Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Altiplano here we come!

Billy and Mike (photo thanks to Karen; http://twowheeledwanderers.ca/)
Both Simon & Olivia and Mike & Karen were heading south in the same direction as me so we had decided to leave Cusco together. On 30th Dec the five of us left the hostel to quite the fanfare with our fellow travellers giving us a great send off. We left slightly later than initially planned thanks to one of us taking slightly longer to pack up than planned… but who could that have been?!
The first 25 km out of Cusco seemed to be all downhill so it was fun to be cycling as part of a bike posy as we zipped out of town. That night we stayed in the front room of a family who kindly offered to put all 5 of us up. I wasn’t used to asking a stranger to put 5 cyclists up. It didn’t turn out to be the best nights sleep as once the lights went out out came the mice!
... and they all rolled over when the mice came out..!
Posse on their way into town
Picnic time on a rare find of a picnic table - well spotted Mike Dog
The following day involved more climbing and we stopped in a tiny place called Aguascalientes which is famous for it’s hot springs. It was New Year’s Eve so we spent the early evening in the hot springs and then had a drink or two in our room. We were all exhausted from our days cycling and lying in the warm baths for a few hours which meant we were all asleep by 10 pm. A relaxing and refreshing way to bring in the New Year!
The following day a few of our number seemed to have picked up head colds probably due to sitting in the roasting hot water in the cold air. By the afternoon we had made our way up onto the Altiplano. I was thrilled. It meant that the massive mountains of Peru were finally behind me and it was also great to take in some different scenery. We all had to wrap up when we got to the pass at 4,300 metres.
Poor Olivia was really feeling the cold at the top of the pass. Doing a good impression of 40 Coats.
Chilly at the top of the pass
Simon and Olivia love getting to the top of the pass

Camping out the back of the firestation
That night I introduced Simon and Olivia to their first night staying in a firestation!
We bid farewell to Mike & Karen the following afternoon as they were headed around the opposite side of Lake Titicaca in the coming days where as the rest of us were heading the main route as we wanted to check out Copacabana and Isla del Sol once we made it into Bolivia. We knew we would probably seeing Mike and Karen again once we all made it to La Paz.

There were some spectacular sunsets on the Altiplano

That night Simon, Olivia and I wild camped out on what are known as the pampas which are kind of open fields up on the altiplano. I hadn’t taken me long to figure out that both couples seemed to put a bit more effort and a bit more imagination into their camp cooking. Luckily I haven’t grown bored of the pasta, pasta sauce and tuna that I’ve been cooking up most evenings for the best part of a year and a half. That said, it was a pleasure to share a delicious stew (VEGTABLES and CHICKEN!!) that evening with Simon and Olivia. I think it was my first time to be invited over for dinner by fellow tenters so thankfully dress was casual. The next morning as we were slowly packing up a 14 year old boy came up and randomly gave us all hats! We know he was fourteen because the poor fella showed us his ID when he must have sensed that we didn’t believe him when he told us his age, he looked a bit older! Olivia returned the favor by gifting him her nice cashmere sweater that she had been planning on getting rid of. I gave him a biscuit.
Muchas gracias amigo!
What's up?
We were grabbed for a photo by some of these guys and their friends
Striking sculpture sticking out of the side of the cliff

My used looking carrier bag
Later in the day some clown told us that it was all downhill to our destination of Puno. Of course it turned out to be mostly uphill with a headwind for the afternoon with a small stretch of downhill at the very end. I think Simon was considering turning back to have a few words with the friendly gent who told us it was downhill all the way! It was fantastic however when we made our way to the top of the final ridge to lay eyes on the spectacular Lago Titicaca for the first time.
We then had a day off the bike in the lakeside city of Puno in order to go out and visit the famous floating islands of Uros. Despite being one of the biggest tourist traps I’ve ever come across it was still very interesting to visit these indigenous communities who have been living for centuries on these man made reed islands. 
On our way out to Uros floating islands just off Puno on Lago Titicaca
Uros - floating islands
One of the boats around the Uros
The next day back on the bikes was our last full day in Peru but unfortunately one we’d remember for the wrong reasons due to insane drivers with not one but two extremely close shaves, one by a car and one by a truck.

Ou la la! This couple from the South of France knew the three French cyclists (http://english.solidream.net/) I met on my very first day up in Prudhoe Bay.. un petit monde!
The sheet covering my bike managed to collect a lot of water after the night time down pour, pity the sheet is so dirty. 
As we got closer to the Bolivia border the landscape got rockier, it was like Connemara in the West of Ireland
On 6th January 2014 Simon, Olivia and I crossed into Bolivia. Not quite in convoy as I had unwittingly overstayed my 90 day allowance in Peru so had to peddle back to the previous town to make a three USD payment and return with receipt. Then the guy goes on to tell me that he needs 3 photocopies of this passport page and 4 photocopies of that passport page. Unfortunately I had made sure to spend every last Sol of the Peruvian currency I had left so had to pay in dollars for a few photocopies. As can often be the way at these border crossings the guys wasn’t the easiest to deal with so I was quite happy to be finally cycling over the border and into Bolivia and onto a new challenge. I was using the Peru Bolivia border as the three quarter mark of my journey. Although I now only have three countries left to cycle they are three big countries with plenty of challenges to go! Peru – Tick – Phew!

Mmmm cold oats

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