As soon as I left Casa de Ciclistas I felt what I had been missing all this time in La Paz – the freedom of cycling. I remember thinking one month into the trip that cycling was perhaps not my way of travelling. Now, I am afraid, I might have got addicted to it. Even now, while I am sitting in a hostel in Cusco and I am about to leave tomorrow I feel restless. Cycling is a peculiar way of moving around. You are tired and sweaty and dirty and sometimes you cannot wait to finally find a camping spot and cook some food in the evening but the next morning you are happy to get moving again. One person wrote on the wall in the cyclists’ apartment in La Paz: “bicycle chain is the only chain that keeps you free”. It is a very true statement, well… maybe motorbike chain could be added into this sentence too.
I left La Paz quite late into the day and had to climb over 400 vertical metres into El Alto. Then I went the wrong way and cycled 30 kms west instead of north-west. Fortunately, I realised my mistake early on and could still take a small gravel road linking the two main hiways. The road to Titicaca was just great, especially that I could again feel the sense of adventure. First a slow gravel road, than a beautiful paved road to the lake and up the mountains through the ‘twisties’, across the strait on a ferry, then up across the mountains and down to Copacabana. I also happened to have had one of the best camping spots on this trip – up in the mountains overlooking the lake. Observing the sunset was just spectacular and I chose the view and bread and cheese for dinner over warm food in a village down the road.
Cycling around the lake in Peru was a bit monotonous in comparison to the earlier trip along a beautiful curvy road at the Bolivian shores of Titicaca, but the ride was still enjoyable. I was in another country, another culture, and even though the changes in people are very often gradual and not determined by the borders, I enjoyed to have come to another country. Half way into the journey I met a nice Chinese couple Bob and Cinderella. These are their European names, of course. I wish I could write their Chinese names here but I do not know how to use Han Chi :) Having planned to cross the hardest route across the Andes from Abancay to Arequipa and needing to pace myself I tagged along and cycled with them all the way to Cuzco. Their pace was a little slower than mine so I could still make progress but not get too tired. I cannot stop pushing myself hard when I cycle alone. However, most importantly, I really enjoyed the company of Bob and Cinderella. Not only did they cook great noodle soups, they were fun to be around. Bob has cycled more than 40,000 kms already on different trips and has now been cycling from Ushuaia. Cinderella joined him on his trip in Santiago having to learn how to ride a bicycle first. I admire the determination :) Since I joined them she started cycling faster, camping more and I got well fed on noodle soups and got a few tips regarding Chinese camping equipment :)
We got to Cusco a little later than I expected as we made a little detour to climb a touristy mountain called Rainbow Mountain (Spanish: Montana Arcoiris) in a pretty little corner of Peruvian Andes called Cordillera de los colores. The hike was nice but many tourists along the way – some of them pissed off at their guides about the fact that it rained and even snowed at the top and they didn’t have rain coats. Well, when you climb a mountain which is over 5,000 m.a.s.l. you should know to expect any condition, especially the rain. Some of the tourists were going up on horses and even getting down on them. What has happened to humans’ ability to roam? Some theories say that walking was the main factor which influenced our transition into homo sapiens. Where is the humanity heading?! ;)
I have now spent a couple days in Cusco to organise the last and the most difficult leg of my trip, which is crossing the Andes from Abancay to Arequipa over some really small dirt-roads recommended by the website Andes by Bike. I shall be crossing two deepest canyons in the world, 6 mountain passes around 5,000 m.a.s.l. and a few smaller ones, many streams, little villages and a whole lot of desolate terrain. You can take a look at the route descriptions
Wish me luck and see you on the other side of the Andes (in the lowlands) :)