Abancay, Peru 17 Dec 05
Odometer 14,324 m 23,052 km

I’m not really a spiritual kind of guy. I’m a scientist, an engineer--not a monk. Nevertheless, I’m beginning to think there might be something to this Guardian Angel thing. Take today, for instance, where during my ride from Nasca to Abancay I was spared no less than--count ‘em--five times:

1. I want to spend Christmas in Cusco, so I’ve got to keep moving. But with long days in the saddle, no days off to recuperate, and often noisy nights with little sleep, I’m nearing the limit of my endurance. Today’s 300-mile climb out of the Sechura Desert and into the high Andes saw torrid heat give way to fog, rain and even snow. During whiteout conditions on steep switchbacks I was unable to stay focused and simply--fell asleep. As the precipice approached, my body suddenly and inexplicably shook and regained consciousness. Slamming my wet brakes the bike squealed to a halt, front wheel resting in the gravel on the roadway’s very edge.

2. Hours later, the fog dissipated and I picked up the pace. In the distance I could finally see a fellow traveler heading my way: a truck with heavy cargo. As I prepared to wave hello, a grapefruit-sized chunk of granite hurled off the truck, struck the declining slope and bounced up and at me with heart-stopping velocity. I swerved to the right and ducked my left shoulder as the rock whizzed past my helmet and into the abyss.

3. Next, I encountered some wayward goats amid herds of vicunas and llamas. As the noise of my engine approached they split into two groups and ran for cover. Without warning, one of them switched allegiance and darted immediately in front of me. Then--an instant before impact--one of the most sure-footed creatures on earth slipped and fell flat on his back, allowing me to pass unscathed.
4. As dusk approached, I rounded a curve and was face to face with two huge steers and an even bigger oncoming bus. The bus zigged left, while I zagged right. When the dust settled one of the longhorns was literally sandwiched between my bike and the bus, no one mooving.

5. With darkness the rains resumed. Though signs in the steep box canyon read, “Cuidado Zona Inestable” (Caution Area of Instability), I never even saw the rock that rolled beneath my wheel. I felt the jolt and swerved, but managed to stay on top and regain control moments before landing in the ditch. The force was sufficient to bend my front rim. Again.
Dragging my way into Abancay, I received sobering news: two motorcyclists I had last seen in Quito, Ecuador wiped out simultaneously in northern Peru. They abandoned their bikes and were airlifted to the United States with multiple serious injuries.

OK, OK, I’ve got to slow down. I must stop riding at night. And I really,
really need to get some rest. A little angel told me so.

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