September 2016 archive

Huaraz, Chan Chan and to Ecuador

First stop-off was Huaraz, high in the Cordillera Blanca. The town is a nucleus for international hikers, climbers and skiers, plus anyone else keen to visit the national parks and their stunning scenery.

We spent a day up at the Pastoruri glacier, happy to be in glorious nature once again, though saddened to witness the constant meltwater running off the glacier’s sides. Rising temperatures have caused half of it to disappear over the last twenty years, and may lead to it melting completely within the next decade. It makes a sad symbol for what rising global temperatures are doing to the planet’s ice, and for what we can expect to happen if the trajectory isn’t altered.

Pastoruri

Pastoruri

The following day was a three hour hike through the Huascarán National Park and up to the famous Laguna 69. The trail follows a river along a mossy green valley floor before hitting switchbacks that take you to a plain. Crossing the plain, you climb more switchbacks as the scenery changes with the altitude from green to rocky grey until you top out at 4,600 metres to be rewarded with your first view of the lake. Deep, flawless turquoise shines up like an enchanted mirror, reflecting the ice covered peaks and slopes of scree that hug the sides.

Laguna 69

Laguna 69

It’s a magical place. We stayed long enough to enjoy a slow lunch, take photos and rest deeply, content to let the time pass in such peaceful surroundings. For anyone hoping to visit Peru, I can wholeheartedly recommend the Huascarán National Park and the Laguna 69 hike.

But we couldn’t stay forever. We caught another bus, this time on to Trujillo. We were there to visit the ancient ruins of Chan Chan.

Chan Chan is the largest pre-Columbian city in South America and was the capital of the Chimor Empire from AD900-1450, until the mighty Inca Empire assimilated it. The ruins are particularly impressive in that they are all made from adobe – essentially air-dried mud. It’s remarkable the mighty walls and carved intricate detailings are still standing today. And it was fun to walk along the mazy streets, imagining the bustling scenes that would have been playing out before us in this once powerful city.

a gateway in Chan Chan

a gateway in Chan Chan

and detailed wall carvings

and detailed wall carvings

And finally onto Piura, where we are now, and where we will, in a few hours, finally be getting back onto our bikes. It’s been a big break, these past couple of weeks, and not one that we’d expected. I’m considering it Half Time. After all, I’ve ridden 6,400 miles and, with the detour through Belize on the cards, have a further 6,000 to ride. Now, I’d better get some sleep.

Vida! Saúde! Felicidade!

Mike

As ever, if you’ve enjoyed reading these posts, or if you see value and a challenge in this trip, or if you’d simply like to support a wonderful cause, it would be great if you drop a little sum towards my fundraising goal for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Head over to https://www.justgiving.com/Mike-Edmondstone/ to get involved. Thanks 🙂

Lima and a change of plan

After picking up the new tyres, we made the 60mile hop from Mala into the madness of Lima.

The drivers of Peru are undoubtedly the most crazy we’ve come across: swerving left and right across the lanes, no indication, apparent disregard for cyclists and all the while hammering away at their horns as though the sound itself makes them happy. Cycling through this city of more than 8 million people was one of the more stressful rides on the trip.

But Rita – our host for the week – immediately made us feel welcome and calm with her warm nature and easy smile. We were given a room in the garage of her family home, right next to a bike shop that she runs with a few friends, and were told to make ourselves comfortable.

We were so comfortable that week, with the space and facilities to cook, do our laundry, watch the telly. And we ate Rita’s delicious soul food with her children, husband and friends all together at the table. We were made to feel fully at home: something very special when on the road.

And Rita – a passionate cyclist – introduced us to a few of her many cyclist friends. We took an afternoon to all tour together around the sights of Lima, visiting galleries, museums and churches along the way. Lima is a tough town to ride in, but with us safely visible in a group of 15, the cars and busses were forced to take notice!

the gang

the gang

It was Rita’s suggestion that we change up our plan for the trip. The rest of Peru’s coast, she assured us, was equally as uninspiring as what we had already seen. Much better, she insisted, would be to take a bus back into the mountains and visit some of the stunning scenery there, before bussing up to Ecuador, stopping off to visit the ancient ruins of Chan Chan along the way. The 800 miles we skipped riding could be made up for somewhere more exciting: Belize!

streets of Lima

streets of Lima

We listened to wise Rita’s intelligent words. And decided to bus much of the remaining miles through Peru, so that we can head east through Guatemala and spend time in the Yucatan Peninsular and the Caribbean coast.

It was an easy choice to make.

Vida! Saúde! Felicidade!

Mike

As ever, if you’ve enjoyed reading these posts, or if you see value and a challenge in this trip, or if you’d simply like to support a wonderful cause, it would be great if you drop a little sum towards my fundraising goal for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Head over to https://www.justgiving.com/Mike-Edmondstone/ to get involved. Thanks 🙂

Grey along the coast, ancient artwork

We were excited when leaving Arequipa. We would be hitting the coast for the first time since Chile and thoughts of warm nights, sea breezes and fresh fish put a renewed vigour in our pedals.

It’s a wonderful feeling, freewheeling for hours at a time on a descent to sea level, and we finally felt we would be smashing the miles along somewhat flat coastal roads up to Lima and beyond to the Ecuador border.

The Pacific mist that barrelled inland at twilight on the day we reached shore did nothing to cloud our optimism. There would surely be bright sunshine come morning. And, being the Tropics, there must be lush tropical scenery: palm trees, exotic birds, bright plumes of foliage.

But as we clambered out the tent the next day, it became clear that the Peruvian coast at the tail end of the winter is as grey as it is monotonous. Hundreds of miles of featureless desert: monochrome brown rock slipping into green grey sea. The birds I was hoping for were somewhere else. Anywhere else. Not even a seagull on that easily forgotten stretch of land.

So when my rear and spare tyres both irreparably ripped on a typically uninteresting patch of uninteresting road, well, I can’t say I was too upset.

I had had two spare tyres (made by Schwalbe – the daddy of bike tour tyres) sent to Mala a few weeks back. There would be no point in me buying fresh tyres now, as Mala was just over 400 miles up the road.

So we hitchhiked. It took us two days to reach Nazca. Not bad for a distance that would have taken a week to ride. We arrived in Nazca safely, ready to take the bus on to Mala.

waiting for a lift

waiting for a lift

DIY sign

DIY sign

on duty

on duty

The Lines

I’d been looking forward to visiting the mysterious Nazca Lines for months. I, like many others, had let my imagination off the leash in wondering about the huge figures that were carved into the desert floor all those centuries ago. Could they be astrological symbols? Images of deities? An elaborate calendar?

And how had ancient man created these wonderful scenes?

Mysteries are so much more exciting than the reality, aren’t they? We saw the lines. I was disappointed. Far from being a mystery, they are simple shallow grooves scraped across a veneer of small red rocks, revealing the whiter rock underneath. The arid climate has helped preserve the artwork.

And to me it is clear: it is simply artwork. Anthropologists have sweated for decades over what the purpose of the lines could be. But surely the answer is obvious – perhaps too obvious to be believable – the Nazca People wanted to create art. And in this case, their canvas happened to be the desert floor. They made images of birds, a spider, a human, a whale and hundreds more simply because they observed the natural world and wanted to recreate it in artwork.

Worth seeing? I wouldn’t go out of my way for them.

On to Lima!

Vida! Saúde! Felicidade!

Mike

As ever, if you’ve enjoyed reading these posts, or if you see value and a challenge in this trip, or if you’d simply like to support a wonderful cause, it would be great if you drop a little sum towards my fundraising goal for the Teenage Cancer Trust. Head over to https://www.justgiving.com/Mike-Edmondstone/ to get involved. Thanks 🙂

underwhelmed by the lines

underwhelmed by the lines