All Wit & Pedal Power
Today the Home Forum continues the story of two brothers cycling the rugged Andes. David and Doug Aagesen have ridden their 18-speed all-terain bicycles from La Paz, Bolivia, to Lake Titicaca in Peru, where we catch up to them on the shoreline, having just crossed the border. The diary entries published yesterday and today record the first two weeks of their 10-month travels in South America - a rugged journey from La Paz, Bolivia, to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Sept. 10, 1988 - Moho, PeruSkip to next paragraph
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Things took a real flip-flop today. Our second day in Peru was downright difficult. However, it actually didn't start out so badly. We broke camp early and made pretty good progress this morning. In a village called Canimos we came to a checkpoint once manned by the Guardia Republicana. Our documents were checked and we were treated kindly. We even stuck around for a while to chat and eat fruit.
On the other side of town, no more than 500 yards from the Guardia Republicana checkpoint, we were stopped by the Guardia Civil. With the ear-piercing shrill of a whistle, a power-tripping official called us into his office for yet another superfluous registration process. This time the authorities shook us down pretty good, checking our vaccination certificates and even our international driver's licenses. The two men who did so were curt and anything but friendly. By the time we pedaled off, Doug and I found it hard to believe that they didn't play even more games.
After we had been treated like human beings on the other side of town, our encounter with the Guardia Civil crushed our relatively good spirits. We tried to put it all behind us, but the road conditions continued to test our patience. Where there wasn't sand there were large rocks. When we weren't sliding out in ruts we were falling into gaping holes. We got pretty tired of being thrown around and tumbling off the bikes. The nearby calm coves of Lake Titicaca did little to console us.
We slugged it out though, eventually reaching the village of Moho, which is tucked in a valley not far from the lake. Our objective was to fill our water bottles and move on out of town hoping to avoid detection by the authorities. How many times a day can a person present every last document he had? Doug and I were very successful in our quest.
We pulled on for a few miles. Road conditions did not improve and a hill came upon us. We couldn't take much more and we weren't in the mood to continue. With less than two hours of daylight remaining, we agreed to scope out a campsite.
The surroundings were pretty rugged and rocky, but off to our left about 100 yards we suspected there might be a flat spot on the fringe of a gully which rolled gently down from a saddle high above. It appeared as if there we might be able to spend the night in peace. I broke off from the road and began pushing my bike up the barren hillside. Doug did the same, but lagged about 25 yards behind. Just as he pulled off the road and just as I was high enough to enjoy a view of the valley we had recently entered, a large green truck with a khaki canvas cover rumbled around the bend. I smelled trouble.
Just a couple of minutes later and we would have avoided detection, but it wasn't to be. No sooner than the screeching brakes had halted the truck, five uniformed and fully armed men hopped out. Four of the gun-toting warriors besieged Doug and one ran up the hill toward me, demanding to see my documents upon arrival.
Soon my bags were unzipped and my possessions were searched. We really had nothing to hide, but then we were asked if we had any dollars. With sweat on our brows, we replied with a single word - ``No'' - totally aware that the greenbacks we had strapped to our waists would support these men and their families for months.
The document inspection seemed to be quite drawn out. Two subordinates fumbled through our papers, but the commander eventually took charge of the situation by grabbing the passports. He couldn't seem to find what he was looking for. Trying to impress us with a few words of English he sputtered, ``This no good - back to Bolivia.'' He was referring to the typewritten memo that the Guardia Republicana had given us the previous day. It was worthless, and lacking an entrance stamp in our passports and the corresponding tourist cards, we were in Peru illegally. What a tremendous blow this was. The road had already beat us to smithereens once, and now again? Our heads just sank.
The military men soon decided that they had had enough. After making sure that we understood them, they climbed back in their truck. In a cloud of dust they left behind two thoroughly depressed cyclists.