her expression, which started my complete unraveling. I blame fatigue from not having slept much the previous night, and the lack of oxygen...
Blue Rain Suit + Inflation + Oxygen Deprivation =
The mangos they gave me were better than any fruit I've eaten, anywhere. It was the strangest sensation, as when I bit into the fruit it was so delicious I literally could not stop eating it, and devoured the second piece without stopping.In my life I have never experienced that!