Words: Maral Yazarloo
It was around 9pm when we arrived at the Ecuador-Peru border. There was no one at the border crossing and no queue, and we knew why! Very few people actually crossed the border via the road we chose to enter Peru. My passport got stamped and the immigration officer checked Pankaj’s passport to verify if he could enter Peru with a valid American visa that was over 6 months old.
By the time we got done with customs, we were really hungry so we stopped right in front of the customs office to grab a bite. It was the only café in the area and we ordered our staple meal of rice, eggs, beans and coffee. This is what we have been surviving on in small villages and on roads off the beaten track.
It was starting to get cold, the rain had started to come down and we still had to find a room to stay for the night. After riding for about 20km, we came across a small town where we managed to find a hostel. We had to park our bikes two streets away from the hostel inside the owner’s shop, amidst all kinds of toys and god knows what! All that we cared about was the bikes being safe for the night.
The next morning, we referred to our road map and as always, decided to navigate our route along a very picturesque highway. Over the next few days, we rode on nice and curvy mountain roads, sometimes partially off road, accompanied by heavy rain and at high altitudes. On some days the road conditions and the slush was so intense that even after a whole day of riding, we were able to cover a mere 150 to 200 km! We lived on basic food available at roadside cafes, set up our camping tents and whenever possible, stayed at rooms in small villages. We stayed at rooms that cost 6 dollars a night and even slept in restaurants, when the need arose. Anything to make the ride even more interesting!
I was so excited to see a llama for the first time in my life and ran after the poor creature. I found them really cute, but I am sure that they don’t have the same feeling about me – a creature wearing funny gear and helmet, chasing after them!
When we reached Cerro de Pasco, Pankaj and I had to make our own way forward – he went towards Lima to get his visas for Argentina, Chile and Bolivia, whilst I headed toward Cusco. I trusted ‘Google Maps’ to navigate through scenic roads, where I barely passed 3-4 cars each day. Sometimes the road was so narrow that it felt like it was carved out of the mountain and only one car could pass at a time and at most turns, there was zero visibility.
While I was making my way towards Cusco, I came across a small tent by the roadside. I stopped and asked if they had ‘Comida’ (Spanish for food). They said they did and the lady went behind the tent and started to dig the ground. My eyes nearly popped out when she dug out a piece of meat and vegetables. We could not communicate due to the language barrier and I was baffled as to what was going on. I later understood that the food was buried and cooked underground. I am not exaggerating when I say it was the best food that I had tasted after being on the road for 8 months! It was so delicious.
I reached Cusco in 4 days and what was waiting for me there would prove to be the biggest and most unexpected turn of my life! When I started my ride in March 2017, I wanted to spend time with myself. Being the independent person that I am, I pushed myself into believing that I did not need anyone, I did not want to get married or even have a partner, as I did not want anything to hamper my freedom!
As the ride progressed, the unnecessary and unimportant aspects of my life started to fade away and I started to review my definition of what I considered as ‘freedom’. I realised that true freedom is being free from negativity, free from judgement, free from so many things that drag us down in our daily routine.
A couple of years ago, I met a gentleman at a social event. At that time, we were both busy with our hectic work schedules and individual lives. However, once I started the ride, he went out of his way to fly into seven countries just to meet with me along my planned route. He was in complete support of my dreams, never once thought that what I was doing was crazy, nor did he ask me to stop what I had set out to achieve. He reminded me what was missing in my life – love. This was the one thing that I had forgotten and I had convinced myself that I did not need it. But the fact is nothing feels better than loving someone and being loved. When the time came, Alexander proposed and I was absolutely clear that it was what I wanted!
Alex was certain that he did not want me to change my ride plan for the wedding. Therefore, we decided to get married along the planned route, and Peru felt right. We knew that we wanted the wedding to be simple. I designed my gown on WhatsApp and my workshop back in India did a beautiful job of it. Our families flew in from UK, Iran, India and Australia.
We got married in a small church located in the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We then had an Iranian ceremony that was followed by a Peruvian Inca ceremony at Machu Picchu. That’s how I became Mrs Pattrick. Two days after the wedding, I was back on my bike and ready to continue my ride, with my husband by my side up to Bolivia. Some people still think the photos are photoshopped. Very few actually can believe that I said “yes” to the man who will always be the most important person in my life from now on. Of course, that doesn’t take away my love for bikes.