Friday, January 22, 2010

Cactus Fruit- Ocros-Abancay, Peru

Emerging from the tool shed we saw that the morning mist was just about burnt away. We began loading the bike in preparation for our departure with our fingers crossed that the road did'nt slide overnight.

Julie did'nt want to use the squatter toilets (a hole in the floor with two pads to put your feet) so we needed to leave town so she could pee on the side of the road like me. We bought some gas from a guy that had a bucket with graduations on it. I only rode 120km but for some reason I needed 3 gallons to fill it to the 3/4 mark on the tank.....hrmmmm?

We wearily proceeded to where the slide had occured and to our delight the road was passable. I stopped just before crossing and a small slide was happening before our eyes. Approximately 3 wheel burrows worth or sand and rock dumped onto the inside of the road. It was quiet again for a minute so I went for it. We passed without a problem. There were to pieces of machinery on hand to clear the road, one backhoe, and one bulldozer.

It was 830am and we were on our way to Abancay. The road was in decient shape and we began decending into a valley which was more arid than the previos few hundred kms. There were tall cacti and hearty grasses. We were encountering alot of animals on the road with their sheppards tending to them and husstling them out of our way so we could pass through the herds of: Goats, Sheep, Cows, etc.

We saw a flock of goats ahead mixed in with sheep with a woman standing high up on an embankment on the side of the road. I was riding at about 25-30km/hr just coasting with the gears for brakes and intermittently pumping the brakes to keep the speed under control during the steep decent. I saw a large dog bolting straight towards us (which has become commonplace) generally I just accelerate and the dog runs along side of us until he gets tired and goes away. This fellow was very athletic however. He ran along side of us by passing my meaty leg and went straight for the front tire. It all happened within two shakes of a lambs tail. Instinctively I manhandled the handle bars and up and over the dog we went. The bikes front suspension has about 10 inches of travel. The dog stood at about 18inches so when we rolled over him he felt like a squirmy soft 8 inch log. In the milli second that it all happened I managed to regain control of the bike. I believe that had we been going any faster or any slower the circumstances could have been worse. Luckily he went under the bike!

I glanced down to my right quickily and saw the poor fellow tumbling beside the bike. To my suprise the bugger got up and ran back towards the flock.....on three legs I might add. I could'nt believe that he got up! Our bike was traveling about 30km/hr and we weigh about 800lbs, how could he have survived? I did'nt stop, but rather kept on going in disbelief that we did'nt crash.

Moments later we decended into a small town which was situated on the edge of a deep but wide ravine with vertical walls that he river had carved. We followed the road right down into the depths of the canyon and proceeded towards the main river "Rio Pampas". The river was huge, about 60 feet across at the bridge crossing and raging. Up stream the river bed was a series of braided channels and was about 500 meters wide.

The road jutted upward and at 3000 meters the bike was sputtering along in agony. The slow speed allowed us to see a couple of young brothers picking "Tuna" cacti fruit that grows on the ears of the cactus plant. (the needles are the modified leafs) I don't know if these are considered prickly pear or not. The young fellows came right over and invited us to try the cactus fruit. He peeled the skin off and the fruit inside was a deep orange. It was full of hard seeds but the pulp was very sweet and enjoyable. The fellow said that it was a gift from Peru. He ran off in the distance along the side of the mountain while we stayed in the company of his little brother. Moments later he returned with a legume (bean pod). He tore it open explaining something that I just replied ..."" and inside was some fuzzy white beans. He instructed us to only eat the white fuzz on the bean and not to eat the black bean itself. It too was sweet..I did'nt like the texture because it was unlike anything i've eaten before, so I politely tried to decline the offer of a whole bunch of legumes that he picked for us. I tried my hand at picking the cactus fruit with a long bamboo pole split in three fingers at the end and flared enough to slide over the fruit. With a simple twist the fruit came off the cactus. The fruit in this region is ready for picking and the avacado trees, orange trees, lemon trees, and legume trees, and cacti are all ripe for the picking.

We continued on with our legumes bungeed to the bike for later and ascended high up again. Today would prove to be the most ascents and descents that i'm sure any road in the world could offer. We'd descend into a valley to 2800meters and across a river only to ascend back to well over 3800meters over the top of another range. Along the way people were cultivating potatoes, corn and possibly a few other varieties of plants which I did'nt recognise up the side of these ridiculosly steep mountain sides. Julie has decided that Peruvians can grow anything anywhere...desert to vertical walls and stay in good health.

Finally after 10 hours of motorcycling with only 1 hours of idle time we could see asphalt on the other side of a river. We followed along side the river for about 5 km until at last we crossed a small bridge to the main highway to Cuzco. It was just before dark and we decided to go to the town of Abancay for the night and rode around for a bit until we encountered the "Hotel Touristas" Julie liked it and we were in need of a shower after 2 full days of dusty dirt road riding. The hotel has the best restaurant in town so we hurried to the table to Fillet mingnon in order offset the self induced starvation warranted by the sheep/goat tongue stirfry's.

We'll sleep well tonight in a confortable bed nicer than the tool shed with clean sheets. Julie is happy so thus I can be happy too. Tomorrow we head to Cusco.


  1. Glad that dog didn't get the tire! That was a close call and a good call to just keep on going! Also glad that the accommodations improved over the shed...... ugh! M&D

  2. "What next...a fire breathing dragon?
    We are glad that you are having a wonderful adventure, BUT WE SURE WILL BE GLAD