the big finale

Posted in travel diary on September 14, 2009 by eva-r'bacher

after several weeks of high altitude and downhill experience one should have expected the last 300 km to be cycling as usual. but we were fatally wrong. many times our map had served us well, indicating passes and and even minor villages on the way, but what we had not taken into account was that the road might wind itself steadily up to 4500 m without any “pass” being there. and then the headwind issue… in short, the passage from juliaca to arequipa turned out to be the toughest of the whole trip. but let’s focus on the pleasant details!

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when we rushed out of juliaca, a commerce town that honestly doesn’t deserve the title “pearl of the altiplano”, the locals warned us once more against crossing a lot of empty grounds on the way. but once more we found the desert-like landscape to be a splendid and calming constrast to the agro-industrial area along the lake titicaca. and once more, on closer inspection the so called pura pampa (“pure desert”) revealed enough populated spots for headwind cyclists to take a break. one of the funkiest tracks of existing population are the brightly colored toilet huts in the middle of nowhere.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

2 months of extensive research on the subject have provided us with proof that every peruvian community or valley has their prevailing toilet hut color. same same but different, the ladie’s headgear:

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

with very few exceptions, peruvian women proudly wear a traditional hat, varying from long top hats to breadbasket-like bonnets or smart casual samples as shown in the picture. also to be seen in the picture, it is very common that women are spinning while walking through the fields and tending their flocks. mostly the wool comes from sheep and…

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

… camel-related creatures like alpacas. this fine and fluffy animal fills the coffers of wool design shops in the whole anden region and – when the story comes to a mortal end – is served in shape of filet or chicharron (“crackling”). sticking to my principle, i don’t eat cute animals, except in very special places. hermelinda’s small mountain restaurant was definitely one of these.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

somewhere on road km 121, high up at 4000 m altitude, doña hermelinda waits for transients to serve them chicharrones de alpaca that come with cooked unpeeled andean potatoes and some roasted corn. the dish was kept warm in a magic basket covered with a wool blanket and tasted simply divine!

not only did hermelinda make our day with her alpaca treat – she insisted on giving us a shining, pretty plastic treasure with a picture of her son bryan and a lot of religious quotes on it. we don’t quite understand on which occasion the thing was issued but we proudly wear it on our front bags and everywhere we passed, people seem to be blown off their feet by its beauty. this was for example the case of doña sixta in the little transit village imata.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

when we stopped for a second cake’n’steak breakfast at the small restaurant siulvi, doña sixta and her husband showed very much interest in the technical details of our bike equipment and more than anything else were ravished by all parts of semi-pagan/semi-religious decoration we carry around. like us, they rely on being protected by the bolivian virgin of copacabana, garanteed by various red-yellow-green plastic lampions.

another group of locals that our lucky charm managed to bewitch were the 50 inhabitants of the tiny village crucero alto, located at sensational 4528 m altitude. after a bucolic but none the less quite horrible day of riding at 4000+, uphill and against a storm, we were more than happy to put up our tent inside the former school of crucero alto.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

the place was very charming and very turquoise, the people strange but nice. while we found the 5:45 a.m. appearance of our man of confidence to be slapstick but understandable – he bumped into the room shouting “hey gringo, estoy saliendo al campo!” (“hey white guy, i’m off to the field!”) and bumped out again – we were unable to understand why the 20 sqm room was divided in two halves.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

we were only entitled to use the half right from the blue line, while the other half staid empty. well. at least the full moon was complete and had no blue line on it.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

the question may arise why we didn’t enjoy romantic camping under the full moon and would set up a tent inside a turquoise ex-school with a strange blue line. the answer is easy but difficult to visualize: the famous high plateau we were crossing is haunted by infamous storms and offers very little natural shelter, like these ruins that – after another long day of uphills and downhills with strong headwind – we considered a gift of heaven.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

more likely, the ruins may have been a rare gift of peru rail, as they were located right at a railroad crossing. although it was stated in another place that the only means to reach machu picchu across the sacred valley is by railroad, trains are rarely seen in peru, and except the “tourist connection” between cuzco and machu picchu and a rare passenger train between cuzco and puno, there are about 2 or 3 freightliners daily from puno to arequipa.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

what a pity indeed: so photogenic but so rare! we had to stop evertime a train was passing – with sparkling eyes and lense.

another reason why we made little progress these days were the countless animals populating the national parc on the way to arequipa. the area is very famous for its bird population. besides large flamingo colonies that give the lakes a pink touch, many vultures make great appearances in the sky and somehow always manage to escape the camera. here we go with one nice shot, but you’d better not ask how often we had to stop in order to get one…

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

the andean all time cuties are of course our friends, the fluffy vicuñas:

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

the small herd in the picture has chosen a fine setting to pose: the national parc plateau is limited on one side by the volcano mt. misti and the impressive mountain range of mt. chachani. rising at the horizon with its 6075 m like an unsurmountable wall, chachani had bewitched sebastian to an extent that until we stood at the summit there was little talk about anything else. [more about the chachani challenge in the next article]

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

mt. chachani is maybe the most splendid herald of arequipa, located on the other side of the mountain range. but until we could enjoy the pura bajada (“downhill only”) that had been predicted by locals many miles ago we still had to surmount a few challenges. of course the last 2 months have tought me not to believe people if they use the word pura (“only/pure”). there is no such thing as “desert only” or “downhill only”. but somehow i took the bait and believed the nice restaurant keeper who was swearing repeatedly that it was only “una pequeñita subidita mas” (“one more minuscule little uphill part”). well, at the latest since the fourtyseventhandahalf steep uphill section after this prediction i know how to translate the wording of a latino car driver…

hasta luego!

la paz, ohlalalinda!

Posted in travel diary on September 6, 2009 by eva-r'bacher

it’s been less than a week since we left la paz – canonically referred to as oh linda! (“oh pretty!”) – and we already miss the pretty one quite badly. not even arequipa, highly praised by so many, has been able to seduce us the way la paz did. so instead of reporting about the pleasures and treasures of the second important peruvian tourist destination let me deliver with a little delay a few more pictures and words about la linda.

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the most capturing aspect of la paz is surely its breathtaking situation, nestled in a picturesque valley. from whatever spot in the city you can always get a glimpse of one of the densely developed mountain sides or some snow-covered 6000 m high peaks.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

its  geographical position may be a wonderful gift but proves to be a two-edged sword, at the latest when a short promenade round the corner turns into a laborious expedition. unless you keep to one of  the streets parallel to the large central avenida, it’s either uphill or downhill.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

with every little walk turning into a serious climb, it’s not surprising that the (rare) tourists nearly exclusively stick to a combination of climbing boots and outdoor clothes. their appearance stands in stark contrast to the local fashion choices, varying from a combination of tiny miniskirts and high heels worn by high school girls to the colorful traditional costumes including pleated skirts and hats for young and old, the latter for women and men.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

equally an explosion of colors are the oldtimer busses crusing the steep streets, rivalling with the 4×4 limousines of the rich. just like new and old, modern and antique are coexisting in terms of fashion and means of transport, the city center is the result of a crazy archetectural mix. shining skyskrapers are alternating with colonial style buildings.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

and so, the only way to get a unesco-proof front view shot of the cathedral is to draw it, censoring away the glass-steel tower right behind it.
the central square, plaza murillo, doesn’t only shelter the cathedral but also the parliament and charming old cafés and bistrots like café paris that i’d love to reopen once i’m retired.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

across the square from café paris where the local intelligentsia surely used to discuss politics, the presidential palace is located. the first time we passed it, we witnessed about hundred people queueing in on the outside. i said jokingly, “i’m sure they’re gonna talk to evo morales”. and in fact i found out later that they were…
politics – very important! people don’t only talk to their evo, there is also plenty of discussion and literature about the president.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

it’s not far from politics to pop, a fact that seems to be proved by “evo-lution” t-shirts or small pins showing coca leaf and morales’ portrait or the name of the government party, MAS (“movimiento al socialismo”). besides a lot of expressions favorable of the president, the city walls of la paz and its surroundings also display various forms of socialist and anticapitalist ideology.

an official interpretation of the political ideology in power would look like this:

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

contrasting the colossal painting commissioned on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of independence (1809-2009), this classic anticapitalist graffiti nicens up the facade of some pre-independence building:

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

the literary counterpart of these works could be USAid fuera! (“USAid out of the country!”) or my favorite, the poetic slogan El condor andio acabrá el aguila imperialista! (“The andean condor will finish the imperialist eagle!”).

And while we’re at the bolivian fauna, i may proudly present the cutest and funniest animal omnipresent in the streets of la paz:

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

… the zebra, assisting and replacing police(wo)men, making way for pedestrians in the most charming way ever seen. que linda!

from copacabana to the camino de la muerte

Posted in travel diary on August 31, 2009 by swoitsch

buenas tardes!

we are in bolivia!

copyright: Woitsch/Reinbacher

bolivia welcomed us with a sunny and warm day. though eva insisted everything (!) was different the lake kept dominating the scene. and it did a great job. the southern coast of the lake certainly cast a spell over both of us.

copyright: Woitsch/Reinbacher

in the first night in bolivia we took a walk right at the beaches of copacabana! but in comparison with its famous namesake this one is rather chilly, and a scarf and a warm jacket belongs to the “standard-suit”. we nevertheless enjoyed a meal at the beach while glancing at the sunset.

day two in bolivia saw us crossing the same-named, spectacularly landscaped penisula. at the most narrow point of the lake we embarked on a wooden ferry to finally set foot on bolivian mainland.

copyright: Woitsch/Reinbacher

the bolivians welcomed us very warmly. so we could sleep in the backyard of a primary school right at the shores of the lake, including an extraordinary observant audience – some of the school’s clientel. we hereby salute gregorius – the friendly groundskeeper who let us sleep there and even locked our bicycles in the director’s office!

copyright: Woitsch/Reinbacher

after we got up very early the next morning – school started at 8 o’clock – we “flew” towards la paz: we had tail-wind! hooray! though we arrived exhausted after all in la paz – the entrance to that amazing city is breathtaking. it’s a 12 kilometres’ downhill to the center of the city. from over 4000 metres down to 3600 metres. a basin guarded by snowcapped mountains.

copyright: Woitsch/Reinbacher

it’s a great atmosphere. colonial buildings huddle against skyscrapers, the steep streets lead to small squares with palm trees, where the “la-paz-iens” hold their siesta. small cafés with the charme of the 60’s and 70’s offer salteñas and empanadas. it’s crowded and brisk – but especially during siesta also tranquillo.  la paz is surely a city to spend some time in.

and so we did – with a small exeption. we cycled down the road to the yungas-rainforest, or, as it is more commonly known, the camino de la muerte – “the death road”! as you roam the streets of la paz and get a glimpse of some travel agencies’ advertisements – it seems virtually impossible, NOT to cycle down there. almost everybody offers it. and the tenor is quite heroic: “cycle with us the death road, meet other survivors …” and so on. so we walked right into the oldest agency offering the tour and – met azmar! he gave us all the information possible about the road, how to get there and more. was it a mystical connection between “two shoulders” – he also had injured his left shoulder while biking as i did … however, though we didn’t go with azmar, we’d like to recommend him and gravitybolivia.com for a ride down to the yungas.

to clear some myths: the road was once classified as the most dangerous in the world by the worldbank due to the extraordinary high rate of accidents.  if you go down the road that comes as no surprise. however – the dubious honour to be the most dangerous road of the world now goes to a road in tibet. here in bolivia a new road was built and put into operation two years ago. so the daily traffic on the old road now consists of 5 cars and – a lot of cyclists!

but even without the attribute “most dangerous” – the road is spectacular with a 3650 metres descent in 70 kilometres! it all starts at 4700 metres. the first 30 kilometres are a feast for cyclists: flying down with 60 km/h on good tarmac (… it’s part of the new road).

copyright: Woitsch/Reinbacher

well – it was not all downhill. there is a part where you have to climb for about 8 kilometres. i don’t want to mock anybody – but we were really surprised as we discovered that all companies, selling the “death road survival”, placed their clients’ bicycles on top of their minibusses for those 8 kilometres! not a single kilometre uphill! c’mon! well – there might be reasons …

then the dirt road started …

copyright: Woitsch/Reinbacher

it´s a tiny road wriggling itself down, always very close to the mountains. sometimes it crosses waterfalls, making the piste smeary and unpredictable.

copyright: Woitsch/Reinbacher

it doesn’t require too much imagination – if two busses or even cars met here, every sidestepping is truly dangerous. the numerous crosses along the road speak their own language …

copyright:Woitsch/Reinbacher

today, with the new road, one can really enjoy the breathtaking landscapes – the views, the abysses next to the road, the flora. we could even catch a glimpse of a monkey – that was of course at the end, close to the rainforest.

copyright:Woitsch/Reinbacher

every road comes to an end – so did this one. after 70 kilmetres downhill not only our hands were grateful. the vegetation had considerably changed and at the end we faced the first parts of tropical rainforest. somewhere inside the mighty amazonas is floating down to the atlantic …

copyright:Woitsch/Reinbacher

now we both recover from a small “disturbance” in our stomachs. but in a couple of days we will return to peru and slowly but steadily start our way back to lima.

hasta luego!

yours sebastian and eva

a cycler’s paradise

Posted in travel diary on August 31, 2009 by swoitsch

hola!

after eating ourselves through all the pizzerias and cafés in cuzco we had to do something against our beginning overweight – and so we headed southward, through the altiplano. as the whole region is rich in stories and legends – the legend about the area we were just about to cross goes like this:

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once the first two inca emerged from the lake titicaca. manco capac from the isla del sol. mama ocllo from the isla de luna. they were sent by the gods to bring civilization to the rest of the world. from the lake they embarked on a long journey northward. they eventually arrived in a fertile valley. manco capac tried the ground with his golden staff – and the latter disappeared in the earth. at that place he founded cuzco …

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and it is a wonderful area. for the cyclist it means no more steep rises. the road winds its way through straw-yellow fields and gentle hills.

copyright: Woitsch/Reinbacher

the people here can certainly claim to have brought an old art to perfection: stone graffiti.  though the famous lines of nazca might have inspired them, it  has become a bit … well, weird?! everybody who thinks so writes something onto the mountain. military units are honoured, companies seem to use the mountains as an advertisement-platform, in short: as peter frost (see the earlier post) puts it – it has become a institutionalized ego trip. well – it catches the eye anyway …

copyright: Woitsch/Reinbacher

and we were not alone – if i speak as part of the species “cyclists”. suddenly the roads (and fields) were filled with fellows on two wheels. children on the way to school/home, adults, workers and …

copyright: Woitsch/Reinbacher

… travellers! in just a couple of days we met oliver, a german guy on his way to alaska, seth, a young north-american on his first cycling trip, a dutch couple and three french women on one (!) bicycle! amazing.

copyright: Woitsch/Reinbacher

and not to forget dirk, marco and torsten, who roam the streets of america from seattle to patagonia in their 1952 VW beetle. in those days we hardly had time  to cycle as we spent a lot of time chitchatting along the road. but we don’t want to miss a second. furthermore we stopped in places we never would have thought we would.

but it wasn’t only cyclists and travellers who seemed to appreciate the altiplano. it also seemed a formidable playground for birds of pray. at least two different species came close to the road, eager to take a look at the two cyclists, who all too willingly returned their curious glances. only that our departures were not that elegant …

copyright: Woitsch/Reinbacher

eventually we arrived in puno, a town everybody had warned us of. fortunately puno surprised us. though certainly not a beauty it has something of an atmosphere to offer – as you walk down to the port and wander between the 1000 pedalboats – shaped as dragons, swans, pumas – or sitting in a nice restaurant on the second floor, watching the local skateboard crew training and posing on the main square – the plaza de armas.

copyright: Woitsch/Reinbacher

and of course – there is the lake titicaca. though in puno itself there isn’t a long promenade, we came to enjoy the lake in full when we continued from puno to the peruvian-bolivian border. you always feel like going to take a swim – before you wake up to realise the 9 degrees water temperature and the sometimes icy wind.

copyright: Woitsch/Reinbacher

after 1800 kilometres we arrived at the border of the second country of our andean excursion … bolivia!

unescusco & machu picture

Posted in travel diary on August 22, 2009 by eva-r'bacher

very appropriately, cusco welcomed us with raindrops on the hilltop overlooking the city, but sent us sunshine and a whole bunch of rainbow flags as soon as we arrived in the main square. although i would have liked to think so, this isn’t primarily intended as a sign of solidarity with the international gay pride or peace mouvement. no, here we have a whole department under the rainbow flag.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

cusco, the place that we had presumed for many days and kilometers as one of the highlights of our journey! once the center of the ancient inca empire, now the center of  the peruvian tourism industry or shall we say of national interest? cusco certainly didn’t disappoint us, but where to start?

if we exclude the favela-like suburbs with rivers full of garbage and street children shouting “plata plata!”, cusco is indeed a pearl, splendidly situated in a large valley. the center is twinkling and shining, with more credit card signs than house numbers, beautiful old buildings and streets, hotels, alpaca wool shops, pizzerias and bars everywhere.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

although we were happy to stay in the reasonably prized, nice and central hostel cáceres, we didn’t manage to withstand all temptations the city has to offer. as soon as we left our wonderful old building with the bright blue wooden balconies, we were surrounded by a bataillon of young women shouting “amigo, masaje?” “massage? pedicure?” or travel agents with “machu picchu machu picchu jungle jungle!!!” anyway, we didn’t accept any of the respective offers, bought only a few alpaca wool treasures and tried to focus on buying food only. “food only” – but don’t ask how much we spent on the divine pancake on plazoleta san blas.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

what finally saved us from going bankrupt due to excessive eating was the huge and cheap breakfast at café extra and of course the words of doctor jesus a. castillo lagos, medico cirujano at the centro medico rotario. after some conversation with my dictionary and me, an examination and a blood test, he advised me to have chicken soup and white rice during my stay in cusco and a lot of steak for the rest of my trip. (being a good patient i have my huge piece of meat daily now.)

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

of course, we didn’t only listen to primary drives but also to our deep cultural interests: we stepped into some churches and watched some parades with brass music. and we did go to machu picchu. it cost us the hell a lot of money but was a strong experience, mainly thanks to the help, books and advice we got from my friend amanda and her husband randy who are currently based in cusco with their mountainspirit institute.

according to mandy & randy’s suggestion we took collectivo busses to ollantaytambo, which saved us about $70 (!) each compared to the tourist train and was a lot of fun. part of the way we made on a minibus with a live pig in a bag on the roof top. the pig was not amused, the passengers very much though.

in ollantaytambo we spent half a day in the inca ruins, reading the excellent book exploring cusco by peter frost and admiring the perfectionist stonework. very much d’accord with frost we think that the peruvian authorities’ attempt to prettify the ruins have been quite euh… impressive. unfortunately what they did to ollantaytambo (and machu picchu) goes much farther than archaeology. they somehow rebuilt everthing as it could have been, destroying the site for further research and the visitor’s imagination. anyway, the inca walls are impressive with or without modern archaeologitects’ help.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

my favorite part of our stay in ollantaytambo was however spending the night at anna’s hospedaje pitusalla. anna is a notorious person in the community, known and estimated by everyone for her (feminist) commitment.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

together with her son she walked us through her (organic) fields, told us a lot about unknown plants and her attempt to create an association labeled for organic food. besides 3 fluffy dogs replacing the door bell, anna also keeps chicken and – one of her major income sources – guinea pigs destined to end up on festive dinner tables. on our way back to cusco we were able to taste some cuy in her company. weird but nice.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

still, as i said, the trip wasn’t only about food but about culture too.

under a perfect starlit sky we queued in for the 5 a.m. train to aguas calientes, the only way of transport through the holy valley leading to machu picchu. the backpackers’ train is with $ 31 the cheapest way to get to the site and marks the beginning of a package of infrastructure that is 100% designed for tourists: a shiningly new train station in aguas calientes, an armada of 30 shuttle busses ($ 14) rumbling up and down the mountain to and from machu picchu and then of course the archaeological excavation itself ($ 43). welcome!

thanks to mandy & randy’s advice we first tried to escape the masses rushing into the ruins and spent the whole morning walking up mt. machu picchu through a wonderous savage forest.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

the machu picchu site is not only classified as cultural heritage but also as natural heritage by the unesco. it’s a paradise where hundreds of wild orchidees are blooming. according to historical records those orchidees were once overgrowing the ruins – before the archaeologitects came to prettify them…

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

in the midst of the splendid nature, looking down to the ruins of machu picchu surrounded by a chain of steep mountains, it became somehow understandable why the place was (or is) considered holy.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

after a wonderful picnic on the top of mt. machu picchu we took a deep breath and went down into the site. we enjoyed the lower visitors’ frequency in the afternoon hours with extensive stone-watching accompanied by reading in machu picchu – a selfguided tour.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

also, we couldn’t but watch a lot of people with stupid hats, jumping into forbidden places, shouting around, doing pseudo-spiritual “things”, taking off their t-shirts and other people’s photos – an amazing freak show in the center of a so called “sanctuary”. well…

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

unfortunately, after the anthropologico-cultural expedition a lot of questions still remain unanswered, such as:

  • how big a frequency of persons and busses can the fauna, flora and ruins of the protected site bear?
  • should the access be limited (more expensive? in numbers?) or extended to everyone (cheaper?)?
  • why do the  shuttle busses, labeled “ecologico“, not turn off the engine when waiting?
  • is it necessary to jump half naked and shouting through a sanctuary?
  • and where does all the money go? …

however, one question pressing since a long time has been finally answered: which sound do lamas make?

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

the cute lamas, nicely placed in the main plaza in order to figure on pretty tourist pictures, helped me determine the sound: it is melancholic, very much like the wordless expression of malaise, and at the same time close to the sound of a vibrating cell phone (mp3 proof to follow).

hasta luego!

some superlatives between c & c

Posted in travel diary on August 21, 2009 by eva-r'bacher

after a few weeks of blogophobia we’re back online with only 500 photos and a whole book of impressions to sort out. but as pushing the closing time of an internet café isn’t half as sublime as doing that to a bar, a best-of/worst-of will have to cover the week we spent between chalhuanca and cuzco.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

superlative no. 1
from chalhuanca to abancay we were riding alongside the most beautiful river of the world of the week: turquoise-blue and ice cold, cutting its way through rocks and steep mountain sides covered with agaves and trees where green parrots are nesting. the superlative includes the coldest (but free) bath and the most romantic campground.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

no. 2
wild romantic valleys are one thing, what the vegetation does to the tires is another. the pretty cactuses caused me two flat tires in 12 hours. (to avoid any confusion: yes, he is fixing my flat tire in the picture, but i’m at the same time about to busily run off and discover the most romantic campground, see no. 1).

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

no. 3
we had the best banana milkshake in the nicest countryside restaurant owned by the coolest man of curahuasi (he didn’t bribe us, this is free and honestly meant publicity). the place that saved our day was misky maky (qetchua for “sweet hands”), run by marco and his wife. besides serving us delicious breakfast with nice music, marco gave us a very helpful adress in cuzco and told us about bike races in less than 10 hours from abancay to cuzco. that’s our man!

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

no. 4
although a nice place in picturesque situation, the hot springs of cconoc will be remembered for the most mosquitos per cubic meter, stomach cramps, hot flashes and  the hardest mtb-climb of my life going back to the main road.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

no. 5
anta impressed us as the ugliest town of the cuzco region and also managed to enter the travel memoirs with the maximum of bike taxis, the most drunk and confused waitor, the highest body temperature (i had a 38+ fever night) and the most nostalgic  series on tv – yes, peru is watching viennese comisario rex too.

up up up down down down

Posted in travel diary on August 2, 2009 by eva-r'bacher

during the last few days we had the chance to practice some basic spanish vocabulary. not only thanks to the rather disturbing telenovela with the same title we learned how to ask and understand hay sitio (“there is a place”). poor me, i indulged in the term soroche (“high altitude sickness”). and most important of all we faced subidas (“uphill rides”) and enjoyed bajadas (downhill rides).

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

after two fearful wellness days in puquio, from where we could already get a glimpse on the snow-covered mountains, we climbed up to more than 4000 m altitude, and it was only yesterday, after a 1000 m downhill ride that my feet started defrosting again.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

frankly, the cold from dusk til dawn was quite paralizing, froze the ground and the water in the bottles and sadly enough kept me from star gazing. but the high plateau that previously had been described to us as boring and tyring finally pleased us well.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

after some mate de coca for breakfast (and a sorochi pill in my case), our water bottles filled with coca leaves, we passed twinkling hillsides, but also deep blue lakes with flamingos, sea-gulls and all kinds of camel-related creatures.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

although we had been prepared for a long ride without any place to stay, we were happy to still find cold but not frosted places with a very warm welcome. the first 4000-night, we were invited to sleep in a restaurant, sharing a room with a sensitive rabbit.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

for reasons that i will never understand our friendly host was very eager to swap hats with me.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

i should have done it! anyway, if someone happens to stop at road km 45 between nazca and puquio, please remember to bring a spare hat (as shown in the picture) above for the nice young man.

our second wonderful host was carlos, a lonely hero based in negromayo, trying to introduce health measures for the ministry. while we were waiting for the pueblo’s chief to give us access to our asylum, the sala communal, he granted us a rare insight into many (health) problems of the peruvian mountain area.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

as carlos is in charge of 5 small pueblitos, some of which only can be accessed via dirt road, he owns two motorcycles that unfortunately caused him arthritis. although 4×4 drives and motorcycles are common means of transport on the high plateau, we’ve also come across some weird exceptions, like tuktuks…

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

… and a cross-country biker. no idea what this man was up for, but: respect!

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

the funniest chance encounter we had was probably the gonzalez family, with the chief señor gonzales wearing a cowboy hat and sunglasses. the whole family was celebrating independence day and the end of their collective mountain holidays in a little restaurant in the middle of nowhere.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

from what we’ve learned so far, we can definitely tell that andino people like celebrating, which is not that a big surprise. for us it was however surprising to see what an important role brass music plays in the andino fiesta concept. not only during the fiesta del patrón in lucanas two brass bands challenged each other. yesterday when we arrived in chalhuanca we were welcomed by a crowd carrying the statue of jesús, others firing in the air and of course: a huge brass band.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

since then the streets are filled day and night with slightly melancholic music, followed by dancing, jumping, running and drinking people. all hostels are filled too, and we only managed to find a room thanks to 4 american cyclists who decided to take a break here as we did for one and the same reason: it’s corrida time!

[vegetarians, vegans and strict fighters for animal rights please don’t scroll farther]

corrida andina. we were there. es allegría!

what looks a bit like the scenery of a soccer game is also very close to it, has however more elegance and tragedy to offer. and of course a brass band who is playing all afternoon between the “acts”.

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

in the beginning and the end of the show, as well as after the death of a bull, the whole family who had bred the toro de muerte dashes into the arena, singing, waving, dancing (and drinking beer).

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

of course, not only the dead hero is celebrated. here is our favorite surviver (in pink):

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

very classy, very graceful. very queer too. and of course very courageous…

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

after the bull fight we celebrated the fact that we are currently staying in inhabited farm land with a high density of restaurants. once again we had our plato favorito bisteck a lo pobre (“the poor man’s steak”):

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

but of course we are politically correct enough to not extinct the whole peruvian fauna on our dinner table. as of tomorrow we’ll be on our vegetarian camping diet again…

(c) Reinbacher/Woitsch

hasta luego!

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