It wasn’t hard to get stuck in the Casa de Ciclistas in La Paz. A cosy place packed with many other great and crazy cyclists from all over the world. After ten days though, it was time to hit the road again and getting over to Peru. I teamed up with Paul, who just bought a bicycle in La Paz. To get out of the city we had first to climb from La Paz to El Alto, from 3600m to over 4000m along a busy road. That are not the best conditions to start cycle touring, but Paul did well and after about two hours we left the city behind us. Cycling didn’t get nicer though, as there were heaps of constructions going on for the rest of the day and the road was incredibly dusty with as way too much traffic.
The next day the views were finally getting better and we ended up sleeping in a classroom of a school. Luxury, compare to camping in freezing temperatures.
Eventually the Lake Titicaca got in sight. Even though there are higher lakes, they are not that huge and deep. It is really incredible that there’s is water body with a surface of 8,372 km2 on an altitude of 3800m. It looks like an ocean, as you can’t see the other side of the lake. We decided to take the more adventurous, lonelier route along the north east shore of the lake. (In case you plan to cycle along Lago Titicaca, according to Paul, who knows both sides, the north eastern side is much nicer, though it’s an unpaved road.)
Could be the Mediterranean
On small gravel roads with virtually no traffic we were heading on and crossed finally the border into Peru. There wasn’t even a proper sign as usual at borders. While we got an exit stamp in our passports from a tiny police station in the last Bolivian village, at the first Peruvian village the police couldn’t help us with an entry stamp. Instead they send us to the immigration office to Puno, what is about 200km away and where we had never planned to go to. We told them that we need a couple of days to get there, but it wasn’t a problem for them, although we were technically illegal in Peru for that time.
On the top of a pass.
As there were no good places to camp, we ended up asking a farmer’s family if they have space for our tents. After discussing that for quite a while in Quechua, so we couldn’t understand a word, they showed us a shed behind their house. As usually we tried to deny, we don’t mind sleeping in our tents, but the family insisted that we sleep in the shed. It would be a way too cold to sleep in tents. Well, thankfully we accepted. And as that wasn’t already enough hospitality, we were invited to eat with the family as well. The hot, tasty soup was great in the freezing temperatures. At least could pay some generosity back and helped one of the kids with her English homework.
The next morning Victor gave us a big bowl of Chuños and roasted beans for the day. Chuños are freeze-dried potatoes and typical in the Andean regions of Peru and Bolivia. After a couple of nights in the freezing temperatures of the Altiplano and days in the intense sunlight, they’re are going to last for a long time.
The next day we tried to camp next to a church, after asking the priest for permission. But the hospitality of the Peruvians stopped us from that. We just finished pitching our tents, when we were surrounded by a concerned group of locals. Concerned, because they couldn’t imagine, that we wouldn’t freeze at night, although we explained that we have good sleeping bags. One family finally offered us to sleep in their house. First I wanted to reject the offer, but I was also curious and was looking forward to get another local family to know. At the end it was great to stay with this amazing family. In the morning we were surprised with a huge breakfast. Besides of the usual rice and potatoes they must have slaughtered a Guinea pig and cooked it for breakfast.
Somewhere before reaching Cusco we asked in a little town at the firefighter station if they have some place for our tents. At the end we could sleep in an old ambulance, which they didn’t use anymore. They even had guestbook with a few other entries from cyclists. Fire brigades or in Spanish Bomberos are a popular place to sleep for cyclists in South America.
Eventually we reached Cusco. For me it was time for another break. My mum had just decided to come and visit me a few weeks earlier. We haven’t seen each other sind I left Germany in October 2013, so two years and nine months. I was really excited for this reunion and it was a good opportunity to have a break of cycling and instead around as a normal tourist.
If you visit Peru, you have to see Machu Picchu, at least that’s what most people say. Usually I’m not interested in those big tourist attraction and before I was always unsure if I should go there, as it’s also quite expensive. But together with my mum I had to go. And at the end I think it was worth it. Even though there are thousands of people, what I haven’t been used too. As a touring cyclists I see sometime no other tourists for months. Still Machu Picchu is an magnificent and impressive place. This time as a normal tourist, taking buses, doing lots of sightseeing and staying in a hostel showed me once again, why I prefer cycle touring.
There’s lots of trekking around Cusco and I decided for the Ausangate circuit. It’s a four to five day hike around the snow capped peak of Ausangate, with 6384m the highest mountain in that region. It was beautiful and a different experience to cycling.
The rainbow mountain.
Ben and Renaud, who I’ve met in a hostel in Cusco.
On the trail.
After five days hiking, the reward: Hot Springs
After more than three weeks in Cusco and surrounding, it was time to ride on. I decided to stick to the paved roads for a while to get used to cycling again. Still it was challenging. One pass after the next one, one 4000m pass after the next one with valleys in between under 2000m. The first days were tough, but eventually I got used to all the climbing. In the first valley I got bitten by hundreds of mosquitoes. It was crazy, I had at least 50 bites at each leg and arm. I was so happy when I was high enough again, where no mosquitoes are and the first thing I did in the next town, was to buy repellent.
Some local kids waking me up in the morning
Another great experience of Peruvian hospitality
Near the top of a pass.
And just a short while later down in the valley. The landscape and vegetation was changing all the time due to the altitude differences, what made it quite interesting. But it was also constant change of temperatures. One night I camped close to 4000m, where it was quite cold and the next night I was lying sweating in my tent the whole night.
Even though I just cycled over paved roads, there wasn’t much traffic at all. Sometimes the road was just a single lane and narrow. Now I’m in Huancavelica, where I’ll rest a bit, before heading on. This time on small gravel roads over Perus Gread Divide.