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The best Tamales in Peru!

The best Tamales in Peru.

On the morning of May 22, 2023, at 6 AM, I left Ayacucho on my 2022 Harley Davison Pan America Special. Ayacucho is the capital city of Huamanga Province, Ayacucho Region, Peru. They say it is famous for its 33 churches, which represent one for each year of Jesus' life. Ayacucho is a beautiful, yet remote city. It is a cool morning up here in the mountains, but I am prepared for it. Intent on making it to Nazca that same day, I left with a full tank of gas, and 2 gallons of fuel in my spare tanks. I had a good breakfast, and carried enough water for two days. I figured I would find a place to eat along the way, so I didn’t pack anything to snack on.

My GPS had been wrecked in the March crash and I was left to rely on GOOGLE maps, and had downloaded some offline maps for those few times I knew I would have no cell signal. No more than a couple of hours after leaving Ayacucho, I had no signal. I wasn’t worried. I should have been. I would not know exactly where I was for almost the entire 12 hour+, 218 mile trip. Slow is an understatement here!

So there I was, 10k feet high, deep in the Peruvian Andes mountains, hungry and alone. It would be the loneliest day of my 6 month, 14k mile trip across South America. But it was also the day I would eat the best Tamales I have ever had!

In the span of about 6 hours I would see only four vehicles on the road. Two of them large dump trucks which would be running so fast the cloud of dirt left behind would obscure the road ahead of me for what felt like an eternity. The third was a small hatchback taxi running like a bat out of hell in the opposite direction. The fourth and last would be broken down on the side of the road, at the place and time I needed it most. Sometimes, when we feel we are lost, we find someone else who is more lost than us.

Late in the afternoon, as I rode ever deeper and higher into the mountain pass, following a road I thought would get me to the coast eventually, I mistakenly closed my Google maps. When I reopened it, my phone did not know where we were! Neither did I. I started to get somewhat worried, but looked to sun to take me West, where I knew the Pan American highway waited to take me South to Chile. After another hour, I knew I was lost, but at least headed in the right direction. My tank was at half, and I had two spare gallons. Enough to take me to the coast, given that the map had showed only 218 miles to destination when I left Ayacucho.

The Pan America has about a 240 mile range on a full tank.

I’m a pretty cool headed guy, especially under pressure. Being a warship captain will help you build resilience and manage almost anything the world can through at you. Stress does not bother me much, but on this day, I admit I felt a little pinch of fear.

Almost seven hours into my trek across the mountains, I am hungry. I have no food. I have passed three vehicles on this desolate mountain road, which seems to just keep getting higher and higher, and longer and longer as it winds this way and that, leaving you to wonder where it will take you. I looked to the power lines coming from the coast for a sense of bearing. I was heading the right way. The sun reached its zenith, and begins descending slowly towards the never ending mountains ahead of me. I ride on, carefully, slowly, and cautiously over the dirt and gravel windy roads, my crash in March still fresh in my memory. It has gotten a little warmer, but there is no protection from the wind up here.

It is almost 2 PM, and ahead of me I see a red car, stopped on the side of the road, a figure holding a long stick in his hands, his back towards me, and another all dressed in black, sunglasses looking my way. I slow down, apprehensive now about what my lie ahead on this desolate road. As I get closer, I see it is a Peugeot, the man holding the tire iron is looking down at the front left tire, and the woman in black has her hands in her pockets. I snap a picture on my iphone, it may help identify my assailants should something happen to me. Dramatic, I know.

Turns out they have a flat, and don’t have the right tool to remove a substitute bolt someone put on the wheel. They ask me if I can help. I’m a pack rat when I travel. Of course I have that size socket.

I do what I know how to do best. Help. They are grateful and I’m starving. The lady in black, who is the young man’s mother in law, asks how they can repay me. I say their thanks is enough. She says “Dios lo bendiga. Le puedo ofrecer unos tamales?” “God bless you. Can I offer you some tamales?” Me.. hell yes! Actually, I didn’t say that. I said “No gracias.” That’s my mother speaking. Always refuse politely. Even if am still starving? She insists. My stomach growls softly, telling me to say yes. “Bueno, si usted insiste!”

Mom, you were wrong all those years! So I ate, and I was satisfied.

And that is how I had the best damn Tamales I ever had, right there, on the side of the road, 10k feet above sea level, in the Andes mountains of Peru, five and half hours away from the nearest paved road and gas station. It would be almost dark before I finally made it down to the coast. Fortunately for me, I had a full belly, and a greatful heart to take me all the way to the nearest gas station.

I may have taken some creative liberties in telling this story, but it is a true tale. Life may feel desperate at times. We may feel lonely and abandoned. But there is always someone out there who can use our help. Are we prepared to give it, no

matter what we may be going through? The reward in the end doesn’t matter. What matters is that we were there and that we gave freely and without expectations. If there are some tamales at the end, well, enjoy the bonus!


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Howard Orton
Howard Orton
30 de mar.

Nice thanks for the invite!

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