|Ecuador on the near side and Peru on the far side of the river|
|Day one in the mountains of Peru|
|Sun breaking through the cloud|
Near the end of my first day in Peru as I cycled into the main square in San Ignacio, which was the first town of any significance over the border, I met Federico and Brenda again, the Argentinian cycling couple.
|Federico getting some practice on his make shift didgeridoo that he made out of plastic pipe, sounded just like the real thing.|
As we cycled into Jaen after dark, Federico cycled up alongside a moto-taxi (Tuk-tuk) to enquire about somewhere cheap to eat and we got directed to a restaurant on a side street where the evening meal consisting of soup, main course (rice, bit of chicken & salad) and a drink set us back the grand sum of 3 Peruvian Sol which is the equivalent of EUR 0.77 (Unfortunately this has been the only time to date where I have found a full dinner for that price!) That night, after a bit of negotiation, we slept in our tents in the secure car park at the back of the main police station. The police had initially suggested we sleep in the street in our tents outside the station. They weren’t as receptive as other police and firestations where I’d stayed which was frustrating as this was the one time where I really wanted somewhere that I felt safe to leave my bike and most of the gear for my bus trip to Lima.
I was glad to have made it to Jaen with still enough time to hop on a bus to the capital to try and catch my friends Dina and Ciaran who
were over from Dublin on a two week holiday. I bid farewell to my cycling
buddies in the morning, they had decided they were going to cycle down via the
coast of Peru to save time. As I sat on a shaded bench in the car park
wondering to myself where on earth I was going to leave my bike and most of my
belongings for the bus trip along walked a detective who started to talk to me,
interested to hear about my cycle. After a few minutes I popped the question… Will you mind most of my worldly possessions
for the week?! Unfortunately the answer was no. Not because he wasn’t keen to
help me but because he was going on holidays a few days later and wouldn’t be
around when I made it back to Jaen. All was not lost however as he put a call
in to his cousin who lived locally and thankfully Sara agreed to mind my stuff
for the week. It happened to be Sara’s birthday that day so not only was she
agreeing to mind the bike and bags of a complete stranger but she also invited
me over to the birthday lunch.
After my shower, I was made to feel very welcome as we had a lovely
relaxed lunch. As I sat there eating a generous portion of birthday cake I
thought to myself how lucky I have been on this trip to be shown such a
generous welcome in so many places. Then off I rushed to catch my overnight bus
|Federico and Brenda|
I felt like an excited school kid complete with packed lunch as I waited to catch my bus. It was far from a luxury bus but I was still excited to be getting a different form of transport, see some of coastal Peru that I would otherwise have missed and of course excited to be meeting my pals. I didn’t get much sleep that night squashed into my tight seat attempting to keep one eye on my valuables. I also got a taste for what lay ahead of me, checking out some huge climbs that seemed to go on forever, even on the bus, and also a taste of the insane driving that prevails, especially by bus drivers, speeding around blind corners on the wrong side of the road. Many of the buses have religious names and pictures of Jesus and/or the Virgin Mary on them, possibly hoping that this will protect them whilst driving like a lunatic? The following morning we drove for hours along the coast line which was mostly arid desert. An hour or so of it was enough to do me and I was happy that I had decided that my bike route through Peru would be via the Andes. Late in the afternoon, 21 hours after we left Jaen I staggered off the bus in central Lima, more of a grumpy exhausted school kid at this stage. As I expected, Lima was a large city. It had taken at least an hour to get into the centre passing some very basic looking shanty towns on the outskirts.
The following day after coffees in Miraflores we headed for
the centro historico. Strolling around one of the impressive central plazzas we
bumped into Jan and Evit, the Slovakian cyclists I had met in Medellin. They
were passing through Lima for the day, before catching a bus that evening to
Cusco. Later in the afternoon, we headed back to Miraflores for a quick visit
to the beach to see the Pacific Coast before Dina and Ciaran had to catch their
flight home to Dublin. It had been a relatively quick meet up but I was glad to
have bused down to Lima to catch up with them.
|Plaza Mayor, Central Lima|
The following evening, having caught up on some sleep, I met Dina and Ciaran in Miraflores, Lima. Despite having been lucky enough to meet up with different friends along my route south, Dina and Ciaran were the first friends I had seen in over a year who still live in Dublin. It was a great catch up and they very generously treated me to dinner.. thanks guys! They forced me to have my first Pisco Sour since getting to Peru! Despite having raw egg as one of it’s ingredients it makes for a tasty drink and is pretty much the national cocktail of Peru.
|Ciaran, Billy and Dina, in case you wouldn't have figured that out.|
|Parroquia del Sagrario on Plaza Mayor... and Ciaran|
|Plaza San Martin - did I mention I am doing my cycle in aid of Trocaire?|
Sponsor now at http://www.trocaire.org/sponsor-me/billys-big-cycle/billys-big-cycle
|It's tiring work walking around a big city getting quizzed by Billy all day|
|I was glad to see the Pacific Ocean again not having seen it since Panama. It was tricky to get to the beach having to cross a busy highway but we made it!|
|Street in Via El Salvador|
|Another street in Via El Salvador|
|View over part of Via El Salvador. It gets a lot of fog coming in from the ocean... not to mention the dust.|
Unlike many of the poorer neighbourhoods that surround Lima, which were initially settled by squatting the land, Via El Salvador was a mostly planned neighbourhood John explained but that it had changed immeasurably since he had first come to live there. Most of the main roads were now paved but lots of the side roads were still sand trails. We had lunch with two of his colleagues, one an English priest and another Irish priest from Donegal in his 80’s who was still well able to get around. Later in the afternoon I met some of John’s local parishioners who were all very friendly.
I spent another day or so in the city mainly around the two
touristy and affluent coastal neighbourhoods of Miraflores and Barranco but I
was certainly glad to have visited what was probably a far more accurate
representation of how the majority of Lima’s resident’s live out in Via El
Salvador. Thanks John for welcoming me to your adopted home in Via El Salvador!
|Fr. John with some of his parishioners.|
|Street art in Barranco, Lima|
|Street sign in Barranco, Lima|
|Some of the fancier pads along the coastline in the affluent suburb of Miraflores|
|Meal on the bus back up to Jaen. (Shielsie, you'd love it)|
I stayed with Sara’s family once I got back to Jaen before packing up and hitting the road the following morning for what I expected to be the most challenging country of the trip as I would be sticking almost soley in the Andes on my way through Peru.
|Climbing all day|
|The kind policia of Cochabamba put me up one night. I even had my own room.|
|The future of Peruvian football is in good hands.|
|Extra homework tonight|
|Only joking, no homework!|
|Thanks for the delicious soup and for putting me up|
|A house with walls made from dried out mud. Common in Peru.|
|These two guys ran after me to give me a free bottle of water. Muchas gracias amigos, first time since Alaska!|
|Make a change from the usual Virgin Mary statue found in many of the town squares|
|Your money or your life. After some hard barganing they agreed to let me pass.|
|Goldfields gold mine|
|Bluer than blue run off from the mine. Lots of communities have had their local water supplies destroyed by pollution from the mines in this part of Peru|
|Local poster protesting against the mine|
|Mine slowly chipping away at a mountain|
|Big trucks working in the mine, wouldn't like to meet one of them on the open road|
|Swiss couple I met outside Cajamarca who are cycling north from Ushuia. They warned me about the strong winds in Patagonia.|
I arrived into Cajamarca late one afternoon soaked and freezing after an extended fast downhill in the rain. Thankfully I had decided to take a few days off here as it is a picturesque colonial town with a lot of history. The Battle of Cajamarca was where the Spanish Conquistadors completed the defeat of the Inca empire and where they captured, ransomed and eventually killed the Incan Emperor Atahualpa. There are also the famous “Banos del Inca” on the outskirts of town which are well known hot springs I visited one afternoon.
|San Francisco church|
|Painting depicting Incan Emperor Atahualpa promising a room full of gold to his captors if they released him.|