Monday, January 11, 2010

Peru Part ...10


Riding into the Jungle
At 5:00 AM we awoke to the sound of rain on the hotel roof. It was pouring hard and the street curbs were overflowing with drainage water. We were suppose to ride our bikes 46 miles to the Puerto Occopa Orphanage. Some of the riders hadn’t intended to ride because this section of road is only recommended for mountain bikes with fat two inch wide tires. There were six riders who wanted to try riding to the orphanage. We organized the group into riders and non riders. The non riders would share special taxies which were built for the rough road. The cyclists departed first and the taxies and delivery truck would follow about one hour later. As the taxies passed the cyclists they would give out snacks and beverages along the route.

This section of road is famous for drug smuggling and bandits robbing tourists. Our truck load of supplies was being escorted by some of the boys from the orphanage who could convince the bandits the food was for them and not tourists. The nuns also told us another recent problem about a rumor that American tourists who were traveling deep into the jungle to steal the eyes and kidneys from local children. The tourists would then take the organs back to the United States and sell them. I tried to tell the nuns it would be very impractical to travel 300 miles deep into the jungle just to steal organs. There are hundreds of homeless kids living near the Lima airport who could supply much fresher body parts. The nuns agreed, but they didn’t think my logic could stop a good story from spreading through the jungle.

With our group divided between taxies and bikes, the cyclists started riding at 9:00 AM in a mild drizzle. The road turned to grapefruit size rocks shortly outside of town. Some riders called this road “The Road of Skulls” because of the large jagged rocks. Between the rain, mud and slippery rocks this was going to be a tough cycling day. A special taxi with good suspension can average 15 mph. A mountain bike is doing well to average 8 mph.

We were staying on schedule and reached the halfway point by noon. The sun was coming out and the temperature was nearing 95 degrees in the steaming jungle. The road was narrow and the vegetation grew tall and tight against the sides of the road. Cruising down the road was similar to traveling on a muddy lane in a corn field. Passengers in the taxies needed to keep their elbows inside the car to avoid getting whipped by the roadside branches. When two vehicles met on the narrow road one car had to pull halfway off the road and allow the other to squeeze by.


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