A Travellerspoint blog

Andahuaylas to Cusco

Lots of climbing, but spectacular mountains as a reward.

13th September Rest day in Adahuaylas

What a noisy town. A hotel room with a balcony might also have a view, but it comes at a price. Noise. I was woken at 6:30 this morning with a truck going up and down the street honking it’s horn and ringing a loud bell. I thought, ‘What the?’ and stuck my head over the balcony to see what the commotion was all about. It was the rubbish truck letting people know it’s coming to collect the rubbish. Why not put it out the night before and sleep in peace? What about me? I don’t have any rubbish and I’m just trying to sleep! Unbelievable. Here's the view.

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Mid-morning I set off wandering and before long, found the central plaza with the usual church on one side. From there I ended up at surprise, surprise – the markets. I bought a lovely mixed juice from a vendor there. 750ml of fresh juice for $1. I noticed on their menu – jugo con cervesa/juice with beer. On chatting to the juice ladies, they use a local stout and it’s popular. I told them that I like beer and I like juice, but I wish to keep them separate.

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Here are the streets full of cockroach taxis near the markets.

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More crazy mannequins.

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Lunch was at little eatery near the hotel and it was full of locals. Soup, main and dessert – a banana – and sweet tea and all for $2.50. The soup was delicious and didn’t have chicken feet in it.

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My chicken main course came with a red vegetable on the side. Large chilli or small capsicum? Wow! Was it hot. It was worse than a chilli and it burnt my mouth for an hour.
This afternoon we had cake and drinks on the hotel top floor to celebrate Graeme and Suzanna’s birthdays today. Two different cakes, so of course we had to try both. I love the polar bear on top.

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It's Susanna's birthday
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I had a different drink with dinner tonight. Chicha morada. It’s a sweet beverage made from the black corn you see in the markets. On a blind taste test, I’d have picked it as Ribena blackcurrant cordial. Nice though.

14th September Andahuaylas to bush camp – 83km / 1500m climbing

Today I stopped often, but it wasn’t for photos.
I began today normally, had breakfast and was looking forward to the ride. It began with a 1200m / 38km climb straight up from the 2900 we’d slept at in Andahuaylas to a pass at 4100m. Then a downhill, then another climb and another downhill to our camp in the eucalyptus forest at nearly 3600m. Should have been a tough day but a goodie. Should have been. Not long after starting, I felt sick and the more I rode, the worse it got. I’d have to stop and put my head on the handlebars until the nausea passed. Then I’d keep riding. By now I was the last person. There are half a dozen people usually slower than me, but they’d all baulked at the climb and jumped in the truck to lunch at the top. I wanted to do this ride, so persevered. I think it’s good training for life not to jump in the life raft at the first sign of trouble. I don’t expect my business or my marriage to be hassle-free, but I’m not going to bail out. At 26km, the second truck, which had stocked up on food for tonight, passed me. That was my chance to bail, but I stuck at it as I had to now. I was so late into lunch that they came back to see if I was okay, which was nice. I didn’t eat lunch, just continued. The downhill was fine as I didn’t have to pedal, but as soon as the second climb came, my nausea returned. I got through it and the last 15km, although unpaved, had spectacular views and was downhill. I didn’t take many photos as although the mountains were stunning for us being here, it was hazy and it meant that only the first range showed up – poorly – in a photo and the five behind it disappearing into the distance weren’t on the photo. I took this photo to show how the whole area is cropped.

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I saw something different today. A horse with curly hair. As I passed, I wondered why the horse looked different. Curliness is a relatively common genetic mutation and we’ve captured it with certain varieties of domestic pets, I’ve just never seen a curly horse. How's this cute piglet?

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Campsite tonight is lovely. It’s a small grassy clearing amongst small gum trees on all sides. The Aussie contingent of Bike Dreams feels right at home.

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What a cold evening! As soon as the sun went down, the temperature plummeted. Still feeling unwell, I spent the time until dinner laying in my tent, wondering if I would have dinner. The fire engine’s siren indicated dinner time and I decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did. Although I only had a small portion, Kirstin’s mushroom risotto with tender beef and stir-fried vegetables was delicious. Bush camps are usually AFDs for me and even with the red wine on the tables for Wilbert, the owner’s birthday, I was happy not to drink. I was on dinner dishes roster and it was so cold that I think we set a new record time and then dived into our tents. I had a warm night and a good sleep.

15th September Eucalyptus forest bush camp to Abancay 60km / 716 climbing

I woke feeling much better. I have no idea what it was that made me feel crook. Today was a good profile, a day of two halves. How good are the mountain views?

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One of our two fire trucks.

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We’d slept at 3500m and the day began with a 1700m nearly 40km unsealed road downhill ride to 1800m in the bottom of the valley. What was incredible was that from the top of the hill, you could see your day laid out in front of you with the down hill switch-backing to the bottom and then the road climbing up the other side of the valley to Abancay.

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From the bottom of the valley it was a 15km climb to Abancay. I stopped at a car wash and used it at a bike wash. It was nice to de-mud my bike, ready for a service this arvo. Today was a short day, so we didn’t have a lunch stop, just soup and salad waiting for us at the hotel. I’m happy that our room is at the back, not facing the street. At 3pm, I went to the basement to do three things to my bike – 1) Change the tyres from off-road to road tyres 2) Clean the chain and sprockets and 3) Fit a new bottle holder. All up the jobs should have taken no more than an hour. I was still there at 6pm in the dingy dungeon long after the last person had gone. Why? On pumping up the second tyre I could hear hissing air and sure enough, the tyre went flat. I took the tube out but could not find the hole, so put it back in the tyre, but it went flat again. I eventually found the hole, patched it but when I pumped up the tyre the patch leaked. Apparently the self-adhesive patches I was sold are a waste of time. I gave up and put a new tube in. Earlier, Richard our bike mechanic had shown me how to adjust my disk brakes, which was good as he was long gone when I had to adjust the rear ones. Grrr. It was meant to be an afternoon off.

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Here's Harry and Lee.

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Adrian

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Graeme

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Here is a statue it the park opposite the hotel.

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I went for a walk before dinner and it began with a BBQ chicken heart kebab – anticucho – from a street vendor. It was so good that after walking around the block, I bought another one. Hey! They’re only 20 cents each.

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Dinner was at a reputable-looking place with tablecloths and cloth napkins. My medium-cooked Fillet Mignon was not. It was in fact a blue-cooked Scotch steak with mushroom sauce. Someone else with me ordered something different and got the same. How to make your menu look longer than it is.

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Tonight I slept well until 2:10am when I woke with our 4th floor room shaking with music from a party in the basement. Midnight maybe, but 2am? I went downstairs dressed in no more than boxer shorts and a t-shirt and asked them to turn it down. After speaking to a few staff, I got the dad, who was throwing the party for his daughter’s 15th birthday. I explained the time and that there was a hotel full of people above who couldn’t sleep for the noise. He instructed the DJ to turn it down and I went back to bed. I could still hear the music but it was no longer intrusive.

16th September Abancay to Limatambo 118km / 2459m climbing

I got the llama this morning for my efforts last night with the music. Unbeknownst to me, 2 Bike Dreams staff had tried unsuccessfully at 12:30 and 1:30 to get it turned down. My under-dressed efforts got me the llama.
Today was a tough day on the bike. 2459m of climbing? Before this trip I’d only done 800m and 90km in a day and that was at sea level in Perth. This was 1/3 further and 4 times the climbing and it was at altitude. Well, I signed up for a challenge, so today was my chance to rise to it.

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Just outside of Abancay I saw this sign, Cusco 180 km. Not sure if that was a good thing or not. It’s a lot of kms when the topography is so extreme. On the good side, in just two days of riding, I’ll be in the amazing city of Cusco, the capital of the Inca empire.

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People put these on the roof of their houses. Good luck charm?

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How beautiful are these mountains?

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I had a really good, but hard working day on the bike. It began straight out with a 1500m / 35km climb from 2400m up to 3900m. With a climb like this, our group spread out like butter on a hot day.

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Here's me and Limpkin the llama at 3900m. We're both happy it's the top of the climbing for today.

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It took me 3 hours and 20 minutes. Lunch was there on top. Church with an amazing view.

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Didier relaxing at the lunch stop.

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I could see a storm coming and hear the thunder, so took off down the mountain to out-run it. Those behind me copped a hailstorm, but I stayed dry. It was a 60km / 1800m descent to the bottom of the valley and I loved every minute of it. A real change from the mountain top, it got really hot down in the valley.

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At the bottom, the road entered a narrow canyon. What a change from the massive views of the last two days.

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After a few kilometres the road turned up a tributary of the river and I continued climbing towards Limatambo on my way to Cusco. The day had saved a 700m climb for the end when you’re most tired, but there were more challenges to come. I could see a storm up the valley in the direction I was heading and sure enough, I copped a downpour. I’d seen it coming and had my jacket on in time. Riding in the rain? Once you’re wet it’s okay. After 10 minutes or so, the rain stopped as quickly as it had started and the road was bone dry. If you lived here, your vegies had got nothing. The brewing grey clouds also brought wind and I had a headwind as I headed up the valley. I got dry again, but near to Limatambo it rained again. I rode 1 kilometre too far past where we were staying. Annoying at any time, doubly so when it’s raining. We’re camping in the grounds of a hostel, but for $4 I grabbed a warm dry bed instead of setting up my tent in the rain. Best $4 I've spent in awhile.

Cooked by the host with everything else by Kirstin, dinner tonight was guinea pig, or cuy as the locals call them. They’re not pets in South America, but just for food in the same way as we don’t keep pigs as pets. I’d had it when I was in SA in 2004, but we were all having it tonight, so I had it again. The verdict? Not a lot of meat for the amount of work. They’re all bone. A wise local said, ‘Never order cuy when you’re hungry.’ It takes so long to get bits and there really isn’t that much meat there. Contrary to what you might be thinking, they’re not a tourist novelty, but appear on many local menus throughout Ecuador, Peru and if I remember correctly, Bolivia too. They’re a good source of protein for the people here as they don’t take up much room and don’t have to be taken out to graze. The agricultural department have bred special fatter bigger ones for eating, apparently. Here are a few photos of our group dinner of cuy.

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17th September Limatambo to Cusco - 80km / 1500m climbing

I had the llama to give away, but before I did so, I shared a poem. It was a good chance for some fun with the group. i can't put it here as it was a bit risque. Look on Facebook, or email me and I'll send it to you.

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Another hard but good day in the saddle. It was 1/3 less distance and climbing, but tacked onto yesterday, it seemed the same! Big climb to start, then the middle of the day was an undulating meander and quite pleasant. How's this cuy farm we passed. How cute does it look? Tasty! The first photo is Harry and the second is Ghily.

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A short steep climb had me on the cusp of Cusco. I could see grey clouds brewing, so raced the storm down the hill into Cusco proper. It arrived once I was safely at our hotel. It has a nice courtyard with the rooms on 4 sides around it. It seems really nice, clean, well-kept and has a woman’s touch.
How good is this snack? It’s corn chips, potato chips, Twisties and one other thing, all in the one packet. Seriously moreish.

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We had farewell drinks tonight for 3 of our riders who are leaving. They joined us at the beach in Huancayo and have been with us for a month.

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After my Skype with Erin, I wandered down to the Plaza Armas, in the centre of Cusco.

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Even walking there was amazing. This is such an ancient city. I walked past carved stone doorways – imagine the stories if they could talk. The narrow cobbled streets have just enough room for a one-way car road and a narrow footpath on each side. Surrounding the plaza are flagstones worn smooth by 500 hundred years of foot traffic and the whole place just oozes history. The plaza itself is beautiful and is the beating heart of Cusco. It’s big enough to breathe and what’s nice is that the grassed parts are not fenced off, like many other towns. I really like it and with 500 year old churches on 2 sides, there’s a real sense of place. I walked all 4 sides and what a change this place is from the places we’ve been staying in. Usually if I see a ‘gringo’, it’s a case of ‘which Bike Dreams person is that?’ as we’re the only non-Peruvians in town. Here in Cusco it’s Gringo Central! I perused the menus of the plaza tourist restaurants and they had all the usual suspects, only at 4 times the price. I ducked up a side street and not 10 metres from the plaza, ate in a little place for Peruvians. No English menus, in fact no English anything, but I know my way around a menu now, had some Spanish banter with the staff, and got what I wanted, and a juice too and for a quarter of the price just a few metres away.
Tomorrow we have a tour of the Sacred Valley before catching the train to Machu Picchu in the afternoon. We’re staying overnight, but that, dear readers will be my next blog.

Posted by TheWandera 05:20 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Rest day in Tarma then cycling to Andahuaylas

Stunning mountains. Great rural road riding off the highways.

sunny

9th September Rest day in Ayacucho

I woke during the night to the sound of, not fireworks, but thunder and then a torrential downpour. I was really glad to be in a hotel bed and not my tent.
It might be a rest day, but bike cleaning and lubricating was the first job after breakfast. Late morning I wandered down to the plaza and found a nice café for coffee and a toastie. There were two things on their long menu that made me laugh. Firstly, they had an ‘Australian Salad – fresh salad with spinach, shrimps (don’t Aussies call them prawns?), stir-fried vegetables and a passionfruit dressing’. Wow! Never heard of that one! The other funny thing on the menu was this description of a certain well-known beer. ‘Mexican beer. The unmistakable colour, the one-of-a-kind taste. The unparalleled flavour of relaxation. Wow! I didn’t know it was that good. This is the view of the plaza from the cafe.

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How's this bloke lying in the back of a moving truck talking on his mobile phone?

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Exploring Ayacucho centre I stumbled on a parade leaving a 300 year old church.

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It started to rain, so I popped back to our centrally located hotel for awhile.
This afternoon I accidentally got drunk.
At 1pm, the rain had stopped, so I went exploring again. This time I headed straight up the steep hill away from the plaza. Eventually it got too steep for vehicles and the road became stairs. I continued upwards, keen to see how people live on the sides of mountains and see if I could get some good views. I was surprised to find a tiny concrete football pitch squeezed onto the only bit of flat. From this height the views of Ayacucho were stunning. There was a row of houses blocking the view, except for the half-built one on the corner which had the best view. I wanted to go in and take a photo, but there were 3 people sitting on chairs in the sun, drinking beer and listening to music. They also had a mean-looking dog. I thought what the heck, and asked if I could take a photo from their house.

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They were happy to oblige and then they insisted I join them for a beer. I did that, and a couple more. They’re big bottles and we’d pass them around and fill our glasses and pass it on. I then gave the lady some money to pay my way and she reappeared with 3 more beers and insisted I stay. I was loving it. I had to speak Spanish and they were very accommodating and spoke slowly for me. It was a lady, her niece and a friend of theirs. Random family members dropped by during the afternoon, including Claudia, who spoke a little English. We went to the top of the house for even better views. Dangerous drop with no edge protection!

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The house should be finished by Christmas, apparently, and there will be lots of family members living there. The music was local and they tried to teach me to dance, but that’s like trying to pitch a tent in a storm, possible but hard work! We joked, laughed and chewed the fat all afternoon. Can you believe they’ve never seen the ocean? By the time we’d finished a crate of beer I gave her some more money for what I’d consumed and tried again to leave. Returning with even more beer, I helped them out before finally making my escape as I had a Skype appointment with Erin.
What a random afternoon and a really special time that would never have happened if I hadn’t bothered to learn Spanish and hadn’t bothered to go exploring. I had a memorable time. These are the special things that you never plan for. Not only did the dog turn out to be friendly, the people were too.

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Dinner tonight was alpaca steak. There were only 6 of us, but our meals took an hour and a half! By the toughness and overcookedness of my steak, I think it spent most of that time in the fryingpan!

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10th September Ayacucho – bush camp 84km / 1854m climbing

A tough day, and not because I’d misbehaved yesterday. Leaving Ayacucho at 2700m, it began with a solid 60km climb to over 4200m. It got colder the higher we climbed. Lunch at 40km point was freezing and I put on warmer clothing. The sun popped in and out and it wasn’t too cold. It’s very difficult to exercise hard when the air is noticeably thinner at this altitude. The road turned from nice blacktop to unpaved for the last 30 kilometres, all of which was ‘under construction’. This added another dimension of difficulty. There’s road works going on as their going to seal this part too, but it’s a huge job. This afternoon’s riding included many detours, many of them really poor quality as they’re only temporary. I made it to camp in just under 6 hours, about middle of the group. Maybe my beer carbo-loading yesterday helped? It was tough day, but a goodie. I’m getting noticeably stronger in my riding, which you’d hope after 5 weeks at it. We are now a quarter of the way to Ushuaia. Wow! Time flies. I’ll be home before you know it Erin.
Bush camp tonight is a little tricky to find a flat spot. We’re on the side of a hill covered in spinifex-like grass. I found a spot with just enough flat and level for me. My bag side of the tent is lumpy, but they don’t complain.

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How cold was it for dinner tonight? Everyone was dressed in down jackets, beanies and thermals.

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Once the sun disappeared, the temperature plummeted. It was freezing. How cold was it? It was so cold that the water to cook our pasta only boiled at 86 degrees C instead of 100 degrees. That’s cold. (Or is it because we’re at 4200m ASL?) Dinner was hot when put on your plate, but was stone cold by the time you’d finished it. You had to take turns with your hands using the fork and the other one was in your pocket getting warm again. After dinner everyone dived into their tents to get warm. Here’s me in my down sleeping bag and my down jacket.

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11th September Bush camp to Chincheros 82km / 1000m climbing

Lots of ice around this morning and you could make a snowball off the top of the dining tables.
You’d think that a 60km downhill ride would be the bee’s knees, but today was a tough day for many reasons. Not only was it all unpaved, but it was the worst roads I’ve ridden on. Mostly because they’ve neglected them, knowing that there’s a BIG improvement happening. The Peruvian government is spending a bunch of cash and seemingly employing half of Peru upgrading the single lane rough road to a double lane – one each way = normal for us – sealed road. Instead of doing a sensible section, say 10-20km at a time and finishing it, they’ve attacked the whole thing at once and wrecked over 100km of road with lots of road works, machinery and mayhem and nothing completed.

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4 of us got stuck waiting for 2 hours while they destroyed not only the road, but the environment too. Full sun and no shops, it was not a nice place to stop. You have the choice – get upset and it changes nothing, or roll with it, sit down and relax and remind yourself that you’re on holidays and this is a chance to chill. We only got to pass as they rebuilt the road (badly) prior to their lunch break. They have a multitude of paddle-waving stop/go people. Very boring job that pays the equivalent of $12 AUD a day. For some, the power of the paddle goes to their head and their go spare if you don't stop exactly when and where they tell you to. You'd also think they'd halve production costs and put stop on one side and go on the other, but they haven't worked that one out. They're made of heavy wood. Try holding two of them up all day.

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The day began with a 60 km downhill, but it was more stress than fun. Road works, bad roads and drivers on your side of the road on blind corners made for a difficult ride. I came around one corner, on my edge of the road, only to slam on the brakes and meet a truck just centimetres from his bumper. Sure, the road was not wide, but he had a metre to spare on his side, but preferred mine. That was the metre I needed. Where do Peruvian drivers get their licences? Cornflake packets? Corrupt cops? It scares me to see the level of driving incompetence. Even more scary is that people from countries like this rock up in Oz with an ‘International Driving Permit’ and we let them on our roads too.

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We knew the lunch truck wouldn’t get through, so we’d pre-made lunch. We hadn’t expected to get stuck ourselves, but this turned out to be optimisitic. I’d eaten my packed ‘lunch’ of two little rolls whilst waiting for the road block to lift. By 2pm I was heading up an 800m climb and starving hungry. How hungry? I was so hungry I could have eaten the ar$e out of a low-flying duck. Alas I did not see any birds, let alone a duck at any altitude. For all the restaurants we normally pass that have an A-frame sign out the front with the menu on it, do you think I could find one this afternoon when I was starving. How hungry? I would have eaten guinea pig if it was offered. Some restaurants existed, but were closed for siesta. Surely they could remain open on the off-chance that a random hungry gringo cyclist needs a mid-afternoon feed? I finally saw a sign ‘Pollo – carne – pescados’ Chicken, meat/beef, and fish. I parked my bike and asked for a menu. Turns out she only sold them raw for you to prepare at home. It was a store, not a restaurant. I had an ice cream and a Inca Cola and continued up the hill. Inca Cola – fuel for gringo cyclists. The last 20km today was an 800m climb, still rough roads and road works with stoppages. It was a tough end, but you just keep turning those pedals. I passed several people in the group doing worse than me on my way to Chincheros.

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Here's a few of us sitting down waiting for news of where we'll be staying.

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We knew that we wouldn’t be staying at the planned hotel as they’d reneged on our booking to take a block booking of road construction workers. Can’t blame them. Remind anyone of a WA mining town? Try and get a bed as a tourist in Port Hedland. We’d have been happy to camp, but the trucks still weren’t through. We eventually got beds in several different places and the trucks and our bags arrived shortly later. My abode is primitive and the low doorway makes me feel tall as I have to duck. What a cold shower outside downstairs! Ouch! It was in a one metre square room that also housed the toilet. No pegs, so I had to stuff my towel and clothes in the eaves. So cold I could only was one bit of me at a time! Dinner was around the corner at a Peruvian ‘everything’ restaurant. You know the kind that tries to have every different cuisine on the menu. They even had a red Chinese lantern, but it wasn’t a Chifa. I was starving and made short work of my chicken with noodles.
The weather had been beautiful today and, tired, I went straight to sleep.

12th September Chincheros to Andahuaylas - Planned 75km / 1538m climbing (In reality 90km and nearly 2000m climbing.)

TODAY I WAS IN HEAVEN

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Woke with HBF (heavy blanket fatigue) again. The bed was warm, but solid and the pillow was a rock. It was a quiet night. (Turns out I got lucky in the overflow accommodation as the other one was very noisy.) We had a great brekkie at a local restaurant before heading off at 8:30. The day began with a 20km climb from Chincheros at 2900m to nearly 3800m.

They're still working on the road that was being sealed when Bike Dreams were here two years ago. Drains, cat's eyes and footpaths were all being done today, two years later. How's this house here? The road came past and blocked their doorway!

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Peruvians I passed.

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I watched fields being ploughed by horse.

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Mud brick houses. They 'melt' when it rains. I'm not kidding. They still haven't worked out to bake them in a kiln and make them last. The countryside is littered with half eroded houses that have past their use-by date.

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Then we turned off the new highway onto an old bumpy track that takes the scenic and quiet route to Andahuaylas. Bike Dreams does it again with their route-finding.

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Here's me at 4000m snacking on WTF? That's right Kraps Crackers. If Fanny jam, rings or tuna tins wasn't enough, have some Kraps crackers! They're actually quite nice with a salty finish. With the exercise I'm doing, salt is not something I need to worry about.

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Look at this mud/landslide. A hillside just slipped and took everything with it, including houses. I hope no one was home. A few weeks ago, we passed a town that no longer exists. 25000 people were killed when a landslide removed their town from the map. Ironically the only people who survived were visiting the cemetery which was out of town. You can see it across the valley in the left of this photo. (That's my little road clinging to the mountain at the right.) The next two show the mudslide too.

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This was a challenging but spectacular day. The old road began with a 20km 1100m descent before climbing back up again and then back down again.

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That was the plan. After lunch, two of us ended up going down into the wrong valley and up a steep 2 kilometres up the other side. Unsure we were going the right way, I’d been looking for other’s bike tracks on the road, but it was quite rocky. In the end I asked some workmen if they’d seen any other cyclists. NO! Bugger! They drew us a mud map and we returned the way we came, with certain houses and people looking annoyingly familiar. Although only 8kms, it was very steep and being hot in the early afternoon, it was a challenge to get ourselves back to where we should be. Later, Ghily was tiring rapidly and the day was drawing on. I’d have liked to have gone faster, but was committed to sticking with Ghily and making sure she was safe and we both arrived late, but together just on dark. Tomorrow is a rest day.

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This part of the Andes is spectacular for it’s extremes. One spot I stood had 270 degree views deep into the valleys and up to the surrounding peaks. No flat altiplano here; you have peaks at 4000m dropping straight down into valleys at 2000m. To stand on the side of a mountain at 3000m and look up and straight down with these sorts of peaks all around you is very special. That is why I said, ‘Today I was in heaven.’ Some people think there’s a place somewhere with pearly gates and gold streets, but for me, heaven is in mountains. The Andes is the longest and second-highest mountain range on Earth and I’m getting to cycle the length of it – feel it, live it and breathe it. This is a really special time for me as I love being amongst mountains. Not only are they are humbling by their size, they also challenge you with their extremes – temperature, weather, gradients and altitude. There’s nothing easy about big mountains, but the personal rewards are priceless. Despite the extra riding, our mistake and all part of the challenge, today was one of my favourite days.

Having said that, after today’s rocky trail, if someone calls me Numb Nuts, I won’t know if it’s an insult or a description.

Just remember that our challenges are nothing compared to children with cancer. Their life and that of their parents who's world is turned upside down with a dying child, is anything but heaven on Earth. I'm doing this ride to raise money for the Kid's Cancer Project research into childhood cancer. Thanks to my friends who've already donated. If you can help me reach my goal, please go to http://www.everydayhero.com.au/malcolm_roberts and do it now. Thanks.
I'll leave you with a few more photos of a magic day.

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What an awesome view this lady has for her knitting! Sitting at about 3000m, she has 4000m peaks above her and 2000m valleys below her. One of my favourite photos so far.

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Posted by TheWandera 19:54 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

Tarma to Ayacucho on dusty roads.

More Peruvian backroads yield mountain delights.

sunny

4th September - Rest day in Tarma

It is a cold place and a cold room but I had a warm night, even if I did wake up with HBF - Heavy Blanket Fatigue. I'd love to have a doonah, but I've not seen one since leaving home. What a lovely little town. Our room did have an external street window, but the noise was not too bad and I did get to sleep in.
I had a nice morning, doing the usual chores after breakfast, including a bit of ‘Zen and the art of bicycle maintenance’. This is an expedition and we have to manage a variety of different things to make it to the end of the journey. This includes looking after our health and fitness, maintaining our bikes with regular cleaning and minor repairs, and riding in a way that is safe for us, others, and our bikes. It is still a LONG way to Ushuaia. I’m so grateful as to the good fortune we have had with weather so far. I really cannot believe that in a month in the mountains, we’ve had no rainy days. I copped one shower at the top of a mountain on day one, but had dried off by the time I’d reached the bottom. Here is a photo of me helping Richard, our bicycle mechanic, fix the brakes on Anna’s bike. With me holding the syringe. Someone said it looked like a medical procedure. My bike has disc brakes too, which are new for me, so by helping someone qualified, I get to learn how they work mechanically and how to fix them.

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For a city, the centre is lovely and peaceful. Like some other places, they call themselves the ‘Pearl of the Andes’. On going for a walk to explore, I was surprised by the level of care in appearance this town shows. Buildings are freshly painted and things that are ‘under construction’ really are as there are people working away busily. So much of Peru is a half-arsed ‘work in progress’ but nothing is being done and obviously hasn’t for some time. Tarma is noticeably different and I like it. The hills soar upwards from the centre of town and you can see all the coloured houses covering them. I was also surprised by the lack of traffic. Maybe the steep hills make having a garage and owning a car impossible? Even the motor tricycle cockroach taxis are available but not in plague proportions. Nice town. I bought two leather items today – a nice belt, and a new wallet. I’ve had my old wallet for 16 years and it’s finally falling apart. How’s this mannequin? Packed lunch and a half AND manboobs, and a skimpy chickie on the arm.

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Lunch was the classic ¼ roast chicken, chips and salad. It came with a bowl of soup included, which seemed like a nice bowl of rice and vegetables, until I found the chicken foot. I enjoyed exploring the centre of Tarma. Nice town.

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It had been overcast and cool most of today, but it cleared in the afternoon so I went for another walk to explore. This time I went up the sides of the hills that surround Tarma to see if my theory was true. It is. I walked up staircases, but the people who live in these houses clinging to the sides of the mountain, live in a world without wheels. Seriously, think of all the things we use that are wheeled. No bikes, cars, wheelbarrows, trolleys or wheelchairs. This is a world of stairs, sometimes at inclines exceeding 45 degrees. I think my guess as to the quiet nature of this town might be correct. Cars are useless when you live on the side of a cliff.

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There's nothing like small Peruvian doorways to make nne feel tall.

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One last photo of Tarma below.

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I’d heard there were chicken hearts to be had on skewers – called anticucho - by the markets, so I began there. Chris and Graeme found me there, enjoying mine and had one too. Cooked perfectly, these were not tough like the ones I had in Huanuco.

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The three of us went for dinner together elsewhere. We chose a place that had a neon sign with ‘anticucho’ on it. MMmmore chicken heart skewers? We ordered a beer while perusing the menu and despite coming from a beer company display fridge, it was warm. Beer cabinet? I tried to order anticucho, but was told they don’t have any. Great! So you annoy your customers twice. Once by being too stingy with power to use the fridge you have and two, you waste power on a neon sign offering something you don’t have.

I’ll leave you with a few photos of products from a local company called Fanny. That's right Fanny. Not a typo.
Fanny jam for breakfast? That's the original that I know of.

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Fancy some juicy Fanny rings?

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Here’s the best one and don’t blame me, I don’t make this stuff up. Fancy some fishy Fanny? That’s right, Fanny tinned tuna.

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5th September Tarma to Huancayo 110km / 1300m climbing

Here we are in Tarma getting ready to leave.

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My bike and I became friends today. I had a really good day on the bike and rode well and felt good. The day began with a 1200m climb over 24 kilometres. Best to get it out of the way early hey? I set myself the goal of doing it in 2 hours and made it with one minute to spare.

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From the pass, it was a 35km downhill to lunch.

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The afternoon passed quickly but it was not the most scenic day of the trip.
Here is a shot of a church in Huancayo.

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The Hotel Turistic in Huancayo is one of the nicest we’ve stayed in. A grand old building that hasn’t been allowed to deteriorate.
Martin has been with us from the start of the trip, but is leaving us here. He put on some drinks for us all before dinner and said good-bye to us all. It’s like losing a family member. 4 of us went out for dinner. We all ordered lasagne, but what we got did not match the picture on the menu. Buried underneath a pile of sliced frankfurt, pieces of sliced ham and wads of cheese was a traditional lasagne, I think. It was most unusual.

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6th September Huancayo to bushcamp 104km / 1100m climbing

I felt less fresh today, but like yesterday, the climb was first and then the rest of the day was more downhill than up. I didn’t fly, but made a good steady speed and had a great day.

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After the climb, there was a spectacular fast downhill and the scenery was beautiful as we entered a deep valley.

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Minerals from the hot springs have made the hills here all different colours. Like a flowstone in a cave, but this is on the side of a cliff.

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This continued to lunch in Izcuchaca which Didier had set up on the town’s historic bridge. It was a very scenic spot.

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I went for a walk through the little town here before continuing.

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We’d done 67 km by this time, but the remaining 37 km was unsealed and it took us the rest of the day. It got really hot this afternoon and I drank lots of water. Dusty, corrugated and rocky road had me rattled to the bone. Passing cars just covered me in dust and I was glad for my sunnies. The views and ever-changing mountains were outstanding. Close valley walls formed a canyon and a river full of rapids was my constant companion. Breath-taking drop-offs to my right kept me focussed, lest I end my trip (and life) with an unplanned flight. You had to be so careful, as that 90 degree turn you entered might be; loose gravel, corrugated, soft talc-like powder dust or a mixture. Lose control and you’ll go straight over the edge. Some people have camelbacks on their back, but none of us carry parachutes!

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The police told us that our planned camp 5kms from town was not safe, so we now find ourselves camped on a flood-lit soccer field in the power utility’s facility in the middle of town. An unexpected surprise this evening was a warm shower to wash off all that dust and was better than the cold river I’d expected. The other surprise was that we were invited to the clubrooms where cold beers, table soccer and a pool table awaited. This is not bush camping!

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7th September Bush camp to bushcamp 86 km / 967m climbing

We had to be up and have our tents packed by 7am as SWOT Team helicopters were coming to use the football field as a landing pad – apparently. They’d not arrived by the time we left at 8:15.
‘Dear Dentist – sorry but all my teeth rattled out.’ All day was unsealed rough road. It was a tough day, but really felt like ‘The Andes Trail’ as this trip is called. It might have been ‘only’ 86km, but the rough, dusty road made it a full day on the bike. It was an adventure. I didn’t sign up for a granny tour. This was a bunch of fun.

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Here's Tamsin negotiating a bovine road hazard. Animals on the road are very common.

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Lunch was in a little town called Esmeralda - a great name for a town, or a witch. The water truck wets down their dusty roads. It might get rid of the dust, but the mud they splash everywhere is worse. I’d hate to live somewhere like this.

Here's one of our two fire engine trucks.

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What stunning scenery to match the difficult conditions. There were some steep climbs, made more difficult by the road conditions, as you couldn’t stand on the pedals and climb that way because the road was too loose, but there were also some great downhill rides too. More narrow roads with several hundred metres of cliff right next to you. Don’t make a mistake or it will be your last. (I got some great head-mounted video, so you can see what I mean. I’ll make up a short snappy video when I get home.) The steep mountains changed colour with every turn of the narrow valley as erosion had exposed different minerals and soils of many different colours.

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Most of the day was dusty, but in some parts, a water truck had been and the dust was gone, only to be replaced by mud. I ended the day with a grin from ear to ear and my bike and I covered in dust and mud. I was very happy that our camp tonight is by the river and I could go for a refreshing swim. The downside is that this place is swarming with biting midgies. The good thing is that they went to bed when it got dark. With two new couples in the Bike Dreams group, there are now less tents in the campsite each night.

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No Wi-Fi tonight. I did plug my computer into a succulent plant, but it’s cactus. What we did have tonight though, after dinner, was a bush television – a campfire of driftwood. It was nice to sit there under a billion stars, hot chocolate in hand, and solve the problems of the world. Which got me thinking, why don’t we put a campfire in all the houses of parliament around the world? Get politicians to sit around a communal fire and we might see some action on some important world issues. Maybe? Maybe not? There pollies after all and not known for action.

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The lightning over the nearby mountains had me worried I might have an unpleasant stormy night. I’d not been able to get pegs into the rocky river bed and had just used stones to secure the tent. If it got windy, I’d lose my tent fly and then the rain would soak me. Fingers crossed it stays clear.

8th September Bushcamp – Ayacucho 80km / 1371 climbing

I woke at 3:30am to the sound of rain on the tent, but no wind. When I crawled out just before 7am, it was still cloudy, but didn’t rain again until after I’d packed up my tent and then not much and we had a dry day on the bike. The biting midgies were back in force and my bare legs got attacked over breakfast.
The first 30 kilometres were again unpaved but had spectacular scenery of wide valleys with a winding river bottom. Cactus-topped, crazy-shaped mud castles stood like silent sentinels long after the surrounding land had been eroded away. Why do some bits get left standing like that? I started to see some fruit trees and irrigation and it lost the feel of arid desert.

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As we left camp this morning there were many cacti and Lee said, “It’s like Mexico…not that I’ve been to Mexico to know.” Maybe the locals beg to differ and would say that Mexico is like Peru?

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Ever heard of the colouring cochineal? It's 'natural' because it's made from and insect that lives on Prickly Pear cacti. They look white and fluffy until you squish them and they're a dark red. So just remember the next time you eat something with natural cochineal, you're eating bugs!

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The road became paved – apparently – in the village of Huanta, but it was so full of deep potholes that it was worse than the gravel I’d been riding on. There was a long climb to lunch, then a nice downhill with good bitumen, and then a final climb with rotten road and trucks, to the town of Ayacucho, where we have our rest day.

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I was in at 2pm, so after a shower and soup and salad - provided by bike dreams at the end of every riding day – I set out to explore Ayacucho on foot. We are one block from the main plaza. Murphy’s Law – this plaza is peaceful and quiet. It is possible. These signs might have something to do with it – no honking.

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I wondered what these people were queuing up for. They all seemed to be looking at something. The answer? A soccer game on a TV in the back of that shop.

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What a strange mannequin.

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There are also no cockroach taxis here. In Thailand they’re called tuk-tuks and in India autorickshaws.
I had dinner of trout at a little place near the plaza and then returned to the plaza for the rest of the evening.

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People mingle in the crowd selling all sorts of sweets, chocolates and individual cigarettes. The range they squeeze onto one little tray is amazing. Entrepreneurship at work. There's a crowd in need of snacks and they meet that demand. You couldn't do that at home as you'd have a policeman or ranger asking for your permit, which would cost you more in fees and beauracracy than you'd make. I was happy to buy a choccie for dessert.

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I don’t know the occasion, but there are musicians on a giant stage and fireworks on bamboo frames, just waiting to be lit. I’d been told 8pm by the fireworks guys, but this is South America and it wasn’t until after 9:30 that it all went off. Unlike the tower in Macara on our last night in Ecuador, this display didn’t get rained on and spoilt and it didn’t have a rocket shoot into the crowd and explode. They both had a pretend bull shooting showers of sparks everywhere and popping off rockets, running through the crowd. As this was going on the bloke on stage kept saying ‘fiesta familia’ / family festival. Great! Bring the kiddies and get them burned alive by rogue fireworks. As I got showered with sparks and rockets launched off the bull just centimetres from my head, I realised that they don’t have the same sense of safety and separation of fireworks and people here in SA that we do in Oz. I fell asleep in my hotel room to the sound of random fireworks being let off around Ayacucho.

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Posted by TheWandera 06:52 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Rowdy rest day and some tough riding.

sunny

1st September ‘Rest day’ in Haunuco.

Rest day? This is called the Real Hotel, but they missed the middle word off the sign – NOISY! 24 hours a day there is noise from around the plaza. Engine noise from the taxi tricycles, needless honking and the advertising cars that have two speakers mounted on top and blast the world with advertising. Even if I understood the advert, any company that doesn’t respect my peace and quiet wouldn’t get my business. At 6:45 this morning the first one of them started blasting out noise. I can’t believe they’re legal, but I’ve seen plenty before, so they must be.
With no laundries to be found, I filled the bath, using it first to find the thorn holes in my thermarest mattress and then put powder in and did all my washing. Ah! Hand washing. Oh! The joys of travel. By the colour of the water, my clothes were dirtier than I realised. The line on the hotel roof was perfect and with a warm day and wind it was dry in no time.
Six of us met at 11am to go for coffee and found a nice café nearby. We all had a light lunch there too and I enjoyed my humitas with cheese. I asked the waiter where I could buy the ‘Peru’ apron he was wearing and the owner made him take it off and give it to me! Great souvenir for a chef hey?
This afternoon I wandered and ended up at the central markets. This was not random as I’d passed them on the way in on my bike yesterday. It filled a city square and the central food bit was under one big roof, like a shed.

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On all 4 sides though were little shops with corrugated iron and tarpaulin rooves. They were slum-like in their ramshackle randomness and also in the variety of what they sold. One area had giant bags of coca leaves for sale. How much tea do they drink?

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In another part, the smell was overpowering and I wanted to be sick. It was a rotten drain smell and seeing people sitting eating with that around them still didn’t make me hungry. I then walked a full lap of the block on the other side of the street and there were so many shops selling shoes that if Erin were here, she’d still be shopping, lost in a world of shoes.

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How's the music I heard, Goyte's 'Somebody that I used to know.' or was it 'Baa Baa Black Sheep'? Crazy to be so far from home and hear an Aussie song.
All four corners of the main square where we are, have ‘casinos’. Curious to see if they were more than just zombie-inducing slot machines, I went into one and sure enough, there was not a croupier in sight. The best (saddest) they had was an electronic roulette wheel complete with video of a lady saying ‘place your bets’ and then people hunched over their little screens and placed their bets. Sad. At least in a real casino there is that human interaction. Pokies don’t do that. I’m glad we don’t have them all over WA. It’s nice that our pubs are for people, not pokies.
Not just the hotel, but the whole city of Huanuco is noisy. Everyone contributes to the cacophony. Shops have music blaring out onto the street. Inside businesses, they all have a TV on really loud. The streets are chockers with vehicles, all blowing their horns. There is no peace and quiet in this place. Here is the park. It's not as peaceful as it looks.

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Have you heard of "cakewrecks.com". This is one for them. Scary shark that looks like a frog! The cakes here in Peru are all gaudy colours and full of fake cream as they don't use fridges.

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Tonight I phoned my parents because it’s now Father’s Day in Oz. It took me 4 telephone booth shops that claimed ‘international calls’ to actually find one that worked. Following that, the first part of my dinner was some kerbside grilled chicken. Thigh and heart. I’d not had chicken heart before and it tasted good. A bit tough, but I think that was because it sat on the grill for too long. I would like to give it a go at home and see if I can cook it right. As I said, the taste was delicious.
For dinner part 2, they had these ‘Safe zone in case of earthquake’ signs in the restaurant.

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What concerns me most is not that you need to have signs like this, (I’m getting used to it after volcano warning signs followed by tsunami warning signs) but that the restaurant I spend a few minutes in over dinner is safe, according to the signs, but my bloody hotel where sleep all night does not. It might be the Real Hotel but ‘real safe’ it ain’t. What about some warning signs we need here? “Warning – footpath ahead contains random holes that will break your leg if you aren’t watching every step.” “Warning – one way street. Look both ways before crossing.”

Random parade - with noise - past our hotel room window.

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2nd September Haunuco – Cerro de Pasco 120km / 2611m climbing

First thing in the morning, another parade with band! Just what we need on a Sunday morning.

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Here are our trucks out the front of the Real Hotel.

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The day started in typical SA debacle style. When you do the right thing and warn the hotel you have 30 people coming for breakfast at 7am you would hope they, 1)Prepare ahead with food and setting tables, and 2) have enough staff rostered on. We got no set tables and 1 clown who started at 7am and would make scrambled eggs 3 plates at a time! Everything was SLOW and some people had to go into the kitchen to get things like cutlery that should have been laid out the night before. How hard is it to cook scrambled eggs for 30 people in one big pot rather than plate by plate? This meant we didn’t leave at 8am as we like to, but at 9am and it was an hour we really needed. Today was going to be one of the toughest rides of the trip.
For Perth people, 2611m of climbing equates to riding up Greenmount Hill 10 times in a row. Then add the lack of oxygen at altitude, attack dogs trying to bite your ankle, and cooler temps than Perth knows and you’re getting the idea.
Heading out of Huanuco, I had to laugh at the billboard for the hotel we’d just stayed at. Their slogan was ‘Attention to quality.’ They didn’t pay attention to anything, least of all quality. A quality nights sleep? I think not.

It’s been smoky and smoggy since we arrived in Huanuco and despite the wind, it just hung around like a paedophile at a Wiggles concert. As we left town, we saw people lighting fires everywhere and it makes me realise why Huanuco is smoky. Up until lunch at 75km, the road was undulating, so we’d have a bit of uphill, then a downhill to recover. We were gaining altitude slowly as we stuck together as a group of 12. I spent much of the time near and at the front and felt strong. I was now more than halfway in distance, but still had 1600m of the to go.
You find things out about yourself when the going gets tough. I turned the afternoon into a boxing match in my head.
We left lunch as a group, but within a few kilometres we were spread apart like Lindsay Lohan’s legs. It was going to be a tough afternoon of climbing. At the 85km mark I was struggling mentally, so stopped, got of the bike and had a stretch. Here's me at 85km looking better than I felt.

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Putting on some music – Chillout Sessions – really made a difference as it was a nice distraction from the challenge at hand and I stopped looking at my speedo distance every two minutes. It started to feel like a boxing match that was going to go the distance. I lost the round up to 85km, then won the next one with the help of music. Plodding ever upwards, I just kept on going uphill. This ride was relentless. At the 100km mark, I changed albums to a random JJJ Hottest 100 and kept riding. The first song was ‘The Distance’ by Cake. Such appropriate lyrics that were just what I wanted to hear. He’s going the distance. He’s going for speed. He’s driving and striving and hugging the turns, thinking of someone for whom he still burns (Erin). He’s pacing and racing and plotting the course. Coz he’s going the distance……. That was just the song I needed and I kept on fighting and ‘jabbing away’ at my pedals, determined to win this fight. At 105km, only had 1/8th to go and I knew I had this one on the ropes. The journey hit back with a two punch combo of cold wind and sun disappearing behind the mountain. It knocked me around, but I hit back with arm warmers and should have put on my jacket and changed to long gloves, but didn’t. By the time I did, my fingers were numb with the cold. The final few kilometres into Cerro de Pasco were downhill, and I had this fight won, but the journey had one final ‘bloody nose’ for me. I missed a turn into the city and got lost. I was freezing cold and just wanted to get warm and this was the last thing I needed. I asked at the police station and with a few final directions closer, I found the hotel. It was no warmer inside than outside in this freezing place at 4380m. Our room is freezing, so it took awhile to get warm.
Today was 8 hours in the saddle. We left at 9am and I got in at 6pm and would have had an hour of stops, including morning tea and lunch.
I was glad that there was a pile of blankets on my bed and after an early dinner conveniently next door, I was in bed asleep at 9:30 and slept well. The forecast for tomorrow is -9 degrees and snow. Yikes!

3rd September Cerro de Pasco – Tarma 141km / 863m climbing

No snow and it’s not -9. Yay! It is still cold though and it was another tough day, back to back after yesterday.
This town is grey. cold and drab, like when I visited Moscow. It feels like I'm in Siberia and I wonder why people would want to live here, but it's no different to hot and dusty Aussie mining towns. People are only there because of the mining money.

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Almost all of today’s ride was at over 4000m and despite the sunshine, which was a blessing, it never got warm. We had a cold start in Cerro de Pasco and climbed back up out of town before heading south, as almost always. I then rode the next 100 kilometres on the altiplano / high plain. It’s incredible to think that up here at 4000m ASL it can actually be flat. Oz and many other countries can’t even come up with a peak that high, but here in Peru, and also Bolivia it’s flat and grassy. That’s just showing off.

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How steep?

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I often see funny things, but they’d take too long to describe to you, and often you probably just need to be there, but today I did laugh at the poor blokes who’d lost their truck load of thin foam sheets, which were now scattered across the altiplano. As they’d pick them up, the wind would smash them into smaller pieces. A lost cause? Here is a random mining town I passed.

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I stopped for a fresh juice mid-morning. Pineapple (Pina) today. Just grab a pineapple, peel and core it and chuck it into a blender then pop into a tall glass and serve to Malcolm. It really froths up – pinachino? Just the natural sugar hit I needed to make it to lunch. The morning had been cold to start, then warmed to being cool. The wind, when around, was cold, but I did see my first alpacas.

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After the 100km mark we turned towards Tarma and had a solid one hour climb. 5 of us met at the top to begin an exhilarating descent into Tarma together. It was 25km downhill - 4300m down to 3000m. Wide quality bitumen roads allowed us to take full advantage of gravity. Woo! Hoo! This is what I love about the Andes – amazing downhill rides. The last few kilometres into town went past small fields of flowers. I saw ladies picking armfuls of baby’s breath. A tough day, but a goodie.

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We’re staying at the El Dorado Hotel and it’s really nice. Not modern, but really homely and the hosts are lovely. There’s a nice light central courtyard that’s good to relax in.
Dinner tonight was a little café with 3 choices on the menu. All three of us chose the same thing – bistek saltado. I’d seen it often enough but never had it, so tonight was my chance. The beef was tender and it was delicious. It’s a beef stir-fry with onions and served over chips with rice and salad on the side. Dessert was picarones, doughnuts with sweet syrup. I’d first tried them on the street by the sea in Huanchaco and they’re lovely. If that wasn’t enough sweets for one night, we all met in the courtyard at 9pm to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Kirstin and share some cake.

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Posted by TheWandera 19:44 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

High peaks and remote places.

sunny

27th August Rest day in Huaraz

I like to wander without a map and see what I find. How do I always find the fresh food markets? Sure, in some little pueblo of 500 people, it’s about all there is, but Huaraz is a city of 100 000. As you would expect of me in a food market, I took lots of photos.

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This was in the floor so that you knew it was the pork section, just in case the pigs getting chopped up all around you, or their heads looking forlornly at you wasn't enough of a clue.
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I could say that this photo is aMAIZEing, but that would be corny.
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Sorry this photo is so cheesy.
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This one was undercover and the vendors were professionals, as opposed to the Sunday markets that filled the streets of the town we passed through yesterday. There seemed to be many shops selling pollo/chicken and they all hang the chooks up in the open air.

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The Fanny above these chickens is a Peruvian brand of jam. Love it.
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There were many people just selling their wares on the street, making for photo opportunities.

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After lunch I had a little shopping to do in the arvo. I wanted to buy a roll mat to go under my dysfunctional airbed. I had a relaxing day and caught up on my blog for you guys. Internet was slow and erratic, but I got there. After seeing someone else with one, a pillow purchase followed. I went for another walk in the arvo in a different direction and found another smaller plaza past the main big one.

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Some people raided the little bike shop in town and went to work pimping their ride. I’ve already added handlebar ends to give an extra hand position on long rides and others did so here. I’m still trying to score a front mud guard. Fortunately the weather has been kind so far.
I’m feeling crook in the guts tonight, so didn’t go out for dinner with everyone else. A parade went down the street in front of our hotel and who should be playing music, but the band from yesterday!

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What's with this burger joint I found?

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28th August Huaraz to camp outside the Huascaran National Park 57km / 1210 climbing

Our bikes were on the hotel roof. That’s right. When I’d arrived and asked where to put my bike I was told I had to carry it up 5 flights of stairs. I thought Richard was being funny but he wasn’t. Of course, the hotels don’t have lifts. What would you want one of them for?

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There was a vendor lady opposite the hotel and when word got around the group that she was selling coca sweets, she sold out in no time at all. Christine calls them cocaine lollies.

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My crook guts last night meant something as I was up to the loo during the night. Today wasn’t far, being only 57km, so I thought I’d be okay, but we do go from 3200m to sleeping at 4300m. It was paved until lunch. I saw some llamas, but they were of the topiary variety.

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How's this old Renault with the engine in the boot. It's even still got the rego plates. "Restorer's Dream?"
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The road was undulating so I didn’t notice the climbing. I felt sick, but wanted to keep going as it was ‘only’ 15 more kilometres but as you can see from the profile pic, as Yazz and her Plastic Population sang, “The only way is up.”

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With hindsight, I shouldn’t have ridden after lunch. Here are some photos from the lunch stop.

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I got sicker as time went on and in the end I couldn’t ride up any inclines and it was all inclines. I just had zero energy and I wanted to curl up by the side of the road and die, but I had to keep going as the truck had passed, so I just plodded on walking. I was the last one in and I’m sTuffed with a capital ‘T’. Someone helped me set up my tent and I went to bed at 4pm. I heard people saying it was a nice sunset, but I couldn’t find the energy to get up and look. I didn’t have dinner. The landscape is beautiful and here are two photos from my afternoon of plodding.

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29th August Bush camp to bush camp through the Huascaran National Park

I dragged myself out of my sleeping bag at 6:30. Got dressed and packed my bags. Then I threw everything out of the tent so I could pack it too. It was freezing cold and no one else was around. Strange? Isn’t brekkie in 10 minutes? Despite sending my apologies for dinner, no one thought to tell me that we were leaving an hour later today to allow the sun to be up and it no be so cold. How cold? There is frost on the tables and a layer of ice on the pond so it’s safe to say it’s below freezing! I could still be in my tent. Bugger! At least I had this view before dropping my tent.

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If I had to describe today in one word it would be ‘sick’. I spent 14 hours in the tent last night, but didn’t sleep that well and then had toilet runs, no pun intended. I did appreciate my roll mat and pillow purchases though. It would have been worse without them. I’d really hoped to be better today, but I’m not. I optimistically put the bike on the truck hoping to feel better and ride from lunch, however by lunch I was worse and I just lay down in the truck and wanted to die. Riding was not an option. It is so frustrating as I came here to ride. Seeing the mountains from the truck is not the same. This afternoon there were 5 of us, including our cook, in the truck all feeling sick. I felt nauseas, achy and had a fever plus I’m still too scared to fart. On arriving at camp, all 5 of us got out of the truck and just lay down on the grass in the sun. It might have looked funny, but we weren’t laughing.

The scenery today was stunning. When you get into the middle of mountains, looking around us in all directions were hundreds of peaks, the higher ones with a white icing of snow. We slept at 4300m last night and went over a mountain pass today at just under 4900m. Tonight we are at 3800m. The cyclists had it tough until halfway as it was all uphill and unsealed, then it was downhill and mostly paved. This national park is home to a rare bromeliad that lives for ages and then sends up a massive tall flower and dies. I’m told they’re only found here.

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We also saw some rock art under a cave that was right next to the road, so we didn’t have to even get out of the truck. How did they know to put the art there all that time ago?

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I’ve set my tent up on some soft grass tonight. Some call it a swamp, but I prefer to think of it as a water bed. I am planning on a soft night.
It’s amazing how little energy I have. Even setting up my tent was a big job that I lay down for 15 minutes afterwards. I had a good rest this arvo and Didier gave me some antibiotics and by dinner time I had an appetite. MMmm! Pesto chicken pasta with broccoli, snow peas and asparagus on the side. Glad I didn’t miss that one. Kirstin does a great job feeding us. Here’s hoping I have a good night’s sleep and feel ready to ride tomorrow.
I'll finish today with some photos for you. As I said, spectacular part of the world. Shame there are so many and only one lifetime.

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30th August Bushcamp – bushcamp 58km / 428m climbing

Hmmm? My tent was wet today and so were some things in it, but hey, at least I did have a good night’s sleep and that’s what I needed most. Wet things can dry.

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I’m feeling well enough to ride today and the 40 km downhill to lunch made it easier.

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I stopped for a fresh juice on the way.

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The lunch spot was next to hot spring that had been developed into a bathing house and compartmentalised into individual baths as well as a communal pool. I enjoyed my hot bath, even more so as we’re between bush camps. This nice hot soak was better than many of the cold showers I’ve had in hotels so far. I took the children photos at lunch too.

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After lunch was the one climb of the day. The nausea returned, reminding me that I’m not as well as I’d like. We all met at the top and stopped for an Inca Cola.

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The 10km steep downhill to camp was a thrilling end to a great day. Different to the wide open Pan Am downhills of Ecuador, this one was one lane wide and wound through clusters of houses right on the road or at other times there was nothing but a massive drop on your right, and no guard rail of course. The other hazard was animals on the road. I came flying around one bend only to come face to face with 6 pairs of cow horns. The next bend had a herd of sheep, two donkeys and a goat waiting!
I arrived at camp with plenty of sun left to dry out my sleeping bag and tent and then got stuck back into my book. It’s nice to lie down. I’m getting better and ate dinner again tonight which was vegie curry with chickpeas and served with rice and quinoa.

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31st August Bush camp to Huanuco - 100km / 1280m climbing

The perfect profile that’s not all downhill? Maybe? Get the climbing out of the way and then after lunch, when you’re tired, ride downhill.

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The morning was a solid climb and took 4 hours riding. The scenery has really changed in just a day from mountainous and almost people-free to remote rural when people’s subsistence farm plots form a patchwork over even steep mountainsides.

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People build their houses on the edge of a sliding mountain and then wonder why their bedroom wall disappears one morning!

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Like every day, today had some surprises. I passed not one, but two fiestas with people dressed up in elaborately embroidered costumes and dancing to a band. I was happy to, but any other traffic on the one-lane road just had to wait.

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People in this region hang interesting things from the eaves of their houses. Corn/maize is not so unusual, but pigs (whole and in pieces) and cows? The head would be first, with vegies stuffed in it’s mouth and nostrils and then the rest of it in pieces. I’m not sure if this is connected with the celebrations today or is a seasonal thing to slaughter and dry some meat.

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The mountain pass today was 3900m and it was cold. Lunch was there in the wind. With 50km uphill done, it’s a 2000m loss of altitude now over the next 60km all the way to Huanuco. Should be fun hey? Not as much as it should have been. It was steep, with narrow pot-holed roads, blind corners and a deadly cliff just a metre away with no guard rail – of course. It was really hard work, even if more mentally than physically. You had to keep both hands on the brakes and read not only the road for pot holes, rocks and random bits missing, having slidden away down the cliff I’m trying to avoid going over myself. This was very different downhill riding to Ecuador with it’s wide open new paved roads where hitting nearly 80kph was not unsafe. Speed today was something I kept having to restrict. Blind corners could reveal; an unmarked hairpin bend, a herd of animals – take your pick, rocks or holes, or worse still a vehicle coming at you on your side. Can you see why it was more dangerous than fun? It wasn’t all bad though. Not pedalling is certainly easier than a tough climb and when you could read the road ahead and see there was no traffic and where it was going, you could let go of the brakes and the bike took off. It was also a bunch of fun, but I arrived in Huanuco more tired than I thought I would be. I did take a couple of pix for you though.

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Finding the hotel amongst the crazy narrow streets full of motor tricycle taxis was a challenge, but tonight we’re staying in a real hotel, or should that be the Real Hotel. My room smells of sewerage and the hot water tap isn’t, so I’m not sure what the real stands for. Real noisy? Our room overlooks the Plaza Amas, the central plaza of Huanuco.

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I wish it didn’t. It’s so noisy and we have louvre windows. Remember them? They’re not even airtight, so noise will waltz on in. I need the Walkman in my ears in the room just to block it out! Dinner tonight was in two attempts, neither of which were good. We were meeting for farewell drinks with Lucho, a cyclist from Trujillio who’s ridden with us since then. (He’s a friend of the owners, having hosted Rob in his house when he first scouted this route in 2007.) I had a deadline, so thought a quick fried rice in one of the many ‘chifas’ (Chinese – kind of) would suffice. There was a whole menu section on duck, so after checking that they actually had duck, I ordered duck with tamarind sauce. I got served beef with flavourless red water. I called the kid over – it was a family thing – and asked, “Is this duck?” and also made a quacking sound. When he assured me it was, I assured him it wasn’t and walked out. I think most people can tell the difference. I now had no time to go elsewhere, so joined them in reception. When they decided to stay there for a drink before heading out, I took my chance and went out for dinner #2. Another Chifa and all I wanted was fried rice. They had it, with duck! Yes! This time it was duck. All good. The children’s playground taking up a quarter of the space proved to be a problem. Screaming kids do not an enjoyable meal make. There’s a reason that 1) McDonalds put the playground OUTSIDE and 2) I’ve had the snip. I met up with the guys again and said my farewells to Lucho. I’m still getting well, so with them only heading to the discoteque at 10pm, I’ll save my partying until next time and left them to it. I think some of them will be very glad tomorrow is a rest day. I'll begin my next blog with that. Not sure how restfull such a noisy place will be?

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Posted by TheWandera 20:04 Archived in Peru Comments (1)

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