Monday, January 11, 2010

Peru Part....11


The cyclists had a final rest stop twelve miles from the orphanage. I waited for all the riders to pass and then sent the support taxi ahead to the orphanage. The cycling group was now spread out over one hour. The delivery truck had already arrived ahead of us and was being unloaded. It had been a long, hot, muddy day and everyone was ready for a shower.

I was riding in the back of the remaining riders and I could see them a hundred yards ahead. We were going up a shallow grade and our pace had slowed to a jogging pace. When the riders ahead of me passed the village of Gloriabamba I noticed some young men yelling something and running out toward the road. By the time I arrived at the village the men were near the road. My first reaction was to go faster past them like they were a pesky dog. Going up the grade on the rough road I knew I couldn’t outrun them. They yelled something and I stopped to see what they wanted. One of the men came up to me and immediately started opening my large saddlebag. My wallet and camera were in there to keep safe from the rain. The situation was very similar to my confrontation with the thugs in Lima. Now I was on a seclude jungle road and the nearest policeman was 40 miles away in Satipo. I knew getting my camera and wallet back would be hopeless again.

When he opened the saddlebag he exposed the handle of a kitchen knife I was carrying to cut fruit and maybe even use for self defense. I withdrew the knife and I yelled “No”. I waved the knife and he stepped back. I got off my bike and continued walking away from the village. By this time five other guys had arrived and were walking toward me. Some were picking up rocks and one guy had a rifle aiming at me. The situation wasn’t good and my little knife wasn’t much help against a rifle. I kept walking and yelling in my broken Spanish that I was going to Puerto Occopa to help the orphan kids. The six guy were getting closer and I was expecting the worst. I was hoping to stall long enough until a taxi would drive by. Ahead a silver pick up truck was coming toward me. I stood in the middle of the road and blocked the truck. I was yelling and pointing to the six guys about fifteen feet away. At least I was going to have a witness in case they shot me.

The truck driver and the guys started talking and I could tell the truck driver was trying to tell them that I was part of the tourist group he had seen up ahead in Puerto Occopa. The guys wanted to see what was in my pack. The truck driver got out and motioned for me to open my pack. I showed them my raincoat, tools and snacks I was carrying. Everyone was satisfied I wasn’t carrying drugs or body parts. The tension seemed to subside and I extended my hand to say thank you to the driver and the guys in the group. I especially wanted to shake the hand of the guy with the rifle who had been pointing it at my chest five minutes earlier.

With a renewed outlook on life I got back on my bike. My speed had now doubled and I didn’t want to be off the back of the group again. I arrived at the orphanage and some of the girls were waiting for me to show me the way into the driveway. I wasn’t in the best mood and I wanted to talk to the head nun. It turned out the mayor of the village and a local official were also at the orphanage. I told them my story about being stopped by the men on the road. They said the men at Gloriabamba were stopping gringo tourists who might be killing their children and stealing body parts. The nun and mayor and local official said the story was absurd but the village people keep repeating the story. The police had tried to track down the story and went from village to village to find out where the murders had occurred. It turns out the story was a urban legend that had never happened. The story sounded so good it was being repeated throughout Peru. During our travels in the mountains we heard similar stories from locals about the problems they had heard in other mountain towns.


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