Monday, November 14, 2011

Segment 46: Cusco, Perú to La Paz, Bolivia (October 17 - October 31, 2011)

We ended up staying about 10 days in Cusco, mostly relaxing.  Sonja, Tom and Craig went to Macchu Picchu; Jeff and Jason (having already been on previous trips) chose to avoid this increasingly overexploited and expensive tourist area.  Cusco turned out to be excellent for live music, with a couple of bands playing reggae and reggae/ska/Andean fusion.  Best live music site we have visited since San Cristóbal, Chiapas and Antigua, Guatemala, over one year ago.

Jason jamming at Hostel Delcy with other travellers

on a day trip above Saqsayhuayman; this group formed from Chilean, Argentinians, Brazilian, Spanish, American, and Peruvians

Argentinians are so passionate about mate (national beverage, a tea made from the yerba mate bush) that they will go to extreme lengths to prepare it (especially when outside of Argentina). 

a panorama of Cusco at dusk

in the narrow alleys of San Blas (Cusco) at dusk

Plaza de Armas in twilight

Jeff and Tom left Cusco ahead of the others.  Our first campsite next to a river made for some excellent guitar playing.

wow!  bike awareness in Peru, who would have thought???  note the relative flatness of the terrain, first we've seen since northern Colombia!

... the landscapes heading east from Cusco...

... this stop, 175km from Cusco and locally known as Aguas Calientes, is a cyclist's dream.  24-hour, nearly-free (3 soles/$1.25 per person) thermal baths.  Incredible.  We also talked them into letting us sleep in an empty room in the hostal for free.  We soaked for hours in the evening and again in the morning before heading on...

... nearing Abra La Raya, fighting huge headwinds, we encountered a huge herd of alpacas, recently shorn...

... alpacas are much smaller and lighter than their llama cousins...

Tom approaching Abra La Raya (4300m) with magnificent scenery

church seen at Abra La Raya

descending, but with a strong headwind we had to pedal alot

Tom entertains local kids in Santa Rosa

dusk riding brought us onto the altiplano, huge spreading plateau lands at nearly 4000m

we camped next to the railway on the altiplano, a freezing cold night, coldest on the bike since northern Mexico in January 2010.  Awoke with frozen water bottles.

remoteness is the norm on the altiplano

we opted for a dirt road cutoff that took us through Lampa.  Amazing riding here.

modest local homes

... we had to climb a bit on this stretch of dirt, but the ensuing descent was great...

dusk between Lampa and Juliaca

we camped in the yard of an abandoned house outside of Juliaca

entering Juliaca, the scene was reminiscent of Armageddon... ugly, trash everywhere, construction projects abandoned and in heaps, flat, smelling of refuse and sewage; on the whole: disturbing.
...exiting Juliaca... what has to be the ugliest and most blasted area we have seen on the whole trip, topping Fairbanks, AK; Fort Nelson, B.C., Grand Prairie, Alberta, etc....
lots of traffic on this bit, not our preference

as we near Puno, this sign reads: "Ollanta, Puno rejects you, you are a Chavista" (socialist dictator in the mold of Venezuela's Hugo Chavez).  Actually, Ollanta has only been in office for a few months and his politics are as yet undetermined, according to Peruvians we have spoken with.

potato farming on the far edges of Lake Titicaca, which separates Peru and Bolivia

Puno, while seemingly anti-Ollanta, is pro-Keiko from the looks of things.  Keiko Fujimori lost the recent elections.  Curiously enough, she is the daughter of ex-president Alberto Fujimori, currently in prison for stealing lots of money from the Peruvian treasury.

... more political voting symbols, from Inka above to pan flutes below...

... shovels (labor) above and coca leaves below...

... Puno seen from above at the entrance to the city, sitting on the edge of enormous Lake Titicaca...

indigenous lady seen at park above Puno

dusk in the flatlands heading east from Puno

... the following day we followed the south edge of Titicaca, with perfect weather and gorgeous panoramas...
trout weirs in Lake Titicaca

lakeside duck
... the Titicaca region is fascinating for its campesino culture and lifestyle... the area is far from remotely populated, as there are countless villages and towns all along the lake...

these sheep are being taken to market, tied to the roof West Africa-style

trout encountered at Pomata.  Fresh, local, huge, cheap (8 soles, or less than 3 dollars) and delicious.   This fish was served with a huge bed of potatoes, chuño (dried black potatoes), and fava beans.  One of our best meals in Peru.

... market day not far from Pomata.  We were the only foreigners around, the place was swollen with brightly-dressed indigenous women.  Below is the animal market, where the women tried to convince us to buy and carry sheep on our bikes....

taking a break on the way to the Bolivian border
these boys were interested in Tom's guitar playing

burning the fields, just entered Bolivia

... artwork on the walls of Hostel Mariela in touristy Copacabana, where a night costs 8 Bolivianos (just over a dollar)...
"Live Today"

in Copacabana, Jeff and Tom met up with Stephane, a French/Mallorcan friend of ours first encountered in Panamá and later in Vilcabamba, Ecuador.  Together we hopped a boat over to nearby (2 hours) Isla del Sol in the middle of Lake Titicaca.

Isla de la Luna, backed by many snowy peaks, seen while arriving at Isla del Sol

the south end of Isla del Sol

we hiked the footpath from the south end to the north end of the island, about 3 hours walking

Jeff, Stephane, Tom in late afternoon

surreal, magical views of the Cordillera Real from Isla del Sol

dusk from the north end of the island.  This was to be a magical night, as we camped in archaeological ruins here, finding a small room with low wind.  We watched the crescent moon rise right in the head of the constellation Scorpio, then stargazed for hours and played music in the ruins.

the ruins in the morning.  Incan ruins from the 15th-16th century.  The Incans believed the Isla del Sol to be the birthplace of their sun god, making it one of the most spiritually-important places in their universe.

... guitars are out on a beautiful morning: Jeff above, Tom below...

... yoga on the beach, crazy Englishman above, crazier Frenchman below, trying to outdo the Englishman and impress the girls...

sunset from north end of Isla del Sol

amazing storm just next to the sunset

a look back at Copacabana while heading out

at Tiquina, the main highway to La Paz is broken here by a narrow strait of Lake Titicaca.  In lieu of a bridge, the solution here is a fleet of barges plying the strait, transporting all vehicles across for a small fee:

we rode across with this colorful bus

Titicaca: Sacred Lake.  Largest lake in South America.

on the way to La Paz now, we followed the shore of Titicaca for a long ways, snowy peaks of the Cordillera Real rising in the background

sunset colors on Titicaca

improvised sailboat plying the waters of the lake

... this whole stretch, altiplano at nearly 4000m, featured lots of wind...

classic altiplano landscapes, dominating much of western Bolivia

now on the outskirts of La Paz, the not-so-pretty sprawl of the capital

Jeff takes a breather

18km from La Paz, crossing El Alto, Jeff's seatpost cracked off.  It lasted 31000km or so, but this led to a hair-raising all-standing 400m descent down into La Paz.

...La Paz, capital of Bolivia, spreading mythically down and across this broad valley... the nearby peak above is Huayna Potosí, which we aim to climb in the next few days...

1 comment:

Elaine Altman said...

Thanks for the memories, experienced through your stunning photos. Edward and I did this segment of your trip in reverse in 1969, but not by bike. We traveled by car, boat, and train, arriving in Cuzco after the most enthralling train ride across the altiplano. "In boca al lupo" on your way to Tierra del Fuego.