Day: Monday September 17th, 2018

Peru – Lima to Huancavelica

Hola Lima! In the middle of the night we land in Lima. Happy we take our two bikes and our luggage. Except for a gas bottle, which was taken from us at the security check at the airport in Penticton, everything arrived completely and intact. Gladly we get in the taxi from the hotel. The next morning we dive into a new world and we drink a delicious, fresh platanos con leche! Oh how we missed that !!! To our Warmshower Felix we have to cycle to the other side of the city. We quickly give up the idea of driving through the city centre. What a traffic!!!😳 Wow, only India is even worse!😂 The following day August 30th is a holiday. The patron saint of Lima Santa de Rosa is celebrated. Our Warmshower Felix leads us together with his girlfriend Diana and his brother Jésu through the lively city. There we also see a procession in honour of Santa de Rosa. Peru is 81% Roman Catholic.
We admire the beautiful, old buildings, which are characterized by the Spanish colonial area. At noon we enjoy one of the Peruvian main dishes “Lomo saltado con tacu tacu”. Lomo saltado is beef sliced with vegetables and tacu tacu is a kind of bean paste with rice.
It is very tasty! In addition to the exotic fruits, we also enjoy the tasty bread! Really something different than toast !!! 😂 The climate and weather is very special: Here on the coast, although very close to the equator, it is rather cool and mostly cloudy. The cool Humboldt Current envelops Lima in a constant fog. We are lucky enough to see some blue skies even on two days, which seems to be very rare. So we long for the mountains, where we are above the fog and smog and where it is sunny and over 25 degrees warm. On Saturday we equip ourselves with gloves and thermo bottles, because the nights in the mountains must be very cold.

Well strengthened with a fresh fruit juice and with “pan con palta” (bread with avocado) we cycle off on Sunday. Alert and very focused, we make our way through the chaotic and busy traffic. Since the elections are soon, there are rallies everywhere.The many impressions of this noisy city, in which the poverty of many people is visible, concerns us very much. Many dwellings bear witness to poverty. We wonder what it looks like in the rainy season. We would be afraid of landslides! We ask ourselves once more where all the money is going!🤔 Peru has an abundance of natural resources and could be a rich country. Only at the beginning of this August even the world’s largest lithium deposit was found! Hopefully a benevolent person will win the elections! But when we see the portraits on the election posters, we doubt it! One looks more corrupt than the other!!!
After two hours the traffic decreases and we are out of the smog in which Lima is, and a deep blue sky appears. Along the road there are stalls selling fruits, cheese and milk as well as small restaurants offering Peruvian food like Cuy “guinea pig”. Here and there loud Spanish, cheerful music from a house or car roars. In one of these simple street restaurants we enjoy some pork with sweet potatoes and white giant corn grains. In the evening we arrive in Quives. It is the birthplace of the Santa de Rosa de Lima and is therefore a popular pilgrimage place. The place is still under construction and we have the feeling to be on a big construction site. The landscape is surrounded by barren mountains and down in the valley it is green. Salad, potatoes, strawberries and broccoli are planted and harvested. In Quives it can be guessed that in the last few days, because of the holiday, a lot was going on. The last visitors leave and the place becomes quiet. We still find a cheap accommodation and at 19:30 o’clock one of the many restaurants opened again. All the others seem not to think it necessary to serve us and close.
In the most beautiful sunshine we roll the next day on the lonely road in the direction of Canta. In the small settlement of Yaso we find some provisions for our lunch break and practice our Spanish with the locals. They are impressed that we want to get to Canta by bike. We like the region very much. We are also surprised about the good, lonely road. In Canta at 2800asl we find another construction site. As already in Quives the village gets a new road. We find a cheap, modest accommodation and again enjoy the delicious Peruvian dish “Lomo saltado”.

In the night a strong gusty wind blows, which to our delight stops around noon and we can tackle today’s short stage without wind. Since we want to acclimatise, we already stop at the next village Gullhuay at 3600asl, which is just 23 kilometres. Arrived in the village, we stay on the village square and wait in vain in front of a closed door, where there should be a restaurant and rooms. As deafening music roars from the loudspeaker, we stock up with vegetables and cook our own dinner by the river. It’s not long before a crowd of children come and start chatting with us. So we get a little insight into their lives. As soon as the sun is gone, it gets extremely cold! This is the whole year like that, but they don’t have snow here. Then we long for our warm sleeping bags and look for a campground. In front of the village we find what we are looking for. At four in the morning we are standing in the tent. The earth is shaking and several trucks pass us. However, we doze again and are awakened later by cows, on their pasture we camp. The landscape is beautiful and the road is even partially asphalted. At the roadside two older women wave to us. They both have only a few teeth left and they live in extremely simple dwellings at the roadside. We buy some fresh cheese from them. After our pass of 4600asl we hardly make any progress. We constantly stop to photograph the sensational landscape with the mountains and dark blue turquoise lakes. We observe wonderful, big birds and see our first lama shortly before the small settlement Yantac.

There we cook on the beautiful village square and are warmly welcomed by the locals. Our cooker is generating great interest. A girl with her little cousin is very interested in us and pierces us with questions. We learn that 5000 lamas, alpacas and vicuña are kept in this area, as well as 8000 sheep. Wool is a big business here, which is no wonder at these temperatures. As we cycle on, one of these big herds crosses our path. We especially like the unshorn alpacas, which look like teddy bears with their woolly fur.

In Marcopomacocha we find a great accommodation and are glad that we don’t have to sleep in the tent at 4500asl. Above all, we enjoy the restaurant’s daily menu and warming Mate de Coca tea. It helps with altitude sickness, headaches and stomach problems. For an intoxicating effect, however, an extremely large amount would be needed. For our headaches we felt no improvement. Perhaps we had drunk too little tea. In any case the jump of the overnight stay from 3600 to 4500 was not optimal, but a longer distance was not possible.

Today the pass Abra Singrar with 4890asl is on the program. Our new record on our journey. To our astonishment the road is extremely good. It is a dirt road, but in good condition and the many curves make it very bike-friendly! It wouldn’t surprise us if in the future even more touring cyclists would cycle pass here, because it is sensationally beautiful! We crank up the pass comfortably and nevertheless we almost lose our breath. On the one hand because of the heights, but even more because of the beauty of the mountains, the different color of the rocks and grass fields as well as the hearty, cuddly alpacas😂 We enjoy the picnic in the stubby grass and in the warming sun very much before we start the fast but cool descent. A little above Casapalca we turn onto the busy Carreterra Central 22. Thanks to this busy road we have chosen the ascent and the small detour via Canta and Marcopomacocha. Already the second time today we have to make a full brake because of the dogs! Yes, unfortunately these are again a bigger problem! In the evening we find a shabby, but cheap accommodation in Chicla… well better than camping outside in the cold. For dinner we try the “Caldo de Gallina” a very popular chicken soup with noodles, a boiled egg and a piece of chicken.

Today the pass Punta Ushuayca with its proud 4930 m above sea level is on the menu. We need almost the whole day until we reach the top. The gravel road is very well drivable, however, we feel the height the further up we come. When we finally reach the top, it snows a little, it is extremely cold, but the view is indescribably beautiful! Also the descent is spectacular, incredible how the Peruvians built the roads here! It is already dark when we finally arrive almost at the lowest point at 4148 m where we want to camp. Since it is very cold, we go straight into the tent and have a warm soup. The starry sky is breathtaking! It was a long, exhausting day and so we crawl tired but overjoyed into our warm sleeping bags. Early in the morning we make our way to Tanta. We have to master a pass of 4670m. It is a strenuous undertaking, as there are sometimes very steep sections where we have to push for a short time. But also here the scenery with the white snow-covered mountains with the glaciers is overwhelming. We are all alone on the way. Only from time to time we pass shepherds whose dogs greet us loudly and not always very friendly. But since Georgia we are trained and stopping is always the best option, because they lose interest in us.

In Tanta we enjoy once more “Lomo saltado” in a warm, small and very low house. Well strengthened, we cycle to Vilca on a great new gravel road. We pass a group of hearty lamas, alpacas and sheep. In their ears they have coloured ribbons, which is apparently a sign of belonging. But attention just a few meters down the road Judith is attacked by a Lama! 😳 Normally they turn away and run when they see us, but this Lama races after Judith. Judith stops and dances in circles around her bicycle to keep the Lama away from her. The Lama makes a stand to spit and attack. Then it pursues Andi but returns to Judith. Judith throws the wheel on the ground and runs backwards to gain distance. What now? Chasing away, shouting, clapping and screaming… nothing helps! Slowly the lama calms down, but we do not really trust him. Judith can pick up her bike again and then we manage to continue without pursuit. Shortly before Vilca we marvel at the waterfalls and then arrive in Vilca. With these favourable accommodation prices and with these cold temperatures we look once more for a room. But most of the time it is not much warmer than in a tent! You are looking for a warm stove here in vain. Warmly packed we eat then in a small restaurant “Truchas”. These are trout. In addition there is rice, corn on the cob, potatoes and salad. They season very aromatic with fine herbs, whereas on the table there is an extremely hot sauce to season individually. Until the food comes, there is usually a small piece of cheese and roasted corn grains. Well rested we make our way to Huancaya on Sunday. The waterfalls are unique in the gorge-like valley. Shortly before the village we rest on a meadow at the river bank, wash and dry our clothes. Also by the Peruvians this place is very popular for grilling and picnicking. A family even spontaneously brings us a plate with fine grilled delicacies. In the small, hearty village Huancaya we find a great accommodation. The next morning after a short climb and a nice view down into a green valley, a bumpy descent brings us to the river, which plunges spectacularly into the depths. The rock walls narrow and we find ourselves together with the river in a breathtaking gorge. Then the valley opens slowly, it becomes greener and beside the few bushes different cacti rise out of the ground. The bumpy path now leads into an asphalted, small road on which we gently roll down the last meters of altitude before the serpentines lead up to Laraos.

Actually, this should have been our rest day, but we were on the road for three hours and we also needed Internet to give our loved ones a sign of life at home. Up to now Internet was no problem in all of the countries we travelled. But here in Peru only the community hall has Internet😳. No wonder that an election applicant advertises with “Internet for all!” 😂 So here in Laraos we have Internet, but only at 16:00, because the secretariat until then makes lunch break. Just in time for Peruvian at 16:25 comes the official. With time, life is gradually coming to the community hall and some women stand knitting in the queue in front of the office. Aha, apparently waiting is very common here 😂 In a beautiful “Hospedaje”, as the accommodations are called here, we stay for the night and the next day at about two o’clock we make ourselves on the way in direction of the pass “Punta Pumacocha” which will be the proud record of our trip with 4990asl! 💪 Oh yes, it needs strength to get up this rocky and partly very steep pass. But we did it!!! The sensational view rewards our efforts once more. We go down some meters and cycle on a high plateau, where in the many small ponds birds look for food, among them there are also flamingos to our astonishment. After a late lunch break we tackle the second pass of the day, this time only 4750asl 😉, and arrive at the top just at dusk. Thick rain clouds and rain threads we see horrified in the direction where we have to go. We don’t want to get wet in this cold after this long day and so we camp in the dry on 4600asl, which is our highest sleeping place until now. Already at 19:30 o’clock we lie well packed in our warm sleeping bags.

After a starry but ice-cold night we are grateful for the warming morning sun. The meadow is covered with frost. We drive over a large plateau and at the end of it we roll up our next pass. It is simply beautiful this view and so exciting how the mountains change. The meadows are shown in different shades of green and yellow. In addition, the rock is partly reddish, resulting in a wonderful play of colours. Then finally after the many ups and downs it goes only downhill. Countless serpentines take us to the village of Acobambilla. As soon as we are there and have found an accommodation, it starts to rain. The owner of the Hospedajes confirms us that the shower has warm water. But also here we boil the shower water ourselves. It is impressive that the people here have neither heater nor warm shower. The only warmer place is the kitchen and the bed, otherwise it is cold. In the beds they cover themselves with several blankets, which are warm, but extremely heavy. There we are glad to have our light and warm sleeping bags. After our warm shower, heated with our stove, we enjoy Truchas (trout) with salad and potatoes.
The next morning the alarm clock rings early. We have a long day over two 4700 asl passes ahead of us. At the first pass we make rapid progress. It is a good gravel road. The countless switchbacks down to Vinas hardly want to end. We were really high and now again only on 3500asl. In the next village Jerusalem we buy our lunch and provisions in a small shop. It’s always a surprise what you get. This one has only apples as fresh products. So we have apples-pasta and scrambled eggs for lunch. At lunchtime, a few raindrops fall. Also at the ascent to the next pass it rains from time to time. It is an extremely long pass with partly steep sections. Everything is ridable but we only make slow progress. Today we are constantly pulling our jackets on and off. When the sun is shining, it is immediately hot and when the clouds cover it, it quickly gets cold. Suddenly it thunders and hails from the black clouds above us. Fortunately it doesn’t take too long and we continue to push up meter by meter. Almost at the top we discover a kind of jumping rabbit with long tails, mountain viscachas, in the exciting rock formations and enjoy the breathtaking view of the lake. We are still going higher up. What a long pass! Shortly before we reach the top, it starts hailing again. It is extremely cold! While driving we alternately circle our arms to get our fingers a little warm again. Meanwhile the shower is over and we roll down the many meters of altitude. It gets a little warmer, but also darker the further we get towards the valley. We can barely see anything and we have to bring the last kilometres to the city of Huancavelica with the flashlights behind us. Wow, after 7 hours we arrive in the city and check into a hostel where we enjoy our first warm shower in Peru. We enjoy the “Pollo a la brasa” chicken from the grill with “papas fritas” French fries and salad.

Conclusion of Peru’s Great Divide: With the arrival in Huancavelica we have finished our first stage in Peru. From the website we made “Peru’s Great Divide” with the beautiful own addition from Lima over Quives, Canta, Marcopomacocha and then from Rio Blanca into the proposed trail. The road is usually a good gravel road. On the website the section from Tanta to Vilca is described as hardly drivable. With the new gravel road this is now easy and fast drivable. The pass “Punta Pumacocha” is very exhausting! There the bike must often be pushed. We have cycled a lot in the last year and have seen a lot, but that we like Peru so much, we would never have thought! It is really one of the best.

Total distance: 568.12 km
Max elevation: 4973 m
Min elevation: 71 m
Total climbing: 15956 m
Total descent: -12345 m