September 06, 2003

Nightmare in Cuzco

Spent the major part of Thursday on a bus from Puno to Cuzco enjoying the beautiful andean scenery and playing chess on the bus. As we got to Cuzco we strolled downtown to find a few tour operators and arrange some activities for our stay before and after the Inka Trail. For the Friday we opted for mountain biking and we also booked a day of white water rafting for the day after the trail.

Having not eaten anything for a few days, and thus being hungry as a bear, I was well up for the pizza that we had that night.. but sadly my stomach did not quite agree with the heavy food and when I started feeling nauseous after dinner I could do nothing but catch a cab back to the hotel to go to bed. Oh well.. got a good nights sleep and felt fine the next morning.

The following day was definitely one to forget..

We set off to go mountain biking in the early morning. Having driven up to our starting point at Chinchero in a minivan, we got on our bikes to cycle down to Urubamba in the Sacred Valley, stopping on the way to see the Inka terraces in Moray and the salt works in Maras. So far so good.. but soon things started going wrong.

After about half an hour of going flat out on good dirt roads the pedal of my bike suddenly fell off. Luckily I managed to control the bike and stop to pick up the pedal. The bolt holding the pedal in place was gone however, which meant I had to lead the bike half a mile to find the others which hadn't seen my incident.
Luckily there was a spare bolt in the service van following us, so after a short delay I was good to go again.

Unfortunately, the bolt didn't seem to stay on very well, and so five minutes later I could feel the pedal getting loose again. Just as I decided to stop pedalling and simply roll as far as my speed would carry me, I feel a slight irritation in one of my eyes as my contact lens was drying out. Usually it helps to blink a couple of times to moisten and align the lens. So I blink once and, low and behold, the irritation disappeared.. but so did my contact lens. For the rest of the day I was stuck with 2D vision.. which is quite scary when you're flying down single track paths on a mountain bike with drops of 20-30 meters on your side.

Somehow I successfully managed to navigate my bike without further incidents to the town of Maras where we stopped for lunch. Next it was time for some technical biking down from Maras via the salt works to Urubamba. We were flying down scarily steep and rocky mountain paths fuelled by loads of adrenaline. Despite my limited vision I thoroughly enjoyed it.. until in one thight corner I realised I would go over the edge unless I turned a bit more. Braking a bit too hard on the front brake, turning a bit too much.. it could only end in one way.. and it did. Over the steering wheel I went flying and having come down heavily on my shoulder and rolled I finally stopped right one the edge of a 15 feet drop. I was in quite some pain.. my shoulder was hurting but it seemed to be okay (although it's still quite painful a week later.. might have to have it checked up when I get back), and I had a few bruises on my legs which were easily cleaned up with a few tissues. In the end nothing was broken and I wasn't seriously hurt.

After a well needed breather we continued down the mountain.

Right as we hit a bit of a flat section I could feel my pedal coming loose again. Carrying a fair amount of speed I managed to roll to where our guide had stopped. As I sat down to tighten the bolt I suddenly felt my sole remaining contact fall out of my eye. Riding a bike seeing only with one eye might be difficult.. but it's still somewhat doable. I wouldn't even get on an exercise bike in the gym without seeing on either eye. That's how bad my vision is. Luckily I found the lens lying on the ground and after a few minutes of fiddling with it and cleaning off the dirt with some eye drop solution I had it back in my eye. Pheew..

If this wasn't enough my legs started cramping soon after.. and they wouldn't stop. Couldn't quite figure out a way to stretch my inside tight muscles properly, so I had to resort to rubbing them and resting as much as I could. Fifteen meters from the van my legs gave up, and I had to hand the bike to a friend to take it back while I limped back as best I could. Oh well. At least I made it.. and despite all the incidents it was sooooo much fun.

Back in Cuzco I managed to find an optician which had lenses that closely resembled my prescription, so I bought a replacement lens and a spare pair.

Just as I thought my string of bad luck was finally broken, it comes back and smacks me right in the face..

Having dropped off my compact flash cards from my digital camera at a photo shop to get the photos burned to a cd we headed to an internet cafe with a couple of friends to do some emailing. Some fifteen minutes later I randomly decide to snap a picture of us in the cafe.. but as I put my hand in the pocket of my jacket I realise the camera is gone. Fuck! Somebody had obviously nicked the camera out of my pocket somewhere between the photo shop and the internet cafe..

So just when my luck couldn't possibly get any worse.. it did so.

The only consolation was that I didn't lose and photos as I'd just handed in my big CF cards which contained around 500 photos in total, and in the camera I only had a small empty card.

I got a police report sorted so my travel insurance should cover the cost of a replacement camera. It still sucks to be without a camera for the rest of the trip. Luckily both Martin and Owen carry digital cameras and so I'm able to use theirs and get copies of all the pictures.

Needing to get up early the next morning to set off on the Inka Trail I wasn't really up for going out. With my luck the bed seemed like the safest option. Had a quiet glass of wine in Los Perros none the less to chill before hitting the sack.

What a day.

More to come soon..

Posted by markus at September 6, 2003 08:42 AM
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