When we woke up at 13k the tent was so covered in ice that the rain fly sagged into the mesh of the tent. We had spent the night in well below freezing temps, but the amazing marmot sleeping bags kept us warm and toasty! We got up several times during the night to see the stars as we were miles from any man made light source and the thinner atmosphere made for an unprecedented view of the night sky. There were more stars than black space in the sky! The ice on the tent and bikes was like small towers of crystal and melted in the morning sun. The herds of guanaco strolled trough our camp as we broke things down for the days ride. We had ridden a ways off the highway on a dirt "road" until our progress was halted by a raging river. The river was now a babbling brooke. The river must have been swelled by the downpours in the distance as we went to bed. Once we had dried out the tent and the bikes in the intense sun we hit the road only to stop a few kilometers away to listen to a group of people in a small brick hut playing home made instruments. It was a blue grassy tune and the people danced up a cloud of smoke on the dirt floor in the hut! The women were all dressed up and the men were dancing their hearts out! The road began to wind down in elevation until we hit about 5k and the temps climbed accordingly. The elevation didn't seem to be bothering us so we pushed on over the next pass. I checked the GPS at a mountain lake and we were already up to 15k! The view was like watching a movie with snow capped peaks piercing the blue sky. Alpine lakes dotted the landscape and we went down and up two more times before running into the night. The closer we came to cusco the more the guanaco gave way to herds of alpaca. Hundreds of them grazed in the limitless green pastures as waterfalls cascaded all around us. The last pass took us up to 13k and it began to rain, the sun had set and we couldn't find anywhere to set up a tent. We rode and rode and the rain began to drive into us like riding through a sheet of water. The road was packed with cars that felt it necessary to flash thier brights as they went past us rendering sight impossible. For 34 miles we rode like this until we hit the city of cusco. The city lights shone in the distance as a teaser of a possible dry place to rest. The roads were now flowing with muddy water and the sewers spewed geysers of brown sludge as we passed by. The roads were as steep as San Francisco California only they were cobble stone and slick as snot. We made it to the first hostel we could find and drove our bikes right into the front lobby where they would ride out the storm. The room was quite possibly the worst to date. We slept in our camp gear and tried to fathom the madness we had just rode through. At one point during the worst of the weather we had pulled into a gas station to yell at eachother a bit and a dog began to attack us, I had so much steam built up that I let out a roar and chased the dog away running with his tail between his legs! We made it out that night via taxi to the main town square and went to the norton bar for a beer to wind down before bed. It was well deserved and it even got us some info about the next days journey to Machu Picchu.
The sleep was good until about 4 am when the noise of the city set in. We got up and got going as the hotel didn't lend itself to calm clean relaxation. The train station was open so we bought some tickets for the train from ollataytambo to aguas calientes. The road to ollataytambo was to be straight forward and the farthest we could ride on the bikes so we set out for a short day on the road. The ride was breathtaking, with hanging glaciers atop jagged peaks glowing in the distance above fields of crops and animals grazing. We stopped and bought a few small braclets from a little girl in a field on our way to the river crossing that would take us to roads end. Once we made it down to river level we were met with a crowd of people gather ed around the bridge. The bridge was closed and had seen better days. It had a use at your own risk sign on it for pedestrians but all vehicles were prohibited. We were instructed by local authorities at the bridge that there was an alternate route that was equally good if we just went back a bit. I asked about the road conditions and either my Spanish has deteriorated or he lied outright! The road turned to dirt and then we hit a small town with absolutely no signage at all. After about 4 attempts at getting directions were on the right path. The only problem was that the path was a mud road that crawled down the side of a mountain! One lane switchbacks with traffic in both directions was bad enough, then it started to rain. We made it down to the river and crossed and older worse looking bridge than the one that was closed and made it to ollataytambo. The road was made from rock and the one place to camp was down a trail too narrow to fit the bikes. A marching band rolled through town and it was fun to see. We ended up with a cheap room at a hostel. The driveway into the hostel was two cobble paths with slippery grass in between. I went first and a big rock came unlodged under my tire and I went down instantly. No damage as the crash bars did their job perfectly. Only the pride was scratched. We met a nice guy from Holland who helped us right the bike. He is traveling south as well, and in much the same direction as us on a 90's super tenere. It's always so nice to hear other stories from the road! We head to Machu Picchu in the wee hours tomorrow, looking forward to it as it has been quite an arduous journey to get here!