NAZCA AND ITS LINES
I took a tour of the Nazca lines, furrows cut into the land whose iron-rich properties cause the figures to stand out. It was a fantastic experience, apart from the flight itself: the aircraft had to tilt on both sides to give everybody the chance to see the lines, and the side-to-side motion made my stomach turn. The lines are truly fascinating, particularly with the aura of mystery they still retain. At around 1 p.m. I continued my journey towards Cusco, aware that I would have to make an (unscheduled) stop as I would be unable to cover the full 650 km. And there was something else to bear in mind: the altitude. Upon leaving Nazca, I began climbing into the Andes; I know only that Cusco was located at approximately 3,400 m.a.s.l., but had no idea what altitudes I would encounter along the way, or how I would react. I had prepared myself a little over the previous days, but sorochi (altitude sickness) was always a possibility. The ascent began, and I was enormously surprised by the surface of the road: it was in excellent conditions, no potholes or dips, a pleasure to ride on. I put sorochi and everything else out of my mind and began to ride in earnest, greatly enjoying the experience — thanks in part to the flawless performance of the tyres. I’d travelled many mountain roads before, but this surpassed them all. An infinite series of curves, barely a straight line to be seen, just curves to be rounded with the sleek, smooth riding style typical of the Silver Bullet.
As I climbed to around 3,000 metres, I found that I was almost riding among the clouds, which were now very close, and a few raindrops began to fall. As I had more or less expected, I arrived in Puquio that evening. The altitude was around 3,200 m.a.s.l. but I felt no ill effects, just an understandable sense of weariness.
In the morning I set out for Cusco, around 500 km through the heart of the Andes.
CUSCO AND MACCHU PICCHU
After leaving Puquio the road continued to climb; here too riding conditions were excellent, with glorious curves carved out between the rocks and stunning countryside. I believe I must have reached and even exceeded 4,000 m.a.s.l., without any problems at all. I became convinced that as long as I was sitting in the saddle of the motorcycle, endorphins pumping, it would be impossible to be unwell, even despite the low oxygen. After the plateau began a series of ups and downs through forests and canyons. There among the mountains, I felt genuinely tiny; they towered over me on either side and every curve revealed yet another stunningly beautiful landscape. If I had to describe my innermost impressions of the journey, I would have to say that these scenes were the most uplifting and soothing for the soul. Perhaps, in the middle of that canyon, I truly understood the meaning of the word beauty, how it can impart a sense of well-being and how it can inspire the heart and soul to keep their curiosity and wonder alive. Beauty is never simply a matter of appearance: you can learn it, and you can make it your own. Maybe this is what travelling is really about.
As darkness descended, I arrived in Cusco; it was now evening and after a few attempts I found accommodation in a hotel for motorcyclists. Entering the inner courtyard with my motorcycle and revving in front of the reception, I was pleased to notice the presence of other motorcycles, almost all of them Triumph Tigers. Tourism in Cusco revolves around Machu Picchu, so it didn’t take me very long to organise a tour for the following day.
The next morning saw me wake up before dawn to be shuttled there, emerging into one of the world’s most beautiful archaeological sites. I was overwhelmed by the beauty that greeted me upon my arrival, but the little city perched on top of a mountain was not the only sight that took my breath away, for the scenery surrounding the town itself consisted entirely of mountains. Wherever I turned, my gaze fell on majestic green mountaintops: at Machu Picchu, the horizon ceases to exist. Wandering through the ruins, you get a strangely pleasant sense of being imprisoned within these peaks, as well as the feeling of being protected.
I got back to Cusco in the evening and met some Brazilian motorcyclists at the hotel, chatting briefly with them about the journey. As conversation turned to the Camino de la Muerte, which they had already travelled, they advised me to keep to the left as one of them had fallen — fortunately coming to no harm — after meeting a car. Impossible, I thought. That road hasn’t been used for years now, not since the new, paved and infinitely safer one became available. I asked nothing more but went to bed, thinking again of the Camino which I would face just a few days later.
The next morning came my departure for Puno, Lake Titicaca, 380 km away across the plateau.
PUNO AND THE BOLIVIAN BORDER
After leaving Cusco, I began monitoring my mileage to keep my fuel under control. From here out, in fact, I would find only two towns where I could be sure of being able to refuel, but these were over 200 km apart and there was a serious risk of running dry.
In the early afternoon I reached Puno, a pretty town rising from the shores of Lake Titicaca, the largest and highest body of water in South America and the location of the Copacabana Peninsula, where the Inca civilisation is thought to have been born. The evening passed peacefully, enjoying singing and dancing along the crowded streets of the town centre. In the morning, I set out once more for La Paz; around 260 km away, with some of the route skirting the lake and allowing me to admire its immensity. This would also be my first border crossing, leaving Peru behind and entering Bolivia.
During the journey, my thoughts kept turning to the political situation in Bolivia and the resulting tensions and protests. At the border, customs formalities were dealt with rapidly and the agents, who were fascinated by the motorcycle, stopped to chat a little with me, reassuring me about the situation in the country. Everything seemed calm, but the roadblocks along the way and in the cities had increased in an attempt to keep the situation under control prior to the elections in May.