Thursday, October 27, 2011

Segment 45: Ayacucho, Perú to Cusco, Perú (October 1 - 16, 2011)

Plaza de Armas in the colonial city of Ayacucho

Ayacucho is marked by its various pedestrian walkways, coincidentally excellent places for us to busk

in this wild scene, Jason, Jeff and Craig attempted to busk in the Plaza de Armas, within 5 minutes had drawn a crowd of over 130 people, and were forced to stop by the police.  The crowd reacted negatively, claiming that artists and musicians had a natural right to express themselves and that the people likewise had the right to watch and listen.  This of course is true democracy!  It all ended with an interesting compromise: the police made us move a block over and agreed to let us play in front of a church along a pedestrian walkway. is our spot in front of the church...
we played for over 6 hours on this Sunday, generating high energy throughout, and it would end up being our second most successful day (after Quito, Ecuador) ever.

colonial arch in Ayacucho

the juice stands in the Ayacucho market

a daunting visual: this is our route (more or less) from Ayacucho to Cusco: more like a rollercoaster ride than a bike ride.  In all, 5 major climbs, several to over 4000m, and a similar number of descents, several down to below 2000m.  It is probably the hardest section of the whole trip, which is saying alot.

purple hills at dusk climbing away from Ayacucho

looking back down on a nocturnal Ayacucho

our first big climb featured some rolling hills along the way

... interesting Peru voting symbols: "Mark the football"

or the vicuña

or, one of our favorites, the Strongman

long steady climbing

campesino house

some propaganda for Martinelli, coincidentally the same family that helped feed us and house us when we were in Ayacucho

looking back from near the top of this climb

... seemingly a herd of mustangs up here at 4000m...

the view from the top
the snow-capped range in the distance, inviting and mystical, lies ahead on the route to Cusco


...fantastic descent...
with countless curves and hairpins

we spent the night at the health center in Occros, then continued this descent the following morning...

looking down on Chumbes

... this descent was to be some 2400m in total, down to this river:

climbing up again, towards Chincheros

Uripa in late afternoon

this second big climb was marred by road construction projects

the top section was paved, and we were caught in thick fog and rain for this bit

  a curious herd of alpacas at 4200m

the bald rolling landscapes at the top

descending we ran into Sonja and Tom (who had left Ayacucho a day ahead of us) in Nueva Esperanza.  This is Tom Lawton (England), whom we had met surfing in El Salvador in November 2010, and who decided to join us here in Perú (starting from Huancayo).

the indigenous women love Tom, ogling at his blond locks, and giggling everywhere he goes

... in Andahuaylas the firemen hosted us...

this plate is a Peruvian streetfood gem: "papas con yuyu", or what could be called potatoes with wild spinach; found in the Andahuaylas market

on the other hand, what we have here is FRESH FROG EXTRACT.  The sign says that it can be used to treat headaches, fatigue, anemia, dizziness, anxiety, and problems related to menopause.
the only problem is, the frogs are live, and the frog extract is obtained by throwing whole live frogs in the blender, and drinking the juice!!!!!!!!!!  Yes, truth be told, we left the Andahuaylas market a little disturbed.
this freshly skinned and gutted cuy (guinea pig) added to the macabre scene at the Andahuaylas market

leaving Andahuaylas, we headed up our third huge climb, passing through serious potato farming lands

Sonja in mid-afternoon

potato fields

another look at the extense of potato farming in the area

... we camped at 3600m in this grassy meadow next to a stream, making a fire and playing plenty of music

Tom practicing ukelele.  He also plays guitar and percussion, so he is a more-than-welcome addition to our group.

once again we had cold wet weather at the top

cycling in these mountains is a dream

a good group of five now, beginning a muddy descent

late afternoon landscapes

Sonja got a flat at dusk

amazing riding here

along the descent we spent the night in a storehouse for fertilizers

this is Abancay, still over 1000 meters below us, backed by a snowy peak

continuing the descent the following morning

again, amazing dirt road, lots of curves and hairpins, down into the canyon

Tom enjoying the ride

at the bottom we ran into the main paved highway from Lima to Cusco, and we switched to skinny road tires here

Abancay was to be the last stop before Cusco

tarantula seen on road leaving Abancay

roadside cemetary

we camped at a bend in the highway halfway up the fourth big climb of this segment.

local house

climbing still the following morning, backed by the huge valley of Abancay

view from the top, 3800m or so

Tom fell sick (terrible diarrhea and fatigue) on this stretch and hitched on a truck to Curahuasi

the health clinic in Curahuasi somehow thought it a good idea to put him in the hospital for 24 hours

While Tom was in the hospital, Jeff went for a dayhike up to the miradors of Captain Rumi and San Cristóbal near Curahuasi.

one of the deepest canyons in the world, that is the Apurímac River down below. 

above the canyon are snow-capped peaks, including Salkantay at over 6300m

company of goats near the mirador

another look at the Apurímac Canyon.  Apparently Andean condors pass by here routinely, but none on this day.

... heading out of Curahuasi, Jeff´s turn to be ill.  He was stricken with food poisoning from the previous evening´s plate of street food.  Vomiting, nausea, and severe dizziness...

heading down into the Apurímac Canyon, lots of curves once again.

we camped at the bridge at the bottom, where the insidious black flies did a number on Tom overnight.

the Apurímac River

parrot sighted on the climb out

looking back down from halfway up the fifth climb

lots of snowy mountains in the distance approaching the pass

...near Anta...

Jeff was bit by another dog (second in Peru) just after Anta.  This was a huge mean dog, and punishment of death was not out of the question, but the dog hid in a nearby house after being pelted by a rock thrown at high speed.

entering Cusco in late afternoon

we regrouped in Cusco and hit the streets for some wandering music jams

here our friend Kiko (Madrid) is entertaining a bunch of adolescents in a Cusco pedestrian area

wandering the atmospheric Cusco at night with its preserved Incan walls

Jason and Kiko discussing kung fu

perfect Incan joints

at Hostal Delcy near mercado San Pedro, keeping up the music vibes with other travellers