Real Adventure, Real Risks
By now you all know that we were robbed at gunpoint. You’ll see that story in detail in our next exciting chapter of this journal. Luckily, we had all the pictures backed up.
We can’t allow one NIGHTMARE to spoil a lifetime DREAM!
No, we won’t abandon our Odyssey. All too often many of us allow fear to run our lives, ruin our lives! Our greatest fear is that we reach death’s door and realize that by living in fear we haven’t really lived, at all.
We remain “The Crazy Senior Citizen and Hearty Heart Attack Victim”,
Cycling Around the World.
Copacabana to Lima
What you’re about to read is what we saw and experienced while cycling from the Bolivian Border, along the shores of Lake Titicaca, over the Andes, through beautiful Cuzco, the former Incan Capital, and down to the Pacific Ocean and the thicker air at sea level. See Machu Picchu and the Nazca Lines through our camera lens. There’s no easy way to describe either, you’ll have to draw your own conclusions. Thanks to Wally our Wonderful WebMaster Wizard you can find at
www.RedArrowGroup.com . There are a huge number of pictures here, a new record that we’ll try hard not to match ever again, Honest Wally. Also, we lost our pictures and couldn’t have completed this volume of our journal without untold hours of help from both Wally and his son, Matt. Thanks to them, here it is. So, mount your stationary bikes and get to where the air is crisp, cold and thin. Have a good read.
Copacabana, Bolivia to Lima, Peru
February 10th to March 23rd, 2005
February 10, 2005
Copa, Cold and Rainy
Two disappointments when we awoke this morning. It was raining, cold and gray out the window and, they ran out of Maple Syrup. We were looking forward to taking the boat to both the Islas de Sol and Luna and Pancakes with syrup. So, I ate a pancake with jelly, Cat passed. We also passed on the morning boat. Decided to take the afternoon ride to the Island of the Sun. Sitting inside a cold clammy boat didn’t sound like fun.
There is still dancing in the streets, the Carnaval goes on and on. Ham and Cheese for a picnic in the room as we looked out on the gloom. I began working on the pictures, the gloom thickened, the drizzle and cold continued. So, we scrapped the afternoon boat ride, too.
Tired of typing and fiddling with pictures, we asked the Hotel to play the movie Mission Impossible, in English, on their closed circuit. So, there went the afternoon and when that was finished, in the early evening we watched Mission Impossible, II. The day remained dismal, so much so that we kept the space heater going all afternoon.
Fernando brought our laundry to us, it was still damp. Hanging for 2 days just didn’t do it. We spread it around the room to finish drying.
I found a Lonely Planet on Peru in the Hotel loaner Library. It is so much more comprehensive that we decided that it would do more good with us than here.
Dinner down, pasta to carb up, for both of us. Met a young couple from England, here on their honeymoon. There was another couple, he from Germany, she is Bolivian. They have a baby that was fussing, Mom took it to the room while Dad finished his dinner then he took his turn and she returned. Nice couple, tough family duty.
February 11, 2005
Copacabana, Bolivia to Juli, Peru
Peru, Our 42nd Country
Rain again, but we can’t let that stop us, we’re goin’ to Peru. Still raining and still no syrup but we can’ let little things like that stop us, today. As we were leaving a fellow, originally from England, had to know what we were up to. He now lives in and works in Washington DC. His son has been urging him to ride bicycle with him, a 50-mile ride from New Jersey to DC, I think he said. We urged him to go for it.
Fully wrapped in rain gear, we pushed up the rock road then rode toward the border. The rain was steady, the road up and down. Cat began having breathing problems, I seemed to be improving. A truck passed slowly, there were several people in the back. One, a young boy threw something, a rock we think, at Cat. I yelled at them, he just laughed and waved back. Sort of a bad ending to an otherwise wonderful visit in Bolivia. Awe, we won’t blame Bolivianos for one kid’s stupid act.
The border crossing was a cinch, I didn’t even have to go in the Bolivian side. Cat took my Passport and they stamped both without problem. I stood guard and kidded with 3 boys. They were asking for money, I told them no then asked for a photo. They objected until I gave them each one of our cards. Then they sort of posed, except the one in the middle, he has a cleft palate and has survived a bad operation. His lip is swollen and his smile crooked. He covered his face as I pushed the shutter button.
The Peruvian border was just as easy. They stamped the Passports then the Immigration Officer came out and looked at the bikes. He and a couple of other guys had a conversation about the tires and water bottles. I gave them cards and they waved as we rode down the hill, into Peru. While I entertained them Cat walked around looking for the best deal at the money exchanges. They are all about the same, the rate seems to be 3.25 Soles for a dollar or for 8 Bolivianos.
The countryside, the people, even the weather all look the same as Bolivia, at least for now. We’re cycling along the south shore of Titicaca. The road is flat and bumpy asphalt. A few small hills that brought Cat to a push mode. She’s still breathing hard and struggling.
Traffic is light and they give us plenty of room. Hungry, we pulled into a Pueblo called Pomata and found only a roadside line of food stalls. It’s a busy, dirty looking bus stop. After parking the bikes across the street in a concrete V ditch we walked back and forth trying to choose the cleanest looking booth. They all have about the same fare. We finally bought in at one that had two guys dining in coat and tie. We chose the same food that they were eating and took a spot at the next bench. Soup first, Chairo, the local favorite. Cat thought it looked like vomit but it tastes great. Then salty, fatty meat with plenty of bones, rice and we ordered some fried cheese. Watching the gals wash dishes in cold dirty water put us on Guff Guff alert.
The next 21 Kilometers were fairly flat and simple, then a real up. Near the top we had a great looking back view of Titicaca and snow covered mountains beyond. After a long push Juli lay below us, they call it “The Little Roma” because it sports 3 large Cathedrals. The down was as severe as the up had been. We rolled in, got a picture of one of the 3 then began the hunt for lodging.
The first place was closed, the neighbors all said to keep ringing the bell but there was no answer. Cat went looking while I sat on the curb and watched our things. She came back with only one prospect, the Hostal Municipal. No hot water, not very nice but they do have a room. There is a place in our LP but Cat thought she’d been there. When we got to the corner she found that it was one she’d been told had no rooms. A guy stopped and introduced himself, seems that his Mother owns the place and they do have a room but they also have friends, a band, who are there preparing to party, all night tonight and there’ll be no sleeping. A local party sounds like fun but sleep sounds better to us, right now. So, Municipal it is.
We pulled the clothing bags off and parked the semi loaded bikes in the Managers office. Then he and a young boy helped us carry our essentials up. The room on the 3rd floor has a bathroom but we discovered that there was no water? So, the Man took us on up the stairs to the 4th. There, we had a room with twin beds and a toilet/sink just outside our door. It would be a shared bath but there are no other guests on this floor. Oh yes, it’s cold as a meat locker and there’s no heat. He discounted the price to 15 Soles, a bargain at $4.50 US.
Too cold to go out or even dress so we just kept our cycling cloths on and huddled under the blankets. At 6:30 we donned our raincoats and walked in the drizzle to a Chicken Restaurant up the street. Only one other couple there, service was fast, they only serve soup, chicken and chips. Cat noticed that the hands on the clock on the wall were only at 5:45 PM. We asked the Manager and he confirmed, the time is one hour earlier here than back in Bolivia. Geez, more time to kill until bedtime.
We chose one of the several Internet Shops and spent an hour and a half reading and answering then walked back to Municipal in pouring rain. The room was colder and the water in the sink and toilet stopped running. The boy came up and did something, we had water but it was so cold we had a hard time washing the chicken grease off our hands.
Reading about Puno in our newly liberated Peru LP Guide Book filled an hour or so but it was finally lights out at 8:30 PM, local time.
(Need to confess, the confiscation of the LP wasn’t all one way. Cat dropped her sunglasses as we left Hotel Rosario, we hope that Fernando found them. The book was a gift, voluntary or involuntary, by a previous guest. They were very thorough, marked all the interesting places they’d visited.)
February 12, 2005
Juli to Puno
The mattresses are so thin that the slats press into our backs. Though uncomfortable, we both slept pretty well. Awoke at 5:30 but stayed under the heavy covers until 6:30. 10 hours in bed but we both feel stiff and sore. Maybe more the bad bed than the cycling soreness. We found a little place that was open for early birds and had egg sandwiches and coffee.
Setting off in cold rain, we even donned out ski masks. The road is flat, the sun finally won the battle with the clouds and the day became filled with small celebrations in small Pueblos. Almost every little village had a flute and drum band playing as the villagers danced circles around them.
Today is my day for feeling puny. I have been gasping and struggling. The road has become bumpy and tougher to ride. Acor, another little Pueblo with another dance going on, drew us in for lunch. We parked next to the door and took a seat. A disheveled old guy came up and started asking for money. He took his hat off to show us his gray hair. I showed him mine and asked his age, he won when he said, “Ochenta y Cuatro”, 84.
He wouldn’t leave us alone, even tried to make a move on
the soup as we ate. The gal there shunned my idea of buying him soup. She shooed him away but he just went out and around to the other door. He’d watch as people finished eating then raid their tables, putting the scraps in a plastic bag. Kind of sad to see but no worse than watching guys like this back home, digging in the dumpsters behind the restaurants.
Food made me feel better, the road continued flat the skies cleared and we rolled the final 30 Ks. The scenery, farm land and hills off to the left suddenly changed, we were back on the shore of Titicaca. The locals were drying reeds and had arranged them symmetrically on the shoreline. Great photos of them and the tiny adobe huts built into the rocks of the hillside.
Then Puno, we had seen a Best Western Hotel in our Guide Book. Somehow we went directly to the door. I stood guard and talked with a Pedi Cab driver. He was interested in cycling around the world and told me that he could do it, if he had the money. I believe he could.
Our room is okay, but cold. They brought a space heater then, as it began to warm the power went out. In a couple of minutes, the power was on and Cat jumped into the shower. The bathroom has no window, the power failed again and stayed off for about 5 minutes. This left Cat standing in the warm water, in the dark. Tough to shower, she hated the dark but loved the hot water.
Dinner down, pizza, a srange flaky crust pizza prepared by Paustos.
TV and sleep.
Sunday, February 13, 2005
The Floating Islands
Down for the included breakfast and the best of it was meeting Tom and Colet from Minnesota. The best of that was that they are going to the Floating Islands and felt sure that we could join the tour. Their friends, Joe and Rose joined us at 9:00 AM, the Tour Guide agreed that we could join in, we paid him boarded the bus and were off. Very spontaneous but we like that and being with English speaking friends.
New Friends and The Floating Islands
Bus to the bay then all aboard, about 20 of us from all parts of the world. The sun pushed through the clouds and we were off to enjoy sun and a step back in time. The people of Uros have lived on their pile of floating reeds for more than 800 years. Actually the original Uros people have intermarried with the Aymara and into extinction. Originally the Uros moved to the reed Islands as protection from the more aggressive Collas and Incas. Yupanquil, our guide, explained that there are more than 30 inhabited Islands but only 6 are prepared to receive tourists. The other 24 still live and make their living much as they have for centuries. They rely on the reeds for food, boat building, (Though today the reed boats are strictly for tourism.) their homes and rickety observation towers. Oh yes, don’t forget the Islands, they’re reeds, too.
Stepping off the boat onto Uros, the main Tourist Island, is a strange feeling. The reeds are soft, spongy. Yupanquil invited us, in fact almost required us to jump up and down to get the full effect. The reeds are piled on constantly as the lower, older ones rot. Tom kept sniffing and complaining of a bad smell then figured it out, methane gas bubbling up from the rotting reeds below. We were seated in a semi circle and he filled us in on daily life and the history of the Islands. Another demand form Yupanquil, we all had to taste a reed. They peel back the outer layer from the root end, it tasted like the smell of the lake, not too good. Then, we took a short walking tour and photos of the inhabitants, mostly women, sewing, weaving and trying to sell their handiwork. The few visible men drive Reed Boats and take tourists for short rides. After trying a taste of the reeds Tom, Colet and Joe took a short cruise to the next Island. We did it in our conventional power boat.
There is a floating school, a Post Office and of course plenty of souvenir shops. They do fish and hunt birds but these lucky ones make most of their living from visitors like us. Rose pointed out a pair of ducks sitting on eggs. I moved slowly closer to get a picture. As I shot it became apparent that they were stuffed, a tacky photo op. There’s a young couple seated in a reed hut, showing off their twins. We took photos then I gave them money. I had no change so handed them 10 Soles, about $3.00 US. Their eyes almost rolled back into their heads, a lot of money. Joe and Tom took a couple of pics, too and said they’d pay me. Between them I think we made out pretty well? What nice new friends, they may have been the best of the trip!
Must Be Crazy!" Amyara
We six walked to a Chinese Restaurant for lunch. I talked so much that I almost missed the food. Back, we sort of sauntered through the Plaza and down some interesting streets. Joe and Rose’s memory stick was full. They were going to buy another but I invited them to bring their camera by and I’d try to download them onto a CD. More fun with them. Joe has been a fund-raiser for low income housing for many years. Rose was a political activist in the Philippines.
I spent the afternoon playing catch up with the journal pages. Cat found sunglasses to replace her broken pair as well as water for tomorrow’s journey. Dinner with friends, again. We tried Alpaca, it was okay, not sensational but okay. Tom is a University Professor and Colet has Acupuncture Clinics, 5 we think. In fact, as we were getting to the boat Joe had needles in his ears, neck and hands. A walking treatment. Parting, awe that sweet sorrow, they’re going to Copacabana tomorrow. We recommended Hotel Rosario.
February 14, 2005
Valentines Day in Puno
Up early, Cat was off to the laundry with almost all our cloths and out on other errands. I glued myself to the keyboard and made fair progress on the journal. When she returned we took a walk back up to the Plaza and stopped for lunch. On the way back we talked with a woman at the Travel Agency that arranged the Island Tour yesterday. She tried to call Machu Picchu to see if we could reserve a room at The Sanctuary. Our 4 friends fro Minnesota stayed there and loved it. The Hotel is right at the gate of Machu Picchu. It is very expensive, way beyond our budget but this is a once in a lifetime experience. I’m having trouble convincing Cat that it’s worth it but I have a Dream, that we will take the bikes there for pictures. The woman tried, failed because the staff was at lunch, then gave us the telephone number. We decided that we’d get to Cuzco where they have another Hotel and try to book there. An attempt at getting e-mails failed, too. Seems that Yahoo is down this afternoon.
Back in the room, Cat watched TV while I typed. It’s cold and raining, that made the decision about dinner. Downstairs again but this time in the full restaurant, steak and fries. Pretty good. E topped it off with Ice Cream Sundaes as a Valentines Day treat.
A little TV then sleep.
February 15, 2005
Puno to Juliaca
Down for the decent, included breakfast at 7:30 AM then loaded and off by 9:30. Around the corner and we ran head on into a Bus that had just hit a car, head on. Carefully working our way through the glass on the road, we looked up and got another surprise. Our thought that we’d be looping out, around the point along the railroad tracks disappeared. In its place we could see a stiff climb. So, we pushed onward and upward. The road circles round then back. The view extends to all of Puno and beyond. There’s a bad looking concrete likeness of a Puma near the top of the hill. Between the steep and lack of air, we really struggled.
Once we topped out and rounded the hilltop the view was all Titicaca. The sun was struggling with the clouds and the air, what little there was of it, was cold. Cat even spotted a patch of dirty snow next to the road. A long winter’s leftover? The farms at lakeshore had ditches dug to take the water and leave high places where grass would grow. An ingenious way to extend swampland to productive property.
Flying down the other side, back to lake level and flat. Nothing of real excitement so we just pedaled. Entering Juliaca we past a line of billboards then cycled through a hoard of pedi-cabs to the Plaza. The Hotel we had decided on looked pretty bad from the outside. So we circled the Plaza and pulled up at Hotel Don Carlos. The lobby was as cold as a meat locker but they did have an elevator. I checked out the room and it was adequate, even a wall heater.
It was now 2:00 PM and we were starving. I took the bikes up one at a time. The new water bottles leaked badly. We ordered lunch in the restaurant. It was so cold that we shivered as we ate the soup and sandwich. Bad news, the hot water won’t be hot for an hour. More bad news, the wall heater is over worked and ineffective. Cat called and they brought another, a sort of orange electric ball of flame. We feared that it would fall and set the place on fire, however, we loved the warmth. Cat had to crawl under the covers while it did its job. We got hooked on a movie and watched until 6:00. By then we had hot water showers and dressed, with long underwear, for dinner.
Rain was pelting down and the cold was even colder. So, we did the only thing that two reasonable people could in this situation. We ordered in, dinner in the tiny room and another movie. Actually stayed awake until 9:30.
February 16, 2005
Juliaca to Pucara
Sister Joan’s Birthday
Yes, little Joan Darlene is 62 today, another Senior citizen in our family.
Halleluiah, we awoke to a bright sunny morning. Breakfast, just bread and water, you know, coffee and toast. We loaded the bikes in the room, left the leaking bottle for the Hotel help and I brought them down to the lobby, one at a time. We were out in the sun and traffic by 8:30 AM. Most of the traffic is 3 wheeled pedi-cabs. The street is broken up concrete that played out to mud and puddles. Tough to ride!
Finally out of town and onto a flat road and good paving. We met a young guy, Leandro, from Brazil cycling toward us. He’s been on the road for almost a year and plans to get to Ushuiai then jump off to Europe and the world. He’ll be cycling for 3 years, sounds familiar.
The Cuzco to Puno train came whistling by and the Engineer honked out, “Shave and a Haircut, 6 bits”. A small Pueblo, a Mercado, a cookie and cola break. Sitting in the warm sun we dreamed of hot beaches as we nibbled and sipped.
The wind was beginning to blow, in our direction. Cat had also bought ham and cheese, we rode on then stopped at a small adobe house and again sat in the sun leaning against the leeward side. A young girl cycled up and stood staring. We asked if it was her home, “Si”. She accepted our offer of jamon y queso, ham and cheese then stood nibbling and staring. We decided that she may never have tasted ham and cheese, before?
It’s all little ups and downs into Pucara and good timing. As we pushed the bikes into the Hostal the skies opened up and poured down rain. Another cold building, no heat for the room and a suicide shower. No TV either, Cat crawled under the covers after showering. She was right, the electric heat only got the water to a tepid state. I was shivering by the time I toweled down and crawled under the covers with her.
Down, hoping for a fire in the fireplace, we couldn’t find anyone. The room is lined with clay statues on little shelves. I took photos of several favorites. Then, we started making noise hoping to arouse the staff. A young guy and girl appeared and began trying to start a fire. They knew nothing about fires. He tried to start it by putting a plastic bottle on top the wood and lighting it. So, we had a stinking little blaze for just a few minutes then it was start over time. I took control and put the cardboard and paper they had under the wood. Then it took a lot of blowing to get it going.
Once we had a roaring fire we set off up the street looking for wine. Visits to all 3 of
the tiny markets left us with only one choice, a sweet red. Then, as we were buying a woman ran up with good news. “Tienamos vino blanco”, we have white wine. Excited, we followed her into the little shop where she lifted a 10 liter plastic container and said, “Vino Blanco”. Cat recoiled quickly and said, “No gracious”. The woman insisted that she taste it, which only confirmed her first reaction. The crowd in the little shop laughed as she wrinkled her nose after the taste. We bought the Vino Tinto Dulce.
The fire felt great, the steaks were tough, the rice and fries cold and the vino tinto, as sweet as dessert wine. The price was higher than we’ve paid, anywhere but then, they have the only game in town. And, we’re lucky to have a roof over our heads. Though the rain has stopped it’s getting colder by the minute. We finished eating then lingered near the fire until we’d burned the last of the wood. Then it was a race up the cold stairway, a quick brush of teeth and under the covers. And what covers, there are 4 horse blankets on the bed. So heavy that they’re almost uncomfortable. The sheets are too small and won’t tuck in. They ended up around our necks.
It felt like we lay awake most of the night but we must have slept, some?
February 17, 2005
Pucara to Ayaviri
Rain, rain, go away. Awoke to cold and drizzle again. Down at breakfast, we met a new guy, same girl. We asked for eggs, bread and coffee the guy nodded yes and disappeared. Cat asked the girl, “When”? She said, “Maybe 10 minutes”. Cat jumped back at her, “No, now”! It was now ½ hour since we came in and they have basically ignored us. It looks like they’re preparing a lunch, maybe for a bus they expect? Finally, blended papaya juice, 1 egg each and a basket of cold hard bread. The coffee was Nescafe packets. We asked and they did find 2 more eggs.
It was 9:00 as we loaded the bikes under the stairway, where they were stored, and were soon out the door. It was sprinkling but the sun began fighting its way through the clouds. The road it’s self was great, good surface and flat even a marked cycling path along the edge. We were in Ayaviri at 11:30 AM.
The clouds are winning the battle with the sun. We cycled across a bridge and up a long slow hill, through winding streets and at last, to the Plaza. There, across from the church, was Hotel Lumosa with 3 stars shining at us from the sign. The room is a 3rd story walkup but its clean. Cat asked and they offered a space heater for 3 Soles, about $1.00. We took that deal. Oh yes, we do have TV, however, only 3 Spanish language stations. Yes, they do have hot water but not until 5:00 PM. Well, it is warm and dry.
After storing the bikes in the lobby, behind a cabinet, we walked to a restaurant across the Plaza. Seated at the back of the place, we ordered soup and it was great. I had a cup of Coca Tea. All for 8 Soles or about $2.50 US.
As we ate a huge storm began brewing. Soon it was dark as night and the rain came in buckets. Wind blown sheets of rain. We chose to try to outwait it at the Internet Shop inside the same building. After our hour of reading and writing we had to give it up and make a dash across the nearly flooded Plaza.
The rain dwindled, Cat went back to Internet and did some essentials shopping. I pulled the computer out and worked on journal pages. After asking around, we found that our favorite Restaurant was the only Restaurant in town. So, dinner there but upstairs, hoping that it would be warmer. The meat was tough but the potatoes and salad were great. Well what can we expect at $2.25 for two big plates of food.
The rain stopped, it actually warmed a bit. We strolled through the Plaza and back to our now warm room. The vendors were out in force, each with the same assortment as their neighbor. How can they possibly make a living?
February 18, 2005
Ayaviri to Santa Rosa
3985 meters, 13,071 feet
Last night we asked Elizabeth if we could have breakfast served in our room and she arranged it. This morning Rufino forgot it. When we called down he said he’d have it ready by 8:00 AM. After packing, carrying the bags down and loading the bikes we decided to skip the warmth of our room and just eat in the mezzanine dining area. It was cold there but the food was good. Elizabeth came out of her nearby room as we asked for milk for our coffee. Rufino said that they had none but she went back into her room and brought some, her own. What a nice girl.
They were both there to see us off. It was 9:00 and sunny. We back tracked based on info from Elizabeth. Across the bridge and up a hill then around a round about at the road into town. We had done the loop for naught. The road surface was great and once we got beyond the first couple of Ks it flattened out and we flew. Even the weather seemed to cooperate. We pulled into Santa Rosa at high noon.
The Pueblo is above the Camino and a slight uphill pull to get in. The Policia told us that there were only 2 Alojamientos. We’d seen them and hoped for another. One of the 2 had a little better exterior appeal, we chose it. The couple that greeted us, Giellermo and Juana, were sorting Alpaca wool. Cat chose the downstairs room. It has 2 beds but is large enough to allow the bikes inside.
As we started toward the gate a couple of cyclists came up the street toward us. Niklaus is from Switzerland, Wim from Belgium. After talking in the middle of the street we decided to have lunch together. An old man wondered up and asked for money. I wanted his picture so paid him 1 Sol. He stood and watched us with great curiosity then shuffled off.
After leaning all the bikes at the nearby Restaurant we enjoyed food and shared common stories. Niklaus started his journey in Anchorage, Alaska. I have cycled most of his route and we had lots of common tales about bears and Alaskans. Wim wanted to start in Alaska but couldn’t get enough time off from his job. He began in Canada around Lake Louise. The two of them were on similar courses and crossed paths in Mexico. They ride about the same daily distance and got along so formed a team. They are headed for Ushuaia. They are riding about twice the daily distance that we are. Awe youth, a wonderful gift that we all take for granted until it’s gone away. They’ve both had headaches from the altitude but they only got to the 3,500 to 4,300 meter range a week or so ago. They are going into Bolivia then across to Chile, lots of thin air ahead for them. After a photo session they rode on and we rolled back to our room.
Our room is very sparely furnished and cold. There is no shower, no warm water, only a squatter toilet across the courtyard. Cat got the shivers so we broke out the sleeping bags and she crawled into hers, under the 3 heavy blankets on the bed. Then she had to do something that’s really tough for her, just lay there.
At 6:00 we donned our ski masks and gloves, all our shirts and pants then walked to dinner. A local place with local food and a local beer. Meat smothered in onions and surrounded by fries, delicious. A family, Angel, Roxana and daughter Angela, came in and sat next to us. It was great fun trying to communicate. Roxana is a teacher, they wanted to know how much money she’d make in the States. We sort of skirted the issue, too hard to explain cost of living.
We were back in the room and under the covers by 8:45. We could see our breath with each exhale.
February 19, 2005
Santa Rosa to Sicuani
Up and Over 4335 Meters
(That’s 14,220 Feet)
Easy to get up early, still cold. Trips to the outhouse, brushed teeth at the laundry sink. Off to breakfast, the place where we had lunch with Niklaus and Wim has told us they open at 7:30 AM. Shuttered and barred se we went around the corner and up to the place we dined in last night. It to was closed. Back to a pretty bad looking place where they serve darned good but greasy food. Egg sandwiches, Nescafe and fresh milk.
It was 8:30 by the time we were ready to push off. Knocking and hollering, we couldn’t raise a soul. Cat slipped the 10 Soles through a broken window and onto the kitchen counter. We’ve both been anxious about today’s ride. It’s only 335 meters, a little over 1,000 feet. However, we fear that it will be a switchback monster.
Over the BIG HUMP
The weather began to clear, the sun shone through and we found it a slow but steady ride. As we passed a group of students they told us the summit was only 2 Ks further along. We were sure that they were wrong. They weren’t, we’d already come 30 kilometers. The first sign, the big green highway sign, says 4338 Meters. I set the camera but the photo isn’t very good. Onward to the true summit, the one with the hoard of souvenir peddlers, the little sign reads 4335. A couple of buses had just dumped a gaggle of tourists into the fray. One German guy came galloping toward us. He asked about our trip then said, “I want to cycle like this but my wife says no. I will cycle like this”. He enlisted a friend to shoot the picture of us at this sign. He did a great job, even got a couple of local girls in it.
An unfriendly wind began to whip around us. We mounted and rode down, into the eye of a storm. Rain, hail, and wind. We jumped into our rain gear and rode on. A little Café with dirt floor looked warmer and dryer so we stopped. As we leaned the bikes the gal inside motioned for us to bring them in. They dominated the tiny place.
Soaked and cold, Cat began to shiver again. They had soup, we ordered. A guy that the others called “Tio” (Uncle) asked Cat for money. She refused and he got a little surly, he’d been drinking. Once we were seated and souped everyone became friendly. Even Uncle wanted to shake our hands and wish us “Suerte”, good luck.
A little girl with interesting hat and shawl with a giant pin caught my eye. She flirted around then asked for money. They say “Platatito”, little silver. Wanting to get her picture I offered her a Sol. She smiled big and posed. Then they all wanted pictures and Platatito. No mas dinero but I did take photos and they loved looking at them.
The rain let up, we moved on, down through a verdant valley. Sun shone and accentuated the green fields. Our rain cloths dried as the winds of decent whistled in our ears.
Sicuani is not easy to get into. It’s off the Camino and into little hills. Asking, we finally ended up walking up the last one. The Plaza is plain, the Hotel that Wim and Niklaus recommended was less than plain. They had a room for us to store the bikes and did help us carry our bags. The first room they took us to had a TV. Cat talked with them, found that they only have 2 local channels and asked for a room with out TV. A slight reduction of cost yet for me, discomfort. I was on the edge of diarrhea and felt the urge was about to win the race while they dawdled and negotiated.
Whoosh, I made it. Awe, but no hot water until 5:00 PM. So, we walked to a nearby Internet Shop and connected with the world.
Après shower we walked back to the Plaza, found the Italian Restaurant Niklaus had recommended and went up for dinner. ON the second floor, it overlooks the Plaza. Another recommendation, I had the Lasagna, Cat opted for Pizza. Both were great.
Again, no TV so it was early to bed.
Sunday, February 20, 2005
Sicuani to Urcos
The Hotel Staff told us that there was no Restaurant serving “American Breakfast”. They had a young guy lead us around the corner to a Panaderia. The bakery only had old dry cakes. The coffee is that thick concentrated cold stuff. You add hot water and milk. This coffee had a funny taste, the water was not very hot and the milk was evaporated. The cakes were hard, good for dipping. All in all, not a very nourishing meal.
Off at 9:00, into sunshine. The main street connects with the highway, we didn’t have to backtrack. It’s a mostly downhill run on good pavement. Cat’s shifter finally gave out. It’s been through dirt, mud, snow and ice. We put it on in mid Africa. It must have at least 10,000 kilometers on it. (6,200 miles.) In retrospect, we should have stopped and replaced it right then and there. I tried to nurse it back to health. Then set it to run in a higher gear. So, she has some power but looses it on the down hills. It made for a difficult day, for her.
The road remained down or flat most of the day. As we approached Urcos we were greeted by a very long steep down, across the bridge over Rio Urabamba and the Railroad tracks then a climb. A very tough, long steep push, up and into town. As we pushed and stared up at the surrounding mountains we began to talk of taking the train. You know, for the experience and of course missing the steep played a part, too.
Several people along the street recommended Hostal Amigo. The main street in front of the Plaza is lined with Chicken and Chip places. At a market/restaurant combo a woman again confirmed Amigo as we bought a bottle of wine. Tired, we need it’s relaxing quality. She made us promise that we’d come back for dinner.
It’s Market Day in Urcos and the Amigo is another push, through the busy Plaza. Leaning the bikes out front was a chore. The sidewalk is steep. The Manager came out and invited Cat to take a look. She came back out shaking her head. There’s another Hostal just up the street. She walked up and came right back. “It’s worse and one of the dogs there bit me, the Manager didn’t even try to stop it”?
Our next chore, figuring out where to stash the bikes. The Manager offered us a small single room for 5 Soles, (about $1.67) we took the deal. So the bikes are safe but now, we learned that there is no warm water. The toilet is across the courtyard, another down the stairs and across trip in the middle of the night. The good news, the sheets are clean.
Dinner upstairs with a view of the Plaza. Buses come and go, small business people chase after them then settle back into their little stalls and wait for another.
In bed by 9:00 PM.
Urcos to Cuzco
That Dirty RAT!
The nice couple invited us back for breakfast last night. Up early, we went down to the bike barn and found the back bag on my bike had been tampered with. At first we thought it had been burned then it looked like maybe acid had eaten at it. Then, I saw the little shreds of plastic around the wheel. This is the bag that we keep food in. There was none in it but it may have smelled like food? A Rat, a dirty Rat has chewed a hole in the bag, in fact, 2 holes. Awe well, we folded the holes over as best we could, hoping that we could keep rain out if it does rain then went to breakfast.
The nice couple waited on us, cooked eggs for us then wished us well. They put a couple of sandwiches together just in case we get stuck without food. It was 10:00 AM by the time we started the long push up and out. Oh, the train idea, it faded when they told us that the train doesn’t even slow down as it passes through Urcos these days. After the first steep the climb was a little more gradual then became ups and downs.
Lunch, we pulled into a Service Station about midway to Cuzco and had a bowl of soup. Strange but we are now faced with a climb into Cuzco. It’s about 250 meters, or 825 feet higher than Urcos. Most of the climb came late in the day. Back to pushing, we were also fighting traffic. Blaring horns, taxis coming close as they hurry tourists to their appointed destinations. Then a down hill swoop and there it was, the Plaza de Armas Cuzco. What a sight. The size and scope of it’s beauty had us stop at the corner and stand in awe. We haven’t seen anything like this since Cordoba, Argentina.
Stopping for a photo, a young couple stopped us and asked where we were going. Melissa and Greg from San Francisco were as excited about our arrival as we. I got a photo of them then they shot one of us with the Cathedral in the background.
Hotel shopping was a chore. The one we had first chosen, Hotel Inca, had tiny rooms. After several attempts, some that had rooms but no place for bikes and some that were fully booked we happened upon a place on the corner of the Plaza. At first they wanted us to put the bikes in a basement room that is open to the public. Then the Bellman led me to a place on the 4th floor. A tiny door about 4 feet off the floor. I showed him that even if we could lift the heavy bikes and bags up they wouldn’t fit through the door. They had a room, they had an elevator and after a little negotiating, they allowed us to keep the bikes in the room. It was $65.00 US but that seems to be the going rate.
I did the ups and downs in the elevator. It was a tight squeeze. We almost had to climb over the bikes to get to the bathroom. But, good news, we have a bathroom. Oh, as we rolled along the sidewalk it began to pour rain. We were in, just in time. We’ve already decided that we must move tomorrow.
Dinner up the street at an Italian Restaurant. Alex, the waiter had seen us when we passed, came out and pointed to the Plaza Hotel. We promised that we’d be back. He and another guy acted silly, almost goofy as they took our order and delivered Pizza. A Peruvian music group came in and played flutes and guitars. They played some Beatle music. Another couple seated nearby are from England. He dislikes the Beatles. We’ve heard the song Oh Ba Dee, Oh Ba Da and liked the way it sounded. He says that’s his least favorite song. I got my 2 cents worth in by saying that their music is everywhere in the world. He retorted “Yes, you can’t escape it”.
They do have CNN, we got the first few minutes of Larry King but couldn’t keep our eyes open. We’re really ready for a few days off the bikes.
February 22, 2005
Finding a New Home
Bikes to Carlos
The mediocre included breakfast was the straw that broke these camels backs. Our first and foremost duty this morning is to find a new Hotel. The girl at the desk was very understanding and suggested Hotel Casa Andina, across the Plaza and around the corner. It was love at first sight. They had a couple of rooms to show but none with a real window. When we asked they took us to one that wasn’t made up. It has a window, we really liked it but, no desk. No problem, they brought up a table. We had a new home.
Schlepping across the Plaza, we just re-loaded the bikes and pushed. Our room is a 3 story walk-up. That meant several trips with the bags. They did have a great young guy, Marcos, who helped. He also gave us a map and pointed out a bicycle shop and the Tourist Info Center. A long walk up to the Bicycle Shop only to find that it was closed. We tried to call the number on the door from a pay phone across the street. Couldn’t connect so we asked the shop keeper and he indicated that the Bici Man would be back in an hour.
The Big Bucks Decision
A taxi ride to the Hotel Monastery, they are the sister of Hotel Sanctuario at Machu Picchu. Cat isn’t convinced that it will be a good investment. The nice girl booked our room and charged it to our credit card. Cat said, “Wait till Charlie sees this one”. (Charlie does our bill paying back home.) Yes it’s expensive but how many times in one life will you wake up at Machu Picchu? We tried to find out about taking the bikes inside for pictures but the Hotel has nothing to do with the Park. They did suggest that we talk with INC, Instituto de National Cultura.
Back to the bike shop and we met Carlos. Small world, he’s the guy that Wim and Niklaus had recommended. He worked on their bikes. So, we walked back to Hotel Andina, pulled the bikes out of the kitchen and rode them back to his shop. They’ll stay with him tonight.
Back in the room, we ate left over Pizza, I went to the computer and Cat got our smelly bike clothing together and headed for the laundry. Bored, she walked all over Cuzco. Took in all the sights and is ready to be my tour guide. She even found a place she liked for dinner.
We walked back to the Restaurant only to find that it was fully booked this evening. There were young Asian people slumped on the couches and at tables. They must have just flown in and are Jet Lagged. Back toward the Andina, we went to the Buffet next to the Hotel. The smorgasbord was huge, too much food. We overindulged as a tour bus unloaded more tired looking people. They just hit their seats when the lights dimmed and an Incan Show began. All in a language we didn’t understand but the costumes and sounds were interesting.
Larry King interviewed Dana Reeves, widow of Christopher (Superman) Reeves. A sad remembrance of his life and loss. She is a strong person.
February 23, 2005
Hotel Andina has the best breakfast we’ve had since La Paz. Fresh fruit, eggs and bacon, great orange juice and the topper, French Toast with real maple syrup. The only downside is what they call “American Coffee”. It is so weak the milk overpowers it.
Cat took our remaining dirty cloths to the laundry while I worked on the journal pictures. Later we walked and watched as the Cuzco Taxi Drivers held a protest strike. Hundreds of the little Daewoo cars lined the street 5 wide, horns honking as they circles the Plaza. They’re protesting high gasoline prices and Government fixed rates. As we walked toward the Bike Shop a jogger passed. He was definitely a Gringo. He circled the Plaza and on the second time around I said hello and he asked, “Do you know what’s going on here”?
David is here on vacation from Atlanta, Georgia. He’s staying in one of the nicer Hotels in town. As he jogged in place we talked about getting together for dinner. Decided to call him and meet at his Hotel for a drink. We want to see his place, a 5 Star.
Carlos had the bikes almost ready to go. He was tweaking the last wheel. He’s replaced brake pads, straightened the wheels and replaced a broken spoke. Also set Cat’s front shifter, replaced her front wheel bearings. As a bonus he cleaned the bikes and greased the chains. The bikes look and run like new.
Taxi to Hotel Liberatador and a little tour with David. It’s an old building full of upscale things and stuffy looking people. It made us glad that we’re where we are. The Andina suits us. Our idea of a drink at the bar faded, we asked the desk for a restaurant recommendation. He sent us to a place on the Plaza. One of the touristy places with a wonderful view of the Square at night. The food was just okay but the conversation, fun.
David works with CNN. His Hotel deal is based on trade offs and it’s almost free. He gets little spiffs like this from time to time. Traded travel stories then got off on a media tangent. His dream is to start a company that transfers video to digital. I told him about my 103 hours of VHSC form my first time around the world. We both got excited about the possibilities. He does work on Jonathon Mann’s show, Insight and told us that Jonathon’s an avid cyclist.
David and I had a lamb and steak combo plate, great. At chose veggies and rice, not so great. As we walked back I set the camera and got a pic of the 3 of us. A little girl that had been walking, trying to sell us some trinkets, somehow got into the picture. Parting, we promised to stay in touch and continue exploring ideas about how to use the videos. Nice guy.
The little girl continued to shadow us and chatter. She has a high pitched voice and speaks great English. Her Mom watched her work from across the street. Cat’s sweet tooth got her, she bought a Snickers Bar. I grabbed one for the little girl. Maybe she’ll get to eat it rather than turn it over to Mom? This really is a form of child abuse. It’s after 10:00 PM and she’s still out here hustling?
February 24, 2005
Dr. Percy, the INC and a Maybe
Another fabulous breakfast then a walk to the INC. The guy at the gate sent us around and up to see Dr. Percy. Into a room, a woman told us to take a seat, we sat and waited then finally got tired of sitting and asked for Dr. Percy. Oh, sorry, you’re in the wrong office. Next door, Dr. Percy looked busy. His disk looked as disheveled as mine always had. He listened then showed us the proper papers needed to get a bicycle into Machu Picchu. When I suggested that we fill them out now he said it would be easier to get them at Machu Picchu. Fernando is the guy to talk with there. Well, we have at least a shot at getting the bikes inside for a photo.
More work on the photos and journal. Cat did another walk around and found the plastic zipper bags we’ve used in the past. We’ll put the bags in them to carry to Machu Picchu. The bikes have to go on a separate train. We rode them to the station, banged on the door then the guard pointed to a platform in the back. Checked in, they looked vulnerable leaning on the wall. We did have a piece of paper, a receipt and the hope that they’ll get to Machu Picchu.
A roasted chicken in the room for lunch then we worked on cleaning the muddy bags and packed them into our matching plastic luggage. Dinner in another little restaurant near the Hotel. Pasta for Cat, Steak for Pat.
Pope John Paul has been re-admitted to the Hospital. That was the big news on CNN and Larry King’s show.
February 25, 2005
Down to MACHU PICCHU
Awe the Andina almost let us down. The wake up call we ordered for 6:00 AM never came. Fortunately, I was awake and shaving by 6:00. A quick breakfast where we met a couple from Australia, Bob and Linda. They too are headed for Machu Picchu. He works for Caterpillar Tractors in Lima, on a short-term contract. We offered them a ride in the van we have coming but they’d arranged for a car, yesterday.
Our new temporary bags filled with panniers were stacked by the Lobby door. The bikes leaned on the front desk when our ride arrived. Cat was right, the station we depart from is not the same as where we bought the tickets. It’s just a short ride then a difficult unload process. We hate to have the bikes or bags left unattended. Good news, the driver helped us get the bikes off the top and the bags out then he and I carried into the departure platform while Cat kept those left on the sidewalk safe from theft. Surprise, Anthony, the guy that helped us with the tickets yesterday was there. He grabbed Cat’s bike then he and I pushed both down the platform and off to the freight room. What a great guy, what a time to have the cameras packed away. He talked with the freight guys, made sure that they’d be careful with the shifters then got the paperwork so that we’d have a claim check in Machu Picchu.
Cat had found help and the bags were already aboard the passenger train. We were seated across from a Mother and daughter, Jane and Andrea. The husband/father, Alberto, was across the aisle. After a quiet beginning Jane disclosed that she’s from Texas. Both she and Andrea teach English in Buenos Aires so, we chatted or should we say chattered the entire 4 hours. Alberto does a daily Christian Radio Show. He has just completed the study of Law but hasn’t yet become a Lawyer.
The train begins by struggling uphill. Not like normal by circling round and round but by zigzagging up then back then up again. They pull up passed a switch, throw it then zig back and up again, over and over. Once in Agua Calientes, the little town at the base of the hill that had hidden Machu Picchu so well for over 400 years, we found the Porters for Hotel Sanctuario. They lugged our luggage on their backs, down the tracks to a waiting bus. One of them, Jamie, called the Hotel and a person, Maria Jose, told me that we should give Jamie the claim for the bikes and come on to the Hotel. The freight train will arrive an hour later. The railroad track runs smack through the heart of Pueblo Agua Calientes.
Our new Buenos Aires family are staying in A. C. They think that we can buy one ticket for 2 days and will walk up this afternoon. Once we saw the hill, the switchbacks and the steep stairs we knew that they had their work cut out for themselves. It’s only 8 Ks up but it takes the bus almost a half hour. Maria Jose was there, she and the wonderful staff got us checked in and the bags to the room. We freshened up then headed for the gate and the process of getting the bikes inside the park.
A Glitch and Catch 22 in Machu Picchu
The gate is just a few steps from the Hotel. The women there listened to our story then shook their heads and said, “No bikes in Park”. We explained about our meeting with Dr. Percy and his suggestion that we come here, meet with Fernando the Curator here and fill out the paperwork. They stood, staring and letting our poor Spanish sink in then the manager said, “Dr. Fernando is in Cuzco, you must go to Cuzco to get his permission”. That one caught us by surprise, we argued, told our story again, slower this time but it had no affect. She just shook her head and walked away reconfirming with each step that we must go to Cuzco, Dr. Fernando was in Cuzco. It’s hard to explain the amount of frustration, almost anger that welled up at that moment. Cat convinced me that yelling wouldn’t work so we went back to the Sanctuario.
Maria Jose listened then told us that she might be able to help. She asked us to have lunch while she made a couple of calls. The included buffet was everything that Tom and Colet had told us it would be. Fantastic array of salad, main courses and a huge table of desserts. It was easy to overindulge but at these prices, why not.
A little rest and rinse off to wake up then we headed back to the gate. On the way out Maria Jose confirmed that Dr. Fernando was in Cuzco today and that her request was denied, too. She did say that if all else fails they have a spot in the garden where you can see the ruins, we can shoot pictures there.
A Walk Back in Time, A Walk With the Incas
The ticket seller denied a tow day pass, too? So, we paid the $20 each and went for a walk back in time. The first thing we noted as we rounded the corner and dropped into the site was that it would be difficult if not impossible to get the bikes in, anywhere that would be a good picture. Too many steps and steep hills. The Pueblo Machu Picchu is built on an almost vertical hillside. That and the jungle overgrowth explain why it was lost for those 400 years.
At first glance it’s just another stack of rocks and you know, we’ve seen plenty of those. From the Vikings who left small stacks in Greenland to the Romans who left large stacks all over Europe, even those of the Great Zimbabwe in Africa. The difference is that they are usually reproduced from the rubble that remains after centuries of plunder and decay. These rocks were stacked by Incan hands. These rocks and pathways represent a feeling of everyday life in a long ago, far away place. Machu Picchu is 70% original, from original plan to actual placement. Somehow that enhanced our feeling of being there. Not reverence in our case but reality, almost experiencing everyday life and the feeling of walking with ancients. When you tread on these stones that were familiar to people as long as 2000 years ago you feel life as it was. Daily life as they went about their daily business.
I was short of breath and laboring upward as a young boy almost ran past. I wondered how may times this scene might have played out over the centuries? Did the young Inca boy passing an aging warrior wonder why he wasn’t running? Why he’d slowed his once brisk pace?
The sun was shining brightly. We took advantage by shooting lots of pictures, not knowing whether we’d be afforded the same tomorrow. This place begs to be photographed. There are so many pictures of this place. None of them meant so much to me as being here and taking our own does. Maybe it’s the compact village nestled in the huge mountain setting? This place is Bigger Than Life.
Stepping through an Incan doorway, again like stepping back in time, I asked a guy to take our picture. Then, Lam and Eriza, a couple from Hong Kong, took the wonderful picture of us with MP in the background. I asked them to do, “You Must Be Crazy” in Chinese. At first they declined because they worried that they might be insulting us. That was good for a laugh once we got the point of our Languages of The World across to them.
Must Be Crazy," Chinese
After more than 3 hours we gave it up and headed back to our Sanctuario. Jane, Andrea and Alberto were there, at the gate. They’d just gotten the news, no ticket is good for today and tomorrow. They had decided to forgo today, the walk up had drained them. As we stood and talked a guy, a Guide, Armando, began pitching us. They spoke together in Spanish then we decided to share Armando, tomorrow and scheduled an appointment for 7:00 AM.
The bikes came riding up in a bus as we exited the Park. The Porters had a ball, riding them in the driveway. Cat is complaining of being bitten by mosquitoes. We can’t see them and they don’t seem to like the taste of me? There are some tiny black bugs that sort of stick to our sweaty skin?
The rally good news, all meals are included in our one high priced package. Dinner was fantastic. Throwing caution to the wind we decided to give Alpaca another try. Their Alpaca Fillet is as tender, juicy and tasty as meat can get. It’s proceeded by a starter and salad then followed by dessert. All in all one of the best meals we’ve ever. Once again, rate has its privileges. Two sisters, Mercedes and Marsha, seated nearby began a conversation. Small world, they’re from California. Mercedes is an Attorney living and practicing in Manhattan Beach. Marsha lives in Scottsdale, Arizona near our adopted Mom, Celeste. A nice conversation and a nice way to end a wonderful day.
February 26, 2005
MACHU PICCHU to Agua Calientes
Up at the strike of 6:00, just ahead of the wake up call. Breakfast was a hurried affair full of pancakes and maple syrup. We’re getting used to this Royal Treatment. The buses came and went but none had our Buenos Aires Family on board. At 7:10 Armando showed up and urged us to come with him. As we walked toward the gate Jane came out and waved. They’d been here for almost a half hour, waiting for us.
Another beautiful sunny day and more of the same feelings of wonder. The crowd of tourists is minimal at this hour. Armando is a very good guide. He takes time to explain small details as well as stories as large and sweeping as the panorama. By the end of our 2 hours together we had a much clearer picture of the people and culture that once lived in this extraordinary place. After Armando hurried off to find his next appointment we walked with Jane, Andrea and Alberto to the top of the hill. Alberto seemed full of energy and as he strode ahead Jane mentioned something about having to give him shots everyday. Because my Dad took daily injections I assumed that he was diabetic. No, he has Cancer. It started in his Prostate but is now in his bones. Traditional therapy has failed so they’ve turned to a new drug from Honduras. She feels that he looks better and has a lot more energy since starting the treatment. He does have a spring in his step as he climbs to the heights of Machu Picchu.
Another meeting on the mount with Bob and Linda as well as Mercedes and Marsha. They went all the way up to a place called “The Drawbridge”, on a cliff clinging trail. We chose to stop climbing.
There is a cemetery and flat, sculptured sacrificial stone. A nearby guide told his clients that they only sacrificed animals but we’ve have read otherwise. The cemetery holds the bodies of 500 people, most of them women, who were buried just before the demise of Machu Picchu. Jane had heard that most had Venereal Disease. Armando confirmed it and said that they had fled the invading Spaniards and taken sanctuary here until they died in the mid 1500s, the last inhabitants of Machu Picchu. Armando told us that it was the Spanish who, while raping and pillaging, spread the scourge of Syphilis. He also told us that the Inca people were tall but their ancestors, his family included, were short due to having been enslaved and underfed by the Spaniards for several hundred years. Later we would hear that Syphilis came from here in Peru and spread to Europe. (We’ll leave it up to you to verify these assertions and let us know.)
Hugs and kisses all around for and from Alberto, Jane and Andrea. What a fine family they are. They also have a Son but he couldn’t come along, he’s just found a new job and had to work.
As promised, Maria Jose had the Porters help us drag the bikes up into the garden but the photo doesn’t really show much of Machu Picchu. A lot of work but they all had fun and we liked being with them. We did get to wear our new ponchos. One of the guys at the desk volunteered to do, “You Must Be Crazy” in Quechua for us.
Must Be Crazy," Quechua
So, our expensive day and a half is done. We loaded the bikes and pushed up to the sandwich stand near the Gate to the Park. A couple of Burgers for fuel before we hit the trail. A German girl, Heike, introduced herself and told us that she’s also cycling to Ushuaia. We asked a young guy to take our photo with her, turns out that Bruce is from California and has cycled from Seattle to San Diego. So, we ended up taking their picture.
Ready to go, a Mom and daughter approached us. Alice and Cindy live in Oklahoma but Alice is from Iowa. She and Cindy have cycled the Ragbrai, the ride around Iowa. Alice has ridden it 14 times. It’s a real family affair. Cindy has done it 5 times. Darn, the camera didn’t make it out of the bag for these brave and hearty girls, sorry folks.
So, we set off down the bumpy dirt and rock road. The plan is to move to more affordable lodging in Agua Calientes for tonight then train back to Cuzco tomorrow. The road is tough to ride, the sand and rocks are loose. A guy walking down the stairs is from Grass Valley, California. As we rode back and forth on the switchbacks he scurried down the stairs. We met at each crossing. He ended up getting down quite a way ahead of us. We did stop for lots of pictures, one of which has us with M. P. in the background.
The river that runs through Agua Calientes is at high water and raging. We found the tracks and followed them to the spot below the station. Our friends from Sanctuario were there and took control of the bags. Jaime and I walked the bikes to the freight station. They were closed. I waited, he hustled around and found the workers. They checked the bikes and gave me the now familiar paperwork.
Cat discovered that we could get on the 5:00 PM train, she changed our tickets and we began the wait. Hungry, I ordered a Pizza at a place just across the tracks. As I waited another train, the 4:00 PM pulled in. I yelled under it to see if we could go with them. After a few minutes they agreed. Now it was a race between the Pizza Oven and train. I paid for the Pizza but now, the Train won the race. It was leave it or miss and our bags were already aboard. Goodbye 35 Soles. ($10.35) I ran along the track as the train started to move and jumped aboard. The girl ran out of the restaurant with money in hand but gave up and watched as we rolled away. Suddenly she yelled out to a young boy, he grabbed the money and ran like the wind, caught up and handed me 30 Soles at the last possible moment. What honest people, what a kind gesture to a stranger who may never return to this place.
Cristiano (Chris) and Glauce from Sao Paulo, Brazil were our seat buddies. Both speak very good English, we were lucky, again. They’re Medical Monitors, sort of auditors that check on hospitals and doctors to make sure they’re providing the services that they bill to Insurance. We enjoyed the conversation and the time flew by. They were taking a bus connection from the top of the hill and convinced us that we could save more than an hour by doing the same. When the train stopped at Poroy we asked if they could take us with all our luggage, they actually sent a girl to help carry the heavy bags. We were aboard the bus and headed down the highway to Cuzco in minutes.
The driver stopped across the Plaza from our Hotel, in pouring rain. He got the others off and was pulling our bags out when we asked if he could take us around to the other side. At first it was a no then he reconsidered and through the bags up, into the bus. He delivered us to the door of Casa Andina and the guys there helped hustle the bags inside. A quick trip, a long day, full of interest and excitement.
The bus beat the train by more than the promised hour and we were eating dinner long before we’d have gotten back.
Because we’re a day early we had to take a room downstairs with no window to the outside. They’ll move us back to our favorite spot in the morning.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
Bob and Linda were already downstairs when we went down for breakfast. They’re headed back to Lima this morning. We traded stories and e-mail addresses. She ahs been sick since they got here and is headed for a Doctor in Lima. They’ve decided that she will go back to Australia next month even though Bob has to remain until December. It must be tough being halfway around the world and wanting to see your Doctor. It will be tough living halfway around the world from each other.
After another great included breakfast we walked to the train station. The bikes were there, and in our possession in minutes. Cycling back without bags was a strange feeling, like a big part of the bikes was missing. As we rode we came upon lots of Military and guys in dark suits. They have a bandstand set up in front of the Cathedral. The sound of a marching band filled the Plaza. They came in followed by the dignitaries. Then the soldiers marched up and performed a flag raising ceremony. All very interesting and we learned that it isn’t a rare event, they do it to honor the flag, every Sunday.
A pretty good Mexican lunch then a couple of hours at the Internet Shop. Back to our computer for me, I’m intent on finishing the journal pages before we leave Cuzco. Cat was in and out, shopping around and scooping out a place for dinner. She decided on Chinese in the room and a chance to watch the Academy Awards Ceremony tonight.
Surrounded by flavorful food, we settled in, watched the pre-ceremony show and waited. Then as the awards would have began, the station switched to Spanish Language programming that had nothing to do with the Academy Awards.
So, it was a catch up on CNN News and early to bed.
February 28, 2005
Finishing Touches to Le Journal
Up early, I started work on the journal pages before breakfast. Cat prepared a package of our maps, brochures and CDs to mail home. She took a taxi to the Correo, the Post Office. I continued to peck away at the journal. Ready to place the pictures, I couldn’t find my notes. They have all the picture numbers and captions. Cat returned and confirmed that she had put them in the package. Oh my, that will mean a ton of work unless we can stop the package and recover them.
A taxi to the Post Office, we could see the box and felt that luck was with us. The guys behind the counter seemed to be ignoring us? Then a security guard told us that the woman in charge was out for lunch and no one else is authorized to touch her work. In fact, she’s out until 4:00 PM.
We walked back to Plaza de Armas and found a real biker bar and restaurant. Called Norton Rats, it has pictures of Norton Motorcycles all over the walls. We had Burgers and fries over looking the Plaza. Good flavor and people watching.
Back to the computer for me, Cat went looking for food and things to complete our needs for the road. She was caught in a downpour, stood under a balcony for quite a while then made a dash for the Hotel when it slowed.
Another taxi ride back to the Post Office and she was able to get the Photo list, Whew.
Our new favorite TV Show, American Idol is on tonight. We watched as the panel of judges narrowed the field to 12 gals and 12 guys. They show some of the auditions as well as the joy of winning and pain of being sent home.
Dinner at a Trattoria that Cat has discovered. Pasta for me, Pizza for she. E met a family from Boston visiting their son who lives here.
March 1, 2005
Finally, Finished the Journal
After breakfast it was back to the keyboard for me. Cat did more walking around and getting us ready. She visited the Tourist Office and got a map and info about the road ahead. Even slipped a haircut into the busy day.
She drug me off for lunch as a place she’d past. Fair food, slow service. Back past the Haircut place, she convinced me to get mine cut, too. Too bad, the place was closed until 4:00.
I went right back to the computer, Cat made a trip to the Super Mercado for food items and wine. Just the necessities. She spent the remainder of the afternoon repacking the bags. I finally finished the journal pages at 6:00 PM. We e-mailed them from the Hotel. What a load off my mind. Every time we go through this, every 5 or 6 weeks, I swear that I’ll cut back on details. Then, when we see the journal up and running pride takes over and we keep on detailing our days.
Dinner at another Cat discovery, The Witches Garden. Interesting décor and the gal running it, Mom of the owner, is a great character. She’s from Quebec, very French Canadian. The meal of lamb and sweet potatoes was wonderful. Met the only other customer, Michael from Boston and chatted as we enjoyed.
A leisurely walk back through historic San Blas. The Inca walls jut out at almost every corner. Seems the Spaniards used the foundations and cut stone a lot when they re-built and converted the existing civilization.
Our final CNN news fix until who knows when, then off to dreamland.
March 2, 2005
Cuzco to Limatambo
Up early, packed and ready to roll. Breakfast at 7:30 AM. Down to breakfast, the last shot we have at French Toast and maple syrup. This is a wonderful little hotel. We think we like it as well, maybe better than El Sanctuario. More than just a price thing, the room is great, the staff are kind and helpful and of course, the breakfast is 5 Star.
Loading the bikes in the lobby is always a show. Then, another show. Marco, one of our favorite staffers, took pictures of us wearing our Peruvian ponchos and hats. Then we found a fellow to take one of all of us. The staff were so happy when they saw the picture. Marco asked if they could download it to their computer. It meant finalizing the CD but that seemed a small sacrifice. Marco has a digital camera and he’s really a techno. He had the pictures up on the screen in moments. The rest of the staff huddled around, laughing and enjoying.
The Big Push Out of Cuzco
Once on the road it became a marathon push. We knew it was up, we’d done it on the train. Yes, we will sort of follow the railroad tracks to the top of the hill. It was a 2-hour ordeal, riding when possible and pushing a lot. Poroy, you remember, the place where we jumped from the train and took the bus back into Cuzco was a soft drink stop. We sat in the shade, sipped and talked about how different the place looks in daylight when your not hustling heavy bags to a bus.
Bark’s Worse than the Bite?
Antas is only 25 Ks from Cuzco but it was a late lunch. Supped soup and wondered how far we would get today. The first 25 kilometers have been slow and tough. Riding onward, the challenge was less terrain and more canine. The road began to make more downs than ups. However, the dogs became more and more aggressive. We had to squirt them with our water bottles, kick at them, fake throwing rocks and at times just ride as fast as possible. Is the bark worse than the bite? We weren’t bitten but saw a lot of teeth and put up with a lot of barking.
At 25 Ks from Limatambo we hit all downhill. The road winds down and down through tiny Pueblos and farmland. It even rained on our downhill roll for a while. Into Limatambo, we stopped at what looked like a store but turned out to be a house. The girl on the porch didn’t understand our question about a hotel. A guy standing nearby, Carlos, introduced himself. He has traveled to lots of areas in the US and worked at a Hotel in Texas for 2 years. He told us it was a good thing we stopped, the only Hotel here is right next door. He led the way, he lives behind the large old house that now serves as a Hostel.
Carlos and Omni Life
The woman who owns the place is not here. The kids, a boy and girl about 8 and 10 years old, opened the gate for us. We took a seat and waited. Carlos came and invited us to see his garden. He raises boysenberries, makes marmalade and sells it to stores and restaurants in Cuzco. He also sells a dietary supplement called Omni Life. He told us that he has Parkinson’s Disease but has arrested most of the symptoms using this miracle product. One of the plastic bottles has a whole list of diseases and symptoms that can be cured or controlled. Carlos would have put the hard close on us but he doesn’t have any product. All three of his bottles are empty. He insisted that we take his dealer number and use it when we get home. He’s sure that we’ll need it by then. Nice guy, sold on the product or sold on selling it. We did note a slight tremor in his hands as he displayed the bottles.
Maria, the Mom and Hostal Operator came in and showed us to our room. Pretty basic place, cement floors, 3 single beds and all have sagging springs. Cat notes that the sheets did look clean. Showers, not a chance. The only water on the property is at a hose bib coming out of a hillside near the road. So, we just washed our faces and hands then walked to dinner. We did find a bottle of Chilean wine at a small market. The restaurant not only had no wine, they had no wine opener. The waitress took it into the kitchen. When she reappeared it was open but the lip of the bottle was broken and the cork had been pushed down, inside. The break was more a chip. After looking carefully we carefully poured from the non-chipped side of the bottleneck.
Dinner, the typical soup, an unidentifiable meat and rice. Cat is really tired of rice and it plugs her up. She asked for Papas Fritas but the waitress shook her head and delivered the meal with rice. As if to add insult to injury, they brought Rice Pudding for dessert.
Luckily we thought of bringing our headlights. Carlos had told us that there were street lights but it was black as pitch. No washing or brushing just into bed. There are a lot of bugs in the room. Cat moved to the far bed to avoid the flying and crawling creatures on the window sill.
March 3, 2005
Limatambo to Curahuasi
46 Kilometers then 9 Ks in a Pickup
There is a toilet in a bathroom across the courtyard lawn. Of course you can’t flush, no water. I did take the long walk twice. Cat chose to squat in the dirt outside rather than go into the darkness. It was easy to arise at dawn. The young girl carried a bucket of water down and flushed. I had to wait and almost waited too long for a turn on the throne.
Back to the same, the only restaurant, in Limatambo. The typical breakfast offering is potatoes, peas and chicken. They did have eggs and worked up 4 fried eggs, coffee and marmalade. The coffee was a cup of hot milk and packets of instant coffee. To our liking as we want our morning cup strong. The people were really nice. It was 8:30 by the time we got aboard and rolled.
More downhill, more rain, drizzle at first then a downpour. We had to stop and don our raingear. We flew past the rain zone in just 15 minutes. Then it was warm and muggy. Left our long sleeve shirts and cycling pants on but began to wish that we hadn’t. We rode more than 20 Ks in the first hour. A sign advising us that we were at 1970 meters made clear the reason for the speed. We’ve dropped about 3,400 meters of more than 4,000 feet since leaving Cuzco. The bad news, we now have climb back to almost 3,000 meters. Pahcamama is taking back what she just gave up.
We’d just reached the up and began pushing when we came upon 3 girls from Denmark, Anette, Birgitte, Trine and their local guide, Cesar. The girls are here for 2 months, today they’re hiking to the bridge we’ve just crossed. Cesar told us that we have 20 Ks of up ahead of us. Most of it was a push, we did ride a little from time to time but push and hot sun was the order of the day.
At first we thought there had been a huge storm or earthquake. There were rocks, tree trunks and glass on the road. It turns out to be a new phenomenon to us, signs on the roadway and lots of rocks in the road proclaimed “Paro 2 y 3 Marzo”. Asking, we learned that it’s a general two-day strike that started yesterday. The main objective is to disrupt the flow of trucks and buses.
A little down hill run and a creek crossing. I pushed off into the stream and surprise, the front wheel dropped into a fast running 18 inches of water. Half way up to the knee of my right leg, I tried to jump and almost lost the bike to the current. A local guy stood with open mouth as I struggled. When I finally regained control he pointed to a spot and said what we think was, “Cross here”. I leaned my bike and went back for Cat’s. She pushed and we found it fairly easy now that we knew where the shallows were. It reminded me of an old joke;
Show Him Where the Stones Are
A Rabbi, Priest and Minister went fishing together.<
After a couple hours sitting in the boat, in the sun,<
the Rabbi got up, stretched and said, “Think I’ll take a little walk.
He stepped out of the boat and walked across the water. The Priest
Soon followed. The Minister sat in disbelief. Another hour passed and the
Priest did the same walk around followed by the Rabbi. The Minister
thought to himself, “My belief is as strong as theirs” so he stood up,
stretched and said, think I’ll take a walk, too. He stepped out of the boat and immediately sank into deep water. As they pulled him out the Rabbi said, “We’d
better show him where the stones are or he’ll drown himself”.
Pushing was now accompanied by the squish, squish sound as the water sloshed in my shoes. It was now the middle of the afternoon and hot as heck. Sweat trickled down our backs and our arms were throbbed from the effort. Standing, resting, a pickup truck passed and the couple waved. They went on around the corner then came backing up to us. The man, Oswal, got the point across that it was another steep 9 Ks to Curahuasi and the summit. He and his wife Juana insisted that we throw the bikes aboard. Tired and drained of energy, we didn’t resist.
Lifting the bikes into the small truck bed we crouched between them and held on for dear life. The ride was a wild one, Oswal didn’t waste time and the force of the cornering the switchbacks flung us back and forth against the bikes. He was right, we wouldn’t have made it before sundown.
Oswal and Juana dropped us in front of a large restaurant. After thanking them profusely we leaned the bikes and went in for lunch. We’re starving and the place looks clean and modern. The soup is tasty the prices comparatively high. The owner recommended a Hotel a couple of blocks down the road. The one across the street is closed due to the Paro.
Hotel Flor de Anis has a fair room with local TV. The shower is another suicide model. I lay back and snoozed, Cat took a shower. When she finished I went for my turn only to find that there was no water? Mario, the strange desk clerk told us that the water supply has been cut due to the Paro. So, I through my cloths on and we began the search for dinner. Mario decided to accompany us when we asked about a restaurant. He led us up the street past a little place full of people and back to the same place where we’d eaten lunch.
Inside, we asked if they had a bottle of white wine? They didn’t but the friendly owner indicated that he’d ride his motor scooter to a store for some. Mario sat at our table. Our wine delivery service arrived, we sipped and bought Mario a Cola. Then we watched s a guy was turned away when he tried to come in the front door. At first we assumed that he was a local and they didn’t like him. Then when we asked for a menu the waiter indicated that they were closed? Incredible, why did Mario bring us here? Why did the Boss go for wine? We finally decided to take our wine and go back down the street. Mario tried to take the lead but we waved him away.
The little café is a family concern. Mama cooks, Papa serves and their little girl stands and stares at us. More chicken and rice but fairly tasty. All other places on the street are closed due to the Paro.
Back to our room, I showered and we went directly to bed.
March 4, 2005
Curahuasi to Abancay
Up and out into a sunny morning. A walk to the same large restaurant we lunched at yesterday, for breakfast. It’s the only place open on the street. Our request for café con leche brought only hot water and some of the concentrated coffee to the table. The water was brown, maybe from the disruption of service yesterday? We asked for milk and the girl only shook her head back and forth. I decided to find milk and set off on the quest. Each little stand that was open only offered canned or concentrated milk. They all pointed around the corner and up the street. I walked at least ½ mile and got the same response form each store. At last I relented to a merchant’s suggestion that no one has fresh milk here? Back with a can of Gloria Concentrated Milk in hand, we handed it to the girl and asked her to heat it. She returned with the can cut open and steam coming out. Heated in the can? Is that dangerous?
Then we asked for cupas, cups. She brought glasses. Another request then Cat went to the kitchen and pointed to the cups. Concentrated coffee and concentrated milk, not a great combination. In fact Cat refused to drink her cup. A sparse and less than so-so breakfast.
Amazing, they have cleaned most of the rocks and tree trunks form the road already. It’s a hard ride then push up and out of town. At about 5 Ks a group of boys in the 5 to 7 year old range fell in with us. They walked along and tried to talk. I teased them then they got around to the real message, “Da mi platitos”, give me little silver money. We refused but they persisted. Finally we hit a less than steep so we jumped on and pumped hard. They jogged along, we sped up. They increased the stakes, asking for Chocolate, even my boots. They broke into a run but we finally pulled away. They were still hollering though we were now almost out of voice range.
The road now is a zig-zag, a series of switchbacks. When we look up they seem to never end. This was all walk and push. At one long sweeping corner we found a tiny Café. They had a pan full of bad looking meat, pork we think. A woman standing nearby told us not to eat it, it would make us sick. She spoke a little English and chatted then waved down a Taxi and crawled into the cargo area in the back. She’d been waiting for quite a while and gave up on getting a seat.
We pulled a can of tuna out of our bags and bought bread and Cola. They had little tables inside, we took advantage and watched them try to get cars to pull over. They were cleaning up and preparing to close as we exited. There are no stores here only adobe huts. Pushing, we could still see the little Café from high above.
At 3:00 PM we began to tire and fear darkness. Hoping for another angel, we began to look for a ride. During the next half hour only two cars passed. Then, a Combi, a van slowed as we waved. They stopped and backed up listened to our story then Umberto, the driver, told us that they were only going 2 Ks and the summit is still 10 Ks above. We understood, they drove onward then stopped and backed up again. The passenger side guy, Ricardo, got out and suggested that they’d take us if we paid 20 Soles ($6.15). We jumped at the deal.
They wanted to stuff the bikes in with bags attached. I knew it wouldn’t work but helped as they struggled. Then we showed them how quickly we could get the bags off. They threw the bikes on the rooftop, I strapped them down and we were off.
Umberto pulled up onto a wide shoulder. We could see Abancay even though it’s still 30 Ks away. A way below us. Also the road is the same view as the other side of the mountain, all switchbacks. After handing the boys money and a hand shaking moment or two, we were off. Down, down, down. Dogs began to chase and bite at us. Thankfully we were on the downside and could outrun them. One even got his teeth into my shoe. I had a hard time shaking him off. We’ve decided that we must get a squirt gun and some ammonia to ward off these vicious dogs.
After a few asks we found Hotel Tourista. It’s just sort of okay. The price is high but they’re pretty much the only game in town. The room, in the new wing, is reasonably furnished but when we showered the water ran out and all over the floor.
As we entered the dining hall I mentioned that they have a design flaw on the shower. The manager apologized, explained that they have shower doors coming then sent a guy up to mop.
Dinner, I had Fillet, Cat chose Trout. The wine was 60 Soles ($18.50) and hardly worth it. Cat talked with the manager again, he apologized, said that they are new and don’t have a wine Carte then reduced the wine to 50 Soles. ($15.40)
We found a subtitled movie and watched until our eyes would no longer allow.
March 5, 2005
Day of Rest and Journal in Abancay
Fruit, bread and coffee for breakfast. Cat visited the Internet Shop and laundry then picked up picnic supplies. I struggled with journal pages. Lunch in the room then more journal work for me while Cat explored Abancay.
At 6:00 PM we walked to the Laundry and visited the Internet Shop again. The sound of live music drew us to a square just off the main street. There’s a tree with clothing hanging in it and people preparing to dance around it. I stood and got prepared to take pictures when another group came around the corner. I raised the camera and shot a close up. A woman in the group came toward me and sprayed the shave cream stuff at me. Got me right in the eye. It burned like crazy but I figured it must be fairly harmless as half the kids in these towns are spraying it at each other. It was now dark, we took a Mototaxi back to the Hotel.
Dinner down at Hotel Tourista, Chicken Gordon Blue for me and spaghetti that turned out to be like Chinese noodles for Cat. A couple came in and sat at the next table. Elisa and her son Jorge began a conversation. It was a struggle due to language but we managed. Her husband and baby daughter were killed recently in a car crash. She works in food service and we figured that she was trying to get Jorge used to eating in a Restaurant. We told them about our trip then I took Jorge to see the bikes. He’s a quiet kid but liked being treated like and equal.
Alan, a guy we heard speaking English in the lobby, is from Norcross, Georgia. He told us about his Mother’s house that had developed a Toxic Mold problem. Insurance took care of the cleanup but he feels that he has some lung damage. He moved to Peru and bought a place in Curahuasi. He’s an artist and writer but has been unable to work because the altitude leaves him breathless. Curahuasi lies at 3,800 meters, about 12,500 feet. He has the place on the market, 14 hectares about 35 acres with a nice house for $80,000 US. Check it out at www.Salcantay.com. He and his former Spanish teacher now girl friend are moving to Buenos Aires, she will study Law while he writes.
Sunday, March 6, 2005
Abancay to Santa Rosa
Breakfast then Cat went to check out and the Desk told her that they couldn’t take our Visa Card? They have several decals advertising Visa? With the bikes loaded and ready to go I decided to demand that they use the card. The guy at the desk asked if we could go to the ATM but I refused, it would take time and cost more money. He even offered to pay for the Taxi. The manager arrived and spoke with them then admonished them as incompetent and promptly disappeared. The girl now said that the problem was simply that they had run out of paper. That did it, I demanded that they do a manual ticket and call Visa. She set about trying to call then told me that Visa was closed. Another stretching of truth, they never close. I took one of their manual tickets, rubbed the card onto it then filled in the amount and signed. They continued to complain, I gave them a card with our e-mail address and bid them adieu. They stood open mouthed as we pushed down the drive and away.
A little up to the highway then out of town and down, down, down for 15 Ks. Hard to believe after all the down we did coming into town. Then the road leveled and the temperature began to rise. We slowly shed cloths until we were cycling in only our shorts and jerseys. It gave us a new feeling of freedom, one we’d been hoping for, for the past month. The river is flowing down, we’re going upstream but the climb is gentle.
At about 40 Ks we sat in the shade and enjoyed our onboard sandwiches and Colas. A group of young people came up and joined us on the porch. They got the point across that they were walking to Abancay. We really doubted that, it’s a long way and has taken us 3 ½ hours to cycle. If they’re actually walking they’d better have a spot to sleep along the way?
All who gave advice about the road told us that there are no places to stay. Santa Rosa is a strip Pueblo, it is just businesses and homes clustered along the highway. Resigned to the fact that we’d be camping we began to search for food and coffee. There across the street we were greeted by a sign, Santa Rosa Hospedaje. Even a little sign that says “Baño y Ducha”, toilet and bath. The place is simple but clean. The toilet is typically smelly and the shower is cold water only but it beats camping.
Cat met with a few mosquitoes as we sat drinking a cold Orange Drink. Two little girls, Adriana, nicknamed Miele and Valeria are sisters. They are spunky and full of Spanish questions. Meile held her nose when near us, how could we fault her for being honest? We had been sweating all afternoon. Then Valeria rubbed my leg and made a comment about how hairy it is. Her Grandmother and another woman their couldn’t control their laughter.
Quick water, soap up and rinse off boat showers then we relaxed in the room and waited for dinnertime. Grandma, the proprietor of S. R. Hospedaje sent us two doors down for food. The overweight woman insisted that we would like her Gallina. Asking for pollo she pulled a slimy looking piece of chicken out of the big pot in the corner. We thanked her and moved on. The quest led us up and down the street only to find that there were no other restaurants. A family with curbside fire was cooking meat on bamboo sticks. That and potatoes looked better than the Gallina so we ordered 6 sticks. They invited us to sit inside at what must have been their dining table. The room was full of kids watching a DVD of Shrek and the other cartoon characters speaking Spanish on television.
With the bottle of wine we’d carried from Abancay, the food was edible. It was also a joy to watch the interaction between the members of the family. The littlest girl clung to anyone that would let her. The Mom and Dad would leave the barbeque in the hands of older kids and sit to watch from time to time. Even neighbor kids drifted in and out. It was the social hub of the area. They are a fairly wealthy family. The TV and DVD player, a huge stereo system, even a Karaoke Machine.
Our walk back to the Hospedaje just barely beat the rain. It began to pour and pound down on our tin roof. I had seen daylight through a hole above the bed earlier. Now it was a dribble spout and the drips were hitting my pillow. I pulled the bed down and let the sound of dripping on the cement floor lull me to sleep.
March 7, 2005
Santa Rosa to Challhuanca
Another search for food, breakfast is virtually non-existent in Santa Rosa. Grandma sent us up the street and the girl at a little stand went inside to ask then emerged and invited us in. It’s a Restaurant but they really weren’t open. We asked for egg sandwiches and coffee. The girl talked with her Mom then left on the run. She returned with 4 eggs and 1 packet of instant coffee. When she brought the hot water out for coffee we asked if they had more than the one packet? Another talk with Mom and another run to the store.
Our ride is still gradual up with a little more incline that left us grinding along in 1st gear much of the morning. Another sunny shorts and shirt day. The area has a strange mix of trees and cactus. The river remains on our left and most of the time we have a cliff on the right. Several areas have rocks on the road. At one, as we stopped to take a picture, a little shower of stones broke out. We got the pic then hustled onward.
Challhuanca was ours by 3:00 PM. It’s a little larger than Santa Rosa and had Hotel choices. A Policeman suggested Hotel Challhuanca. We pulled up, Cat went in and came back out shaking her head. The woman owner followed her and was still negotiating price. She’d started at 40 Soles which was ridiculous for what Cat describes as less than last nights place with the exception of private bath and warm water. A gal on the street came up and began telling us how good the Hotel is. She had a gun in her pants pocket and let us know that she is their Security Officer. She needed a bath and as she leaned closer I could see that the gun was plastic.
Just as we began to move away a bus pulled up. The Security Officer leapt into action, blowing her Police Whistle and directing the driver. Several onlookers laughed, this simple girl in a kaki t-shirt trying to control the huge bus.
Hotel Zagarro, just up the street, is quite nice. The staff greeted us, Cat checked the room and found it to be very nice. They didn’t push for a Gringo price, either. At 30 Soles, about $9.00, we thought it a bargain. Cat took the shower first then during my reign, just after soaping up, the water stopped running. I thought it was a problem with the handle so had Cat hand me our tools. With the thing torn completely apart I had to give us and give in to Cat’s call to the Desk. They apologized and said they’d have it up and running in 5 minutes. It took that long to get the handle back together as I shivered and the soap dried.
The remainder of the afternoon was spent in front of the screen of an Internet Shop Computer.
Doomed, Generation to Generation
Dinner in the little Restaurant attached to the Hotel. Cute décor and good food. The Chef seems to have been trained in a large city. Cat had Chinese Pasta and I the Pollo Naranja, Orange Chicken. Both were great. A young, very pregnant girl entered and sat at the table next to us. The conversation cut through language, she is the oldest of 10 children. Celia lives in Santa Rosa with her parents, sisters and brothers, at home, and isn’t married. She knows the Father but doesn’t want to marry him. Oh, by the way, she’s having twins. Geez, a farm family in an already overcrowded hut now anxiously awaiting a couple more family members. Celia is cute and spunky but we feel that she’s doomed. She’ll be raising kids for the next 20 years, her siblings, her own kids and maybe theirs, too. Her hands show the signs of working in the dirt. She is probably doomed to that career, too.
Celia is here to see the Doctor tomorrow. She is just weeks, perhaps days away from the new additions. The Manager, Mario, the Chef and Dish Washer all joined in the fun as we took a picture of her. She lifted her head defiantly and smiled. When she saw the photo she laughed and lifted her bulging sweat shirt. What a wonderful picture, what a wonderful girl locked into a terribly small life.
March 8, 2005
Challhuanca to Puquio
120 Ks in Santos Taxi, 70 Kilometers
Breakfast at the Hotel wasn’t as good as dinner had been. The same nice gal served us but the cook was not a Chef. Asking for fried eggs she suggested an omelet. She called it a “Tortilla” like they do in Spain. He didn’t get it so she went into the kitchen and demonstrated. The Tortillas were thin and dry. No juice, and so-so coffee. The shock, the price. Almost as much as dinner?
Yesterday afternoon we made the decision to find a ride up to Abra Huashuaccasa. It’s over 4,300 meters or 14,100 feet and all the people here talk constantly about how cold it is.
Mario had set up a Taxi for us and Santos pulled up right on time, 9:00 AM. The locals gathered around as we loaded the bikes on top his cab. Though Mario had suggested 40 Ks, we began to talk about getting up to the summit. The original price was renegotiated from 30 to 90 Soles and we were off. As we passed the 40 K mark we were really glad we’d decided to ride the distance with Santos. After climbing the face of the steep hill it was still up, up, up. Nearing the 100 K marker Santos began to assure us that it was all down from there.
A little dip down then a stiff up out of a tiny Pueblo. The scenery is Altiplano like we’d seen in Bolivia. At the top of the Village hill we could see more up in the distance. Another renegotiation and we rode on with Santos. Finally at 120 Ks the sun broke through and it looked like the road was flat ahead. He continued to insist that it was all down from here but we’d heard that one from him before. This time we could only hope that he was right.
Two guys and a gal, locals sat nearby and watched us unload the taxi and load the bikes. Santos swung wide then honked and waved. We were definitely on our own in high country again. The three were hitch hiking and not having much luck Wishing them well, we rolled off across the flats. The altitude immediately began to affect us. And, they had been right, it was so cold that we had to pull our face masks out.
There were more ups and they were tough at over 4,000 meters. We stopped and ate our sandwiches facing the rushing water in a ditch. It was so cold and damp that we didn’t tarry nor did we take our masks or gloves off. Then a long slow climb and more up and down Altiplano.
A large lake off to the left was good for a couple of pictures. The one that got away was of 3 large Flamingos that crossed above us. Hard to believe that they live, no that they can survive, at this altitude. This is a Vicuña Reserve Area, they need this altitude.
Then came the down and it was really down. As we swept along the winding road a thick fog set in. It slowed us, wet our cloths and eventually had us in our raincoats and pants. The scenery at least the little we could see was spectacular. Huge rocks and cactus. Even crossed a creek or two. There were few cars and that was a good thing. Some locals and road workers flashed by in our opaqued peripheral.
Then, like a miracle, Puquio appeared just below. Just in time, too. Our fingers were numb from the cold and constant pressure we had to keep on the brake levers. The paved highway dissolved into dirt and rock at the City Limit. We bumped along then stopped to ask directions. As Cat talked with a couple of young people an old and very drunk guy staggered up to me. He grasped my hand with his huge fingers and drooled as he tried to speak. I did the “I only speak English, do you speak English” trick but he wouldn’t loosen his grip. Finally I jerked free and followed Cat up the hill.
Puquio looks like the people are as poor as the condition of the streets. All the buildings are adobe, most are dirt brown. The place looks old. Cat says that it looks like it was bombed and they never re-built. Also, the cold left a chilling affect on us.
Passing through the town Plaza we asked and were directed to the best Hostal in town. The room was really small, too small to get the bikes in. The guy in the little glass window booth watched as we struggled with the idea of putting them under the stairs then opened the door to an adjacent room and told us to park them inside.
No hot water until 7:00 PM. Cat walked to a nearby shop and found a bottle of Red Wine. Not very good but it did help fill the hour until shower time. Then, the shower water ran out the door of the bathroom and all over the floor. A cleanup then long underwear, 2 shirts and 2 coats and we were off to dinner.
La Estancia is the place to be for dinner. A 6 cuadra walk in the cold and it was cold inside the place, too. The prices were cheap and the food pretty good. There was a large family next to us that seemed more interested in the Gringos than their dinner.
Back and under all the covers we could find. There’s no heat in this place.
March 9, 2005
Puquio to Nazca
152 Ks in Combi, 47 Kilometers on Bikes
A search for breakfast, finally a dirt floor place and a table next to the same family that were our table neighbors last night. Proud Dad, Raul and Mom, Florentina are headed to Cuzco to visit family. The kids, Joel, Raul Jr., and Carmen all tried to talk with us. They’re really excited about us riding bikes in Peru.
Greasy egg sandwiches and instant coffee, not enough nutrition to sustain us for a long ride but then, we’ve decided to take a Combi, a van, to the top so it may get us by until lunch.
Over the Last Big Hump
The guard at the bank next to our Hotel told us to go down the block and around the corner and we’d find a Combi. For some reason we thought he was talking about hiring one to take us up. We found a couple parked in a fenced lot. One of the guys there called out, “Nazca”. He told us that it was 10 Soles each then added another 10, 5 for each bike. They leave at 9:00 AM but he wants us here at 8:30.
Back at the Hotel, we set the bikes against the wall outside and loaded the bags. A push back down to the Combi yard then off came the bags. We had everything stacked and ready to load by 9:00. Then everything went into slow motion. Finally I handed the bikes and bags up to the Combi top and they tied them down. Cat found lunch meat and bread.
We took seats inside and waited. A young girl, Sonia, told us that they were waiting to pick up some freight? She’s been visiting family here. She is going to University in Palpa, a town just north of Nazca. Our camera bags and the computer take up half a seat. There were few other passengers until the driver started the engine. Then, they swarmed in and filled most of the seats. Idling engine and fumes as we waited another half hour. Then, with a lurch, the Combi was off through the bumpy dirt streets of town. A stop while they loaded the rest of the rooftop with chicken cages then we finally hit the highway at 10:30.
The Combi stops to pickup each and every person that holds up their hand. By the time we started to really climb the van was jammed full. About the time that we were thanking our lucky stars that we were here and not cycling up the switchbacks on the vertical hillside the kids on board began to get carsick. Like dominoes, when the first Mom yelled out for a plastic barf bag several others made the same request. Then as her little guy retched it went around like the plague. Must have been 5 little people with bags in front of their mouths. The smell of vomit almost got Cat. Fortunately for me my sense of smell stinks.
Hot and pressed into our seats by the bags and bodies of fellow passengers we swayed and fought our own urge to purge. By the time we hit 100 Ks it was noon and the road still had ups ahead. Another obstacle, the fog thickened with each turn in the road.
The Combi pulled into a shacky little restaurant to drop some of our fellow passengers. Cat was nervous about cold and fog after our experience yesterday but we bucked up and unloaded. The other passengers had been filled in about our journey by Sonia. They all clapped and cheered as we took the bags down.
After getting the bags on the bikes we decided to have lunch at the restaurant. The owner is jovial and makes jokes that span the language gap. The soup was wonderful and I had short ribs that were the best since Carlos cooked for us on that rainy day our of Malargue. I had to go #1, the owner sent me around behind to a bush. They’re building restrooms in fact the guy working on them came in and ate, too. As we finished a truck pulled up and the 3 drivers sat with us. They got what we’re up to and I gave them our cards and we asked them to give us space when they pass. They laughed and agreed.
The fog lifted as we crested the hill, the landscape changed immediately, this is desert. Still at over 3000 meters or 10,000 feet, the drop is spectacular. Haze below shrouds Nazca. The road winds like a serpent as we fly downward. We see traffic miles below making its way up toward us. The drivers crept up from behind us then honked and waved and slowly pulled past.
Fear of fog diminished as the temperature rose. The dunes took on a weird look, accented by the lines of Pacha Mama. There are a few trees and cactus but this place is the most sparse we can remember being in, including the Sahara. By the time we reached the highway turn toward Nazca it was hot.
Stopping to ask, we were surrounded by kids trying to understand and help us. A guy came up, listened then pointed and directed us toward a Hotel. We know that Casa Andina has a place here but the guide book says that The Nazca Lines Hotel is the best in town. Arriving there first we leaned the bikes and Cat went in for a look. Back, she says that it’s beyond it’s time. And, we’d have to take a room with twin beds, that did it. We headed for Andina.
It’s fairly new and under used right now. We thought we were the only guests as the more than friendly staff checked us in. Internet across the street then dinner down stairs near the swimming pool. Dinner was good, the best of it was dessert, Mango Mousse.
TV, yes we even have CNN in English.
March 10, 2005
R & R in Nazca
Another Strike in Nazca
Breakfast was the same great bill of fare we’d known in Cuzco. Up to and including our favorite, French Toast with maple syrup. A family from Copenhagen, Denmark struck up conversation. Sanne, Tovemoeller and Carsten are visiting their other daughter who lives in Chincha. She’s married to a Peruvian and they just had a baby, the first Grandchild. They won’t get to Cuzco or Machu Picchu this trip but assured us that they will be back, plenty of times. They’re booked on a “Lines” overflight this morning.
Wanting to fly, too, we sought out a travel agency and booked. Mario, the owner of the agency and a small, attached Hostal, told us that there’s a Paro, a one day strike today hence no flights. Another advantage of finding Mario, there is no laundry in Nazca but the girl working at the Hostal will do it for us. Another good thing, we met a Norwegian family that are traveling around the world. Though they travel by bus and plane they remind us of our Danish Family that Travels.
A ‘67’ Chrysler Travel Office
A young guy, Alex, was hanging around out front and asked if we would like a tour. He drives a 1967 Chrysler 440 cubes engine. It was purchased originally by his Grandfather. Oh, the 440 bit the dust long ago. He couldn’t afford the gas that the guzzler needed so he changed it to a small diesel engine. Really a nice young guy. He and his sister are trying to get a company started out of the car.
I finally broke down and got a short, summer haircut. We lunched at a touristy place. They closed the doors and barred the windows as the Paro March passed then it was business as usual. An Australian guy went out to take a video of the march and almost lost his camera. One of the protesters grabbed it but he wrested it back. The protest is about the airport. It was transferred from the local government to the County. The money it generates that had been used for improving roads and other infrastructure went with it. The locals want it back. The Aussie told us that he had booked a trip to the Tombs of the Mummies. As they rounded the corner onto the highway the car was stoned. They turned back. By the way, we decided to skip the Tombs. It’s a reconstruction of a few tombs and mummies that had been scattered by grave robbers over the years.
Even Our Casa Andina had dropped the metal window covers to avoid rocks. I went directly to the journal pages, Cat went exploring Nazca. It’s a small town and she found little to see.
We dined at a restaurant down the street. Food was fair. TV then sleep.
March 11, 2005
Overflight of the Nazca Lines
What could possibly drag us out of bed at 5:30 AM on a day off? The Nazca lines, Mario will pick us up at 7:00. They recommend that we wait for breakfast until after the flight. Too many have the same problem that the kids in the bus encountered as it swayed up the mountain. I did eat some fruit but abstained on the French Toast.
The Danish Family were out front waiting for their ride to the airport. They had to re-book because of the Strike. A driver in an old beat up Toyota pulled up. He called out something and a couple stepped up and got in. Then the girl at the desk ran out and spoke with the driver. Lucky for us she was listening. He’s called out name and the other couple misunderstood. The Danish folks waved, wished us luck on our cycling and the flight. They will leave as soon as they’re back from flying.
The driver sped off then stopped at a Hostal. He went in then came back out and walked to the corner to use a pay phone. A girl, Wilma from Holland, came out with wet hair and an attitude. She had been told that the car would pick her up at 6:00. When it didn’t show she went back to bed. She works in Shipping in her hometown of Rotterdam. Nice girl, she’s here for 6 months on vacation.
The Nazca Lines
The flight is fast and furious, and we were glad that we didn’t eat. A couple of times we felt queasy then we had the pilot open a vent and the fresh air helped. The pilot doesn’t speak English but Wilma translated for us. Taking pictures was tough. The pilot would dip the wing and point out one of the figures then roll back the other direction so that Cat could see it from the left side seat. In retrospect, since she wasn’t taking pics, we should have had him just circle round on the right, twice. Mario had said that the pictures we’ve seen were taken on the most advantages days, in the most advantages light. The over flight is just to see them for yourself. If you get a good picture you’re lucky. Well, we think we got a couple of pretty good shots. At least good enough to give an idea of the size and scope of “The Lines”.
The Lines that can’t be seen at ground level. There are hundreds spread over 500 Sq. Kilometers. The geoglyphs of animals and plants are concentrated in a small area. It’s now believed that they were made by removing the dark rocks and piling them on either side exposing the lighter soil below. A whale, monkey, hummingbird, spider, condor, and one they call The Astronaut. Then there are the straight lines and trapezoids that run for miles across the desert.
The lines appeared between 900 and 600 BC or almost 3,000 years ago. Since they can only be seen from the air Theories of their origin range from Extraterrestrial visitors used them for landing their space craft to early man here devised a hot air balloon. Some say that they were made by Shaman high on drugs that allowed them to see from out of body? Today, thanks in part to the more than 50 years spent studying them by Maria Reiche, is that they were made to worship the Cerro Blanco, the giant sand dune that they thought brought water to the parched desert. If you’re curious, check it out through your search engine and let us know, okay?
Up at 7:15 and down at 7:45, then a 45 minute video done by BBC, exploring the above theories. We were back at Andina with plenty of time for breakfast. So, we did get our French Toast.
Picked up our laundry and paid Mario then journal for me while Cat put together a picnic lunch. More typing, some relaxing then Dinner. Pizza and Pasta down the street at an Italian place.
March 12, 2005
Nazca to Palpa
Another wonderful breakfast, our fav, French Toast and Maple Syrup. Then a great surprise, the staff gave us a flyer about the Andina chain of Hotels, they have one in Lima. I talked with Daniel, our English speaking pal at the desk. He called and told us that they had a room and would let us have it for the same price, $50.00. The Manager, Juan Carlos, came up and told me he’d confirm. Another call and then he acme back and told us that he’d reserved a room for the 22nd and 23rd. We feel we can make it by March 21 so he gave us the Lima Managers name, Diego, and his phone number. We need to call as we approach Lima and have an arrival date. So, this won’t be our last French Toast after all.
After a photo session with the staff we pulled the bikes out to the sidewalk. I discovered that one of the helpful staff had tried to move the bike and pulled the seat off. There goes our early start. I will admit that I’m getting better at seat repair. We were on the road in just 20 minutes.
The road is flat, across the Nazca Pampa. The sun is bright and hot. Sweat began to pour off our brows and down our backs. We’ve waited long for this moment but now that it’s here it brings a slight discomfort. Cat says it’s so much better than being cold and breathless. At 10 Ks out we came face to face with Kristen and Susanna.
Two Girls With a Cause
Susanna, who’s from Bowen Island, British Columbia began her ride in Calgary, Canada. She crossed the Rockies then down through the US and into Mexico. When she and Kristen met it was a natural to continue onward, together.
Kristen, from Pennsylvania started her trip, actually her campaign in Anchorage, Alaska. She set out to cycle the Pan American Highway to Ushuaia. Her cause is called “EarthCycle” and she does presentations to people on ways to lover the impact on our environment. Both strong cyclists and adventurous girls. We spent almost an hour talking and comparing notes as traffic and flight seeing planes roared past.
Check out The EarthCycle website at www.EarthCycle.org
Another stop at the Nazca Lines Viewing Tower. A lesser view for a lesser price for viewing the lines. You can see the Hands, Tree and part of a Trapezoid. I paid the 5 Soles and made the climb. Bruno, the guy at the on the platform, blew my dream of a photo away. No one is allowed to even walk onto the area. I really wanted to get us and the bikes near them for a photo. He pointed out tire tracks across the road and said, “This sand is so sensitive that everything makes tracks, those were made 50 years ago”. Another half hour invested.
At about 25 Ks out we came upon The Maria Reiche Museum. Not only a collection of artifacts including the distinctive Nazca Pottery and a Mummy from the Tombs of the Mummies. This place was also home to Maria as she studied the mysteries of the Lines for more than 50 of her 95 years. Both her room and tomb are simple. Born in 1903 she died and was buried here in 1998. Well worth the stop but another hour off the wheels.
Just down the road we found a little Café. We decided to just have cold soft drinks and push onward. It was after 2:00 PM before we got into Palpa. Starving, we stopped at the first place that had a sandwich sign out front. No sandwiches but a bottle of cold water and warm conversation with Luis and Charo who live in Nazca. He has traveled to both coasts of the US and spoke pretty good English. His Sister, a school teacher, lives in San Francisco. His Brother lives in Detroit and works at the Harley Davidson Motorcycle Factory.
They asked the staff about a Hotel and everyone pointed toward the Plaza. We cycled there then around the square. After looking at two terrible Hostals we decided to go back to the main street and eat before making a decision. The places were so bad that we were considering camping.
An All Night Wedding, No Sleep in the Inn
Back to the Camino and we found Restaurant Claudia and Mivavi, our running waitress. She is a distance runner and completed the recent Lima Marathon in 3 hours. Nice girl, good food and advice about a Hotel. She emphasized that they even have a pool. She was right, the place was much nicer. Another couple that we’d seen at Claudia’s was also checking in. There is a big wedding tonight. The woman manager was running around like a chicken with it’s head cut off. She slowed then turned and said, “No rooms”. We feigned tears, the other couple interceded and she relented. They cleared a room poolside and offered it to us. It was small but we got the bikes inside, tight but secure and much better than any of the other alternatives.
A cool down dip in the pool as the band began to set up. Geez they have two towers of speakers and are setting microphones for 6. Things could get noisy? Cat got into the shower then the trickle of water stopped. I found a baby bath and brought water in for her to rinse with. I showered, in a trickle of warm water. We watched the final set up of the band as the line of guests began to file in. Of course we were getting some pretty inquiring looks. Like who are those people in ragtag shorts, do we know them? Are they related to the Bride or Groom?
Back to Claudia’s for dinner. Mivavi entertained us with stories in Spanish told slowly enough that we got most of them. The members of the band were fueling up, too. For us, chicken with fries and a bad bottle of sweet wine.
The wedding was taking place at the Church when we got back to our room. Then, the guests came in and filled the tables. When the Bride and Groom entered there was a round of applause and another ceremony. The band played background music as they went through a Civil Ceremony here. Quite common here, according to the Master of Ceremonies. We sat at the end of the pool and observed, like flies on a wall. When the band did kick off it was obvious that we’d get little sleep until they end the party.
The Master of Ceremonies brought us shots of Pisco, the straight stuff, to toast the Bride and Groom. Sort of like the Italian Brandy, Grappa. Strong stuff, Cat sipped once and gave up her shot to me. He music, albeit loud, is very good. Almost made us want to dance but it’s too early. The Bride and Groom have to dance first.
Finally, when it was time to dance we strutted across the floor and to the room. Fatigue had set in, hard. Though the throbbing pulsating music was 10 decibels we were able to get off to sleep. Fitful sleep but sleep, until 2:00 AM. Then we just lay in the hot room and put up with it, hoping they’d stop soon.
At last, 3:30 and the band began to pack up. Just as we were ready to celebrate the DJ kicked in and began blaring even louder than the band had been. There was little sleep and he kept a steady pace until 6:45 AM, even drowned out the crowing roosters.
Sunday, March 13, 2005
Palpa To Ocucaje
Room but no sleep in the Inn. There were still several partiers standing or maybe we should say staggering. We were offered more Pisco and beers as we walked round the pool. Tired before we even started, we headed for breakfast at our favorite place, Claudia’s. Greasy egg sandwiches and café con leche. We had them package up 4 chicken sandwiches, just n case there’s little or nothing on the road.
Across the bridge then up, up, up. A long slow push to the top of the mesa that overlooks Palpa. Then another surprise, a little down hill run to a flat across a verdant valley and to the base of the real UP. Switch backs through barren, strange looking landscape. Everything is brown, dirty and dusty. By the time we neared the summit it was hot and we were sweaty.
After a two-hour push we found a tiny down then we pedaled on flat. Sand on both sides of the road. A side wind kept the brown dusty sand moving across the road. After a slight up for several kilometers we finally hit some down. Still hot, we pulled in at Ocucaje for soft drinks. There is a winery and Hotel somewhere here. We’d hoped to get to Ica, another 36 Ks but we and those hopes have faded. The woman at the stand told us it was just 1 kilometer to the left.
The road turns off then turns to dirt. Not just dirt but soft, sandy dirt that was almost impossible to ride in. When cars came by we’d wave them down and ask where the Hotel was. Part of our motive was to get them to slow or stop and put off less dust. They all said 1 kilometer but we knew we’d come at least three? Then as we crested a hill grapevines came into view and we were able to cycle down into Ocucaje. Stopping at another dirt crossroad, we pondered direction. A large group of customers at a Restaurant began waving napkins and shouting direction. Around the corner and again to the left.
Our Lonely Planet calls the Hotel “Upmarket”. Couldn’t be farther from the truth. The place is old and run down. Cat says it looks like a Senior Citizens Home. It didn’t matter to us, we’re suffering total fatigue. The bikes fit nicely into the room and we fell onto the beds. Our legs and feet began to cramp, badly. There’s little one can do when a cramp grabs you. Just try to straighten your legs and ride it our.
A before dinner walk around, we found horses, donkeys, alpaca, rabbits, even parrots. There are vineyards out back and though the Hotel is next to the winery but it’s closed Sunday and Monday. We won’t be doing the tour but that’s okay. It’s not our favorite.
We may be the only guest here tonight. I had the restaurant chill a bottle of Ocucaje Chardonnay. We sat in a gazebo and sipped then dined alone until the manager came in and was coddled by the poor waiter. Dinner was very good, steaks prepared just right and accompanied with music by Kenny Rogers.
No problem hitting the pillows early.
March 14, 2005
Ocucaje to Ica
Continental Breakfast, I had to supplement with bacon and eggs. Cat has been suffering with Peruvian Guff Guff so food didn’t look that good to her.
The Hotel is very expensive, according to Peruvian standards. Then the push back to the highway. Once on the pavement we enjoyed a flat and fairly fast ride. The Camino is lined with small Pueblos. We picked up a headwind that was soon hot. Cat was suffering, we even had to stop in the bushes once.
Surprise, another Touring Cyclist, Orian, from Wisconsin. He’s cycling from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia. A bright young guy, he just got back on the road after a quick trip home to interview with a University where he hope to do his Graduate Work. Another surprise, he is trying to catch the girls, Kristin and Susanna. He was cycling with them before his weekend in Wisconsin. He has planned on going roughly our route in reverse. We told him that he may miss the girls, they’re headed south rather than into the Andes. He is really roughing it. Sleeps under a tarp with a machete for protection.
It was 2:00 PM when we rolled into Ica. Asking and asking we finally found the El Carmelo Hotel. A 200 year old Hacienda. They took me to see a room but it was n the second floor. I asked about one on the first floor and they will have it but it’s not cleaned yet. We leaned the bikes and ate lunch.
We’d just moved the bikes when a small crowd began to gather out back. There was a truck unloading grapes, yes this place is a winery, too. They dumped box after box into a huge concrete vat until the pile was higher than the sides. The fellow in charge told Cat that they’d be stomping grapes at 9:00. We were excited, a real grape stomping party. We also learned that they only make sweet wines but the real deal is Pisco.
We really enjoy this place. They have the fires going and their distilling Pisco. Very picturesque, even colorful parrots among the wine barrels and flowers. Laying in the room and watching English language sitcoms with Spanish language subtitles felt great. Yes, they have no CNN or other news channels in English but then this is the best we’ve had in days.
Dinner here, too. I went for the Fillet Mignon, Cat tested her stomach on Corivina, the local fish. The big let down, no Grape Stompin’ tonight, maybe tomorrow?
A little more TV and sleep.
March 15, 2005
Grape Stomping in Ica
Our very nice included breakfast was served by Phillippe, Son-In-Law of the owners. He told us that they’d be stompin’ this morning. He also filled us in on the details of a family in transition. The Father-In-Law and Mother-In-Law are separated. She runs their Hotel Suisse at Huacachina, a real Oasis that Phillippe insists that we must see while we’re here.
Grape stomping has started. A great photo and video opportunity. However, the smell, the thought of the guys bare feet and the swarm of flies was a slight turn off. Real old world, old style wine making.
An Ica Pick Pocket
A quest for bananas and CDs led to a Taxi ride into the streets of Ica. Dropped off at the Plaza, we drifted shop to shop until we found bananas. Approaching the shop we’d been told would have CDs I felt a hand in my pocket. Caught off guard, I had both hands full of cameras and bananas. He had a hand on my wallet but luckily couldn’t free it. I spun, he ran and I pursued. Then as we rounded the corner I wondered what I’d do if I caught him? What if he had Pals waiting with knives? I pulled up and shouted “Thief”, then went back around to Cat. We stood shaking, the flow of adrenaline fueling our anxiety. Oh there is little in our wallets, the worst would have been losing my Passport. A friendly local told us to get back to the Main Street, good advice.
After grabbing CDs we grabbed a taxi and headed for Huacachina. It’s a true Oasis, huge sand dunes that run right down to the edge of the water in the centerpiece, a little lake. Of course their held back by the row of Hotels and Restaurants that ring the water. We took a lot of pictures that you won’t get to see. I did it again, overloaded the Mini CD. You can rent Dune Buggies here like most of the sandy areas. We did walk the entire perimeter and take a look at the Hotel Suisse. A cold drink and decision to move on, to Las Dunas, the big Tourist Hotel here, in Ica.
Not just Las Dunas, it’s called Las Dunas, Sun Resort. Very touristy, filled with Japanese folks on holiday. We sat poolside and enjoyed a pitcher of blended Lemonade that only needed Tequila to make it perfect. Lunch was great, expensive but great.
Another taxi ride and a relaxing afternoon.
Dinner was a slight disappointment. After ordering simple salad and pasta we waited an hour then complained. The poor waiter made excuses then hurried off. We grabbed him again and demanded bread, he left then returned in about 10 minutes to ell us that they were out of bread. Obviously the wife must have taken care of the Restaurant, here. The salad we ordered was cold, canned veggies, we didn’t complain, we were too hungry. Then, the pasta, and it was cold, too. Frustrated, we complained to the waiter but he is powerless. This is a family problem and the part of the family that should be taking care of it is busy with his first love, Pisco.
March 16, 2005
Ica to Paracas
Our attempt at a hot shave was thwarted by the chill of the water. A call to the front desk and the answer was, “Wait 5 minutes”. The time past and still no warmth? This time the nice lady said something about gas”? I decided to wait and shave after breakfast.
The sign on the kitchen door says, “Breakfast 7:00 AM to 10:00 AM”. The waiter told us that they open at 7:30. Hungry, we stood like cattle at the trough but the door to the kitchen was barred. No one there to handle our hunger. Back to the room, we called the desk and the gal told us that they would be there in 5 minutes. Everything happens in 5 minutes, here. As we returned toward the restaurant our next door neighbor stepped out and asked if we had hot water. Then a guy came past carrying a cylinder of gas. He pointed to the roof and said, “Agua caliente en cinco minutos”. We all laughed.
Our neighbors, Colin and Marie, joined us when the waiter and cook finally came straggling in at 8:00. He is Australian, she Chilean. They live both in Santiago and Australia. They travel the world working for Australian mining interests. He does “Due Diligence” reports, confirming production records. They seem to have a great life. They are footloose and fancy free and have traveled the world on Company Expenses.
Back on Pacific Shores
Once out of city traffic the ride is flat and fairly fast. We’re in sand dunes and as the wind swirls the sand rises up, into our eyes. At the turn off to Paracas we ate lunch in a roadside café. Dirt floors and chairs full of dusty farmers eating soup. We chose a fried rice dish with bits of meat. The kitchen leaves cleanliness behind and we fear Peruvian Guff-Guff but, we’re hungry. The price, less than 7 Soles or $2.00 for both.
Just another 13 Ks and we were in sight of the Pacific Ocean, the first time since we took the Ferry across from San Francisco to Berkeley. At the shore we turned to the left and followed signs to Hotel Paracas. The grounds are beautifully groomed and the location is ocean front. The price is shocking but we want to see the Islands and this is the place recommended by Tom & Colet and our Lonely Planet. They have a room without view for $100, US.
An SUV from California?
As we unloaded a family came out and started loading into a big SUV. I noticed the license plate ring said, “Sunnyvale”. I questioned, “Sunnyvale, California”? The young guy said yes, we used to live there. His Mom said, “They live in Peru, now.” The parents have retired to San Antonio, Texas to escape the weather of Montana. The son works with the US Embassy. He’s quiet and seems to be reluctant to talk. Maybe he’s been warned about strange looking people claiming to be from the States?
They did allow us to keep the bikes with us in the room. We tugged them up the steps, opened the clothing bags, jumped out of our sweaty things, into our swimsuits and went directly to the pool. They actually have two beautiful pools. A cooling soothing dip then a relaxing hour in the sun. This is livin’!
After a quick shower we dressed and walked into the nearby village to check Internet. Back to the Paracas and dinner. As the gal from Texas had said, the food was pretty good. Fillet Mignon for Cat, a local white fish for Pat. Both of us tried the Lucuma Mousse. Lucuma is a local fruit, orange pink in color, good in taste.
Two stories for California on the CNN News, Scott Peterson was sentenced to life in prison and Robert Blake, star of an old TV show, was acquitted of killing his wife. So, one goes free and one does life? Sometimes you can kill your wife in CA and get away with it. Ask O. J.
March 17, 2005
Missed The Boat in Paracas
Breakfast was okay, nothing like our French Toast favorites in Cuzco and Nazca at Casa Andinas. When we asked the desk about the boat to Islas Ballestas they told us that there are two, one at 8:00 AM the other at 10:00. This didn’t worry us as Phillippe, in Ica, had recommended against taking the boat from the Hotel. He urged us to take a taxi to the Harbor. He says there are dozens of boats leaving from the there and they’ll bargain to less than half the price of the Hotel Boat. The taxi driver curled his brow when we asked how much to the Harbor. His answer, “2 Soles” seemed cheap. We got in, he started the engine and drove around the corner. There it was. We’d seen the big boats off in the distance, he shook his head and said, “Navy Boats”.
Frustration and disappointment, there are several guys pushing for passengers. They all talk of a 10:00 AM boat but one fellow sitting nearby called them liars, in Spanish. A Polish girl trying to get the same trip translated. We wondered why he would say such a thing? It began to become clear, each was trying to get enough passengers, 13, together to make the trip financially feasible.
We decided to go back to the Hotel and take the sure thing at 10:00. No taxi back, we walked it in 3 minutes. Then more disappointment, the guy at the Hotel told us that there would be no second boat due to wind? Well, the wind was coming up but we felt that they were playing the same game as the boys in town?
So, we thought we might walk to the Reserve which looks adjacent on the little map. The desk broke the news, its 5 Ks down the road. So, we’ll take a Dune Buggie. A young guy in the village had been trying to get us in his. He was nowhere to be seen but another young fellow volunteered to take us then got honest and told us that there are no Flamingos this time of year. The only things we’d see would be interesting coastline. We figure we’ll cycle past miles of that so we walked back to Hotel Paracas. On the way we made a decision, we’ll take the 8:00 AM boat tomorrow then cycle the 50 Ks to Chincha when the boat returns at 10:00. We went right to the desk and booked.
For me, the computer keys, Cat wrote her journal pages. There is no English language TV which seems hard to believe at these prices? The wind began to howl in the late afternoon. Cat took a walk to the pool, she was the only person there. Palm fronds and tree branches are falling and it’s hazardous. Her tender bare feet had a tough time with walking on the debris.
A dinner buffet probably set because of the huge influx of foreign visitors this afternoon? Fair food, no conversations, most of the others are French and they are seated together.
Surprise, when we got back to the room Larry King and CNN were up and running. Somehow, someone had found a way to do what others had told us was impossible? Lights out and dreams of La Islas, known as “Poor man’s Galapagos”.
March 18, 2005
Paracas to Chincha
The usual included breakfast with the unusually large crowd. Next, they herded all of us to the pier where we sat and waited. A tour guide for the Norwegians told us that we’d definitely get a boat, they have put many extras on for the crowd. At last, one of the guys from the Hotel signaled for us to take seats along with 28 French folks.
The ride out was rough. The driver seemed to be racing with others in our small armada. He was hitting the top of each wave with such gusto that we feared the fiberglass would split open.
He did slow and turn then run slowly back and forth as we all took photos of The Candelabra. It’s 150 meters (495 feet) high and 50 meters (165 feet) wide. There is no real explanation as to who made it or when. There are several theories, most think it is connected to the Nazca Lines. Some think that it served as a navigational tool for ancient mariners. Others think it’s related to the Southern Cross or to a local plant with hallucinogenic properties? No matter, it is quite a good photo op.
The Islands are home to thousands of Sea Lions and Penguins as well as dozens of other species of birds including giant Pelican with 4 meter (13 foot) wing spans. Yesterday we briefly met 2 couples from Kansas as they came off the boat and waited to board a bus. They loved the trip, it was so un-Kansas. To us it’s similar to visiting our own Channel Islands just 11 miles off the coast back home.
A War Over Bird Doo Doo?
The most amazing thing to us was the guano, or bird doo doo. The birds have been depositing layer after layer for thousands of years. In places it’s 50 meters (165 feet) deep. It has been used as fertilizer since Incan times. It was Peru’s leading export in the mid 1800s. So lucrative that Spain started the “Guano War in 1865. Like so many things, the value has declined from over mining and the advent of synthetic fertilizers. The acidic odor stings your eyes and the smell burns your nostrils.
The ride back was on smother waters save one big bump, the Coast Guard. We have no idea why they pulled our boat over and held us for about 5 minutes?
From the Ocean, to the Prairie
With everything ready to go, we pushed out, checked out and hit the highway. Past the strange white sail looking obelisk erected in the memory of the landing The Liberator, Jose San Martin, along the coast then inland to the Pan Pacific Highway.
More roadside food, this time at a Service Station Café. It was almost as bad as the little café day before yesterday.
The last 20 Ks to Chincha is a flat, easy, non-scenic ride. We didn’t actually see Chincha. Hotel Sausal is right on the highway. The place is like an oasis in a sea of dust and traffic. LP says its like staying in a Country Club. WE wouldn’t go that far but it is nice. Another trip to the pool for a cool down.
The room is roomier and cooler (air conditioned) than the expensive Hotel Paracas. However, as we say in Real Estate, location, location, location.
Dinner on the patio deck. Delicious steak and soup.
March 19, 2005
Chincha to Cerro Azul
Breakfast on our veranda and a good breakfast it is. Unfortunately I lost most of the pictures of the beauty of the pool and grounds.
Out the gate and off down the road toward Cerro Azul by 8:30 AM. Getting out of Chincha was the usual struggle with cars and taxis. The, we were on the oceanfront and up to a bluff. It reminded us or Santa Monica, California. Then came the real hill. A tough ride then an even tougher push. The scenery is sand. Sand dunes in every direction. The ups and downs slowed progress making the slow passing scenery even more boring. Oh, there is that feeling of vastness but beyond that, it is all sameness. Not a cactus, sticker bush or blade of grass, just sand.
Then, a long down to sea level and into a large patch of green. Farms, sugar cane and cotton. We stopped in a small town and enjoyed a local dish, sort of like spaghetti. Another roadside stand, another dirty dish and another hope that we escape the Guff-Guff.
After our late lunch we rode the remaining 10 Ks and found our way into Cerro Azul. It lies off the highway. The road feels little like it’s headed toward a village until you turn the last corner. There, you see the old pier and beach. Our guide book suggests Hostal Las Palmeras. It is on beachfront but a bit run down or beachy looking. We parked and I did the look see. The price is high, 200 Soles. (About $61.50) When we decided to go back to a Hostal we’d seen the guy dropped his price, slightly. By that time we were tired of him and the place.
Hostal Cerro Azul is off the beachfront and definitely a Surfer place. The floor of the room is sandy and the screen fell off the window as we opened it but it feels better than the other and it’s half the other price. The shower was hot and forceful.
A walk around and a few pictures then we spotted a little place for dinner. It was better looking than the food was tasting. They did have a bottle of white wine and my fish was pretty good. Cat’s pasta with mussels was just okay. A stroll along the beach and Ice Cream at a little Italian place.
Into a lumpy bed with full stomachs.
Sunday, March 20, 2005
Cerro Azul to San Bartolo
Fernando the Italiano
Loaded and out the door by 7:30 AM. The Café down the street where the girl told us they would have breakfast starting at 7:00, was closed. Roberto was just sweeping the dirt in front of his place but motioned us over. I even helped him lift the shutters and move his sign outside. Coffee bread and 2 fried eggs, each.
Back to the highway and onward by 8:30. The flat continued for a time then we were back into ups and downs. The good news, we were able to ride them, no pushing. A group of road riders, sports cyclists, came across the center divide and pulled up. They all live in Lima but have beach homes about 20 Ks from here. Nice guys, well 4 guys and a gal. The gal, Gillian and her husband, Jorge speak English. One of the other guys, Fernando also does pretty well at it. The other two, Rally and Eugenio sort of stood and tried to figure out what we were saying. Jorge did translate some for them. We exchanged names, e-mail addresses and promises to get together in Lima.
Onward, then at 11:00 we pulled into a service station for a soft drink. A group of young people, 3 guys and a girl, were seated next to us and the guys were drinking beers. They had definitely been partying. The girl, Elizabeth, spoke English. She’s a Design Consultant and volunteer for a group called the Hash Hounds. They are sponsored by the Embassies and host a party once each month to welcome newcomers. Her boy friend seemed a bit jealous. He started rubbing her leg and trying to tell us that they were a couple. He invited us to dinner tomorrow in Lima. We declined because we don’t know what time we’ll get in. She promised to call and send an e-mail to set a different dinner date. (We never heard from her again?)
Back on the Pan Pacifico, another cyclist, Daniel, soon joined us. He speaks very little English so it was tough. He would look toward the ocean and say, “La Playa, the beach” or at the cliff and say, “Piedras, rocks”. He stayed with us for 20 Ks, even stopped and ate ice cream bars while we had tamales and a pork sandwich at another roadside place. Somehow he got the point across that he is the youngest of several children and his parents are separated. He’s 23 years old. He said, “I have no father, my bike is my Father”. His route is out the Pan Pacific then off, up into the dunes and a loop back to the Pueblo where we had our soft drink. Interesting, we were a little uncomfortable with him at first, now we felt that same old Sweet Sorrow.
Our Roady pals had told us that Pucasana would be wonderful but it’s 7 Ks off the road and up a steep hill. At the turn off we surveyed the hill and decided to go on to their second choice, San Bartolo.
Today being Sunday, they do a traffic control thing. So many beach weekenders heading back to Lima that we found ourselves in heavy traffic on both sides of the divided road. They divert outbound traffic to the old highway. As we and the steady stream came into San Bartolo we stopped and asked directions. A Policewoman pointed onward and indicated that we would find a turn off ahead.
It was soon obvious that we would have to go to the next off ramp then double back. It was a 2 Ks out and 2 back kind of end to a fairly tough cycling day.
San Bartolo is a small beach community that clings to cliffs. Down the main street, we arrived at the bluff and a house with room for rent sign in the window. Cat went in, checked it out and came back out. They want $100 US for a mediocre room with a million dollar view. We passed.
Fernando, the Italiano
Down the street to Hotel Mirador, I walked inside and was immediately accosted by Fernando. He talks fast and tells you how good his deal is. He insisted that we leave the bikes in the care of his guard, Octavio and follow him to see his rooms. The first place he took us to was a three room flat at one stairway below street level. He talked incessantly and was driving us crazy. Cat didn’t like the flat so he took her to see a room below that he said he has just re-conditioned. When they returned he was closing hard, “This room usually rents for $150 US, per night but tonight, because it’s Sunday, you have it for only $50. Tired and tired of him, we took the deal. He’d worn us down.
The room has a small patio but limited view. In fact, if we didn’t lower the shade and block the patio next door it would be our view and we’d be theirs, too. The shower that Fernando bragged of having rebuilt himself was a sorry little stream of water from an upscale suicide shower.
Dinner was as strange as the room. The Promenade front restaurant was empty and the crew was counting receipts. The crowd has definitely gone back to Lima. They weren’t prepared to do dinner but refused to refuse service. They even sent a young boy scampering for wine. He found a bottle of semi-sweet. They must have had to turn the stove back on. It took forever to muster up food. Fish and fries was our only choice. The wine was sweet and the fries cold. The fish was good.
The TV in our room was limited to 3 channels. Music videos filled the evening air, we sat and watched the beach darken then hit the sack.
March 21, 2005
San Bartolo to Lima
No Room in the Inn
Our Thanks to Jorge and Joan
Fernando was no where to be seen this morning. Octavio accepted payment for the room and directed us toward town for coffee. Very few places open at 8:30 AM in San Bartolo. A juice place had coffee. They cut great fresh fruit for us then fried eggs and added toast for bulk. A pretty good breakfast. We watched as dogs barked from the rooftop next door and a tank truck delivered water to neighbors. Maybe the City can’t provide enough? The big truck backs up to the door and they pull a hose inside and pump.
A back track to the Super Highway to Lima then a fast, flat ride. Entering the City was like all Cities. Traffic thickened then we found ourselves on a Freeway. A stop for soft drinks, toilet and directions. Just onward to the next ramp then up and around. Following those directions we made the loop and were really in traffic.
Cycling down Avenida Benavides, we spotted the first McDonalds we’re seen in a long time. So, lunch at Micky Dee’s. Very good chicken sandwiches and a clean toilet.
With just the Address of the Casa Andina we forged onward and watched as the numbers grew diminished toward that of the Hotel. A fellow on a corner directed us to turn left, go 3 streets then turn right. There it was, the bright orange and red building.
No Room in The Inn?
The girl at the desk, Marite, wasn’t shocked to see us but did ask why we hadn’t confirmed our arrival? Bad news, “We have no room for you”, she said. Then without taking a breath se said, “Your friend has called and you can stay with his parents”.
It was our fault. In the first place, we knew we should have called but we’ve grown lazy. This is the first time we’ve hit a “No Vacancy” sign. Marite was busy calling our friend, Jorge. Remember, the cyclists we met on the highway near Cerro Arroyo? He had asked where we were staying and called to see if we’d arrived. When he heard our plight he called his Mom and Dad and arranged a stay with them. Our problem, this is Easter Week and a huge holiday, here. Marite and the Manager, Diego, assured us that we’d have a room tomorrow.
Jorge to the Rescue
Jorge insisted that we come stay with his parents. Reluctant at first, Marite told us that most Hotels are fully booked today. We have so looked forward to having a nice room and privacy. Once I took the telephone Jorge was so cordial that it felt natural to accept the generous offer. He insisted that his family home is large and they have a separate guest room. Then, without hesitating he said, “I’ll send our driver for you, you can put the bicycles and bags in my 4WD. He’ll be there in half an hour”. So, we would be houseguests.
The driver pulled up and we were ready. We’d decided to leave the bikes here at Andina. A good decision as they would not have fit in Jorge’s beautiful, new Toyota Land Cruiser. Bags aboard, the driver wheeled through the small streets jumping over the numerous speed bumps. A quick stop at Jorge and Gillian and their two young daughters live, to pick him up. He jumped in the back seat with Cat and we were off to meet Mom and Dad.
The family home is nearby, huge and beautiful. Groomed grounds, even a pool out back. Jorge Sr. and Joan were perfect hosts. The 5 of us sat and talked for an hour then the guys had to get back to the Office. They’re both Physicians, sharing an office where they practice is a combination of traditional western remedies combined with Chinese Herbal medicine. They are 3rd and 4th generation Medical Doctors here in Peru. The first generation was part of a wave of immigrants from China in the late 1800s.
A Chinese, Peruvian, Bohunk Family
Joan was a pleasant surprise for us and the main reason why the family speaks English. She’s of Slovakian heritage, born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She and Jorge met while attending University in Spain. The guys had to get back to Patients, we talked for hours with Joan. She’s active in the American’s in Peru Club even been President, twice. The lineage of Jorge’s family is a true melting pot story. Great Grandfather and Grandmother were Chinese. Grandfather was Chinese, Grandmother Peruvian. Jorge Sr. and Joan really broadened his worldly heritage. Now he and Gillian who is Peruvian and a Lawyer, have two daughters added to the swirl. Joan and Jorge have another son, a Lawyer living and practicing in New York City.
Jorge had his driver pick me up in a pickup and we went back to Andina for the bikes. He has arranged for the guys at his Bike Shop to give our steeds a checkup. The owner wheeled them in and immediately started to work on them. Jorge called, I told him that we’d like to change the brake pads, straighten the wheels and change the chains. Jorge explained to them in Spanish and they had a guy removing a chain, instantly. I told them in my halting Spanish that we would like to leave the bikes and pick them up tomorrow afternoon. The owner looked relieved.
While I delivered bikes Cat and Joan continued the talkathon then got into a movie. I had to wait for the end before getting back into conversation. Joan is a big movie fan. The guys work until 8:00 PM. We were getting hungry. Jorge had told Joan that he’d organize dinner. Finally he showed up and told us that it is he and Gillian’s seventh Anniversary. No, he hadn’t forgotten but wanted to have dinner with us. She wanted a romantic evening for 2. He outlined our choices, we opted for Japanese, so, the three of set off for the Sushi Bar.
Jorge recommended the 70 Soles for all you can eat, deal. That’s just over $20 per person but then, we know how we are in a Sushi Bar. We talked as the Chefs prepared then Jorge bid us adieu and headed for a Lovey Dovey evening with Gillian. We far exceeded even our expectations and definitely took the profit out of the meal for the restaurant. It’s hard to explain how good this meal tastes but between the sushi, rolls, hand rolls and wine it was a well deserved albeit expensive treat.
The walk back was pleasant and necessary for digestion.
Joan was into another movie, Jorge Sr. had already gone off to bed. Not wanting to interrupt, we followed his lead.
March 22, 2005
Hotel Swapping in Lima
We, the early to rise type, found a quite empty house. Searching the cabinet for coffee, I gave up, turned on the TV and found CNN News. We watched then heard the maid coming in at 8:00 AM. As we went toward the kitchen Jorge Sr. came shuffling out in slippers and robe. He got cappuccinos, eggs and toast going. Joan joined us and we enjoyed more round table talks and a nice breakfast.
Both Joan and Jorge are accomplished artists. They did a huge, several year project in ceramic. We had them pose in front of the work. They also paint and sculpt. Very talented.
Joan had their driver deliver us to the US Embassy. We always like to register and we’re still fighting with Social Security over their contention that I earned money in 2002. They have withheld almost $8,000 and it’s getting to the point that we need the cash. It was a sit and wait. We met a young guy from the States who’s trying to get permission to take his Peruvian fiancé back home to get married. Nice guy who’s also stuck in the labyrinth of red tape. The nice gal at the window promised to check and e-mail the results of her effort. (At this writing, 2 weeks later, we’ve still heard nothing from her?)
Still No Room In The Inn?
We took a taxi back to Jorge Sr. and Joan’s then had him wait while we picked up our cloths. Neither Joan nor Jorge were there, they’re a busy couple. Back in the taxi and to Andina and another disappointment. They have received a large group and given our room up to one of them. We couldn’t believe it, we wouldn’t feel comfortable going back to Joan and Jorge’s. But, Marite was on the job, she assured us that we’d have a room, not here but at a place just around the corner, just for tonight. When we asked if the breakfast would be as good as Andina’s she quickly told us that we cold come back here for our favorite morning meal.
The rooms at Hostal Sipan are disappointing when compared to Andina. The large, spacious room is overlooking the cross town freeway and the noise is bad, even with the windows closed. The other option, garden rooms, are tiny and the only window opens onto the walkway. We opted for the noise and space. The Andina sent a Bellman to push our baggage down the street and around the corner with us.
Housekeeping for us means finding a laundry. Marite had spotted one on the map she also provided. A 4 block walk, a picture on a bicycle that they use to deliver then lunch at a nearby Norky’s, one of a chain of restaurants that reminds us of Marie Calendar’s back home. They specialize in Chicken. We had the usual, chicken and chips but this was unusually good chicken.
Internet, Super Mercado then back to Andina in a taxi with an arm load of groceries. An afternoon of relaxing, journal and TV.
Dinner, The Cat wants Pizza. The closest Pizza place is just a take out with a few little tables. No ambiance, no other customers, not interesting. Across the street is a place where they’re lining for a table. Nice, very upscale and they have pizza, of a sort. Oh, and they have a good bottle of Chardonnay. We ate, we enjoyed. I topped off the evening with a fruit tart, Cat did her share of digging in.
A little CNN and early to bed.
March 23, 2005
Finally, Casa Andina
The nightly noise didn’t seem to bother us. Slept right through it and into the 7:00 AM hour. The few breakfast folks down stairs had their bread and water, we headed for our Casa Andina. Fruit, eggs and bacon then, the best, French Toast and Maple Syrup, mmmmm!
We brought a few bags along on the way to breakfast then returned and made the move complete. The desk clerk and doorman seemed disinterested in our departure. Back across and we requested a room on the interior with a window. Marite came through, our new home on floor 4 is just that and more. Plenty of space, we even brought the bikes up the elevator and they’re living with us.
Cat made a walk around of the neighborhood, I typed journal. She brought a picnic back and we dined bike side. An afternoon at Internet then back and to relax.
Dinner, at an Argentinean Restaurant of some fame. The smallest steaks are so big that we ordered one and split. The salad was also a mountain of lettuce and veggies, we split that, too. And, a nice bottle of Argentinean Chardonnay.
Conversation, too. Three couples seated nearby were obviously from the States. As we were leaving we introduced ourselves. What fun, they invited us to sit and talk. Two couples, John and Kellik and Alex and Theresa are from San Diego. Vincent, originally from Nigeria and Trudy are from Seattle. They’re on the same tour. What better way to end a wonderful evening and chapter of our journal?
This has been a tough ride through a wonderful place. Titicaca in it’s self is a great place to start. The highs and lows over the altiplano were the hard stuff. Yes, we apologize Terry (Our partner in Real Estate, now deceased, who we promised that we’d cycle every inch unless it posed danger to us or our health). After the difficulty in breathing in La Paz it was easy to justify taking those few rides.
The piece de resistance, the dream of dreams of course is Machu Picchu. Magical, almost mystical, this one time seat of part of the Incan Empire was worth all the difficult days we spent, getting there.
So, Why Are We Committed To This Crazy Bike Ride
Around the World?
We believe that there’s a lot to be learned from travel. War and violence are less likely when you know your neighbors and World Peace begins to seem a possibility. Also, we feel that too many Seniors and people that have experienced health issues like Cat’s heart attack give up. Often because they fear exercise will injure them or thinking they are no longer able to enjoy physical exertion. We agree that cycling 6 to 8 hours a day is extreme but it sets an example for others. We checked with our Doctors before setting off and urge you do the same before beginning your exercise programs. Oh, another thing, when you take your bike to the store or even cycling to work rather than driving a car you’ve done something good for you and Pacha Mama, too. That is, it’s good for your health as well as the health of Mother Earth!
Counting the Mileage
Yes, we keep on stacking up the mileage. This leg of our journey adds another 1,447 kilometers or 898 miles to the Odyssey. That brings us to a total of 28,619 Ks or 18,179 miles.
A Preview of Coming Attractions
Stick around, there’s lots more to come. We’ll set off from Lima, cycle up the coast and cross into Ecuador. There are lots of interesting towns, people and ancient ruins between us and Guayaquil, Ecuador. From there it’s off the bikes for a month but not an end to adventure. We’ll spend time on The Galapagos Islands then boating down the Amazon River. Yes, we’ll start the next chapter of these journal pages on the Pacific Ocean and end it on Atlantic shores. Come on along, it should be a great ride to read about!
Pat & Cat