After a day’s break I’m ready to move again. This time towards the tourist hot spot of Machu Picchu, but with a bit of a twist. Instead of paying the exorbitant $1000 to have guide walk me up the hill, after a bus and train ride I decided to make the most of Katie. I found that it would be possible to ride Katie within two hours walking distance of the base of the mountain. And there’s a Hydro Electrical plant there…I’m sure they wouldn’t mind storing my bike for a night or two.

A friend who I have been bumping into for the entire trip, Agnes, arrived at the hostel and was probably even more excited about the plan than me, we would go together. We packed light and left first thing the following morning.

The ride out was about 60% paved, we’ll call this the first section. The first section followed a powerful river deep into a massive valley, as the valley narrowed, the road began t climb the mountain side via a step road, with exactly 36 hair pin turns. It is here that I noticed something – Peruvian drivers don’t care that I exist.

We climbed slowly and eventually over the mountain pass, which took us through the clouds, but we still felt miniaturised by the snowy peaks rising another two thousand meters on either side.

The second section of “road” came upon us quickly, on the way back down the mountainside it started to become patchy, just whole segments of road that seemed to have casually gone missing. After not long the patches gave way to a dusty gravel and sand combination of absolutely hellish riding. Potholes more closely resembled ponds, single lane the entire way with too many blind turns and by far the deepest river crossings I have ever tackled. I can see why this is not something most tourist tackle, instead taking the luxury train right to the base of the mountain.

After a quick chat with the manager of the Hydro Electrical plant, Katie is locked up and we are ready to go. From here, the story is one you have probably heard many times, the little town Agauas Calliente at the base is beautiful and Machu Picchu drew all the ooo’s and ahhh’s from me that it does most tourist, there’s a reason why 2500 people visit each day.

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We decided to ride back to Cusco the same day we climbed Maccu Pichu, you know, cause why not push yourself a little (4hr hiking and 6 hours riding).

Loaded and ready to leave Cusco, two bags and one Pom heavier. Agnes decided to skip Colca Canyon so she could hitch a ride with me to Lima and I was happy for the company, even if it did make the riding a little harder.

We hit the road on the first day to Abancay, straight back into the hairpins. We dipped into the valley outside of Cusco, then climbed back into the mountains to find ourselves resting in abancay after 5 hours on the cycle, but only 200km under our belt.

The next day we rose early, Agnes was deftly ill and coughing and spluttering on the back of the bike, but didn’t complain once. It was a tough riding day, 465km up into the high plateau via more switchbacks. The whole day I couldn’t help but think how Martian the scenery was. Nearly completely scarce of signs of life, except for the off llama, donkey or lone vulture flying overhead.

We passed two KLE500’s with South Australian number plates on a tight turn where they were resting, then they passed us as we sat on the side of the road doing the same. In the afternoon we caught them. Kev and Karen, a sixty-something year old couple who had been married for 30 plus years. I remembered seeing the bikes in Patagonia many months ago. They had since taken a different route, up the east coast, Paraguay, brazil and then through the Atacama desert to Chile.

I pulled in behind them, they were stopped on the side of the road enjoying a view of the mountains and yellow wild flowers that rolled down their side. Before I pulled my helmet off I said “G’day” in my most booming Australian accent. To which Karen replied, “you’re kidding me, another Aussie”. Smiles and laughs were exchanged as introductions rolled of our tongues.

We let them enjoy their lunch but planned to meet in Nasca for dinner.

As the afternoon rolled on the road became more and more immaculate. I’m talking bends that were easily fit for a Moto GP track, perfect curves with cant and traction that had me laying a fulling loaded trial bike, two-up, on it’s side and scraping my knee. Agnes loved the curves as much as I did and said it felt nearly like flying. The riding was amazing.

By the time Agnes and I find the Hotel Karen and Kev had mentioned they were already there. We unloaded, showered and then all went for a beer. It was like we were family immediately. Kev was an aircraft engineer in the Air Force since his late twenties and had just retired. Before going into the service, at 19, he and Karen bought a combie and drove it around Europe. They say it changed their life, made them value travel over money, a philosophy they have been living ever since. Karen had lost her brother recently and Kev his uncle just the day prior. Kev was a quiet and reserved guy, so when he leaned over the table to speak Agnes and I shut up and listened, he had the kind of presence that made you listen.

He said that life is too short and you never ever know when you’re going to meet your maker. Make sure you are living everyday, filling yourself with memories worth something, because it’s the only thing that is.

We enjoyed two beers, more than they would usually have in an evening and pizza.

They left early in the morning and we unfortunately missed them, I wish we would have exchanged details. But they left a lovely note under our door.

“Hi Shane & Aggie, Sorry we missed you guys at breakfast. Stay safe & might see you along the way! Cheers, Kev and Karen”

This combined with an incredibly inspirational email from my first boss Ross, combined with a cool breeze and is indicative of a hot day was a perfect way to start my last leg to the coast. Inspired, present and happy in the world. There are great people out there and I am lucky to have met some of them.

From here we headed for Huacachina, a place I had never heard of and probably would have ridden straight by if it wasn’t for Agnes. Fuck I’m glad I didn’t.

This place is a literal Oasis. Dune buggies roar through the dunes and take you to the top of the biggest ones for scream inducing sand  boarding.

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Just a short ride north I had my first taste of the ocean again. We rolled into town around midday, I’m pretty sure you could see a trail of my riding gear strew from the car park to the beach, I couldn’t get back in the water fast enough. With the ocean came back a flood of memories, one dive underneath and I was transported to swimming in the Sydney harbour at summer time.

My body didn’t react quite as well as my mind did to the change. My Andean tan that I have been working on since Patagonia quickly turned from a shade of snow-cap to British-backpacker-red.

The main reason (apart from its obvious abundance of fish) that Paracas exists is due to the Islands just off the coast. Lonely Planet calls them “the poor man’s Galapagos”. Still, I was in awe of the abundance of wildlife and really, I was just happy to be on the water.Screen Shot 2016-05-23 at 10.40.18 am

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