After the climb from La Paz back to the altiplano, I was heading for Lago Titicaca. What a sight after all this dryness in the last weeks! Especially the route along the lake on the bolivian side was wonderful: deep blue water, a big reed belt along the shore, and often a fisherman in his sailing boat. The first night I spent in a small, simple hotel directly on the water; what a location! That roads along a lake don't have to be flat at all, I was learning one more time next day: The unexpected pass costed a lot of sweat. Not the highest passes are the most difficult, it's the unexpected!! But I was rewarded with a splendid view of the lake from the height. After Copacabana I passed the border into Peru. Here the road wasn't following the shore exactly anymore, instead is was flat now. I am happy to be in Puno now and hope the roads with lots of traffic are now behind me.
From Puno I was heading into the mountains again: the route to Arequipa. As soon as I had left Juliaca, the traffic was very few, the villages smaller and the people friendlier. I was in good mood and looking forward to cycle the pass. First there was a long plain until the road finally started to climb. What a surprise: they had built a completely new road, perfectly paved! I was almost a bit disappointed but then took it thankfully. The second day, the road led along the Laguna Legunillas - a big lake. What a terrific scene: red ground, golden gleaming grass, the deep blue lake and in the background snow covered mountains. It is impossible to describe these colours in words! As always with a andean pass, there is not a single climb and a single descent, but rather a steady up and down, that finally cumulated in Crucero Alto, 4500m. After that, the landscape became drier and less colourfull. Instead, the vulcanos ' el Misto', 'Pichu Pichu' and ' Chachani' appeared on the horizon. The finish was a 2000m descent to Arequipa. With over 70km/h I raced down the perfect road. Arequipa is a very nice town. Many buildings are made of white vulcano stones with gives the town a special flair.
Arequipa lies on the foot of a beautiful vulcano: el Misti. He looks just as a kid would paint a vulcano: a perfect cone with a crater. In the last 2 days I have climbed this vulcano with a group of 6. From Arequipa we drove with a 4x4 to the foot of the mountain at 3400m. Already the first meters of the path were very sandy, so we knew what to expect higher up. At 4500m we put up our tents. In the evening we had a fantastic view of the town Arequipa! At 3 in the morning we started for the top. The way up is technically very easy, but it is often very sandy... (two forward, one backward). After 5 1/2 hours 4 out of us 6 reached the top at 5825m, where we were rewarded with a spectacular view. Especially the shade of el Misti itself over Arequipa was breathtaking. Down we were faster: more ore less 'diretissima' we rann down the huge sand field, being 2000m lower in no time.
On the way to the Colca canyon, there was the first real high pass to be cycled: Pata Pampa 4850m. The perfect descent of 2000m, that I came down just a couple of days before, I had to cycle the other direction this time. Then the pavement ends and a terrible dirt track follows. The route passes large plains with hugh Alpaca herdes on the way to the pass. Just when I am about to celebrate the top, the road drops once again, just to climb ever higher. But then I mad it and got a spectacular view of the surrounding vulcanos. Within only 25km the road then looses 1200m of altitude. But unfortunately on such a terribly bad road, that even when I cycle at walking speed, I soon feel every single bone! What is there better after such a ride, then a bath in a thermal spring? Excactly that is what they have here in Chivay and I enjoy it more than ever...
The rio Colca has cut here one of the deepest canyons of the world. I cycle along the south side of the canyon on a terribly bad road. On both sides of the valley lie beautiful villages. All slopes are terraced and cultivated. A wonderful sight. But the highlight follows the day after at the Cruz del Condor, the deepest point of the canyon (1300m). In the morning thermals dozens of condors are flying directly over me. The hugh birds are not more than 10m away! It's grand spectacle.
I was really curious about that part of my route, because all I knew about it, was the line on my map, that it would be about 250km and that I is unpaved. The first day I cycle along the beautiful Colca valley, with litte villages and lots of agriculture. But the road starts to climb soon. A pass quite as I like it: lots of switch banks lead rapidly up to 4750m. Immediately after the pass the road goes down to the colca river again. Just across the river the road starts to climb again up to 4750m! Shortly before the pass I meet Johan (Hol) and Wilhelmie (Can) who are cycling too. Together we cycle to Cusco in the next days. The next day the terrain is a little bit more moderate, across the altiplano, passing many of the simple huts 'only' climbing to a last pass of 4300 before Sicuani. Along a green valley (trees !!!) we reach that town and finally leave the altiplano. Here we meet asphalt for the first time in 370km. Probably because of that we cycle the last 142km to Cusco in a single day (of which the first 100km with a 30km/h average!). Here in Cusco I am in the past capital of the Incas which is today the capital of tourism in south america.
After I was so quick here in Cusco I took a couple of days 'off', going to the Manu national park.
With a bus we go from Cusco over the last passes, down to the amazone basin. Within only a couple of kilometers the vegetation changes from the dry Puna to cloud forrest. For the next 5 days wir travel by boat on the Rio Madre Dios and Rio Manu through the jungle. We can observe an vast number of animals ( Kaimans , Giant-Otters, 'Giant- guinea pigs' (60Kg), Parrots and many other birds, Tarantulas and other spiders, curios insects such as the walking stick) interesting plants and trees in giant variations.
For 3 days I cycle in circle along the Urubamba valley. A green, fertile valley with lots of agriculture and steep slopes on both sides. In Cusco, Ollantaytambo and Pisac I wisit Inca ruins. I am fascinated by the spectacular precision of their walls. The big stones are put together without the use of mortar and are so precise, that not a piece of papier would fit in between.