(109)Laughter, Lakes, chance or fate?
It felt strange heading to a new country on my own but I needed to move on and having Amanda flying in to Juliaca was a good motivator to get on. Hoping we would be safe and the people nice was my first thought and yet I had not been let down yet. Peru was going to be a tough country to cycle through but easing in gently with the lake, Amanda arriving and the chance to see some sites was more then welcome. All I needed to do was get to Puno and wait.
Tuesday 12th May
Wanting to get a load of miles done and cross the border into Peru I got up early and made breakfast out on the table. With two eggs, honey on toast and a coffee I was set. I loaded my bike which seemed to feel heavier especially the food bag and made my way out on to the street. There was a short climb out out town but the road mainly undulated the 5 km to the border.
Spotted this mad little house on the way
I spent the little remaining bolivianos I had on sweets and coke as I had already got enough to feed a family of five for a week and went to the immigration office stamp out of Bolivia. As I arrived at the office I found 3 guys waiting due to not having a piece of paper with their passport which I also didn’t have and was never given one. After a half an wait and a bit of huffing and puffing we were all given bits of paper to fill in then stamped out of Bolivia. With that part over with I jumped on my bike and rode the short distance to the Peruvian border.
Welcome to Peru
Thinking it was just a police check point I was pointed to what must be a new immigration office where I was then formally stamped in. From here in I was in Peru, country number 27 and on my own.
New country new fashions and buy racers
And then there was the more sedate form of transport
I had no idea what would change and what was ahead but then I never did. Most of the time I found that if I was smiling I would get a wave or a smile back. The road headed west to start with then turned more north. I had heard that this side of the lake was busy and Uninteresting but I quite liked it as the road followed the lake gently rising and falling. Most of the time the minibuses would leave more then enough space but there would be always one every now and then wanting the whole road even with nothing coming. I would still wave thanks even the close ones hoping that next time they might give a little more room. Other then a couple climbs of around 200 metres the road remained good and easy going. I stopped pretty much at 1pm and got my lunch ready. I hadn’t been doing much for lunch but wanting to prepare tea to save time and not knowing where I would camp would save giving away my position.
Cottage pie for tea, lovely!
I set off just over an hour later with food in my tummy and tea prepared and finished the last of the climb to Juli. It looked a big town and felt good to get through it just after the lunch. With Llava around 15 miles further on I knew if I could get past this small town I would have an easy day tomorrow and the chance to find a hostel in Puno.
As I rode next to the lake everyone was making rope, this a machine to do it
Still making good progress and being quite early I was a little worried I would get to close to Juli and not be able to find anywhere to camp. After crossing the border with no Bolivianos to exchange meant I had no Peruvian money until Puno and so made camping my only option.
As the lake receded it left room for all sorts of crops
I reached Llava with ease and was surprised how big it was and with large towns normally come sprawling outskirts so I pushed on to get A bit closer towards Puno. Spotting two European guys on the side of the road I stopped to say hello. They were two Italian guys who had been walking since Lima and were due to finish in around 6 days. If you thought this was mad enough one of them had a prosthetic leg.
We chatted for a while but knowing they were keen to get to Llava we said goodbye and I set off north again. Needing water I stopped at a well and picked up a couple litres to cook with and continued on to look for a camp spot. As the road ahead very steadily climbed the houses got less and the fields bigger. Looking at the brow of the hill far off I could see houses and so this was my chance. Keeping my eyes peeled I passed a few good spots that had people around but then I saw an area with no one and a natural dip that should be low enough to hide the tent. Once the traffic had passed I ran off in to the field as far from the road as I could. The low spot looked perfect with probably just the top showing which should be enough to hide. I had covered 60 miles which left just under 30 to go and would give me the afternoon off to find a place to stay and catch up on some work before Amanda arrived the following morning. I was really pleased at my progress and the thought of Amanda coming out to join me was amazing. I was getting used to friends coming out and riding with me and didn’t want to think about what it will be like once she’s gone and there is no one else. All I wanted to think about is making sure she enjoys herself and gets to experience what its like to be on the road.
Wednesday 13th May
It was a really cold night out in the field. I was not sure why as It hadn’t been that cold the previous nights or not that I could remember. Being out of sight was great with no one disturbing me and allowing me to have breakfast in peace. I used most off my water to make a cupper only to knock it over while packing the tent. Although I still had just enough to make a cup it left me with no water to ride with. With a town coming up I didn’t worry to much and set off with my bike back to the highway. By the time I joined the road what sounded like a busy highway earlier had now gone quite with few cars and trucks travelling in either direction. The road remained largely flat with a few slight climbs not rising much more then 50-60 metres above the level of the lake. Although the lake was now out of sight it was clear at some point the water would have covered much of the land that was being farmed today. With only 29 miles to Puno it wasn’t long before I got close and checked on my phone where the centre was. After reading Puno was a nice town but could be unsafe I wanted to be careful. I reached the centre by 12.30 and was approached by a man who owned a hotel. I looked around town first but with the promise of a place for the bike it was worth checking out. I found the place after 10 minutes of looking and was greeted by the guy. The room looked good and with the bike inside, more hot water then I could imagine and wifi faster then I have ever had it was perfect. With my clothes washed and devices on charge I uploaded loads of pictures before heading out to get money and a SIM card. Once I had both I wondered around picking up food on my travels. There was nothing that made me feel danger in fact it was totally the opposite. Still wanting to get some work done before Amanda arrived I made my way back to the hostel to catch up on the blog and even sort my music out on my iPod. It felt exciting I was being joined again and I couldn’t wait.
Thursday 14th May
I was woken from a deep sleep to hear my phone ring. I answered it to hear Amanda in slight panic needing the name of the hostel we were staying at. I asked what the problem was and was told the airline had lost her panniers. I really felt for her only having 2 weeks off and then having to spend time trying to chase and get her bags back. I sent her the address and as I was now awake thought it would be a good time to get some work done. After a few hours I went to where all the collectivios were and caught the one to Julica to collect Amanda and hopefully her bags. As I arrived at the mini buses I found it was perfect timing as the one waiting to go had one seat left. The bus set off and I checked the road out between the two towns to see how safe they were. Apart from a climb and the descent not having a hard shoulder the flat section after looked good and safer then I’d been told. I reached the town and after being told it was a dangerous place I was about to catch a taxi but the people were lovely and so friendly I decided to walk to the airport which was about 2 miles giving my legs a stretch and check out the town. It felt great to walk and feel welcome, reaching the airport with about 5 minutes to spare. It wasn’t long before Amanda arrived looking relieved to be there with a bike box but minus her bags. With reassurance from the company we headed back to Puno while I caught up on all the news from home.
It was so good to see her and she looked excited to finally be here in Peru. With a good road ahead with a fews passes to climb I just hoped it would be exciting enough for her. We reached the hostel and unloaded her things and knowing she would be hungry we went into town for food. Just like Steve she didn’t realise how hungry she was and once we had eaten the wave of tiredness hit her so we went back so she could catch up on some sleep. This gave me a little more time to work while she rested but once she was awake Amanda showed me a bag of things that people had given me. It was incredible I had more chocolate then the local chocolatier and some dollars to buy even more chocolate. I even had a new t shirt and socks just to make things even better.
It felt like Christmas and so lucky to have incredible friends and family. Now that I was totality spoilt we headed out again for food and to look around. This time we didn’t need so much so we went to a Chinese to get a snack. It was perfect and not to heavy either. We looked a little more around town where Amanda spotted a supped up motor taxi with blacked out windows. While she stood next to it for a photo a guy from inside the taxi said ‘taxi’ which frightened the life out of her.
Little did we know there was a guy in the taxi, Brilliant!!
After laughing a lot at her her expense we headed back to the hostel and tried to work out where Amanda’s bags were. We had a great guy who spoke to the LAN office and at first looked like he was banging his head against a wall. After 30 minutes of banging he discovered her bag was in Lima and should be in Juliaca tomorrow sometime. With not much confidence we booked a boat trip out to the reed islands for the next day and sent Amanda off to catch up on some sleep.
Friday 15th May
Once we’d had breakfast the driver came to get us and we made our way out to the taxi. As we reached the boat we were joined by pretty much every tourist in town. We boarded the boat and were greeted by a guy with a guitar and panpipes just to reinforce the fact we were on a tour.
Still worried about Amanda’s panniers we started to think about buying local clothes which looking at the local dress would have been brilliant. No sooner as we thought about it the guide informed us we would be visiting local family’s on the islands and would have the opportunity of trying on the local dress. Amanda turned and looked at me in horror, It was brilliant and I could believe my luck.
Don’t worry we’re coming
We left the boat and stepped on to the reed island where we were shown how it was built and how they trade the things they make on the island from reeds, the fish they catch with the mainland and tourists. At this point they asked if anyone would like to visit a family home and dress up. Within 3 minutes Amanda was in the house and trying on the local dress. It was brilliant and made my day.
I think she liked being dressed up
Its was brilliant watching tourist in the tower basket
This was a working wooden gun
All I said was I was hungry and this came along, result!
With a little longer in the island looking around we then headed back to the mainland and picked up a snack for lunch. Amanda was still feeling jet lagged so while she slept I got back to work and posting another blog. Once she was awake again we tried to track down her panniers which was more like banging our heads against a brick wall and so decided to concentrate our efforts into posting the bike box to Cuzco which seemed to be simple enough. We returned to my room to build Amanda’s bike and after almost finishing building the bike the receptionist came up and said something about the bike box to which we said we would do it later. He then said no other bags and pointed downstairs. We looked at each other and thought it couldn’t be, we ran downstairs to see a lady holding a large bag with Amanda’s panniers.
She could have still worn the local dress!
She was so happy it was amazing for her although part of me wished she had brought the local dress to cycle in. All of a sudden we could leave and we had to finish sorting our things and go through what we didn’t need. With just the bike box to post we could relax and enjoy the last evening in Puno. We hailed down a bike taxi loaded with us and a bike box and we bounced our way through the streets to the bus station.
Even posting a box is fun
The local cinema in Puno
It was great fun although a little hairy at times. We soon arrived at the bus depot and £3 later and me being told off for using to much of the lady’s black pen writing Amanda’s name on the box we headed back with nothing else to do then eat. We both got changed and went for dinner knowing we could now leave and start another adventure happy and with slightly sore heads
Saturday 16th May
Waking up around 8.30am Amanda went off to buy bread for breakfast while I finished off a few chores. With our bags packed and weighing more then I remembered we got our bikes and kit downstairs loaded them ready for the off.
Ready for an adventure
By this point it was 10am and Amanda wobbled up the narrow street still getting used to the loaded bike and started to head north. I stopped to put some things in my bag and she was gone. We climbed around 180 metres over a hill and meet again at the top at 4,010 metres.
It was amazing to see her enjoying herself after just one hill
It was clear at this point I wouldn’t be waiting for her on this trip and to see the massive grin on her face was brilliant. Once at the top we steadily descended down to the long straight flattish road to Juliaca. Feeling strong all be it chilly due to the cloudy, slightly windy day we were averaging 10 mph. With the cloudy sky and the main road the scenery wasn’t interesting but knew it would get better once the other side of the town. We reached Juliaca around 12.30 and continued on through wanted to get out the other side before we had lunch. The town was busy with Saturday traffic and so took a while to get through the worst of the mayhem. It was a bigger town then we had first thought and felt safer to. With many waving and greeting us we waved back and slowly made it out the other side stopping at a garage to pick up water and cook dinner. Amanda had brought out army rations which just needed to be heated in hot water which was amazing and so easy. While I made tea and boiled the bags it gave Amanda chance to FaceTime her daughter.
Amanda enjoying the call home while I cooked 🙂
It was really great to see them chatting and catching up. We sat and ate lunch which was such a treat and set off again with the temperature even lower. It looked like a rain band had past by in front of us but it still felt icy on our hands. As the clouds started to clear and the scenery improve the sun came out and it got steadily warmer. We were making great progress and although the first part of the day was a little uninteresting it was a great warm up for riding at altitude. After passing a few tiny villages we were on a straight road when we passed a farm and two very angry black dogs came running at full pelt down the lane. I had told Amanda what we used to do in the past but these dogs looked really nasty. With in seconds they were on our wheels with all teeth showing and about to bite. I shouted stop and so we both anchored on the brakes at the same point Amanda screamed at the dogs. Still not sure which was more affective, stopping or screaming but the dogs and I ran off up the lane back to the farm. Feeling pleased it had worked and no one was hurt we rode on northwards. As the end of the day came closer the clouds moved in once again making it cold again. With time moving on and the sun setting around 6.15pm we needed to find water and a camp spot. Spotting a farm in the distance we pulled off the road once we reached the drive and met a nice man who said it was ok. With around 7 litres of water we set off for another couple miles and saw a great spot just out of sight and next to a river.
Camp set, time for tea
With both tents up and tea on the go we sat wrapped up and pleased with how far we had got. Apart from a bit of a chesty cough Amanda had done amazingly and had coped with the altitude really well but then knowing how strong she was I never doubted she would struggle one bit. We just hoped the sun would come out for tomorrow and warm up a little.
Sunday 17th May
After a peaceful nights sleep and the temperature rising I woke to the sun lighting the tent and Amanda asking if I was awake. Needing a bit longer in my sleeping bag I eventually got up and put the kettle on when Amanda joined me. With dried breakfast in a bag all we needed to do was add water and wait a minute. This eating out of a bag was become an amazing treat and wanted to enjoy every second of it. We had our bikes loaded by 9.15am and made our way out to the road.
Being around 10am by this point Amanda tried call home to speak to her daughter. It was so good to see them chatting and once she had finished we set off.Even though it was a nice our progress was slower as we had a strong head wind. We pushed on and as we headed further north west the scenery got better.
By the time it got to lunch time we had covered 30 miles which felt great considering the constant headwind and were now only 6 miles South of Ayavirí. Amanda managed to face time home while I cooked which was amazing although there did seem to be a pattern forming with calling home when it was time to cook.
It was an amazing spot to have lunch with a great view and out if the wind. We set off after an hour and reached town to pick up some fruit. It was nice to stop for a short break but we wanted to get a bit closer to Santa Rosa.
As the clouds formed the shadows became incredible
With the wind still not letting up we covered another 16 miles and with the sun setting spotted a place just off the road and out of sight. With the temperature dropping we needed to get the tents up and get tea on the go.
Fixing my first broken spoke since being back
It had been a good day for distance but tough in the wind. Amanda was still not showing any sign of weakness which was incredible. With the high pass tomorrow it should be a good down hill to Cuzco and a day off.
Monday 18th May
Our camp for the night was incredible
The sun seemed to up a long time before it warmed the tents. With frost on the outside of the flysheet as soon as the sun started to warm it the condensation started. I had put the gear shed on to try it out but the angle probably didn’t help. I quickly wiped the fly off and lay it in the sun to dry it. By this point Amanda had pretty much packed her stuff away and joined me for breakfast. It was a stunning day and with the pass it was only going to get better.
With sheep,Llama and snowy peaks it was amazing
The milk man off to collect the days produce
We got on the road by 9 and headed northeast steadily climbing. With no wind it was so amazing and so much easier. After 10 miles we reached Santa Rosa and stopped for a drink and a short break before riding on to the summit. With 19 miles to go we covered another 10 before the wind picked up again. We stopped around mid day for Amanda to call home but with no reception we rode on towards the pass. We reached the top of Abra la Raya at 4,338 metres at 1 pm to hear the train coming the other way. We waited for it to set off and watch as it pulled it’s heavy load past the lake. It looked stunning and even better we were at the top.
It felt like we were at the right place at the right time
Amanda’s first major summit 4,338metres
We chatted to a few nice motorcyclist on a tour and set off down the long Valley to Sicura. The scenery was incredible and changed so quickly as we descended. With everything getting greener and more crops in the fields all with their own colours it left for a very stunning descent.
Everything just got greener
We reached Sicura after an hour or so and not having stopped for dinner we called in at a cafe for food. We were soon served chicken, potato and rice with a sauce which tasted amazing. Not realising just how hungry we were we set off feeling much better and pleased we had already covered 50 miles.
I would love to have a go on one of these
With farm after farm, house after house and town after town the next problem was to find a good camp spot. We rode for mile after mile looking and hoping for anything. We left one town only to find it joined another. Feeling tired and with it now getting cold we stopped next to what looked like a restaurant. I went and found a guy who pointed in front of the restaurant to a grassy area right on the road. I asked if there was somewhere behind out of sight and was shown a field with 2 sheep and 2 llamas in. It was perfect and so soon with the tents up and chile con carne with rice on the menu we were set. I suggested adding some chillies I had brought which really gave the meal a kick although I wished I’d washed my hands before going to the bathroom. It had been an incredible day with stunning scenery and covered an amazing distance. We were only a day and a bits ride from Cuzco which was incredible and should give us time to see some sights in the city.
Tuesday 19th May
Although our camp spot was good the condensation dripping on my stuff wasn’t and was dripping everywhere and what didn’t help was that the inner was made of mesh so didn’t stop any drops. Amanda was already up so once I had cleared most of the tent and laid the fly out to dry we sat and had breakfast. I liked the tent and the way it functioned but I needed to change a couple things to make it work for me. Although it seemed to take ages to dry everything we didn’t mind as it was a clear day with a cloudless sky. We had our breakfast in front of the lama’s and the puppies before packing up and heading out to the highway. The road was good with a light wind and as we slowly got closer to Cuzco the sharp green jagged mountains got higher and the valleys got narrower and deeper.
It was incredible where there were fields and how steep the land was
We stopped at a wide grassy bit that looked across at the mountains across the river and ate an orange. It was so nice to stop and just take it in. With everything changing around us so rapidly it was good to stop and absorb it. It was incredible how roads would be cut into the steep mountainside and climb up around the edge to disappear off into what felt like another land. We stopped for lunch early after finding a nice place off the road and in the sun. With the road dropping faster then we hoped there was only one thing that was going to happen and that was hills. We started the first of many short climbs then descend lower and lower. We passed more and more buildings that looked more Mediterranean and the trees got higher
and higher. The green got richer and the river deeper as it carved it’s way through the soft sandstone. As the wind picked up and getting stronger we met an American cyclist going the other direction who told us it was all flat and down hill until Cuzco, we thanked him and set off and reached the first climb, only about 150 metres but a significant one, this was then followed by a lovely descent with a few miles of flat followed by another climb. Trying to work out what flat meant we continued to climb and descend until we climbed up to what was the old inca gateway to Cuzco.
The stone work was impressive but were told it was nothing to what we would see further on. With a long descent to Oropesa ahead and the sun setting we set off to try and get food and water before needing to find a safe camp spot. After arriving in town we spotted a nice restaurant and went in for dinner. Noticing on the way in the building was under construction and the second floor hadn’t been built yet I asked the owner if we could camp on the roof to which he was more then happy. Now with a safe place to sleep we could enjoy an amazing dinner with it slowly getting dark. After seeing 3 very drunk guys get out of a truck the thought of cycling now wasn’t a good idea and so headed up on to the roof to find a perfect flat camp spot and a billboard sign that was brighter then the sun. I did laugh and with the roof being quite big we managed to get the tents up out of the main glare. With the stars out and a full moon rising is was a stunning and with the lights of Cuzco shining on the hillside and the odd plane coming into land we were excited we were nearly there. We had made good time and given ourselves enough for a day off.
Our roof top camp for the night, I know how to treat a lady 🙂
Wednesday 20th May
Waking up on the roof top felt surprisingly comforting, probably because we were up out of sight and in no ones way. It didn’t however stop the condensation again dripping on me and on all my stuff but with a clear sunny day it wasn’t important and with around 20 miles to go to Cuzco we got up and had breakfast. Amanda had already been up and had returned with bread baps the size of frisbee’s which did make me chuckle and set me up for the day. Being at 3,150 metres meant we had a bit of a climb into town and so as we approached the city so did the climb. The traffic was kind which was good considering the traffic had caused the Tarmac to bulge over 10″ high which could make been a nightmare if they had tried to pass.
Its not a curb its tarmac having been pushed up to form one
Happy to be in the Cuzco, another major landmark to my journey north
The climb in to the city seemed to go on forever and it felt like we would never reach the centre but as we got closer the gradient got less. We soon reached the historical centre of the old city to find we were only a 100 metres from where we had been recommended a hostel. It was perfect and as we brought our bikes into the courtyard we immediately felt at home, We booked ourselves in and headed out into the city to have a look around. We reached an old church and decided to have a tour, We were shown some old inca ruins and some incredible stonework which would be hard to replicate even today with the technology we have.
What i need is a little tiny stone carved to fit in that hole amazing!
This stone work is original and yet looks new
The new church that was built on top of the Inca foundations
It was amazing to have Amanda with me and to share my trip
Wanting to visit Machu Picchu it gave us a good insight on what to expect and so with the tour over we headed off around the city to the main square. Cuzco was a stunning old city with so much to see and a surprise round every bend. We reached a street selling tours and found one that would take us to the Machu Picchu and back at a great price. With the tour booked for the next day we headed back to the main square for dinner excited at our day off to see one of the seven wonders.
Having Amanda with me was brilliant fun and so nice to share a new country. She had more then proved how fit she was by flying up the hills and smiling constantly. Being fed army rations was also a treat and something I was getting quite used to. Having had a day off in the incredible city of Cuzco was amazing but it was time to see Machu Picchu and see why its so famous.