Peru

Last days in Peru


Once back to Cuzco Vasile realized his clutch had problems. He saw some symptoms while riding to Machu Picchu, some hard shifting in the gear box, but he was concerned that there might have been something wrong with the gear box. In Cuzco, while stopped at a red light, he saw his clutch master cylinder leaking.  So he did some adjustments and it worked a bit better. When we got to the hostel and he opened the clutch, there was no fluid left.  So we stayed in Cuzco until the next day so he could  fix the problem.

He started looking online for solutions. The solution found online was olive oil. But a mechanic at a local motorcycle dealership told him that baby oil actually works better. So as you can see, Pharmacies are not just for humans, you can buy treatment for the bikes too:) And it seems like Vasile’s baby likes baby oil, since it works perfectly now.

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Once all fixed we jumped on the bikes and headed to Puno. We left our friends Chris and Stephanie behind, as they still had some things to take care of in Cusco. We left around 1:30 pm and we were told there are around 7 hours drive. On bikes it always takes us less. Leaving Cuzco there was a festival on the road, so we managed to have a glance of some beautiful local costumes and dances.

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The pass over the mountain was cold, wet at times, but beautiful. We reached 4300 m altitude at some point. We saw all sorts of ruins on the way, some looked like abandoned churches.

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As the weather was quite capricious and kept changing from sun to rain and rain to sun, we had the chance to see some beautiful rainbows embrace the mountains and the plateau.

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When we got hungry we had to go a bit out-of-the-way and into a city to grab some lunch, as we couldn’t find anything on the side of the road.

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It appears in the mountains the day is shorter, as the sun hides behind the mountains earlier. It started getting dark, but we were close, so we decided to keep going. We got to Puno around 7 pm and it was dark already. The challenge was now to find a hotel, since there was a big festival going on, and most of them were full. At least the ones with decent prices.

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While I was watching the bikes waiting for Vasile, a policeman approached me and told me to be very careful, as there were  lots of delinquents around, especially due to the celebrations going on in town. Yes sir!

We managed to find a hotel and pampered ourselves with the warm alpaca wool blankets until we fell asleep.

The next day we wanted to go see the floating islands. The owner  of the hotel recommended us not to take a tour, as it was more expensive, but to go directly to the dock and take  a boat from there. And here we are in this “lancha” floating towards the floating islands:)

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It is unbelievable what these Uru people have made there. These people used to live in boats, and now they have built all these islands using bundles of  dried totora reeds and they have to maintain them every 15 days adding new reeds, as the ones at the bottom of the island rot very quickly. Everything on the islands is made of totora reeds: the houses, tools, boats. The mothers have to keep their babies attached at all times, otherwise they could fall in the water anytime. Some really interesting life they have there!

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The boat they call “Mercedes Ben(z)” as it is their luxury boat:)IMG_5555 IMG_5562

I don’t think Vasile could live in one of their houses, he wouldn’t be able to stretch:)

IMG_5565Peruvianized:)
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And this is how a hostel looks like on the island.

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Cute little playful cat
IMG_5600Back to the mainland in Puno we were fortunate to see bits of the Festival de la Virgen de la Candelaria. Hundreds of groups from different villages gathered here to compete in costumes and dances.

IMG_5531 IMG_5535And guess whom I met here too? My best friends from Ice Age:)

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That day on the floating islands we kept seeing the locals applying sunscreen. And we were thinking “what the heck, it’s not even sunny, plus they are dark enough, they won’t burn”. But then we noticed they all had their faces sun-burnt, which we found quite weird. At the end of the day both Vasile and I were feeling really weird, nauseous, low energy and we were having chills. When we got to the hotel and in the shade of the room we realized that I had raccoon face and Vasile’s face was all red too. We got a serious sun burn! Vasile was feeling even worse, since he had had an upset stomach for the past few days, so his body was weakened. We went to bed early planning to leave the next day and head to the border, and then to La Paz, Bolivia.

The next day when we woke up Vasile was like brand new, like nothing happened (I wish I was an iron man too), but I was even worse. If I’ll ever really hate anyone, I will wish them to have the Montezuma’s Revenge. I could not leave the room at all, I was having fever and chills too (probably from the sunburn the day before), my whole body was aching as if I had the flu, so we could not head to the border. I spent the whole day in the hotel room, hoping to get better. The next day I was feeling a little bit better, at least well enough to leave the room, and we headed to the border. It was the easiest border crossing in the whole trip. In half hour we exited Peru and entered Bolivia, at no cost other than 5 soles for some municipal fee.

Bolivia, here we come!

Categories: Peru | Leave a comment

One of the Seven Wonders of the World


This post is dedicated to my wonderful former manager, Marian Wong – it would have been awesome to do this together.

We got to beautiful historical Cuzco, with its narrow one way cobblestone streets. The riding through this city was a nightmare though.

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We stayed there for two days, just enough to walk around, see the city and take some pictures and for Chris to do some minor maintenance on his bike.

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We decided not to take the tour to Machu Picchu, since it was $250 USD per person, but to ride the bikes there instead. We decided to leave my bike in Cusco and ride two up, so we wouldn’t have to worry about putting two bikes in a safe place while going up to Machu Picchu. So the plan was to ride to Santa Teresa, leave the bikes there (the only place where we could leave the bikes in a safe place), then take a bus from there to the Hydroelectric Plant, and then take the train or walk for 12 km to Aguas Calientes.

The ride to Santa Teresa was amazing, twisty road going trough the mountains up to 4316 m altitude and then down to the jungle on the other side.

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At some point it  turned into gravel road, pretty narrow and far up from the river:)

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Some landslides on the way, thank god on the other side of the river.

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In Santa Teresa we left our bikes at a hostel and we took a minivan to Hidroelectrica. From there our friends Chris and Stephanie took the train up, and Vasile and I decided to walk the 12 km through the jungle to Aguas Calientes. Despite the many blisters I got on  my feet, I was very happy we did it, since the walk was very nice through the jungle, fresh drizzle and rain.

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Got to Aguas Calientes and we were impressed: this little village was way more than we were expecting.

IMG_5239 IMG_5241 IMG_5235 IMG_5398 IMG_5400 IMG_5409 IMG_5413This is a cute little girl who started playing with Vasile. She went in 30 seconds from smiling at him to jumping on his lap and playing with him:) I love Peruvian kids, they’re so cute!

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Once in Aguas Calientes we went right away to buy the tickets for Machu Picchu and Huayna Picchu (also known as Wayna Picchu), and the guy tells us that there are no more tickets for the next day for Huayna Picchu (they only allow 400 people a day, in two groups). The only ones available were three days later. Than he starts talking in circles about how he can try to book us for the next day, but he cannot guarantee etc. I kept asking him if he can give me a direct answer, is it possible for the next day or not, and he was going on and on again about how his system works, that he can try, but he cannot guarantee, to the point he made me believe that I didn’t understand Spanish anymore, since he wasn’t making any sense. I guess he just wanted a little tip and as we didn’t catch on, he got frustrated and eventually said “ok, here are your tickets for tomorrow”. So I guess it wasn’t really full for the next day after all. We were so happy we got the tickets for both mountains, as we heard amazing things about Huayna Picchu.

The tickets for Huayna Picchu were for 7 am. So as we had to hike to Machu Picchu first and we had to be there at 6 am, we decided to wake up at 4:30 am, so we have enough time to get ready and to do the 15-20 minutes walk to the gates, before they open at 5.

As I was so excited about it, in the middle of the night I woke up and I figured it should be late enough and was afraid that Vasile’s alarm wouldn’t ring, so I woke Vasile up and asked him what time it was. “5 to 4”. Oh, good, we have another half hour. Fell asleep again and woke up again a little bit later. “What time is it?” “Oh, shoot, it’s 5!!! Let’s go, let’s go!” You can imagine how we jumped out of beds and into our clothes, didn’t even use the washroom:) Outside we started to feel kind of weird: it was dead, just us on the streets. “Maybe no one is as crazy as us to wake up at 4:30 to do Macchu Picchu” “Impossible, out of the 2000 people who go up there daily, there must be at least some”. Power walk to the gate in the peach dark, absolute silence and drizzle. Weird, no one on the road either. Did the time change maybe? Since we are on vacation, we never know what day of the week or what date it is, or when the time changes, since we don’t watch the news:) We got to the gate – closed. Vasile : “Hold on a second” and he starts pressing the buttons of his fancy wrist watch. “Oh shoot, I looked at the wrong screen, I got the wrong time. It’s only 2:25 am!” Beautiful! So we decided that we didn’t want to stay in the rain for 2 hours, and we walked back to the hotel. My feet and blisters loved me for that.

So back to the hotel, try to sleep for another hour. Wake up again, “what time is it?”, get ready, walk out….oh wait, I just had a deja-vu. I feel like I’ve done this before. Except when we got to the gate, is was open this time. So here we start hiking to Machu Picchu. Well, it’s no easy hike, that’s for sure. Very challenging, steep steps through the jungle (for my Vancouverite friends, more challenging than the Grouse Grind), and to top it off, it started pouring. The whole way we were thinking about Alin, Vasile’s brother, who would have probably run up those stairs “Dude, I did it in 27 minutes!” 🙂

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When we got up there, it was quite foggy, so I was about to give up on the Huayna Picchu hike, since I figured I wouldn’t be able to see anything anyway and the idea of resting my feet a bit was very enticing, but Vasile was determined to hike it anyway, so I let myself convinced:) And was I ever happy I did! Machu Picchu was spectacular, but Huayna Picchu is out of this world! The hike was even steeper, there were sections where I had to hold onto the rope on the side, and the trail was so narrow that it did not allow for wrong steps. I think I just discovered in this trip that I have fear of heights, since I was getting dizzy if I was looking down. Here’s some pictures to back up my words (in the meantime the fog cleared up).

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View of Machu Picchu from Huayna PicchuIMG_5321 IMG_5325 IMG_5331 IMG_5340

As the fog cleared up, we went back to Ciudad Inca Machu Picchu; we spent a lot of time there just admiring the ingenious ruins and taking pictures. Even though it is so incredibly touristy and so busy, Machu Picchu will never be overrated. It just blew us away. The whole walk for 12 km and the one hour hike to Macchu Picchu and another hour to Huayna Picchu were so well worth it.

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Macchu Pichu (Ciudad Inca) with Huayna Picchu in the backIMG_5370 IMG_5374

The next day we walked back the 12 km to the Hidroelectrica, and then took a minivan back to Santa Teresa to pick up our bike.

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As there were some hot springs nearby, we decided to go and camp there instead of going to a hotel. When we got there, all the locals advised us not to camp there, as it is the rainy season, and there are regular mudslides that cover the road, so we can get stuck there until the machine comes to fix it, which sometimes can take a whole day. As Chris and Stephanie had quite a bit of food with them and we had some snacks, we decided that we wouldn’t mind if we got stuck there and we had those beautiful hot springs just for ourselves:) After the wild ones in Guatemala, these were the best hot springs we have ever been to. Very clean and nice. And the next day in the morning we realized that they actually replace the water and clean the pools every day.

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So after a couple of lazy hours in the hot springs we went to set up our tent and we noticed we had company. There was one local family camping right next to us. Very nice people: the next day they offered us cheese and coca mate, while the dad played their traditional flute and the little daughter offered us a tentative of a dance show. That was so cute. Then shake of hands and off we go back to Cuzco to pick up my bike.

Categories: Peru | 1 Comment

From the sand dunes to the high mountains


Peru turns out to be an amazing country. It’s got it all: from the sandy desert to the beautiful green mountains. And I love the traditional Peruvian outfits that everyone is wearing.

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The pass we went over on the mountain on the way to Lima was at 4082 m altitude, so we were starting to acclimatize pretty well after so many days riding at over 3000m in Ecuador and Peru.

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There was actually a village up there, at over 4000 m, by a nice lake.
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And of course we saw more accidents on the road.

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And this is how you fix it here.

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On the other side of the mountains we hit desert again and with it the heat. Lima impressed us in several different ways. As many other cities in Central and South America, there is an awful side of Lima, and a really nice, fancy side of it. We went through both, and we stopped in the nice side of it. The traffic was horrendous, but we survived. It was the first city in our trip where I saw Mercedes Benz and Audi SUV.

The next day we woke up early and rode around Lima to find a motorcycle dealerships as Chris was needing badly a rear tire. And since we were there, Vasile decided to change his front tire too if he found a KTM dealership. After riding around for hours we managed to find a KTM dealership (I guess unauthorized yet, since it was well hidden, no big signs outside, just the orange colour of the building with some white tire marks on it. We found it right when we were about to give up and leave. The guys there were more than nice and they let us do all the work in front of their shop, so Vasile bought some oil from them and did an oil change on my bike and also got a front tire for his bike.

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We managed to leave Lima around 1 pm. And on our way we found this winery.

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We tried all the different kinds of wine. They were pretty good, but all very sweet. Peruvians like the sugar. They had only one kind of dry wine, so we bought some at an incredible price (10 soles per gallon – this is about $4 USD) and off we go.

We finally got to our destination for the day, the Oasis in Ica, at about 6:30 pm, starving and tired (we only had breakfast at 8 am that day). And this is how a real oasis looks like.

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The next day we had some fun activities. First we climbed up some tall, steep sand dunes. It is so funny, it feels like walking up on an escalator that goes down. You take one step and it slides down half way, so you climb for five minutes and when you look back you realize that you only advanced 10 m. But it’s fun. Except the fact that if you don’t have proper shoes, you pretty much grill your feet. It’s so amazing to look around and see just sand dunes, nothing else.

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And except the wind at the top of the dunes. If you don’t keep your mouth closed, you will be chewing sand for many days after.

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Here is what the combination of sand and wind can do.

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Later that day we took a tour in a buggy on the sand dunes. It was incredibly fun; that driver really new what he was doing. We stopped to do sand boarding, which was a totally interesting experience.

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We drove up and down on some really steep sand dunes and we screamed of the top of our lungs …and then laughed when we heard others screaming:)

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We watched the sunset.
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And then back to the oasis and party. We deserved it, we had a tough day:)

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And then on the road again, on the way to Cuzco. We left the desert behind, and we headed to the mountains again.

Here we are watching the famous Nazca lines from a tower. I remember I made a presentation about it in university, and I thought back then it would be pretty cool to see it one day.

The tree

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The hands

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Once up in the mountains the whole landscape changes. We will be missing the heat for a while.

Lots of llamas, vicunas and alpacas everywhere. I’m wondering how long it took them to acclimatize to this altitude:)

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And the first night’s campsite at about 3200 m altitude.

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Morning coffee after a cold night with little sleep.

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I always thought flamingos are living in hot exotic places, but it looks like they live in cold places at over 4000 m altitude.

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The highest altitude for the day was 4466 m.

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Many washouts on the way.

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And now looking for a campsite.

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And here’s the second night’s campsite, at about 3700 m altitude, with the beautiful view of the glaciers.

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Awesome place, but with freezing cold and even less sleep at that altitude.

Lunch the next day, on the side of the road: cheese, onions, tomatoes and avocado with some delicious pita breads.

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Life is good.

Categories: Peru | Leave a comment

New landscapes in Peru


The first image of Peru was very disappointing to us, after the green beautiful Ecuador. From the border south on the coast it’s all desert, nothing really to see, just very poor villages and a whole lot of garbage everywhere. And it’s not even the poor people to blame, since there is no one to pick up their garbage at the door, as we have in the developed countries, so they just dump it wherever, and from there the wind takes charge of it.

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Another thing we noticed, all the domestic animals walk loose on the side of the highway, and they cross it as they please, so we have to be very careful. You can see anytime a dog, goat, chicken or even pig crossing the highway at leisure.

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So as we finished with the border crossing around 1:30 pm, we decided to keep going. Well, we didn’t have much of a choice anyway, since most villages/ towns did not have hotels. We arrived in Chiclayo around 9:30 pm, very tired after a few hours of ride in the dark and once there Vasile noticed that his fork was leaking, so he had to fix it right away. Around midnight we were walking around to find a place to eat.

They do not have a lot of cars in Peru, but they have lots of these little moto-carts:)

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The next day we washed the bikes (they so deserved it after all that mud) and here they are all shiny. My bike didn’t look this clean since I left Vancouver.

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The next stop was in Huanchaco, a little town on the beach close to Trujillo. Here we met again with our riding friend Chris and his girlfriend, Stephanie. We will be riding together for a while, so we started with an evening with lots of fun and laughter.

As we went south, it started to look every day better. Chris suggested we do Canon del Pato (Duck Canyon), a beautiful road along Rio Santa, in north-central Peru. We are glad we did it, the ride was beyond spectacular!

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And here is where we camped for the night, in the middle of the canyon. It was the most amazing campsite we have ever camped in. We made a protective wall out of our bikes, since it was very windy and all was good.

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The next day we continued our amazing journey through the canyon.

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In some places the road was so high that I was getting dizzy, I could not look to a side anymore.

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There were lots of man-made tunnels on the road, some shorter, some quite long and as you can imagine with no lights whatsoever. The tunnels were narrow and the traffic was both ways, so in case the traffic meets in the tunnel, it gets quite challenging, someone has to back off.

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We passed by an old abandoned mine.

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The people in Peru are more than amazing. You don’t even have the time to say that you need something and they all jump to help with anything. And you can tell they help with all their hearts. Here’s a picture with some beautiful people in one of the villages we passed by.

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As we were riding up we stopped to drink some water and an old guy came to offer us fresh mangoes. Then he invited us to his house to have some more and to eat if we were hungry. So we made a short stop, we ate mangoes straight from the trees and we saw all kinds of different trees and fruit that they have here.

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Apparently the guinea pig is the biggest delicacy in Peru. We were offered, but we politely declined:)

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The canyon ended in Caraz, a little town in the mountain. We decided to go to Paron Lake, the largest lake in Cordillera Blanca, at 4185 m altitude. As I was feeling tired and we did not know how the road was going to be, we left my bike in town (we found a nice old man who let us put it in his backyard for 2 soles) and we went two up. And I was so glad we did this, since the road was about 32 km of gravel and very loose gravel going steep up, close to the glacier. At some point the road was closed by a gate, and there was no one to open for us. Later on we found out that you cannot enter a national park in Peru after 3 pm. So the guys had to squeeze the bikes by the gate, on a very narrow edge by the ravine.

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As I only had the mesh protection, I was freezing by the time we got to the lake. But it was so much worth it. The lake and the glaciers looke beautiful in the evening light.

IMG_4438 IMG_4440 IMG_4444 IMG_4454Up there we were greeted by two local people who were working at the water station. They made us feel more than welcome; they invited us into their modest shelter and we shared some glasses of wine (except me, I was afraid that this would interfere with my acclimatizing), some veggie sandwiches and a good laugh. Despite the rides at over 3000 m that we’ve done in Ecuador, up and down, since we never slept at high altitude, we were all feeling dizzy when we got there, but by the time we went to bed I was having a headache already. Over night it just got worse, and I could not sleep at all. Vasile suggested to start descending, but I did not want to overreact, I thought it would go away. Plus, I wasn’t feeling comfortable with us descending in the middle of the night, just the two of us, on that steep loose gravel road. I was especially concerned about the gate passing, since it was quite difficult even in the daylight. But when I started to feel nauseous, I finally realized that there was no time to waste anymore, and we started packing up the tent and started the descent. It was around 4 am at this time.

The ride went pretty smooth down to the gate, but at the gate it became more challenging. Past the gate, on the other side, there was a big rock, which was making the passage almost impossible. Vasile struggled to go around it, but the bike fell and caught both his legs underneath. As bad as this sounds, I was glad that it didn’t go the other way, which would have meant they would have been both, Vasile and the bike, in the ravine. I was trying to help, but I couldn’t have done much even in regular conditions, let alone now light-headed from the lack of oxygen. Vasile managed eventually to free one leg, and to push up the bike. Luckily he got away with some bruises only.

The plan was to get under 2500 m altitude and find another place to camp. But there was no decent place to camp further down, so we ended up in the city. Of course all hotels were closed at that time, so we were incredibly happy when we found one open, and they had rooms as well. To say that the rooms were basic is too much said, but we were happy that we could rest. We fell asleep for a couple of hours and we woke up in the banging and squeaking of some workers who were renovating the interior patio of the hotel.

Later on that day Chris and Stephanie managed to track us down (they stayed until the morning up at the lake). It’s funny, out of the four of us I was the only one who didn’t drink, and the only one to get altitude sickness. I guess the secret is to have some booze:)

As Vasile and I were really tired and didn’t sleep much we decided to stay there for the night while they were going to camp by another lake in the area. We got together again the next day to continue our awesome journey south.

 

Categories: Peru | 3 Comments

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