Race Against Darkness
Five mopeds tore through the dusty dirt tracks of Puerto in a race against darkness. Nine riders, faces caked with a thick orange dust. Leisurely I licked a layer of grime from my teeth. The sun was setting. Our time was running out.
As we sped hastily along the twisted, cobbled excuse for a path; blurry images flashed hurriedly before me against the dim haze of twilight. Strange stares…Confused faces…Man with a machete…Villagers with guns…Broken down truck…Children with guns…Confused faces…Capuchin monkey flying on a spaniel…Strange Stares…Children with machetes… WE STOP!
One of the bikes was broken. SHIT! How far back were those machete-bearing infants? It was getting darker with not a mechanic in sight. But hold on…multi-functioning Boris the fisher-man/jungle-man/karaoke legend hid a dark secret. Unscrewing the petrol cap of the pathetic bike, he placed his mouth over the fuel tank and proceeded to exhale an almighty breath straight into the tank. So he was a mechanic now too?!
“Good as new,” he assured us all.
Sure enough, the feeble bike spluttered back to life. All our problems were solved!
Except…they weren’t. The sun had now completely set, and our cheap as chips bike didn’t come equipped with a functioning light. That would just be silly! Desperately, we novice bikers tried our best to keep up with the rest of the professional riders. We bumbled along as best we could, probably looking remarkably like two old age pensioners on a mobility scooter.
The lack of a light made navigating the dusty village tracks pretty impossible. I swear Don had his eyes closed as well though to be honest. I mean, who the hell drives into a ravine? I mean, straight into the middle of it. A huge crater in the road and he aims right for it! I could see it coming a mile off! Even in the dark! It was really that big!
“Where the hell are you going you idiot!!?”
I swear my life flashed before me as I hurtled through the air and landed straight into the middle of a spiky cactus-like bush with the bike pinning me to the floor.
Don immediately jumped up, brushed himself off and diminished all responsibility for the act which had just occurred.
“That definitely wasn’t my fault,” he confidently assured me.
Spitting out a mouthful of dirt, I gave him a furious look. As if things couldn’t get any worse, we were now surrounded by a sea of concerned faces. Concerned they were riding with complete liabilities no doubt.
Time to inspect the damage…bruised knees, scratched up arms and legs, hair full of prickles…and the bike didn’t look too healthy either. The kickstand lay 200 yards up the road and the wire basket resembled a crushed up tin can. Boris quickly set to work with some left over fishing wire and fixed the kickstand back where it should be.
“Good as new”, he assured us.
Hmmm. If the guys who loaned us the bikes were blind, we may have a fighting chance of escaping without argument or having our passports held at ransom or something!
Twenty minutes later, we were about to find out. We headed into the office to return the bike keys, with all the tell-tale signs of a crash hovering around us. I was still picking clumps of dirt from my matted, smelly river hair and a trail of blood trickled faintly down my leg.
Don, with his bright orange mud face, handed back the keys with a self-conscious smile.
Peruvian words were harshly exchanged among our new friends as the broken basket and many scratches were discovered. We were told we had to pay the mighty hefty fee of……30 sols! (Around £5). Thank god for that! We handed over the cash and scampered off with our jungle-found friends to the nicest restaurant in town. Exactly the place to go when you’ve literally been dragged through a hedge backwards and smell like sewage!
Sitting in that restaurant, I glanced at the people I’d spent so much time with over the last few days. It’s funny how fond you can become of people after such a short amount of time. Maybe it was the fresh air. Maybe it was the good food. Maybe the adventure. The fun. The laughter. The strange experiences. Whatever it was, I knew I’d miss them!