Date: Friday, September 25, 1998 5:09 PM
From: Claude Marthaler <>

Subject: "Dusty trail, clean reality"

Dear Redfishes !
Huanuco, Peru, km 77892

On the Peruvian Altiplano, asphalt is from another world. Here the dusty trails seem all to climb into the sky. We just crossed three passes of Mont-Blanc's height. Shepherds' tiny mud houses where a can serves as a kerosene lamp and a lorry's battery to fuel an old type recorder blaring on full volume. Isolated places wherever you stop, a growing crowd is coming out of doors, opening windows, climbing walls to see the once a year passing of "Gringos"-- uniformed scholars who run, pushing the fast breathing Yak, at four km/hour.

The old bended women lay aside for a while their huge piles of wood. Suddenly, the trail where you could cross a motor vehicle a day disappear, so do the cascades of dry cultivated terraces which wait desperately for the rainy season. Heads and hands everywhere who ask you the same questions like the village before, like the next one : "Where are you coming from? Where are you going? Do you have a family? and so on. Some days, to the cyclists, after a full day of climbing, answering properly with a respectable smile seems harder than the entire day itself.

And the Peruvian dogs, though less terrible than the east Turkish or the Tibetan ones, can't resist their deep chasing instinct. A thrown stone makes them sprint back as fast as they came, barking even more. They have that major virtue to wake us up from our regular turn of pedals without saying the hundreds-times-a-day "Gringo" which sounds all the way along.

We rode down 3OOO meters in a 6O km. infernal descent, hands cramped on the breaks, sure that we could boil an egg on the burning rims. We arrived in the main avenue towards the Plaza de las Armas straight into the annual local virgin procession. Ruedas and his long beard had all the makings of a conquistador. Had he burned it, he would be as terrible as "Barba Rossa".

Without being as cruel as the gangs attacking cars and buses during the night and despite that both of us were obviously not immaculate virgins, radio and TV reporters came to us, a restaurant owner took us in, the chief of police came to talk. We couldn't be in better hands : from dusty trail to clean reality, the magic of the road.

The YAK_ and Ruedas (


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