1st to 5th April

NOTE: Finally we have been able to upload our videos on Youtube. You can check on our last posts (since San Pedro de Atacama), or our Youtube page.

Tuesday 1 April

Today is a rest day! We enjoy for updating our mails, cleaning the bikes, and resting! our muscles will thank us tomorrow. Geovanni prepared a typical Peruvian breakfast for us, with bread, cheese (fried or not), mortadella, and oat with milk. We should not be hungry till lunch. And speaking of lunch, he brings us to the clinic. Why there? Because it’s good, cheap, and most important clean. In addition, all the dishes are vegetarian: soy steak with quinua. Very good!

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In the afternoon, a friend of Geovanni, José Luis, comes to arrange our bicyles. He spends much time with the disc brake of Nata, and also with the tension of our spokes. Our front wheels were a little twisted, and the chain of Mick too was slightly twisted. Now, our bikes are perfect for continuing.

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Wednesday 2 April

We get up early, today we’ll start our way for Cusco. We spend a long time on internet to book our ticket from Bogotá to México DF. After many attempts, we finally can buy a ticket relatively cheap. But it took us most of the morning. For Cusco, we will do the route in three stages. Today, we’ll reach Ayaviri, about 100km away. Nata will join us there by bus, because he feels sick. Our host, Geovanni, leads us out of Juliaca. He nearly took two days off for us, yesterday and today! We eat some salteñas (empanadas), and finally leave Juliaca at 12h. It’ll be a like a race against the Sun, because sunset is at 17h30.

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The road is a long strait band of asphalt, flat, and easy to cycle. It changes from what we had till Juliaca. We do few breaks, and short ones. The weather is very cloudy, with some storms coming. And suddenly, lightning and thunder start around us. We see some curtains of rain ahead, on the road. It’s time to wait a little, till the wind pushes the rain away. And as we pass on this wet portion of road, we see that it was not rain, but haze: thousands of white balls, of 1cm diameter, lie on each side of the road.

Ayaviri is not far away, and we arrive there around 17h, before sunset (and also before Nata). We find a very cheap hostel near the bus station (5 Soles i.e. 1,25€ per person!).

Thursday 3 April

We go to take breakfast at the bus station nearby. We leave the hostel around 9. We have not done 1km yet, that someone salutes us in French. As a matter of fact, he is French, from Grenoble, his name is Yves, and he is volunteering one year here in Ayaviri, helping to run a house for children who have problems. He takes care of the garden so that the children can eat vegetables, gives some classes, and proposes many activities for them. Yves brings us to the garden, and then to the house, where we meet the director, Marino, and the dozen of children that are here today. Many of them spend their time drawing or copying. We help them for maths, or geography.

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For lunch, Yves brings us to eat the specialty of Ayaviri: Kankacho ayavireño: it’s a grilled mutton with potatoes. We go to the stand of Doña Julia, a celebrity in Peru for her kankacho. The taste is very good, the meat very soft.

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In the afternoon, under the advice of Yves, we go to a nearby little wonder: the Tinajani canyon. It’s a valley with a river, with reddish cliffs and monoliths of both sides. Hearing the water flow in such an idyllic landscape is very relaxing. Locals tell us that the tourism is just starting here.

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Tonight, we are invited by Yves for a barbecue at his house. We meet there his wife, Eva, his friend Florent, and another volunteer as them, Pilar from Spain. Also, two other cyclists from Belgium, Floriane and Maité have just arrived in Ayaviri, and are also invited at the barbecue.They are travelling up all the Americas. Here is their blog: http://fourmidabletrip.canalblog.com/. We spend a very good evening, first around the fire, to cook the sausage, and then inside, talking mainly about travels, Peru, and our respective projects and life. Yves tells us that there is Machu Pitumarca (like Machu Picchu but full of sheep and with no tourists) on our way to Cusco. So we decide to change slightly our plan, in order to spend the night near the site, so that we can visit it on the day after.

Friday 4 April

We have breakfast in the Casa Cana. After a last photo with the director and the children, we start our day.

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But as soon as we leave the city, we witness a moto accident. Just as we were crossing him on the road, a guy lost control of his moto (probably looking back at the weird cyclists passing by), and braked with his knee. Fortunately, he was not going fast. So we played the doctors giving him first aid (I have the feeling the medicine we have serves more for the people we meet than for us!).

There are many strait lines on the road today. The landscape is quite desolated, with wide areas of grass, some cattle (cows, llamas, alpacas, sheep) here and there, and from time to time a house in adobe. Under the grey sky lies these green fields, with some light brownish houses, most of the time abandoned.

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The road climbs very softly, we have to reach 4300m high at the pass, i.e. 400m ascension in 70km. We eat lunch in a small restaurant on the way: the owner tells us at the beginning that she has no food prepared. But after insisting a lot (it’s already late, we are very hungry, and the next village is at 10 or 20 km), she agrees to prepare a dish for us. And the grilled lamb is delicious, with rice and potatoes.

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In the afternoon, we continue the climb to the pass. We finally reach it, and leave the department of Puno, to enter the one of Cusco. From here, it’s descending. We cover the 10km separing us from Aguas Calientes very quickly. As the sun has set already, we decide to stay here for the night. It’s a place for thermal waters, that Geovanni and Yves had advised us to visit. The hostel is not so expensive, and we have access all night to the hot water pools outside. After this long day of bicycle, the hot water is a good consolation. In the end, we did not reach the village we wanted (still 40-50 km).

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Saturday 5 April

We get up and have breakfast. And we get a marvellous idea: why not go to have a small hot bath before starting the day? And here we are, in the hot pools, with a wonderful landscape, enjoying the timid morning Sun. In the end, we leave the place very late! but we had deserved these baths.

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The road is going down till Sicuani, the main city of the surroundings. We arrive in Sicuani, some 25km away, for lunch time. Today is very relaxed for the moment! rest and eat. After lunch, we go to fight with Movistar: we have a Peruvian simcard (from Movistar), and when we bought it, they needed to register a DNI number. I don’t know how their system work, but they don’t accept letters in the number, so we cannot register with passport nor with the French ID. So we gave some random numbers. And it worked! but after a couple of days, the simcard got blocked because the data we gave was erroneous. How come did they check this? So here we are, looking for a Movistar office to change the data. In Sicuani, we try several phone shops, but they cannot do anything, and of course, the Movistar office is closed. So we’ll see later.

We leave Sicuani late in the afternoon. And with a bad surprise: the village of Pitumarca, where we want to sleep tonight, is not at 15km as we were told, but at 50km! For sure, we will arrive there by night. To worsen the situation, there is a strong front wind. The route till Pitumarca is then very long, fighting against the wind. The last kilometres are on a smaller road, climbing a little in the mountains. We arrive in Pitumarca and are warmly welcome by the priest: François d’Alteroche. He is a French priest, installed here in South America for the last 50 years. He wrote a book recently about his experience in Argentina (where he had to flee because of the dictature, he went to jail, and his bishop got murdered by the dictature) and Peru (where he founded the house we visited in Ayaviri, and he fell in love with the Andean world) as a priest: “Des Monts d’Aubrac au coeur des Andes”. We have a very nice dinner with him and the Quechua family living in the parish.

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And here comes the video of these days (well when it’s uploaded).