Archive for the '11 Peru 2007' Category

Two more wheels

Posted by on Dec 02 2007 | 11 Peru 2007, 12 Bolivia 2007, English

Not always easy

So we made it through Peru, the most challenging country so far on our journey. Challening in different ways, so for example due to the rapid climate changes from tropical heat and humidity to freezing cold temperatures at the high passes within a days ride or two. Some of the roads were really bad and we had to push the bikes somethimes for hours over riverbed like paths. And finally we never felt very comfortable with the majority of the people we met along the way. They seemed to have a different understanding of private space touching Chan and our bikes whenever we stopped. 20 to 30 kids and adults would gather around us immediatly, starring at us and touching our things. Especially mothers would then start to criticize the way Chan was dressed: too cold or too hot. They would then try to convince us, that Chan couldn’t breath in his trailer or that he was hungry or needed a drink, when he was perfectly fine. Somethimes kids were running after us, catching up and pulling on the trailer or the bikes backwards.

All these unpleasant experiences don’t however overshadow that we also met amazingly hospitable and friendly people and although warned many times about robberies, never had an incident nor felt at the slightest threatened.

Machu Pichu at least

After two weeks staying in Cusco beeing sick one after the other, we finally managed to organize our trip to Machu Pichu, the “lost city of the Incas”. Since it costs an incredible amount of money to get there and another fortune to see the ruins, we didn’t want to spend another awful lot of money for the bus up a steep hill (500m up) to the entrance of the ruins. Instead we got up at 4am and took a nice one hour hike up to the gate.

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Chan wasn’t ready to hike yet, sleepy he was sitting in the ergo carrier on my back half way up, then Flo took him over and I got our backpack with food, water and spare clothing for Chan instead.

At the gate we weren’t allowed in with our bigger than 20l pack (A person is allowed to take a 20l backpack into the site.), the guardian wasn’t discussing at all, we had to go to a woman apparently in charge of storing backpacks. But as soon as we entered her office, she yelled at us that we wouldn’t respect rules and that she wasn’t talking to us anymore, hardly even looking at us. Now we were really angry, yelling something not very nice back. Outside we took some stuff out of the backpack, then tied it together as small as possible and went back to the gate. I was carrying the now small backback and Flo was carrying Chan and a plastic bag. The guardian wanted to protest again, but Flo told him angrily that the 20l bag per person was applying to us as well and we walked through the gate. The guardian called into our backs, that we weren’t allowed to put the plastic bag back into our backpack once on site.

The first few moments in Machu Pichu we couldn’t enjoy because of our frustration. But when we had climbed up to a point where we could overlook the whole scene our anger cooled off.

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Machu Pichu wasn’t showing its full beauty. Misteriously parts of the ruins were hidden behind mist and passing clouds. After a while observing this wonderous spectacle we started our hike up Wayna Pichu, the steep mountain at the far side towards the river valley.

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We enjoyed a beautiful hike with not too many tourists, the sun was burning mist and clouds away and the site started filling up with people, brought up the mountain bus load by bus load. What an amazing view we enjoyed from the top of Wayna Pichu. Not only were there more ruins, but we could oversee the whole site of Machu Pichu as well as getting a full panorama of snowcapped  peaks in the distance.

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We left Machu Pichu arround noon, when most of the visitors arrived and crowded the place. The hike down to Aguas Calientes was pleasant but towards the end got quite painfull for our leg muscles not used to walk almost exclusvely steps for eight hours!

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Back in Cusco I could hardly walk anymore. Chan helped me getting around and said: “Mama, you are really, really old!” No wonder, my walking style was the one of a 90 year old woman! We had to stay four more days in our hostal, only then I was able to walk and bike almost normally again with not too much pain.

When the rains beginn

It was sunny and nice warm when we left Cusco with two more wheels than usual. Attached to my bike with the follow-me tandem hitch is now Chan’s own bike.

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He had been asking for his own bike for a while now and we thought it would make a good birthday present. Our little guy is already 4 and ready to get onto his own two wheels! After the first few km pedaling himself, he exclamed that we could get rid of his trailer because he had his own bike now.

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Since then however, he has discovered that the trailer is still a good thing to have for napping, eating and playing and to be sheltered from wind, rain and hail! We got enough of that in the coming days climbing onto the altiplano and crossing this high plateau along lake Titicaca.

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On the first few days we could always escape the rain by arriving at a hospedaje mid afternoon, but the day we got over the last high pass for a while (4338m) we were caught in a terrible thunder storm. The night hadn’t been the most relaxing. We could stay in a centro de salud in a patient room. In there as well was a gaz stove with pots containing left overs. The beds we were advised not to use because sick people had been lying on them. When Flo carried our panniers inside, he found the smell in the room quite unpleasant and looked arround for its cause. He came out with a plastic box, in it was a lambs skull, the dried flesh still sticking to it was reeking. The whole thing looked disgusting to us although Chan was quite interested in it. After a few minutes the doctor came looking for it and she carried the box under her arm as one would books. In the morning we had a flea in our tent, which we had put up inside the room to sleep in. Flo was up with the first rays of the sun and quickly we packed our bikes to get out of there. Breakfast we ate a few kilometers further in fresh air. By midday clouds were rolling in, not unusual for the season, but we wanted to continue riding for some 40km more, since it didn’t look too serious.

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But only maybe 10 minutes after we had left it started to rain very suddenly and with the rain lightening hit right next to us. It was too dangerous to step from the bikes to put on our rain gear. On the bikes we were safe from the lightening because of the rubber tires.

I was terribly afraid. The rain had turned into hail now, whipping our faces hard. Our hands were hurting beeing freezing cold but the storm didn’t let us go. In fact, there were new storms approaching whenever we thought the worsed was over. The road was in some places covered with a 3-5cm thick layer of hail. Then there was an incredible loud thunder and at the same time I felt an electric shock passing through my left arm. Lightening stroke into the electric powerline paralleling the road and a branch of it had hit me. I screamed out horrified. Flo tried to calm me down but I was panicking and yelled at him to go faster. For about one hour we were caught in the terrible tempest then finally the hail turned back into rain and the time between lightening and thunders got longer. Then the rain subsided. There was a hut next to the road where “arroz con pollo” was sold. Flo went to ask for hot tea. We finally got jackets and rain gear out and tried to warm up our trembling bodies. We still had to go for another 15km to reach a town with hospedajes. The rain was getting stronger again and completely soaked we checked into a more expensive hotel because they had promised us hot water immediately. An hour later there was still no hot water. When we came back from dinner there was still no hot water. Only in the mornig the water was hot but by then we didn’ t need it anymore and we refused to pay the full prize of our room.

On the Altiplano at least

We were riding long days. The altiplano was quite flat as its name suggests, and we were ready for a new country. We wanted to get into Bolivia after three not so easy months in Peru. Every mid afternoon we could observe different storms around us, somethimes getting caught by them, somethimes beeing able to escape.

The winds were slowing us quite a bit coming from the sides or the front, never from the back. The landscape wasn’t as stunning as we had expected it from the description of other cyclists, but for the most part this must be due to the dull weather.

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On one of the worst paved roads so far, covered with holes and patches, busy with minibusses, big tourist busses, trucks and taxis whizzing by close, honking loudly, we got our first glimpse of marvelous lake Titicaca. This first sight was grandious. Passed Puno the road was much quieter and we were riding now directly on the shore of the highest navigatable lake.

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A day before we reached Copacabana in Bolivia, Sekiji, a japanese cyclist we had already met in Cusco, caught up to us. What we had been riding in six long days, he had done in three!

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That day we were riding together mostly and he was taking lots of pictures. The border crossing was very smooth and mid afternoon we entered into our 12th country since Canada or our 16th since Switzerland.

Copacabana is a nice little town nestled in a small bay at the shore of lake Titicaca. It is growing only for tourists, a small copy of Cusco.

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We stayed three days to celebrate my birthday and visit Isla del Sol, the sacred birthplace of the Incas.

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Restaurants are popping up like mushrooms in Copacabana, but many of the owners can’t cook, but they have on their menu whatever a tourist heart desires like lasagne, pizza, risotto, etc. We ordered a salad and a lasagne. The salad was fine, not much that can be done wrong there. When the lasagne was served we couldn’t believe our eyes: It was a normal flat white plate, on it three sheets of pasta covered with maggi soup (chemical instant mix). Well we went to another restaurant for a second dinner. Chan had had a blast with a waiter in another place two days ago, so we went there and ordered a pizza and some desert to satisfy our still hungry stomachs while Chan took off with the waiter again “to work”. He was carrying dirty dishes to the kitchen, brining the menu to tables and finally the bill as well! As his first salary the waiter gave him a piece of lemon pie.

It was now 150km to Bolivias biggest city La Paz. We rode it in two days.

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On the second day we rode through densely populated areas for about 20km before the centre. La Paz lies in a canyon spilling over its rim into El Alto because there is no more room in the canyon. It is filled with houses and houses.

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It was an incredible site, when we arrived at the rim and slowly rolled down into this sea of buildings, cars and people.

We are staying in a “casa de cyclista” in a huge house with a beautiful garden. Sekiji had contacetd Linda and Roul and asked if we could stay with them as well. Now we are here with Sekiji and a brithish cycling couple. Linda and Roul have grand children and therefore a room full of toys in which we are staying – paradise for Chan!

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We will be staying for a few days, waiting for a packet with spare parts clearing customs.

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Bike, train, bus and pick up

Posted by on Nov 09 2007 | 11 Peru 2007, English

Peru Rail

” Flo, are we on the right road? I don’t want to ride back up this road to the City!”, I said. So we asked for the maybe 4th time, but again were reassured that this road would take us to Izcuchaca and further to Ayacucho. On our map were two roads eventually leading to Ayacucho, the next bigger city after Huancayo. We wanted to get onto the one on the right side of the river to get to Izcuchaca and into the mountains, and not follow a dry and hot river valley. Right now we were still on the left side of the river and the number of the road was wrong too. Finally we came to an intersection, where we could turn right into a village on our route as it was marked on our map. After some 3km the road made a wide loop and turned back into the direction we came from. Again we asked directions. Now we were sent back to the intersection. Slowly it dawned on us, that our map must be completely wrong. Later we found out, that the map showed a nonexisting road, the one we had to take was marked wrong and parts of it were missing altogether on the map. After a detour of about 10km we were back on track climbing one of the now regular “over 4000m” passes. The country was quite dry here and rocky, the dirt a bright orange. All land was used for agriculture to the top of the hills, sectional in small rectangles. And soon enough the road tipped to the other side and we glided passes villages and fields loosing what we’d just climbed switchback by switchback.

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We had wanted to stop at a restaurant for lunch, but there was none open and when we stopped to look for one inthe last town before Izcuchaca, kids came running at us screaming and laughing, so that we were quickly on the bikes again and didn’t stop anymore until we stood in front of the train station in Izcuchaca. We wanted to take the train from here to Huancavelica, some 70km further, for a change. We thought to stay in Izcuchaca for a night and catch the first train in the morning. But as we are in Peru and nothing is guaranteed, I went to the ticket office right away to inquire about schedules and prizes. It turned out that there was no train the next day, only that day at 4pm which was in 15 minutes. The ticket vendor also doubted that our bikes would fit onto the train. Normally peruvians aren’t complicated with luggage, it always works somehow. So I told him we were going to try anyway. We folded the trailer down to its shell size and packed its content into our backpacks. We unloaded the bikes and got ready for the train, watched closely by a group of kids. Finally the ticked vendor called the train and the conductor thought that there was enough space on the engine for our bikes. The ticked vendor still doubted it and let us know every minute or two. Then the train arrived, people and luggage got on and off. Flo brought our bikes to the engine and was able to tie them onto the very fron, while I was loading our panniers and packs onto the waggon and Chan was watching our stuff. The trailer came into our compartment as well and off we rolled.

We had seen the tracks before, filled with dirt, overgrown with grass and not always very even. And that’s how it felt inside the train! We were swinging from one side to the other, but we desided not to worry and enjoy the ride instead. We were really hungry too and bought some sweet bread from a vending woman in the train.

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The tracks followed a river along a narrow canyon and slowly, slowly we gained in altitude. At every station more people entered with huge bunldes of luggage. The stations were always a chaos of busy people going here and there, women and children selling bread and other food and drinks, boys waiting with three wheeled carrier bikes to bring luggage to and from the train.

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Then the tunnels started. It was getting dark outside and every time we entered a tunnel it was pitch-dark in the waggon because there was no light. Now there wasn’t much to see outside anymore. Inside the train people were quarreling with the controller about ticket prizes, moving luggage around, eating and talking. At one station two women entered with tons of heavy bundles of herbs. They sat across the alley from us. The herbs smelled really nice, aparently they were to settle stomach gas. But slowly a strong garlic smell filled our waggon. Flo found out what it was, when he needed the toilet. The women had stocked bags and bags of peeled garlic into the tiny bathroom.

We arrived in Huancavelica around 9pm. Now we had to get all our luggage out as well as a super tired Chan and our bikes from the engine. The train workers now suddenly wanted money for the bikes and when we had put the trailer back together, packed the bikes and were about to roll off, one of them stopped us, saying, that we hadn’t paid. Luckily I still had the tickets and the controller could convince him, that we had also paid for the bikes. We found a hotel quickly and went out to get some food. it was a late night and we decided to sleep in the next morning and stay and extra day to rest.

In an alley a dog was gnawing on a bloody cow scull with horns an Chan asked Flo what the dog was eating. Florian explained it as good as he could. Chan was quiet for a while, then asked suddenly: “But where is the cow?”

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Rainbow mountain

On the gravel road out of Huancavelica dogs came chasing us from every second house. The morning had started difficult with Chan wanting everything different making me really mad. When we left the hotel we had had spectators once more, trying to touch Chan in his trailer and now those stupid and dangerous dogs again! I was in a really bad mood. But a few kilometers passed the town the landscape was so beautiful and the road wasn’t bad at all that my mood changed quickly and we enjoyed the ride.

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Soon we saw lots of llamas and alpacas. The rocks looked alomst unreal with such bright orange and red colours. There was supposed to be a village at the altitude of 4170m, but it was abandoned.

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We ate bread, olives and cheese in front of a ruinous adobe house. Now the wind picked up and I started to feel the altitude with some slight dizzyness. But further up we followed the road onto one of the highest altiplanos in Southamerica over 4400m.

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Suddelny a herd of llamas came galloping down the road. They slowed down in front of us, then passed one by one. Flo got water from a stream and then we looked out for a place to camp.

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There were no bushes or trees, just pampa. So we hid our tent behind a small hill next to the road. In the morning a herd of sheeps wlaked passed, then kids played next to our tent. A bit later a woman came by calling something in quechua and a bit later she came back with some sheeps. We might as well have put the tent right next to the road, the whole valley probably knew, that we were there.

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The road led towards a red mountain which was even brighter in the sunlight. And still we were riding uphill. New peaks turned up at the horizon the higher we got and the rocks showed ever new colours as if dipped in a rainbow bath. Many times we had to stop and just enjoy hte sight of these mountains!

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And still the road was leading up and up. Soon we must have been able to touch the sky! The pass was on 4853m. Rainclouds rolled in from one side, but to the other we had a beautiful view onto lakes, rocks and mountain chains. The clouds urged us to leave the pass.

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Along the lakes was the home of a type of marmot which stole the rabbits ears and painted them orange, his tail it got from the squirrel, but the tip it must have burnt or why else would it be black as coal? It was quick that little creature and we couldn’t catch it on film. That night we spent in Santa Ines at over 4600m. Our hostal didn’t have any water, not even a bucket to flush the toilet. Florian asked for wter, but the boy said:” we don’t have any for ourselves.” “But there is the river and the lake right here!”, said Flo. The boy shrugged his shoulders and said:” The river is contaminated because of the mine and the lake is dead.” ” But where do you get your water from?”, I asked. “We have to fetch it from far.”, the boy said. The village didn’t have water for two weeks now because their normal source dried out. the government would do something, the boy had told us, maybe in two to three weeks they would have water again he exclaimed. 

Some 20 bumpy kilometers brought us onto pavement again. Another pass, another downhill and we climbed again onthe way to our second highest pass. It was a long climb and it was getting late. In the next village we asked for a hospedaje but instead could spend teh night at a cruz roja centro de salud station (a kind of mini hospital) in the only patient room. This was really nice of the doctor, but the kids of the village were annoying, wtching us close while we were cooking outside and tehn starring through the window while we ate and prepared our beds. The tiny hodpital didn’t have electricity just a generator for emergenies. The toilet was out of order, there was a shithole in the back yard. A car batterie was sitting on a chair in the bathroom with cables going into the adjacent room.

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It must have been at least 100 switchbacks which slowly brought us up to an altitude of 4750m again.

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At the top a truck was waiting for us. Some women and kids came our way and Flo said:” Not even up here we are left alone!” So we took a “Taking pictures-throwing sand into the wind-eating crackers- beeing watched -break” and then whizzed down, down, down passed rainbow mountains, rocks and yellow grass. It was about 50km downhill, back to 1900m and back to quite warm temperatures. On the way down the llamas were replaced by cows, horses and donkeys, the bare pampa with eukalyptus and pine forests.

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At the very bottom of the valley we stopped our riding day and had a cup of coffee before moving into our “cuarto”. The used bed linens were taken out of the room hold under water for a few minutes hung into the sun and given back to us. Flo was clearing the room from garbage before we carried our stuff upstairs. We prefered to sleep in our own sleeping bags in our tent inside the room that night. Another 27km brought us up the last pass before Ayacucho. this one wasn’t quite a high, just 3900m. early afternoon we arrived in Ayacucho on the other side.

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And a piece of way by bus

Before us was a part of the way which promised to be exertive. A few more 4000m passes parted by deep hot and tropical valleys. This road was not paved. Friends of ours sent us information about the condition of the road: A lot of riverbed like parts, they had to walk a lot. We had one month left in Peru. It would have taken us at least two weeks for those 380km of gravel. Two weeks which I wouldn’t have enjoyed nor would Chan have been happy with another bumpy ride. We decided to take the bus, that would save us an exhaustive two weeks as well as the money for an extention of our visas.

We checked out a few bus companies, but there was only one doing this difficult road. We bought seats in the very front above the driver to enjoy the panoramic view. The night before our departure we packed everything from the trailer into the backpacks. At 6am we rolled through the city to the bus terminal and there folded the trailer to its shell size.

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When the bus arrived, Flo loaded the bikes and our luggage, while Chan and I watched our stuff. the first surprise was, when we got to our seats, which were not the panoramic ones, but one row behind. We couldn’t change that now anymore. But on the panoramic seats were two other tourists which switched seats with us after half the time.

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The first part of the way, to Andahuylas, took us ten hours. At lunch time we stopped at a restaurant. I stayed in the bus to cut some apples for Chan, while Flo and Chan went for a pee. When I wanted to join them outside, the door of the bus was locked. Nobody had told us, theat we could’t get in and out of the bus during the 40min break. So I was locked in, the driver had disappeard. We arrived in Andahuaylas at 5pm. There we had to change the bus for another ride at seven, supposedly taking three hours. While we waited for the new bus I got some food: rice with fried onions. it started to rain and we had to move our stuff under shelter. Finally the bus had arrived. Flo went to load the bikes and trailer, but they said there was no space. Flo said:” Well, if there is no space down here, I will take our stuff up to the seats. We bought our tickets in Ayacucho through to Abancay, we paid extra for our luggage and we will take this bus with all our luggage. As you know there is no bus tomorrow because of the census.” Suddenly there was space for the bikes but to make it a bit more complicated, Flo had to take off the front wheels and one of our backpacks was loaded onto the other side of the bus.

A nice surprice waited for us in the bus: Shortly before departure we were served a hot seet infusion and a pastry. It was already dark when we rolled out of Andahuaylas. The bus was really slow and now and then stopped for a few minues without any reason. Chan fell asleep on my lap. After maybe four hours I started to get restless. Why were we advancing so slowly? Finally we could see the lights of Abancay far down in the valley. But the descent was a torture. We went from one side of the mountain all the way to the other, turned around and came all the way back without loosing much altitude. halfway down we stopped again and bus personel switched buses with one coming the other direction. Other busses from other companies overtook us. Why could they drive so much faster? We finally arrived in Abancay at 1am instead of 10pm. now we had to put the bikes and the trailer back together. Chan of course woke up and cling to me util the trailer was ready. in there he felt save again and started playing. At 1.30am we started looking for a hotel. At that time most were closed of course. Finally we found one open. it was a really dusty, grubby room but we had no choice. The owner was really nice and helped us carry the bikes and trailer upstairs. It was passed 2am when we finally closed our eyes.

Bacteria invasion

Now we were looking foreward to Cusco. Three days of riding, maybe four and we would see our Swiss cycling friends (www.affenbrunner.ch) and Steven the Australian again. We would take some days of rest, clean our bikes and visit Machu Pichu.

36km uphill, a climb of 1500m took us out of Abancay. on the pass we could still see down onto the city.

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It started to hail and rain so that we quickly put on our raingear for the downhill ride, another 36km to Curahuazi back on 2680m.

Flo got diharrea during the night, but he wanted to ride the next day. Cusco was waiting! Down we whizzed, the bridge over the river was at 1900m and from there the road followed the river uphill again along a super hot valley. Flo and I both struggled. I had a hard time with the heat as usual and Flo just felt very weak. Finally he had to sit down in the shade and I stopped the next pick up car. These lovely people gave us a ride to the next town, where we got a room in a hostal. Flo went to bed with a high fever. That evening a couple from Austria arrived on a tandem. Chan and I talked with them late into the night. In the morning, Flo’s fever was gone and he wanted to ride although it was uphill for another 25km to the next pass. Only at 10am we started riding after we had said goodbye to the tandem couple who was taking the route we came from under their wheels.

Slowly we gained in altitude. By 3pm we had made it to the pass. Snow peaks framed the horizon, it ws beautiful up here, much more our climate! But both Flo and I didn’t fell well now. The pass on this side wasn’t as steep and the road wasn’t taking us below 3300m anymore. Almost in the village we wanted to spend the night, there was construction work on the road. A huge ditch stopped our ride. The cars took a 4km detour on gravel. But while we were standing there, trying to decde what to do, some constraction workers came and showed us a way over two smaller ditches in the adjacent fields to get around the street work. They even helped us lift the trailer and the bikes over. No no more obstacles were in our way, even the rain clouds passed around us, leaving us dry. That night Flo and I both got a soar throat.

Cusco was now only 26km away with not much ups and downs on our route.

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We arrived at the hostal around noon and went to eat lunch. When we came back, Flo went to bed with a high fever again.

The next three days his fever wasn’t coming down. Finally we went to see a doctor, who of course gave him antibiotics for an airpipe infection. The Swiss Rahel and Joerg and the Australian Steven stayed a day longer to help me out. They looked after Chan, while I looked after Flo and got some rest myself. The day they left, Chan got a fever. When Chan was just recovering from his flu or whatever it was that made him have a fever for six days, I started having a fever and I was in bed for a week as well.  This hasn’t been exactly our idea of our visit to Cusco, the ancient Inca capital. We are here now for over two weeks and haven’t seen much else than our room, the hostal, the internet cafe and the market to get fresh fruit.

The plan is now to visit Machu Pichu, come back to Cusco and get the bikes ready for the last leg of our trip in Peru, across the altiplano.

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Down to 3000m!

Posted by on Oct 11 2007 | 11 Peru 2007, English

Suiza del Peru

Trujillo is already far away, about 1000km. We are happy that we left the gloomy coastal desert behind and are back in the mountains. But here in central Peru “the mountains” mean climbing well above 4000m passes, descending down into quite hot and tropical valleys between 1900 to 3000m just to get back up into somethimes freezing cold air.

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The colours of the desert were shades of gray. Sand was everywhere, in our clothes, hair and mouth. The wind blew from south to north. It wasn’tcold nor hot. In this dull ambiance suddenly appeared one bright green field after the other. These were cultivations of artichoke, sugar cane, asparagus and grapes growing on sand so to say hors sol! This intensive colour in all that gray is so wrong placed that it makes the whole picture of the coastal desert even more gloomy!

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Then we turned east onto a good gravel road. In the beginning the landscape was just a continuation of the desert we came from. But the sand dunes grew into mountains of loose rocks, then solid rock in colours of red, yellos and purple. Finally we reached a dry river valley with some shrub vegetation.

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Slowly, slowly we gained in altitude. The gravel road now changed into a riverbed like path.

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We were following the valley of the Rio Santa, the wind was really strong and helped us push the bikes over the rocks. It was hot and we welcomed the shade of the steep rock face.

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At the end of the day the road led steeply uphill with some switchbacks, away from the river to a village. We found the hospedaje, a shack, the only place for us to spend the night. The beds didn’t have linens, the cover blanket was grubby. Cobwebs graced the walls and door the cealing had spyholes into the sky. The toilet was another wood shed  outside. The showerhead fixed to the wall above the shit hole. We preferred to smell for another day. In the adjacent room people shared their space with ducks, chickens and a talkative rooster. They slaughtered a guinea pig in front of our door so that we had to step over a blood puddle when we left. Lucky for him and us, the second guinea pig ran off.

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37 tunnels, some of which 200 to 300m long and without light brought us up over 2000m through Cañon del pato, a steep narrow canyon.

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Back on pavement we followed the Cordillera Blanca southwards. It was still really warm, the vegetation resembled New Mexico more than the Alps even though this region is called Suiza del Peru.

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In Carhuaz we got the first glimpse of the white peaks of the Cordillera Blanca.

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At the plaza we enjoyed an ice cream first, then went looking for a hotel. All of them were booked out. We had arrived at the last day of the most important fiesta of this town, the celebration of “Virgen de la Mercedes”. Soon the procession started at the church and different bands marched and played at the same time. Over it all rocket after rocket was lit and every minute or so a tremenduous fulmination banged over our heads.

Our guide book had a hostal listed 1km outside of town towards the mountains. We wanted to give it a try. It turned out to be 5km outside, uphill a rocky path. When we arrived, the door to the garden was locked guarded by two big dogs. We called, banged on the door but nobody came to open. Finally, when a taxi passed we could use the drivers cell to call the hostal. It was closed that and the next day, the owner was in Lima. So we went back into town and to the explosions of the rockets. There was still no room available. We went to the police station and could camp in there courtyard for the night.

But what a night this was! The explosions of the rockets never stopped as didn’t the brass bands playing at the top of their volume. Chan slept through the night, but as soon as he woke up he demanded us to turn off that bedlam. Flo and I had a headache. We left Carhuaz as early as possible. Only about 20km down the road I felt really weak, the sun was almost too much for me and my legs and arms started aking. At the entrance of Huaraz Flo had a flat tire. The hostal recommended in our guide book was charging three times as much as listed, so we had to look for another one. By now I had a fever and needed to rest, but we also needed some food and first went for a cheap lunch. Back at the hsotal I couldn’t move anymore. Flo went to buy groceries and looking for a mechanic who could make a special piece for the trailer hitch which was broken. We stayed three days in the center town of Suiza del Peru for me to recover from whatever had caused the fever.

Zona de gran altura

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From Huaraz at 3200m we followed the high valley uphill and passed the next night on 3600m, almost as high as the highest pass so far on our journey. The cacti were replaced by green and yellow grasses. The climate up here seemed much more humid. More snowpeaks with glaciers appeared, the air got thinner and colder.

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We were wearing our wooly hats now instead of the helmets and soon had to fight a fierce headwind. The warm food and hot coca tea at a small comedore at the intersection to the central highland strenghtened our bodies for a 10km fight against a stronger growing ice wind which swept over the plains before the foothills to our first over 4000m pass.

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We were looking for a place to camp and get out of the wind. What a surprise, when we found a hostal at a highway control post. It even had hot showers and a heater in the room. ao we passed the night on 4100m quite comfortably.

Next morning we headed up to 4300m .

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It was cold and we were breathing heavily, but were soon whizzing down into the next valley. Switch back after switch back we lost on altitude. With mixed feelings we observed the change in vegetation once more and took off our jackets and hats.

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Down to 3600m was the road taking us. The starting point for the pass Abra Yanashalla at 4720m. That night we made it back to about 4100m and camped next to a shepherders empty hut. Here we were protected from the wind.

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We were at the end of the valley, where the switch backs began. Luckily the grades of most peruvian roads are comfortable to ride and we were used to the thin air now. The climb wasn’t too hard. I just got out of breath very quickly when speeding away from the aggressive shepherding dogs which were exceptionally nasty on this part of the way. Usually being ahead for a kilometer or two when fleeing from dogs I now had to stop and wait for Flo after a few 100m.

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People in these more remote areas of the country are less used to tourists. Tourists are usually just passing through by bus, if at all taking this route. We met many old peruvian women turning away from us, hiding their face behind their hfands when we were passing by greeting them with a smile and “buenas dias!”. They are afraid of the mean gaze of the evil gringo which they believe could bewitch them.

About three kilometers before the pass a peruvian cyclist caught up to us by short cutting some switch backs and carrying his bike up the slopes. He is biking the pass often because he is working on one side of it and living on the other.

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Vegetation and climate changed again back into desert and tropical warmth the further down we got. The road turned back into gravel once more. The first part was good though and we enjoyed a fascinating ride along a narrow canyon.

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But then the road got nasty again, not more than a rocky path. We still followed a valley mainly downhill but the road led us up and down its flank.

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It was hot and hard to steer the heavy bikes. I was getting into a really bad mood after just half a day’s ride. I was afraid, that the trailer wouldn’t hold up to these exertions and my back and arms were hurting from braking. I told Flo that I wanted to get a ride for the remaining part to Huànuco. He didn’t like it, but said, if I could organize a ride, we would be taking it. We spent the night in Tingo Chico, a horrible tiny village. It was dirty, the houses were falling apart and as soon as we arrived a group of kids and adults followed us where ever we went, trying to touch Chan as often as they possibly could. Our hospedaje was again a dump.

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The beds had only dirty blankets, the courtyard was a chaos of firewood, dirt, garbage and laundry. Chan had two little girls to play with and we cooked our dinner observed by the women living there. Next morning we caught a bus to Huánuco. Now Flo was in a bad mood because he feared that parts of the trailer or the bikes would get broken on the bumpy ride. I was reliefed not to have to ride more “river beds” and Chan loved the ride too. The scenery was spectacular, but we couldn’t take any pictures. Then, after a few hours the bus suddenly stopped. In front of ours was a queue of other busses and trucks. Flo got off the bus as most of the passengers did to investigate the problem. There was a bus stuck in a switch back curve. It would take one hour to half a day to get it out, Flo was told. Huánuco was between 14km and 30km away was the other information he got. When after an hour still nothing was happening, we decided to get our bikes and ride that last part ourselves. A night on the bus wasn’t what we were fancying.

This must have been the worst part of the whole way. The road was like a scree, a strong headwind made steering even worse and it was dusty and humid, the influence of the close Amazonas, eventhough Huánuco is still on 2000m! 27km downhill took us three hours. In Huánuco we got the “being a star” feeling right away again being surrounded by people as soon as we stopped to look for a hotel.

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We didn’t have lunch that day, people on the way were calling us names because Chan was crying in the trailer out of tiredness and because of the shaking. Peruvians never let their kids cry, they are put quiet with sweets or a smack, but letting a child cry is one of the worst things for them to do. Though otherwise children are not persons to be respected. They are more like barbies which can be touched and carressed and handed arround. Our mood was really bad and we weren’t very friendly to our spectators. In the hotel we ate what we could find in our bags, took a nice hot shower and then went to eat pizza. Yes pizza! How do we somethimes miss our own food. Our swiss kitchen, german dark bread, hard cheese, a casserole, quiche, salads…  The food we eat for lunch isn’t bad. For very little money we usually get a nice soup and a plate of rice with sunny side up eggs and freid plantains or fried potatoes with onions and tomatoes, but it always tastes the same.

Anyway, the next day we moved all our stuff to Claudia and Urs, a swiss couple working for the evangelic church, who’s contact we had gotten from Rahel and Joerg. Behind the wall framing their home and the terrain of their organization it was like a paradise, tranquil and beautiful laid out with gardens and flowers everywhere. Claudia invited us to a delisious “Spaetzli” dinner-swiss kitchen! We felt at home! She gave us home made jam and pickled squash, what a treat for us. We stayed for a couple of nights to clean our bikes, do laundry and we even had our own oven to cook a casserole.

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Three days on the road brought us back up over 4000m again and out of the tropical climate. Up here it was winter. We had reached the high plains of the Junin pampa at over 4250m. Thunder storms closed in onto us from two directions. We covered the trailer and packs of the bikes and put on our rain ponchos right in time. Then freezing rain and hail came down onto us.

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A strong side wind tried to push us off the road, lightening was flashing over our heads and passing trucks splashed us full of the dirty wet and blew our ponchos into our faces. We had been looking for one of the usual roadside restaurants, but without luck. So we ate our fruits and chocolate instead and continued riding. Finally we reached Carhuamayo, where, when looking for a hostal, Adrian offered us a bed for free. He had been inviting passing cyclists for years now, feeding them and giving them a place to stay. He was really happy to have caught us and served us hot coffee and Pachamanca, a preinca dish of potatoes, meat and maniok cooked on hot stones.

Adrian even gave us a stove that burned coal to cook our dinner on keep the room warm. Unfortunately we passed a horrible night.  The stove used up too much oxigen so that we all got a strong headache. Chan even had to puke. In the middle of the night we pulled open the door, the tiny window wasn’t enough for the air flow. As soon as the sun came up, Flo got up and packed the bikes. We quickly ate some bread and said goodbye to Adrian and his family. Once on the bikes we started feeling better. It was still cold, but the storms from the night before had passed. Since the road was almost flat and after 45km descended from the high plains into canyons, we covered 90km that day.

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Right at the edge of the Junin pampa we obsereved our first picuñias, a wild member of the llama family.

La Oroya lies on 3750m. It is the main smeltering centre for the regions mining industry. The landscape in the canyon around the town was dead. No plants were growing there, the rocks were covered with some white sediments. While looking for a hotel, our throats already reacted to the badly contaminated air. But we spent the most relaxing night in a long time.

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The next 130km were easy riding along the Mantaro River valley. The road was slowly descending from 3700m to 3300m with no uphills at all. If it wasn’t for the headwind we might even have biked it in one day!

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Now we are in Huancayo enjoying what cities have to offer: a cafe with really good chocolate cake, other food than rice, a supermarket that sells chocolate bars and other useful things, internet and a warm shower.

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7 comments for now

Mira, mira gringo!

Posted by on Sep 14 2007 | 10 Ecuador 2007, 11 Peru 2007, English

Rocky road

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The sun was shining hot from a blue sky again. Our bellies were round from a delicious buffet we had for breakfast and we felt a bit sick pushing the bikes uphill. 20km of pavement were left before the beginning of a 300km long gravel road. It had been raining a lot for the past two days, but today seemed to be perfect to start the climb up to over 3000m from only 1500m in Vilcabamba.  We spent the night camping behind bushes next to the road wondering if the rain would stop in the morning for another beautiful blue sky day but we continued riding in our rain gear.

It took us all morning for the remaining 11km uphill to the pass. The road was in parts quite steep so that I had to push my bike and somethimes help Flo push the trailer for a while. On the summit it was very windy and cold. We rolled down for a few kilometers and had lunch on a mossy spot next to the road. There I got some water from a creek which we filtered to fill our bottles again.

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Some super steep and rocky parts awaited us on the downhill ride and a few small creeks crossing the road where I got a wet shoe because my front wheel slipped off a stone in the middle of deep water. So the downhill wasn’t much faster than the uphill. This side of the pass was really hot and the vegetation reminded us very much of Central America. There were the banana and orange trees again, sugar cane and bright coloured bushes.

Another creek crossed the road. I took off one shoe and crossed fine. Florian thought he could make it again and this time slipped and got his shoe wet as well.

Shortly after we took off the next morning I heard a nasty dog barking and stopped to pick up some rocks, then wanted to continue but Florian called up to me to wait until he had some stones as well. Both my shoes got somehow stuck in the pedal baskets and I couldn’t get my feet out and slowly tipped to one side. Because it was gravel and because I was riding in shorts I got some scratches on my leg. I was really mad about this silly fall, the scratches burned, but well, it could have been worse! The ride then was actually quite nice. It was an easy ride of slight down hill with beautiful views until we reached the first side canyon after some 30km. We could see the road on the other side going up steeply and we were rolling down on this side until we reached the stream and a scarry bridge. On the other side we both had to push our bikes and Chan had to get out of the trailer and help us push.

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The gravel here was really loose and we kept slipping backwards. It looked like we had the worsed part of it, Florian even started pedaling again only to discover that after a few 100m it got even steeper and the ground softer. 2km were taking us one hour! Luckily the next few side canyons weren’t as steep anymore, but the ride was arduous anyway. Suddenly I felt this weird quietness arround us and looked up. ¨Flo look over there!¨I called back and pointed to a valley ahead of us which was clouded over and disappeared behind a dense white wall of heavy rain. ¨Hopefully we can make that village over there before the rain is hitting us!¨, he said pointing at some houses on a ridge, ¨this might be Zumba with a hotel!¨ The first raindrops fell, when we reached the village. But what disapointment, when we realized it wasn’t Zumba and that pretty much the whole village was drunk. We covered the trailer and our panniers and rode on. It was downhill now, but thew road was again really bad, soft material and rocks so that we couldn’t ride faster than 4-5km/hour. Finally we reached Isimanchi, the village at the bottom by the river. The rain had stopped again and it was hot down here. We were told that it was 2 hours to walk to Zumba from here. It was 5pm and we would probably need 2 hours as well for the steep climb of 5-7km to Zumba.

We didn’t have much water left and there wasn’t any to buy here. Should we attempt the climb risking to ride in the dark and stay in a hotel in Zumba or stay down here in this hole where people were starring at us? We bought 1 1/2 liter cola and started to climb up. I was really tired but it didn’t feel right to stay down by the river. With lots of breaks, cola and chocolate we made it to the last switch back we had seen from the river about one hour later. The sun had already disappeared behind the mountains. We rode around a rock where the rode had disappeared out of sight and could see the road winding its way further up and up. That almost blew me from my bike . I had believed that we had the best part of the climb by now and now I just didn’t have any strength left. We pushed on and then there were those houses on the side of the road and I told Flo I couldn’t continue and that he should ask if we could camp there. He was a bit disappointed to give up so close to Zumba and so was Chan. He had been looking foreward to a hotel. But we could put our tent up in front of an unused school house, filtered water, cooked and by the time we were eating it was completely dark and had begun to rain again.

The next day it took us another hour to cover the 3km to Zumba. In Zumba we stocked up on food again and Flo could check our e-mail at the town hall. Chan shared his cars with some boys and when we wanted to leave, one car was missing and one of the boys took off quite quickly when we started looking for the car. We were lucky with the weather now, for the rain had stopped and when we continued out of Zumba the sun burned hot on us. The road got worse though with lots of rocks and mud and again we went steeply down hill and on the other side of the valley steeply uphill again. Chan had to walk a few times, but he didn’t mind. Actually he loved it and collected sticks and stones and ran back and forth between me and Florian like a little dog.

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The road wasn’t really a road but more like a path by now and it took us again the whole day for 37km. Especially the last part, only about 10km, were really nasty; loose ground with tons of rocks. It took forever. But we made it to La Balsa and the border to Peru! Ecuadorian Immigration was relatively quick but on the peruvian side we first had to look for the officer who was at home and it took us about 1 hour to get into Peru. But wow! How nice were those first 5km of road! No, it wasn’t paved, but compared to the past few days we were riding on an interstate highway and quickly arrived at a nice hotel in Namballe.

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We stayed one day in that hotel to recover from the exertions of the past days and discovered a tear in the rim of my back wheel. How long would that rim hold? Could we risk another day on gravel with it to San Ignacio where there was supposed to be many bike shops? We took the risk and headed off the next day. the road got worse again with lots of mud in places and water holes, rocks and soft parts. We stopped in a village to buy more liquids and were surrounded by kids and adulds immediatley. Flo counted 31 kids and a handfull of adults staring at us during our whole lunch brake only an arm length away.

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When we got on our bikes again, the majority of them followed us for 1-2 km on foot or bikes and laughed and screamed loudly. From now on this happened every time we rode through a village. We didn’t even have to stop, we were surrounded and followed anyway. If we did stop to buy more water, they were immediately right at our bikes, touching everything, staring through the mosquito net and windows into the trailer. This was especially difficult for Chan who was first afraid and then annoyed. In San Ignacio a group of kids followed us even into the hospedaje and we could only breath up after locking our room door behind us.

It was a very cheap hospedaje, but it was late already and we were too tired to search for another one. In the middle fo the night I woke up suddenly because something big had fallen next to my head and then run off. Flo said it was a rat which entered through the window, then jumped onto the bedframe and lost balance over my head! Igitigitt!

In the morning we brought my wheel to the only bike shop we could find and he said he could change the rim within one hour. When we returned 1 1/2 hours later he was just about to put the old wheel back together. He had taken the whole wheel apart only to discover, that he didn’t have a rim that would fit my 32 spokes. Putting the spokes back into the rim he did a really bad job. My wheel was now as untrue as it could possibly be. Flo couldn’t fix it either without a trueing tool because not even the hub was in the centre of the wheel now and I couldn’t ride on like this.  

We decided to take a bus to Jaen. An american we had met in Ecuador had told us about a really good bike mechanic we would find there. The bus wasn’t leaving until 6.30pm and was taking 3 hours. But we had gotten seats on the upper level in the very front and really enjoyed our panoramic view. The bus stopped in front of a hospedaje and we took a room there. It was too late to pack the bikes and look for another hotel. The room was dirty and cockroaches climbed up and down the walls. In the morning we went looking for the bike shop and found it after the 3rd try. Miguel Obando even had a good rim with the necessary 32 holes for my spokes and not the normal 36 for Peru. His sister invited us to stay in an empty room at their house and we stayed there for three days fixing my bike, giving an interview at the local radio station and letting Chan play with two girls from the Netherlands who live there.

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About rocks, holes and good companions

This part of our voyage was very special for the three of us. It was strenuous to ride, but brought us through extremely diverse landscapes and climates. Only a few weeks before we pedeled these roads, my father had passed through by bus and I felt his presence along the way knowing that he had enjoyed the same amazing views and experienced a journey as fantastic as we did. We didn’t ride alone. Rahel and Joerg, the swiss couple we had already met twice before (www.affenbrunner.ch), had cought up to us again and now we were sharing a part of our voyages. Then there was Steven as well from Australia who was on a ride from Quito to the South without a strong plan about his travels. He had heared about us in Ecuador and became part of our cycling familiy for about 10 days as well.

When we left Jaen we entered Amazonas province. That didn’t mean we were actually in the Amazonas basin but the climate, altitude and humidity certainly reminded us of the close rain forest. the countryside was relatively flat and the wide valleys were used for the cultivation of rice. We were dripping with sweat but the roads were dusty.

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Where ever we appeared with or without bikes people often behaved quite strange as if we were aliens. Kids always followed us screaming:¨Gringo, gringo, mira, mira!¨ A mother once ordered her kids out of the house to watch the gringos ride by. They point with there fingers and get very excited as if they didn’t know of the existence of different coloured people. In the time of T.V, Internet and globalisation this is often not just annoying but those reactions also feel offensive and insulting by the tone of the people’s voices.

Other people are sticking their oversized cameras right into our faces as soon as we get off our bikes without asking if it is fine with us to be filmed. So now we know how it feels to be an attraction but not respected as people. How many people in countries like Peru must feel exactly this by the behaviour of certain tourists!

3 days after we had left Jaen, we heard the familiar sound of a bike bell, Rahel and Joerg had caught up to us.

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There was so much to talk about for the rest of the day and late into the night! Rahel and I didn’t stop talking the whole next day riding in the front. Joerg was in the middle, taking lots of pictures and staying with Flo and Chan behind us. We had already gained in altitude a little bit again and our surroundings changed. A narrow canyon which opened up the higher we got, brought us out of a vegetation of mostly shrubs and thorn bushes into greener regions.

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When we woke up on our second morning with Rahel and Joerg the sky was dark grey and it rained. We all decided to hang around in Leymebamba, hoping that the rain would eventually stop for a sunny ride the next day. So we looked out for a nice chocolate torte and found pancakes and pizza instead. Like every long distance cyclist on a day off, we were eating the whole day. In mid afternoon, just before we had some coffee and cake, Rahel cut my hair short again. When Chan woke up from his nap, he almost cried when he saw me and said he didn’t like it. By now though he is happy with my new look.

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It was still raining the next morning, but we could see some blue in the sky and decided to ride. We were afraid, that the gravel road would turn into a mud path if we waited too long. But the road wasn’t bad and the grades comfortable on the way up to the first of a few passes over 3000m. The road was built into the terrain nicely so that we enjoyed beautiful panoramic views over the valley we came from. The summit on 3680m was very cold and windy. So we were riding down on the other side quickly on a gravel road that was quite good and after about 20km found it was time to stop and look for a place to camp. Rahel discovered the perfect spot on a path leading to a house far away. the path was wide enough for our two tents close to the road, but hidden a bit behind a slope and bushes.

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We put up our tents and started cooking, when Rahel came to me and said, that another cyclist had arrived. It was Steven, wo had done a 100km day on gravel to try and catch up with us! When our food was almost ready a few girls came up the path wit a donkey. We had to make some space first before they could pass between tents and bikes. But they didn’t mind and waited patiently. Then a bit later passed two men on footk and instead of asking what we were doing there, they showed us where to find drinkable water! It was all down hill for about 40km from our campsite to Balsas down at the Marañon River at 900m. We thought it would be a quick ride, but the road got worse the further down we got and we needed more than 3 hours.

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The views were incredible as the change of climate and vegetation. We were slowly diving into what looked like a bare rocky world but actually was quite diverse and colourful in detail. There were prickly pear blooming in bright orange. Bushes with purple and yellow flowers. Knobbed trees and many varieties of cactuses. All the way on the bottom of the valley was the river surrounded by juicy green mangoe trees. The Marañon is one of the two mother rivers which become eventually the Amazonas. Already up here it gathered a big body of water and devides the Andes into two parts with its steep and deep canyon.

Balsas was a terrible little town. Garbage was lying around everywhere and the smell of piss and rotten mangoes filled the thick, hot air. We got lunch in a restaurant and then tried to find food for our dinner and water. There wasn’t much water to buy and for vegetables we were sent to the mangoe stands.

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On the other side of the bridge the road was more like a river bed than road. It was really difficult to steer the bikes on this loose coarse surface. The road slowly climbed te valley side in curves and switch backs, so the grades were comfortable. But Rahel and I had to push our bikes the bigger part of it and Florian did incredible work again, pulling the trailer up that road! After only 8 km we looked out for a place to sleep. We were still in the very dry and hot desert part and needed to find water. People pointed to a tiny creek further up and we were surprised to find water there. Rahel had found a beautiful spot between cactuses and thornbushes for our camp. Joerg and Steven were still a bit further down the road trying to fix Steven’s broken chain and Flo and I fetched water which accidently spilled. So Steven got more water later, we cooked spaghetti together, filtered water and enjoyed our special campsite.

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To escape most of the heat in this dry land, we got up early and faught our way up and up and up. The men were always riding. I pushed my bike more than I could ride it and so did Rahel. 28km took us a whole day of pusing and slowly moving our heavy bikes up on those rocks. Joerg and Steven kept running back to help Flo push the trailer and take my bike to push it a while for me. We needed many breaks and bought the whole stock of 4 bottles of coca cola in a small bodega on the way.

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We camped about 10km below the summit on a grassy spot hidden from the road by thick bushes. Again we cooked pasta with a delicious sauce Joerg put toether. There was no water, but luckily we had filled up on it in the last restaurant where we had eaten lunch. Another morning of pushing in a “riverbed” lay ahead of us. One more switch back and we would be on the summit! I bought another cola. We needed that extra sugar and liquid to keep up our strength. I asked the woman at the bodega if she had a garbage for the empty pet bottles. She pointed to the edge of the slope: “The dogs will eat it!” “No”, I said. “It is plastic, the bottles!” “Ah, you can throw it down anyway.”, she replied. I couldn’t of course, but that’s what people do. There is no place to bring the garbage to!

What a feeling when we had finally reached the summit at 3050m and looked back down to the Marañon. A white line meandered its way up in wide loops and narrow switchbacks ending at our feet. We had made it!

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In Celendin we had half a day to rest, stock up on food and chocolate and celebrate our sixt year of being away from Switzerland.

The road was amazingly good to ride from here. It was still gravel and we had yet another pass on gravel to climb, the highest so far on our journey with an altitude of 3760m. We didn’t make the pass in one day and camped again just about 8km before te summit. Rahel had asked an old man by his house, if we could put up our tents there and he was really friendly and sweet saying over and over:” Si, si, gringita, si, si!” Next morning the police came visiting us to tell us that this road was very dangerous, that there were a lot of robbers and that our security was the responsibility of the police and that they would therefore stay close to us for the whole day. We didn’t see them again.

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We had lunch in the next little town, rice with papas fritas as usual. When we continued we hardly believed our eyes: the road was paved! Wow, that was about 20km earlier than we expected it. No more jolting, just nice and smooth riding! Chan fell asleep immediatly.

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We made it to Baños del Inca mid afternoon and first went for an ice cream. Unfortunatley the hostel with thermal baths we had wanted to stay at didn’ t exist. All other places were terribly over priced and mostly quite shabby. We found one with private bath tubs and Chan, Flo and I relaxed in a warm family bath. But especially I didn’t like the place so we rode the short 9 km to Cajamarca next morning after a bike cleaning session. There the hostal we had chosen was booked out and Rahel, Steven and I looked for another place for about two hours, then Florian and Steven went again and finally found an acceptable place for us to stay. The whole Cajamarca-Baños del Inca experience was a bit disappointing. But we found good honey, butter and cheese for which this area is known for.

The next day we headed out again up to the last pass for a while. This one was a bit over 3000m. The climb on pavement and with gentle grades was easy and the downhill ride neverending. Pavement here was quite old tough and the road full of holes we had to elude which slowed down our schuss. But we rode over 90m that day anyway.

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Now it wasn’t far to the coast anymore. The highway was still more hole than pavement and now te coastal wind picked up. The six of us had been riding a difficult arduous stretch together. Flo, Chan and I were slowing the pace of the other three, but they stayed with us until Trujillo. There was yet another difficult point along the way we wanted to pass as a group. From other cyclists we had been warned about the town of Paijan, where cyclists had been robbed by armed men riding a red motor taxi in the past few months. We had our bear and dog sprays ready as well as sticks handy. Steven broke the wind for the rest of us and with an average speed of 20 km/h we covered the first 40km through the desolate sand desert to Paijan. At the entrance of the town was a dead bloody dog in the middle of the road. We ate some chocolate, all the men including Chan peed and on we went like a train with five waggons and the locomotive Steven. With every red motor taxi we passed or were passed by I thought: Are they the ones? And I’m sure the others did the same. We only stopped again 10km passed Paijan to eat something. Now the ride was a bit relaxter, though the landscape was the same barren land. We rode 104 km, the longest distance for Flo, Chan and me so far and still arrived in Trujillo early afternoon. The dynamic in our group, especially on that last day had been awsome.

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But Trujillo was the place to part. We stayed together in the casa de ciclistas in Lucho’s house, where before us 860 other long distance cyclists  and within those a few legends had stayed. Flo, Chan and I are still here, waiting for my new credit card to arrive, while Rahel, Joerg and Steven left after two days and are off to Huaraz and Central Peru.

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