La Paz – Cuzco – “Eight French” (16.5.-21.5.2011)

Yyiihaaa. On my way to Cuzco I realized, that if I want, I can end my South American struggle very soon. And so I did. I really didn’t enjoy cycling in South America anymore, and so I did the best decision: Stopped my etappe in Cuzco, and got ready for a bus ride to Lima.

I have 12 days before my flight from Lima to Montreal (via Mexico city), so I can enjoy this enchanting city of Cuzco. If somebody doesn’t know (and don’t be ashamed, because I had no clue), Cuzco (or Cusco or Qusqu) was a capital city of Inka’s, before the Spanish arrived and estabilished Lima. Cuzco has amazing cultural volume not only thanks to the Inka’s culture but also thanks to the Spanish impact to the city. And, not to forget, Cuzco is the base place for excursions to many historically improtant places of Inka Empire, f.e Machu Picchu.

But before I’ll decide which budget bug (entrance itself is 50$ not mentioning the transport) option I’ll choose to check out this “lost city”, I can tell you a bit about the stretch from La Paz to Cuzco- as it was not a 100% boring ride.

La Paz- Copacabana (Lake Titicaca) (2 days -150km)

The stupid thing about La Paz is, that the 11km long downhill you’ll cruise to the city center is also  the 11km long uphill you’ll sweat back up. As I finally reched the upmost part, I met this French cyclist couple dragging two trailers behind them. But not just any trailers, but trailers with small kids in them. Whoa! Only French poeple could do something like this :).

After small chit chat, or should I say- chité chaté,  I continued towards Lake Titicaca. The road was ok, wind ok, my condition ok. So yes, the day was not so special until I reached a village where I decided to sleep over.

 Ok, Imagine this.

There is a village near a lake (not Titicaca), which is supposingly a local Nice (as much as Lada is Russian Chevrolet). It’s off-season so most of the lodgings are closed except this one hotel at the “plaza”. It’s not a hotel actually, more of a pension or “zimmer frei”-style place. The gate is closed, but the three-tooth-old-lady selling groceries next to the hotel says that she’s the owner. She is a big woman sitting on a ground and knitting, so she shouts her husband to open the gate. The husband is three times smaller than his wife, owns probably same amount of teeth, but is the one who can move around. A comical debate takes place, (I have difficulties to understand Spanish even from a “full jaw” person) ater which they decide to give me a slightly overpriced room. The tiny man starts to open the doors, searching and loosing the keys now and then, but finally managing to show me the slightly overpriced room. It’s a nice room with three beds, a table and a girl calendar (big thing in Bolivia and Peru). But then the strange thing happens. The old man says good night (it’s just 6p.m) and locks me inside the pension. Yes, I have some snacks on me, and the toilets are inside the builiding too, but what kind of a hotel locks their customers inside?????  Well, I bang the door and try to ring some bells and soon the old man comes with his keys to open the gates again. It isn’t wise to start argue with this man, so I just walk 2,5km to the nearest “hot dog” stand (salchipapas) and go back to my cage to sleep.

OK, you can stop imagining.

The next morning I had to again bark like a dog to set free from the pension, but very soon I was on the road again. This day was only 60km to Copacabana. The road was very pretty, including one ferry ride over this small gulf. If a snail could swim (can they?) it would’ve probably without effort overtaken us, but what can you expect from a car ferry, which is run with a single motor?

In touristy Copacabana I treated myself (foodwise, not sleepingwise). I went to a restaurant which accepted  MasterCard and ordered first Lasagne, then Nachos with Chicken, and finally fruits with a yoghurt. I paid maybe ten euros in total, but decided not to add this amount in my budget – it was MasterCard-not me:)

bicycle boat train jeep/bus plane

Copacabana-Puno (141km)

“The road is blocked”, I heard. “After the border crossing,  demonstrators apparently blocked the road”. Some govermental rich people wanted to dump some mine waste into Titicaca and obviously this thing was not tolerated by locals.  The Irish man who told me this, ran a very nice coffee shop in “Copa” and adviced me to inform the police that I’m going to Puno. “I’ll see” – I replied and head for the frontier. The border formalities went smoothly, there were lots of backapckers crossing the border too. But the difference was that they were obliged to continue to Puno by boat (or walk 70km to the nearest town buses were going). The policeman adviced me to take the boat too, but I played cool and said that I’ll be ok. I didn’t know how long the blockage would be. First I thought until the main road which was 30km…but in the end it was that 70km which some locals actually walked and hitch hiked with motorbikes -other vehicles just couldn’t pass. There was glass from bottles, rocks, burned tyres, poles, trees, bushes and other strange objects shattered along the road. My heroic Schwalbe tyres lasted these obsticals but it was the angry demonstators I was scared of.

For no reason.  Maybe the demonstators treated their enemies differently (and they probably did), but for cyclist coming from far away these workers were very friendly and hospitable. Actually I met another french couple (two guys) going the opposite way, and they had the same experience. All we had to do was smile at them, say Buenos dias/ Buenas tardes, maybe tell them where we were coming from or going to and they showed us the best way how to pass the mass of rocks and sand they had shoveled on the road. So in the end I was fine the whole blocked 70km, and the last 60km to Puno was just a breeze. First I checked-in in a pricey hotel, but when the shower was just few drops from the tube I checked out- and went to this super nice (and cheaper) guest house. Unfortunatelly the night was spoiled a bit by the fact that I forgot my Petzl head torch in the hostel in Copacabana- another thing to put into the “missing” list. More about the demonstrations you can read here.

Puno-Cuzco (3 days -380km)

Firstly I planned five days to get from Puno to Cuzco. Having experiences from Bolivia, riding more than 100km per day was too optimistic. But then I heard from a local cyclist, that he cycled from Cuzco to Puno in two days. So, knowning that five days is too much and two days is just insane, I set a goal to make it in three days.

First 70km was going fast, until I met the third french couple on my way from La Paz to Cuzco (making the 7th and 8th French, if the kids were included). Julien and Sandrine were having a lunch break and invited me to have some grapes with them (no wine or baguettes). Being in a small hurry I ate my brunch more like a German than a French, and said goodbye to this nice English speaking couplé. They were not in a hurry or speedy bikers (like f.e Nedo), so they wanted to reach that day just the village 30km away.

But faith came in between. The paving turned into a Romanian style highway, the wind completing the frustration. 15km of this crap road made me change my plans and likewise to stop at the village just 30km away. I arrived only 25min. before the French couple, we found a nice pension, and had a delicious dinner together ( they had trouch with lenses, I had pasta with tomatoes – but yes, it was super good!)

The second day of this stretch I again said au revoir to Julien and Sandrine, who again were not in a hurry and  were finishing their breakfast when I was already tightening my shoes. I wanted to start cycling quite early to catch the lost kilometres from the previous day. With good results. The road got better and the wind was helping me as well. Not to mention that the ups and downs were nothing comparing to Armenia or Bolivia. There was just one pass going up to 4330m, but if you are coming from 3900m, it’s just 400 metres of climbing- piece of cake:) I reached the town I wanted to reach, found a cheap place and cheap food and had a cheap sleep. Cheap.

Third day brought no Ninjas or Ufos. Or at least they were well hidden. I strated even earlier this day to reach Cuzco by daylight and with motivation (to stop my etappe in Cuzco) I cycled the last 140km in avg. speed of more than 18km/h. I arrived to Cuzco before 3p.m, found a nice hostal and enjoyed the feeling of “arriving”.

If you are bothered why I’m suddenly writing these stories which are not possible to read in three minutes anymore, the reason is that the internet is very cheap here and I’m feeling kind of a home sick after 10,5 months of traveling. Also, the stories are for me more adventurous than in Eurasia (apshalt, asphalt, asphalt). Don’t be troubled though, my stories will get probably shorter in North America again 🙂

ps. I will add some updated pictures of this stretch later on, I asked those French people to take some pics and send them to me. And if you haven’t yet read the story of my lost phone on Ovi Blog, do it now…

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One Comment

  1. Dave Edwards
    Posted June 6, 2011 at 11:24 am | Permalink | Reply

    Love the stories Lukas, keep em coming and keep em long, it brightens up my day!

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