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mar de sal

December 15th, 2014 · No Comments

It is sort of a tradition amongst long-distance cyclists to take a picture while riding naked through the salars. The vastness and the lack of any soul around is i guess inviting for this gesture of boundlessness.

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If you want to see Alvaro naked, look at his blog.

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In Tahua we found shelter at the local school. The kids of the groundskeeper mistook me for monkey bars while we were waiting for their dad.

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One of the kids had a developmental disability and reminded me on the character ¨Arnie¨ in ¨What’s eating Gilbert Grape¨. There is a program in Bolivia to pay for the care the child needs. Here in the rural parts of the country, these kids are left to the care of their siblings but are likely to be robbed of the chance to ever learn to walk.

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We arrived with the ambition to climb the volcano Tunupa just north of the salar de uyuni. In the end, lack of preparation and energy changed our minds and we turned around half-way through. But at least we got a closer look.

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We were glad that we changed our minds as we were descending, the weather changed dramatically and hailstones were drumming on our hoods.

Tahua also brought a reunion with a french couple we met at the casa del ciclista en la paz. Just as we got back from the volcano, we met them at the plaza and could offer them half of the floorspace of a classroom for the night. The next morning we cycled out into the salar…

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before we went our seperate ways and they vanished into the distance, floating on the clouds…

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until they were only dots on the horizon.

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The whiteness was blinding at times. It was one of these places were the wonder wears of slowly and reluctantly. Even after hours of cycling, it was at times hard to grasp.

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Rain was all around, but luckily not upon us,

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and we encountered only little water at first.

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After our half-finished excursion to the tunupa volcano, the following hailstorm and rain during the night changed this slightly, and while the vulcano slowly got smaller in our backs, we cycled through a varying depth of water.

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Which was never enough to hamper the cycling and made for a great mirror effect.

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It took a long time, while the sense of distance fails to deliver any idea about how long it will take to get to the other end, but finally the mountains on the southern side drew nearer.

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We stopped for a salar camping experience on the isla de tortuga.

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After an early dinner we waited for the light to change and had enough time to appreciate the sunset while the shadows grew longer.

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Despite the freezing wind, we held out and it was worth it.

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As was the getting up at an early hour for the sunrise at similar, if not colder temperatures.

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Luckily our campspot was well chosen and one could enjoy the view directly out of the tent.

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We were a bit worried about the rain beforehand, but it turned out to only add to the experience. Though i was glad about the raincovers for the shoes that i got made in Huaraz and the bikes were in for a good cleaning once we got off the salt.

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Sajama

December 15th, 2014 · No Comments

After riding into the city, i didn’t feel like dodging traffic on my way out. Together with Alvaro, whom i met in the casa del ciclista, i hopped on a bus to Patacamaya from where we made our way around the volcano Sajama. Soon we left tarmac behind and wouldn’t see any of it for the three weeks to come. Alvaro in front of the volcano.

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We passed abandoned villages and only rarely one sees people in these parts. Even in populated areas, the villages appear like ghost towns during the daylight hours. Our first camp spot was well below 4000m and we could still find enough firewood.

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The next day was a bit tougher through quite a bit of sand. A superb lunchbreak at Tomarapi was a well-needed boost for the ride to the village of Sajama. We found shelter in Chachacomani and stocked up on supplies although our panniers were filled with food for a week. While reading about the Lagunas Route it seemd tobe a bad place to run out of food and thus we were maybe a bit overcautious. The next day we saw some flamingoes up close at the laguna at Macaya.

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We took single trails along its shore through herds of grasing llamas.

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which became a common sight. But it is hard to get tired of these creatures as their faces not only have a funny expression most of the times, but are also very distinct from one another.

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Some pushing through sand was involved from time to time, but never long enough to be frustrating.

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As well as some river crossings, which at the end of the dry season were never too difficult.

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Travelling with Alvaro brought also some changes. I would have camped probably most of the times whereas he is more used to ask for a place to sleep. Usually i was rather reluctant to use official institutions, like health centres or schools, for such purposes, but it brought with it some really nice encounters with the people and thus i didn’t feel like misusing their hospitality. And often we found shelter in unused buildings of which seem to be plenty around.

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Here it was also not only a question of comfort and not having to pitch the tent. With severe winds and thecold during the night, these places helped to conserve our energy for the road.

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We stopped at some chullpas at the rio lauca, famous for the paintings.

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This was on our way to the salar de coipasa. Less famous than its bigger neighbour, the salar the uyuni, this was recommended by other cyclist because of its lack of tourism and thus traffic.

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La Paz

December 11th, 2014 · No Comments

The first view of La Paz is an impressive one. Arriving in el alto, the city is lying in a huge bowl below.

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Humbert, another cyclist travelling with a guitar, and stephan rocking the casa.

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While usually not too motivated to explore cities, i sometimes yield to persuasion and take a look.

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The plan was to visit the musical instrument museum which is located in this quaint little street.

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The museo is small enough not to overwhelm a tired cyclist. One of the more curious items on display is this guitar with five necks, probably contructed with indian gods in mind as patronage.

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The casa is full of scribblings of other cyclists that have passed through. And i found quite a few familiar names on the walls or in the guestbook, like Dallas for example, my host in Brisbane some years ago. The room we slept in is decorated with this tree and some suggestions what to do while resting.

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The house got a bit crowded in the last days of my stay. On the left is Christian our host.

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Thank you for this great place!

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Lago Titicaca

December 11th, 2014 · No Comments

The ride through Puno and from there along the lake wasn’t that impressive. A construction site for kilometers on one lane and dust clouds in the face with every passing vehicle wasn’t helping either to make it more fun. After the turn-off to Copacabana things improved. I couldn’t warm up to the town itself but i met a lady from spain while having breakfast which made more than up for that and was also responsible for a late start towards the second half of the day. The route from there towards the ferries across the ‘estrecho de tiquina’ is beautiful. Here while climbing out of Copacabana.

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It was a special day: Todos santos. The day to honour the dead. While trying to escape the rain in the evening, i was invited to a family’s house. On All Saint’s Day people visit cemeteries to make a picnic,  make (rather awful) music with drums and flutes…

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and don’t miss out to have a good time while no drink is rejected.

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Soon i had a glas of beer in my hands as well as my first mouthful of coca leaves. After the festivities, i just rolled down to the lake and camped at its shore, a nice welcome to bolivia.

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The next day i set out to La Paz and some rest days at the Casa del Ciclista.

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old road to puno

December 11th, 2014 · No Comments

From Arequipa i climbed on the old road to puno towards the altiplano. First with the misti volcano on one side towards the laguna de salinas.

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I didn’t make it all the way up that day and found a nice campspot in an abandoned house. When night fell, the lights of arequipa glistened from below.

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During the climb, i had to share the road with trucks coming laden with salt from the salinas and the road was at times a sandy mess, making for a cloud of dust whenever a truck was passing.

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After reaching the plateau, the laguna de salinas comes into sight.

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The first night i was camping ina  mini canyon of white rock which protected me well from the wind.

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Finally on top, i was exposed to the wind but luckily we were heading the same way.

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Herds of vicuñas were a constant sight and with more animals than people up here, it was difficult to imagine that these creatures are endangered.

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Animals, changing colours and rock formations kept things interesting along the road.

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Tincopalca was a good place for a rest. As there was no restaurant to be found, i had to make my own meal. Remembered our breakfast routine in huaraz, i found all that was needed in a nearby store. Soon i was sitting on the main square cooking up an omelette and was surrounded by twenty kids watching attentively. For the first ten minutes they were commenting on everything i did, unaware that i could understand what was being said, until one of the youngsters pointed at me and said: ¨my name is¨. Answering in spanish, a big roar of laughter and an even bigger bunch of questions ensued. I was really hungry as i hadn’t had anything to eat since breakfast and now it was way past teatime. Though i was so relaxed from the last days of cycling that i didn’t mind the volley of questions and managed to shove in four advocado sandwiches while answering some of the questions. Sometimes just replying ‘como’ which usually bought me enough time to have a bite or two in between. Later they requested some photos being taken…

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and one kid wanted to try at least once as well to be the photographer.

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Onwards, past lagoons with only the occasional motorbike interrupting the silence.

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The last night i spent around 4500m with my water bottles being forzen in the morning. Another pass and a great downhill brought me to mañazo, where i was offered a room at the municipio for five soles. The next day was all paved and a slight tailwind pushed me towards puno and the lake Titicaca. As i was up before six and had started early, i had all day to cycle along its shore.

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Huaraz – Lima – Arequipa

December 11th, 2014 · No Comments

What looks like a bus schedule, is just that. One day i said goodbye to paul and sam and made my way to the bus terminal to catch a night bus to lima. I felt i had to decide in-between exploring the southern sierra of peru or to have enough time on my way to patagonia. Once in lima, i just went over to the next bus company, one block up the road and bought a ticket to arequipa. Also an overnight bus, this time the travel time was twice as long. Luckily i could store my bike at the terminal and was so more at ease to explore the capital. Wandering about before the city woke up, i soon reached the plaza de armas in the centre. Just around the corner is the casa de la literatura in the old railway station.

P1030528In big cities i like to seek out vegetarian restaurants to get some variety from the usually not too varied menu for vegetarians on the road. A good resource for finding these places is happycow, a website with listings of restaurants in most countries around the globe. On my way to ‘el manatial’ restaurant, i was passing these painted houses and was soaking in what atmosphere big cities have to offer and is hardly found along the dirt roads through the andes.

P1030625Especially duiring the era of the shining path, numerous campesionos moved to the big city in hope of a better life. They settled on the hills surrounding lima with hardly or no legal status concerning their ¨property¨. Only much later, the land on which they had built their shacks or houses was legalized.

P1030553These fotos were taken next to the old city wall of lima with living quaters directly attached to the back side of the wall.

P1030548There are quite a few nice buildings surrounding the plaza de armas. I couldn’t quite figure out why some of the doors and entrances had these wall elements in front of them.

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The clash between the posh and the poor is most stricking in cities and lima is no exception with the homeless sleeping on the main shopping street.

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The building of the club nacional de lima next to the teatro colón at the plaza san martin.

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After lunch i was somewhat overtaken by tiredness and had a nap at the parque de la exposición, just across the road from the bus terminal. I love the bakeries here in south america, and peru is no exception. You never have to walk far to find one and in some cases like here, they come to you with their small tiendas on wheels.

I had my first small quarrel for a long time at the bus station before departure. I had asked about taking the bike and was told there was no surcharge. But now i was asked to pay the same amount that the ticket for me had cost as an extra for it. There was some running around, a manager showed up, supposedly calling the lady i had purchased the ticket from in the morning, hinting that i was lying, then mentioning some official list which they wanted to fetch but which mysteriously never showed up… in the end i paid a third of what they asked for. Never mind, i had a nice fellow sitting next to me, which was also a good test of how well my spanish was holding up since i had almost exclusively conversed in english with paul and sam for two weeks. That wasn’t enough to forget it all and so i was happy to share a good while of the busride in conversation.

Leaving Lima wasn’t exciting and neither was the landscape during the rest of the day. That had changed when i woke up just before sunrise the next morning as we were cruising along the barren coastline bathed in the morning sun before turning inland around Camana.

After checking into a nice guesthouse, i went for a walk around the white city until the Plaza de Armas.

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One of the inner yards of a colonial building. Many house businesses today or official institutions to ensure their upkeep.

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Buying joghurt and tons of fruits made for a great dinner which i had with this view from the roof terrace of the hostal.

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Arequipa is called the white city because of the stone which was used while constructing most of the historic buildings called sillar, a whitish volcanic stone.

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Another view from the roof terrace with the misti volcano on the right.

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My route would take me just around it on the old road to puno. Since they build a new one to the east, this meant less traffic and a more adeventurous route towards lago titicaca.

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Huayhuash

October 21st, 2014 · No Comments

After arriving in Huaraz, i was starting with paul (here his account of the trek) on a bus at five the next morning. A breakfast break in chiquián and a rather rough ride to llamac later, we were ready for our first day of hiking to the laguna jahuacocha and the first views of the snow capped mountains of the huayhuash range.

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Even though the direct sunlight fades already in the afternoon while being in the valley, the light stays with one at least on the mountain tops for a good while longer.

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And the rising sun creates a nice backlight in the early morning hours.

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But the new morning also brought bad news. Paul’s stove was gone. Someone had taken it out of the tent’s vestibule during the night. After an initial phase of doubt what to do, we continued with the only difference being, that we had to do with fires from now on. (photo by paul)

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This shepperd we met the day before. Then he had asked us for pain relieving pills for his knees and we couldn’t help him. Instead we offered him some of our clos wine this time in the hope it would help. (photo by paul)

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We continued up valleys with the ever so beautiful changing play of light and shadow offered by the clouds.

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While climbing up the passes, pausing to take a photo became a favourite for a quick breather. Paul in front of the panorama of huayhuash before cresting the yaucha pass.

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Especially during the first half of the trek we were delighted to have such good weather and views were consequently amazing. Leaving the main trail soon after Huayllapa, we instead chose to explore a side valley and the area around laguna jurau. We left our tents and stuff at the campground close to the laguna and went on exploring without load on our shoulders and thus felt quite ready for more adventures. (photo by paul)

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It turned out to be one of the most stunning sceneries in these already rich surroundings. Three blue lagoons nestled between the mountains. (photo by paul)

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After returning to the camp and having lunch, we made our way to the san antonio pass, or so at least we thought. Being the pass shown in the official maps, we didn’t think it would be too difficult to find it. But after two hours of a fruitless search, we half angrily and half impatiently opted for the ‘we-will-find-our-own-way’ method. Though it was a difficult scramble uphill, it seemed we made good progress in the beginning. But when the light of the day was fading and the weather had turned really bad on us for the first time, a light rain soon had developed into a hail storm, we soon agreed, even if we would make it up the moutain, we would still be far from a suitable spot to camp or a source of water. So we retraced our steps to last night’s camp site. The downhill part being only slightly less exhausting, with the knees soon groaning and memories of the shepperd and his plee for pain relieving pills flashing through the mind in lack of more positive thoughts. Since the trip had, despite a stolen stove, been going really well, this was a bit of a sudden setback that had to be digested.

In the evening, while another attenpt to make fire went rather smootly, because we had carried fire-wood in our backpacks and thus were in possession of dry twigs, i thought i would not want to climb any passes the day to come. But already while lying in the sleeping bag a while later, the “why not” questions was making itself heard, and the crushing defeat, felt not long ago, had changed to a small mishap one could deal with easily.

While coping with the failed attempt in the evening, we both forget to stow away firewood and were only left with wet wood and no dry things to start a fire in the morning after a rainy night. Despite it taken us an hour to get a fire going and some effort to keep it alive, there was hardly any need to ask the question what the other wanted to do. After breakfast we packed up, climbed up to the laguna jurau and went on the lookout for the startpoint to another pass we had heard of by joshi, a fellow trekker we had met the day before. It took over an hour and some moaning on my part, at first not believing when paul was shouting down from the mountain that he had found the path. But some stone pyramids unquestionably pointed the way, along which the laguna kept us company…

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almost until we crested the last pass on our circuit at punta cuyoc. (photo by paul)

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All in all a tough but rewarding six days in the mountains. Despite a stolen stove, some tough weathers around the passes and one pass we never even found, we kept our chins up and could enjoy some of the most stunning scenery we’ve seen so far. Thanks to paul for asking and doing almost all the planning as i don’t know if i had undertaken this trip by myself. Now it is time for some rest days in huaraz and visits to the countless bakeries to regain some calories.

 

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cajamarca

October 21st, 2014 · Comments Off

On the way from Celendin i stopped at a small village where the market was in full swing on a saturday morning. I had a late breakfast while the candidates of the coming election and their supporters were wandering through the crowds and trying to win over some votes at the last minute. All the while cows were looked over and prices negotiated.

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The road was blocked, which gave the drivers a nice excuse to use their horns even more often and vehemently than usual.

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In times right before an election, there is hardly any house, or any other surface for that instance, that isn’t used for propaganda. One area was full of this outhouses, which probably was the consequence of a campaign pledge by a former candidate… one that was fulfilled for a change.

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It was getting late when i arrived in cajamarca and got to the plaza de armas with its iglesia san francisco.

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I spent some time soaking in the atmosphere of the historic city center and was in no hurry as there are many hotels just off the plaza.

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The search for a place to stay though, turned out to be more difficult than expected. Just as i was getting a “sorry, we’re full” from the sixth guesthouse, i met james of pedalinforpennies.info, who was in town with anja and marko. Both their guesthouse were full as well but after finally getting hold of a bed for me, we could get some much needed dinner and were soon busy exchanging route plans and former stories from the road.

The next morning a parade was passing by the guesthouse and i was wondering if the potrayal of jesus was not too much lifelike.

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Others were carrying the logo of the day “feliz dia de la biblia” and were dancing and brought thus some welcome joy into the parade.

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A tour take its toll, this time in form of a broken bottle cage. luckily i found an able welder to fix this.

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Huaraz is the next stop where i will catch up with paul, with whom i rode parts of central america. And maybe i will seek an adventure off the bike, trekking though the cordillera blanca or huayhaush.

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cañón del marañón

October 21st, 2014 · No Comments

Just before reaching chachapoyas, there is the turn off to leymebamba, from where the road continues as a narrow strip of asphalt, which almost has the feel of a dirt road. First next to the river utcubamba and then climbing up into the mountains…

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until one is at eye level with the clouds.

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The road then drops down 2000 meters through the cañón del rio marañón,

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where it feels like one could see inside the guts of the earth.

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With dropping altitude, the heat was increasing and not even the airflow could keep the body cooled. The landscape became barren until this little oasis around the river bend came into view.

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Since no one wanted to change my dollars into soles and i was unable to withdraw money at the last cash machine, i was left with seven soles for the last two days to celendin, which are around two euros. Luckily i had some supplies with me and it is amazing how far one can get with so little. In balsas, at the bottom of the canyon, i bought a pineapple, mangos, bananas and a cooled coconut, had a superb lunch and was still left with some soles to spare.

The uphill part looked like a desert after the lush green around the river.

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It started to rain on the other side of the valley, but weather seems to move really slow in these parts of peru and it never made its way to “my” side.

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It is more than forty kilometers of climbing from the river and i didn’t make it up to the pass that day. Instead i stopped shortly after the village of limon, with around a third of the climb still ahead of me. The next morning i woke up relaxed, as i knew i had done most of the work the day before. A rather head scratching episode happened on the last bit up to the pass. An old man sitting on the side of the road stopped me and asked for help. He wanted me to transport his two bags while his idea was to walk beside me. These two bags contained almost as much stuff as i have with me. I tried to explain to him that i was unable to carry twice the load and i would be happy to help him find a ride instead. Though the traffic was light, still a car was passing at least every half an hour. But he seemed pretty fixed on the idea that my bike would be the perfect solution. After five minutes and not having the feeling that this was going anywhere, i left the man and his two bags on the side of the road and wished him good luck.

From the pass it is only half an hour downhill to celendin. a nice town and just about the right size to spend a rest day. Small enough to get around walking with only light traffic and quiet streets, and still big enough to provide everything one needs. Here at the plaza mayor.

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Painting above the entrance to one of the bars next to the guesthouse…

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which has this courtyard restaurant around which the rooms are located.

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After a well-needed rest day, i made my way to cajamarca.

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Kuelap

October 12th, 2014 · No Comments

The old fortress of the chachapoya, now the name of the district and its capital, derived from the culture of andean people which thrived in this area from the 6th century until they were conquered and subsequently integrated into the inca empire, shortly before the arrival of the spanish conquistadores. Since i started late from san pablo after visiting the gocta falls, i arrived after dark in tingo, and wasn’t too unhappy about being waved off the street by some people sitting in front of the first building in town, which turned out to be a new hospedaje without a sign yet. From Tingo starts the 9km uphill trek to kuelap. I bought some supplies in the morning and found a companion while shopping: the dog from the hospedaje across the street. During the first flat part he was still with me, and when i tried to send him back at the beginning of the uphill part, this was answered with a look, that said i could forget about that, and so we did the hike together.

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It was decisively hot and i started to worry about the dog, still following me twenty meters behind with his tounge almost hanging to the ground. The dog was obviously looking for water and soon went on ahead until he had vanished around a bend. Sometime later, i heard a splashing noise and by the time i arrived, there was no more room in the bathtub.

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Clouds moved in as we were getting closer to the ruins and offered a welcome break from the heat. So the second part was easier and soon we arrived at the end of the trek directly at the entrance,

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where a guide informed me, i had to walk half an hour more to the parking lot where the ticket office is. By the time we arrived there, i was angry. Why should the people who do the hike have to walk five kilometres more, just so the people who arrive by car have it easier. The looks of the people passing and their shouts about how cute the dog is, did not help to improve my mood and the guys at the ticket office had to listen to a rant from me and just apologetically mentioned, that it was the decision of the ministry of tourism. It wouldn’t be the first time that decision making too far from where its effects are felt, leads to rather unfortunate results. Finally back, the entrance to the fortress is a narrow corridor, which made it easier to defend.

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The only structure being completely rebuilt is this house to give some impression about how it must have looked like in former times.

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Some llamas were present and especially one stuck out with its pirate look.

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Kuelap is built at the highest point in these mountains and is often surrounded by clouds. Maybe that is where the name for its people comes from: the warriors of the clouds.

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The downhill was easier and we arrived back at the village to some refreshing rain. While passing a tienda, a familiar face showed up. Maggie and Bryan, whom i first met around cuenca, had just arrived and we spend the evening exchanging our latest experiences.

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