Friday 30th August
We had an extravagant breakfast at £8 each, we wouldn’t normally but we had Bolivian currently to spend.
Ginette – as we waited for the cafe to open we sat by the lake, where 3 docile dogs decided to adopt us for the morning.
On the way to the border we met a cycle tourist coming the other way, Matt from Bristol. Matt had already been on the road for 18 months and we swapped advice about where we had travelled.
The border crossing was again an easy affair but this time a small queue had formed and both sides of the border were a bit busier.
We had a fairly easy 40 mile ride today following lake Titicaca, we only had one big hill and that was near our final destination of Juli.
We did have a few dogs take chase, the dogs in Peru are much more aggressive than in Bolivia.
Ginette – I don’t know how the dogs can be so tame and friendly in Bolivia but in Peru a stones throw away they’re mean, snarly, biting machines. They can run as fast as the bike, barking and snarling all the way. They often appear in packs which is really frightening. We have even seen them barking and snarling at cars and lorries, such a contrast to the timid dogs in Bolivia. Their crazy it is no wonder there are so many dead ones by the side of the road.
The area surrounding the lake is mainly flat with hills and mountains each side, the fields are cultivated but in narrow strips, not the huge fields we have in the UK.
There are lots of donkeys, sheep, cows, pigs and only a few Lamas. Most of the animals are looked after in small herds by individual shepherds or shepherdess, I am not sure why the animals need this constant attention but it’s nice to see this rural way of life.
Ginette – we have seen a lot of burning and slashing of the fields, lots of the fields are black or on fire. We cycled past one field fire which had flames shooting out across the road. It was difficult to see or breathe but it didn’t take long to cycle through it.
Juli is a surprisingly nice town. It has 4 large churches which are very ornate, reading up on this town it is likened to little Rome due to these churches. We are in a dump of a hostel right in the towns plaza, so the town may be pretty but our room is not.
Ginette – we didn’t enter any of the churches mainly because they were either closed or wanted to charge us a fee as they designated themselves as museums. The town has a huge rejuvenation plan aimed at attracting tourists. The locals were very friendly and inquisitive. We had a lovely meal in one of the local restaurants, it was a meal of the day option (available across South America, a fixed fee for a fixed 2 or 3 course menu). We had a very tasty soup for starters, Gary had chicken on the bone and I had a spicy rice and vegetable dish. Desert was somthing fruity with a snot like consistency, I gave mine to Gary. It was a little more expensive than the usual meal of the day options which are usually £1 each but worth the £2 each fee. For the past 2 weeks the only option available to me has been trout, I have eaten so much of the stuff I swear I am turning pink.
A pleasant cycling day.
A poor nights sleep in our shabby hostel, lots of noise in the night and early hours and all of it it in the room next to ours, but the good news was an early start so on the bikes by 7.30 am.
We had a coffee and some pastry for breakfast in Rotherham plaza, it was a roasting 20 degrees, but we then cycled 1.4 miles down hill closer to lake Titicacas shores and to a temperature of 11 degrees, brrrrr.
When we did stop for breakfast at around 8.30 we had soup and a meal of rice, meat and vegetables, (Net ended up with a similar dish but the vegetarian option, in which she had to pick out the liver bits).
We had a very pleasant ride today, we are getting used to riding together again which is a bonus. The terrain was mostly flat but at an altitude of 12,600ft! We had a varied scenery to pass through that kept our interest.
Some weird mountain rock formations. Lots of spread out villages with loads of outhouses
Ginette – it is hard to imagine the locals use their outhouses at night – it is freezing cold.
In one large town called Llave we had an old man come and chat to us in Spanish and he even finished off with a big cuddle for me, how sweet.
We reached Penu (I can’t seem to correct the name in my head which I have adopted for this city, penis) early so we had plenty of time to relax, wander the streets and colourful markets, book boat tickets for the following day drink beer and orientate ourselves for our day off.
Ginette – Puno was not looking it’s best as the pavements and roads had all been dug up and the main plaza’s were closed for renovation. That said there are some pretty churches and the city had a nice vibe to it.
Uru floating islands
FaceTimed Tracy this morning, it seems that my family don’t fancy any part of our adventures in South America, Dwelling on our health issues which Del has now aptly named Peru Poo (like Deli belly).
We took a boat trip out to the famous Uro floating islands on lake Titicaca. Historically people have lived on these floating reed platforms since the Inca period but it now seems to be more a tourist attraction, than a genuine way of life. This however is a good thing as this way of life is being preserved for all to see.
It was interesting to see how they have evolved from living on reed boats which had to be remade every two years, to these floating reed islands which can last up to 20 years.
The president of each Island is the female matriarch. There are approximately 90 of these little Islands all squeezed next to each over, but like a street over water there are two lines of reed islands with a wide stretch of water between them. All in all an enjoyable experience even with the slightly tourist tacky feel.
Ginette – although tacky it was interesting, the reeds are harvested for maximum effect, they’re used for building the islands, making the houses, burning as fuel and eating (demnstrated by Gary below, the reeds taste a little like lettuce)
Back on main land and a bit of essential shopping such as another couple of 700c inner tubes, not the usual size here but we didn’t have to search for long and found a shack like cycle store who emptied there stack of shelves in order to find me 2 inner tubes.
Dare we say we are both suffering a little from Peru Poo, hopefully this will pass, pardon the pun.
Peru poo strikes again
Our route out of Puno had an initial hill climb to get over the surrounding hill range, it was that steep that we had to walk a small section of the route. Once over this obstacle the rest of the day was pretty flat although we were still cycling at over 12,000ft. As we both had Peru poo we opted for a short 26 mile ride so we could rest in a hostel in Juliaca.
Juliaca is a surprisingly busy town. The roads in the centre are gridlocked with buses, motorised covered taxis like bubble cars and cycle taxis. Just walking around in the afternoon requiresd our concentration.
Here’s hoping tomorrow will see a start to recovery again.
Ginette – Juliana is the first none tourist town we have cycled in for awhile and it was interesting to see that the majority of women are now dressed in more of a western style clothing rather than the traditional pelted ringed skirts, leggings and socks.
I have finally got my head round the new currency it is quite a challenge travelling between countries and working out our money on a daily basis. I have to be very careful to keep change or small notes as the small stall holders are unable to change anything greater than a 10 sol note which is only £2.40.
We no longer have access to our favourite lemon drinks and are struggling to find something we like to quench our thirsts. The local soda drinks are vibrant colours and full of chemicals so we are left with an option of sprite or coke.
Another short day
Ginette by this Gary means 40 miles!!
A restless night with plenty of toilet visits (for Gary, Net is on the mend)
Breakfast was gathered at street stalls and consisted of banana and bread, back to the BART diet.
The initial 10 miles were along a main rd with the only points of interest being the number of petrol stations, with 5 or more all in a row but from different fuel companies, this trend continued with most of these huge stations having no customers.
Ginette – no exaggeration in the space of 5 miles we must have passed 20 petrol stations if not more
We met a couple of German cycle tourers coming the other way, Wolfgang and Alexandra. A nice couple and we swapped the usual tales of the road
Ginette is cycling strongly so I am tucked behind her protecting myself from the headwind we have had all afternoon.
The last 15 miles we cycled with mountain ranges each side of us which was very pretty
We stopped in a town called Pukara, it’s a cute little town with its own Inca site and a huge cliff face above it. In the town are lots of life size concrete cows, also on the top of each house are two small ceramic cows which are to bring luck and keep harmony in the house.
The nights tend to be long, especially when we stop in the early afternoon. There is not a lot to do in these small towns so we find ourselves watching an episode of our latest show which in this case is “orange is the new black” then settling down to a kindle book and sleep by 9 pm earlier. Hence we are up, breakfasted and back on the road by 7.30.
We were both a little weary today, Gary still recovering from the after effects of Peru poo, and Net from having to try to sleep with a poorly Gary.
We cycled 48 miles along a mostly flat road but made harder by a headwind and the roads poor condition, it was tarmac but very bumpy so each bump slowed down the progress.
The scenery in the afternoon though just got better and better, we cycled between mountains each side which become more jagged and higher, some with snowy peaks. Our altitude is still around 12,700 ft and we could feel this today. Our breathing needed to be consistent, one missed breath and you were left panting. We wondered if this may have been due to the weather system that was closing in around us, we’ve had cloud cover and the threat of rain for the last two days.
We stopped to chat to a French female cycle tourer she was travelling alone but another tourer, a male from Cusco was cycling with her at present. They had stopped last night at a hot springs, we are hoping that we can add this to our day tomorrow.
We finished the day in a small town called Santa Rosa, it has a pretty plaza and church and a short but steep stair climb up to a Christ monument. There are another couple of German cycle tourers staying in the hostel, they are going the way we have come from and are only 2 weeks into their journey, they informed us we have a nice down hill section coming up.
A beautiful day and both feeling well.
Hooray we have both woken up fit and well.
Our ride this morning was uphill for 18 miles, but steady easy climbing up over another 1000ft to 14,025 ft. At the top of the hill there were locals selling tack, but this was good fluffy Alpaca tack so we now have another ornament for the Christmas tree.
I wish it would have been possible to film all of today’s route and play it back on fast speed for all to see, we have taken some film and photos but I don’t think any will show the true beauty of the route today.
We stopped at the 25 mile point at a hot spa called Aqua Calientie (translates as “hot water”), for the Hefty fee of £1 each we had access to around 7 hot outside pools. We had to opt for one of the cooler ones first to acclimatise then work our way up the hottest. We both had to take it steady getting out as we were very dizzy and in danger of fainting.
After the hot spa we had another 18 miles to reach Sicuani. It turned out to be all down hill which was just as well as the headwind was back to bother us.
The farmland turned greener due to an irrigation system feeding off the river. We have seen more Alpacas than Lamas but generally the majority of animals are sheep and cows. It maybe my imagination but the locals also seem to be cheerier here.
Ginette – although the dogs are still chasing us they’re not as fierce
All in all today has been a great ride with fantastic views if not a little chilly at times.
Rainbow mountain “a wonder of the world”.
We wanted to walk up Rainbow mountain but to achieve this we needed to cycle 25 miles to reach a town with buses/taxis headed to the tourist site so we set off early on the road by 6.30.
We had a pretty easy ride mostly downhill so arrived at Checacupe at 9am, not bad for 25 miles with breakfast on route.
We had considered booking into a hostel but the hostels in the town looked very shabby so we agreed to head to the next village another 5 miles away but before setting off I suggested we visited the plaza.
In the plaza Ginette suggested we ask if we could get transport to Rainbow mountain. We found a very helpful man in an office, he was talking us into going for the less popular destination on Palccoyo, this was only a 40 minute hike but apparently you get to see 2 rainbow mountains. However despite his help his prices were too expensive at 180 Sol (£45, a lot of money for a taxi and a hike).
We had given up and decided to give the mountain a miss, the weather was cloudy and we could have been wasting our money. However Ginette decided to give it one las shot and approached a tourist bus driver that had parked in the plaza while the tourists had a mooch around town, fortunately it turned out he had 2 spare seats and was going to Palccoyo so we ended up rushing to change and store our cycles with the nice guy in the office. Ginette had secured this trip for 60 Sols (£15).
Ginette – I really can’t speak a lot of Spanish but I am so glad of my course in Sucre I was able to ascertain where the tourist bus was going, negotiate a good price, arrange a return journey and ensure no payment would be made until we returned .
When the driver went straight past the turning to rainbow mountain and were heading back the way we had cycled we started to wonder if we had misheard him, asking the other passengers where they were going we was re-assured that we were heading for the rainbow mountain area of Palccoyo.
Ginette – as we headed in the ‘wrong’ direction Gary started singing ‘mystery magical tour’ I started to doubt my Spanish and feared we’d spend the afternoon in a town we had already cycled through. I was so relieved when the tourists in the bus confirmed we were going in the right direction
The drive up the dirt mountain road was a bit hairy, lots of steep climbs, switchbacks and loose stones, it reminded us of the dodgy ride in the Himalayas. The track wound right up the mountain close to the peaks, past small settlements, Alpacas, and terraced farmed mountainsides.
The walk was easy, mind you we are well acclimatised to height now, were now at 17,000ft.
It is hard to describe the rainbow mountains, they are by far the coolest thing we have seen in a long time. You can see for miles and everywhere is colourful. There were three actual rainbow rock formations that looked like a child had been asked to draw them and then used every colour in his/her pencil case.
Every time the sun broke through the clouds the colours jumped out at us, it was truly magical standing on top of this high mountain view point and seeing all these colourful mountains near and far. In our opinion this area should be one of the wonders of the world.
Once back down, we decided to try to eat some miles up to reduce the 60 miles left to get to Cusco, it was 4pm before we set off. It was supposed to be downhill, technically it was as we ended up a lower altitude but there were a few steep ups still to contend with and a strong headwind that even made the downs hard work. We gave up after 10 miles and booked into a hostel in Cusipata.
Ginette – it was like cycling down hill with someone holding a hand against your head, the head wind was so slow that we had to cycle really hard to move forward, this was on a hill that normally a cyclist could free wheel down.
By the time we arrived in the town we were exhausted Net was hungry but I wasn’t so we decided to cook in the room, a simple vegetable pasta dish we cooked in the room along with 2 beers and some shop bought cakes.