Peru 2004: Lima, Arequipa, Puno, Cuzco ...
Jan. 19 / Mar. 3, 2004

Michael J. Ferguson

Les Publications INRS-Télécommunications, Montréal

Journal Index


1  Introduction
2  Montreal to Lima, Mon./Tues. Jan. 19/20
3  Lima, Tues/Wed. Jan. 20/21
4  Lima, Thurs. Jan. 22
5  Lima, Fri. Jan. 22
6  Lima, Sat. Jan. 24
7  Lima, Sun. Jan. 25
8  Lima Mon. Jan. 26 to Sunday Feb. 1
9  Lima, Monday Feb. 2
10  Lima to Arequipa, Tues. Feb. 3
11  Arequipa, Wed. Feb. 4
12  Arequipa to Chivay, Thurs. Feb. 5
13  Chivay and Colca Canyon, Fri. Feb. 6
14  Arequipa, Sat. Feb. 7
15  Arequipa to Puno, Sun. Feb. 8
16  Puno, Mon. Feb. 9
17  Puno to Cuzco, Tues. Feb. 10
18  Cuzco, Wed. Feb. 11
19  Cuzco, Thurs. Feb. 12
20  Cuzco, Fri. Feb 13
21  Cuzco to Machu Picchu, Sat. Feb. 14
22  Machu Picchu, Sunday, Feb. 15
23  Machu Picchu to Cuzco, Mon. Feb. 16
24  Cuzco, Tues. Feb. 17
25  Cuzco to Nazca, Wed. Feb. 18
26  Nazca, Thurs. Feb. 19
27  Nazca to Ica, Fri./Sat Feb. 20/21
28  Ica, Sun. Feb. 22
29  Ica to Pisco, Mon. Feb. 23
30  Pisco, Tues. Feb. 24
31  Pisco, Wed. Feb. 25
32  Pisco to Lima, Thurs./Sat Feb 26/28
33  Lima, Sun. Feb. 29 to Tues. Mar. 2
34  Lima to Montreal, Tues. Mar 2 / Wed. Mar. 3
35  Comments: Security in Peru

1  Introduction

This was an eventful trip, with not nearly as much riding as I had anticipated. Peru is a very difficult place to ride. The coast is relatively flat but unrelenting desert with the occasional oasis being the only respite. When the mountains are not high desert, again with nothing growing, it appears to be uphill, all the way, both ways. In addition, my spirit was sapped by being robbed 3 times, the first, and really major one 3 days after I arrived in Lima.

2  Montreal to Lima, Mon./Tues. Jan. 19/20

It was a largely uneventful flight from Montreal to Lima, via JFK. The Lan Chile flight was almost totally full, and my seat companion, a middle-aged woman from Chile spent the entire trip listening to her CD player.

Much to my delight, and in contrast to the warnings in Lonely Planet, there was no hassle by either immigration or customs, and my visa was for 3 months, not 30 days.

I put my bike together to the normal attentive audience, found an ATM, and got a supply of Peruvian Nuevo Soles. Unfortunately, they were all in big bills and so were totally useless until I found a bank to exchange them into smaller denominations.

The ride into Lima was not at as dangerous as suggested by Lonely Planet, a taxi driver, with an ulterior motive, and a young girl, who said ``Do you really want to do this!''.

With an inordinate amount of confusion, I found the Lonely PlanetHostal España and got my single room. This is an old mansion, with a delightful interior, and no electricity in the rooms. There are lights, but no outlets to plug in my computer.

3  Lima, Tues/Wed. Jan. 20/21

My major quest here is to find some Primus or Camping Gaz camping gas canisters, and to do a field test on the new security screen that I made for my bike.

Finding the camping gas proved surprisingly difficult. No one nearby seemed to have any idea where I might find some, and some people I met sent me to places that did not have any. Finally I found the information I needed at the South American Explorers Club, which had moved to a new location that neither my map, nor Lonely Planet seemed to know.

The ride down to their new location in Miraflores, took me off the chaotic streets and onto a wonderful bike path.

This is also an upscale neighbourhood.

However, not everyone thought they were safe, so perhaps I am not the only one in Lima who feels in the need of more security.

Earlier I had stopped in front of the large Metro supermarket, a woman said, ``Don't leave your bike here. Someone will steal it!''. I received similar warnings from the receptionist at the Hostal España who recommended that I leave my bike in the lobby and walk to the supermarket. She was also upset that I had left it on the street.

4  Lima, Thurs. Jan. 22

Today was a ``visit monuments'',

and ``markets'' day.

The delight of the day was a combo ceviche for lunch that cost 1 sole (36 cents).

This was quite good and filling, and it was quite clear that I couldn't eat the big 2 sole plate.

5  Lima, Fri. Jan. 22

When I was in Donestia, Spain, I told a kid from the barrio in East Los Angeles about the fact that 60% of Barcelona tourists were robbed. His comment was ``Losing your wallet is an inconvenience, getting shot is not.'' Today I was ``inconvenienced''.

I was in the small lobby of the Hotel España loading my bike for the trip up the hill, when two men wandered in off the street. One asked me a question, in Spanish, about a mummified Inca baby on display, and apparently, the other one took my fanny pack, which I had complacently put on the floor in front of my bike, instead of locking it up as I would have done outside, and ran off. Almost immediately the second one left. A few seconds later the receptionist came out and asked whether I was missing any bags. She said she had seen someone run out with a bag over his shoulder. I didn't think that I was missing any, but then noticed that the most important bag was missing - my fanny pack. This particular inconvenience includes the loss of all my money, Peruvian Soles, US$ and CDN$, my passport, airline ticket (I wanted an electronic ticket but there was not one available), credit cards, ATM card, camera, GPS receiver, binoculars, Swiss Army knife, bicycle lights, and flashlight, plus other stuff that I can't remember.

The hotel manager drove me to the police station where I filed a report. I rode down to the Canadian Embassy in Miraflores, where I began the process of getting a new passport. I explained that I had no money, and that since I had lost my ATM card, I couldn't get any. Fortunately it appears that the banks will send you a card, and the embassy allowed me to phone Montreal where I talked to my bank branch. Hopefully the card will arrive Monday by courier. With the help of the nice people at the South American Explorers Club, I was able to find the Lan Chile office, also in Miraflores, and was told that for $95us, and after they had received notice that the original ticket was cancelled, I could get a new one. This is much easier than the hassle I got from Air Canada in Shanghai when I lost my ticket in China. I know I won't be able to replace my GPS receiver, but I will try to do something about a camera, and I must get a flashlight and bicycle lights.

It will take a while to recover from the physical loss and the trauma.

6  Lima, Sat. Jan. 24

Several successes today: I got my passport pictures, a new flashlight, pen, and some scissors. I am going to have to search more widely for the bicycle lights.

7  Lima, Sun. Jan. 25

Small retailing in Lima is clustered by product. On Calle Ayacucho there are about 10 small stores in a row selling soft drinks. Other places have hardware stores that specialize in electrical stuff, and still another part of town will have hardware stores that specialize in paints. With the help of the Yellow Pages, I found two areas that specialized in bicycles. The first was mostly closed early Sunday morning, but the second was open when I arrived. Even here there is more specialization. There was a small shopping center of independent stalls that sold only parts and accessories while the small shops on the street sold, and repaired, bicycles, with almost no parts. Front headlights seem to be rare, but I was easily able to find a rear flasher. With some more work, I was able to find a front light from one of the classier bike shops on the street.

I had Aeropeurto con Wonton, a stir fried rice dish for lunch. It cost only 1 sole, (30 cents), much less than buying a risotto in a grocery. I now have less than 4 soles left of the original $30us (100 soles) lent to me by the embassy.

8  Lima Mon. Jan. 26 to Sunday Feb. 1

On Monday I went back to the Embassy with my passport pictures, and described my current monetary predicament. The consul decided that it may be a few days before my ATM card arrived, so I was lent another $50us. He was indeed correct, it took more that just few days.

Although my ATM card arrived in Lima on Monday afternoon, Jan. 26, I never received it. It had been sent International Registered Mail rather than by courier as I had asked, from Montreal, on Friday afternoon, and according to the Canada Post tracking arrived in Peru Monday afternoon. At that point it was handed over to Peruvian post office, SerPost. When I enquired of its existence they had no idea where it was, or even if it existed. I was told that it normally takes 5 days to get from the airport to the destination so Friday or Saturday in Miraflores was possible. On Thursday, when they still had no idea of even whether it existed, I phoned Montreal again and asked them to send a second card, and this time to make sure it really did go by courier. FedEx picked it up on Thursday morning, and after finally getting the correct tracking number from my bank, I discovered that it arrived in Miami at 6:32am Friday, and left at about 2:00pm. It apparently arrived sometime Friday night or Saturday morning. There estimated delivery time to the embassy was not until Tuesday 5:00pm, four days later. The FedEx office in Miraflores thought, on Friday, when they saw its arrival in Miami Friday morning that they would have it on Saturday. On Saturday morning, I discovered that it was currently going through customs but would be available for pickup at their airport office in about an hour. I rode there, and was indeed able to retrieve it. After a phone call to the bank from the airport, the card was activated, I had the PIN, and was able to use it at an airport ATM. I now had enough money to buy things, get my passport and airline ticket Monday.

Over the rest of the weekend, I replaced my camera, first with a tiny credit card size VGA resolution one by Bell & Howell, that took abysmal pictures, and finally by a Nikon Coolpix 2500, that I presume will take excellent pictures. I also was able to buy an inexpensive bicycle trip computer, which makes me feel much better about tackling the road from Lake Titicaca to Cuzco.

The week was spent going back and forth to the embassy in Miraflores by many different routes, seeing more of Lima than I had ever expected. I wanted to go to the Museo Nacional to see the Inca exhibits but discovered when I got out there, that it will be closed until March for renovations.

The highlight of the week was the discovery, on my way back from Miraflores, on Sunday of the end of the Virgin de la Candelaria folklorico festival with incredibly colourful folklorico groups from all over Peru, and some from Bolivia.

These picture were the best that I got from my deficient camera.

9  Lima, Monday Feb. 2

Today I rode out to Miraflores and retrieved my passport. I thought that the airline ticket was going to be easy but I was wrong. Lan Chile said they needed a copy of the ticket from the travel agent before they could reissue it. I was reminded and dismayed with the trauma, and days, that I went through in China trying to contact my agent in Montreal. I bought this ticket from, and it was actually issued by their office in Ottawa. The number on their web site was that of the Ottawa office. I phoned, and they, very nicely, as suggested by the Lan Chile agent, faxed it to the Miraflores office. It was sufficient for the issuance of the ticket so for a penalty of $95us, I had my ticket.

I rode back along Arequipa, passing the same nice houses I have passed for many days,

and again, the Norbert Wiener University

Norbert Wiener was a famous mathematician who invented the Wiener Process that is the basis of much of the theory of telecommunications. I have no idea how he is connected with Peru.

The last loose end before I can leave Lima is to get a replacement for my entry permit. Without that, I will not be allowed to leave. I arrived at the Immigration office at 2:00pm to discover that the hours for such business are 8:00am to 1:00pm. I will be there before 8:00am tomorrow.

I came back to the Hotel España via Plaza Manco Copac

wondered whether Christ would really need renewed shoes,

and admired, again the enclosed balconies that are a feature of the urban homes.

I passed again Iglesia San Pedro, as I have been doing every day for the past two weeks,

and wondered if the urban renovation right beside it was really the ``key to your dreams''.

The Hotel España, where I have spent the last two weeks was once a very rich mansion. The lobby has the Inca baby that was used to distract me when my bag was stolen,

along with much reproduced Roman sculpture.

Upstairs, right beside my room is the España zoo.

10  Lima to Arequipa, Tues. Feb. 3

I arrived just before the 8:00am opening of the Immigration office, to a long line, but none of them wanted to replace an ``entry permit'' so I was first. It only took a couple of hours, and the complications of having to copy the police report and get a special form for the duplicate were identical for a lady there on some other business so she guided me down stairs and across the street. It was really quite painless.

The overnight bus for Arequipa left at 4:00pm and the ride convinced me that my original plans for this trip were quite flawed. The first 200kms south of Lima were flat, desolate rocky desert, with nothing green to be seen. Except for the occasional oasis where there was a town, the countryside was unrelenting sand and rock. The major change when we turned inland towards Arequipa, was that the flatland became more mountainous and there was occasionally water and green deep down in the valleys. This trip has convinced me that my original plans of riding back from Arequipa to Lima, was foolhardy, and my current plan of riding back from Nazca equally so.

After talking to a girl at the Hotel España, who had been in Huancayo, took the bus, on a totally abysmal road to Ayacucho, and bailed out on the continuation to Cuzco, I think that part of the plan was equally flawed. It still remains to be seen whether I will be able to ride the current version, from Juliaca to Puno, and then back up through Juliaca to Cuzco.

11  Arequipa, Wed. Feb. 4

It is nice to arrive early in the morning and have the whole day to get organized. I rode into the Centro Historico past a street vendor who hid behind her cart,

to the Plaza de Armas, to rest and begin the organization.

Christine, an Australian, came over to say ``hello'' and I walked with her to her hostel, to discover that it was not very bicycle friendly - steep stairs to a second floor. She left for day tour, and I visited a recommendation of a girl I met at the Hotel España. It too was a second floor walk-up with no downstairs lobby. My original first choice was the Tambo Viejo, which has a big back garden, and plenty of room for my bicycle and trailer. It means I am going to have to ride for my dinner date with Christine tonight. I believe that good dinners should be shared. This was great company, and good food.

After finding Christine's hotel so I really could have dinner with her, I left my trailer, and rode around town, the primary destination being the Monasterio Santa Catalina. This was the primary destination of the second daughters of the early aristocracy, and they had to pay a large dowry to get in. However, the environment was more like Club Med than a life of deprivation and penance. Not only did they have large rooms, they even had slaves. Eventually the Vatican, got tired of this, and effectively shut it down by sending in a tough, no-nonsense, disciplinarian, as the prioress. Today there are only about 20 nuns.

After some debate, that included not wanting to get up at 2:00am to get a public bus, I opted for the last spot on the 2 day mini-bus guided tour to Colca Canyon

12  Arequipa to Chivay, Thurs. Feb. 5

I was supposed to be picked up between 7:30am and 8:00am, and was starting to get a little worried at 8:20am that the arrangements made on the phone last night actually had been effective. At 8:25am, Johan, our guide for the trip found me out front and we were off. It was a full mini-bus of an old German couple from Bavaria, two young British couples, a Welsh lady and her son, a Dane, and myself.

Our first stop was souvenir/pit stop just after the paved road changed to unrelenting gravel. This was the first of many Inca tourist markets, and some interesting Hoodoo like rock formations across the road.

We passed herds of vicunas, llamas, and alpacas. The vicunas were wild, and too far away for a picture. However, the llamas and alpacas were quite close so it was easy, except that the all the alpacas seemed to move outside the camera frame before I was ready to take their picture. I think I can now tell the difference between them. The alpacas have a shorter nose than the llamas, and the vicunas are much smaller.

The top of the road was a foggy, drizzly 4900m (16,200'), and it continued to rain all the way down to our overnight stay at Chivay. We stopped in Chivay for a late lunch at a restaurant filled with other similar tour groups. The Menu Turistico, for 14 soles, included grilled trout, which was excellent, and grilled alpaca, a small slab of meat about 1/4inch (6mm) thick was slightly tough, and tasted like, well alpaca. The Welsh lady thought it was a little like veal. Perhaps so, but a slightly gamy veal.

The light drizzle became a heavy downpour, and I opted to rest in my room rather than go with the others to the hot springs. I didn't bring a bathing suit, and this was not Japan where nude hot spring bathing was the rule.

Dinner was at folklorico restaurant, with several other tour groups, where we were entertained? with dances and a small band.

The light drizzle became a heavy downpour, and I opted to rest in my room rather than go with the others to the hot springs. I didn't bring a bathing suit, and this was not Japan where nude hot spring bathing was the rule.

13  Chivay and Colca Canyon, Fri. Feb. 6

The rain stopped at 3:00am, and the morning was crystal clear with bright sunshine. There was fresh snow on the mountains behind Chivay, and it appears that the snowline was about 5000m (16,500').

The streets may have been narrow, and cobblestone, but current cultural influences are obvious.

When I returned from the canyon in the early afternoon, the square and streets were considerably more crowded.

We left Chivay after our 6:00am breakfast, and dropped slightly stopped at the first Yanque, the first mandatory tourist stop. It has an exceedingly pleasant Plaza Mayor, small church, and women, children and alpacas, ready, for a tip, to pose for the tourists.

From there we went to our access point to Colca Canyon, the Condor Observation Point to begin our walk along the canyon's south cliff. Colca Canyon is apparently the second deepest canyon in the world, the first, also in Peru, being about 80km to the west. It is supposed to be 3300m (13,000') deep. The section that we saw seemed to be about 1200m (4000') from the cliff edge to the Colca River below. This is quite respectable, but well short of the record. So how is the claim substantiated. According to Johan, the canyon is about 100km long. I think that the 3300m is probably the drop of the entire Colca River valley from its source to almost sea level. It may not be a straight down view of 3300m, but it is still impressive.

The condor view point was fogged in and out for our half hour there so we saw no condors. However, when at our next two pit/market stops, we saw three condors, so Johan, and the others on the tour that had never seen any condors were quite happy.

The Colca River has several villages, some of which are still not connected to the outside world by road, and is heavily terraced in the famous Inca style.

We stopped at the small village of Maka, where there were extensive repairs on the church, damaged by an earthquake in 1991, and a tourist hawk that would pose on your head or arm if you wished.

Just before we arrived at Chivay, Johan pointed out some Inca burial chambers about 50m up the side of a cliff.

The drizzle, and rain began again when we returned to Chivay for lunch, and became heavy fog and rain for most of way back to Arequipa. It cleared briefly to show some of the volcanoes that make Arequipa famous.

It was raining when we arrived and continued to a greater and lesser degree all night. However, we had superb whether during the 5 hours when we needed it.

My room was ready for me when I arrived back at the Tambo Viejo, and after some supper, and walking around my local neighbourhood, I went to bed.

14  Arequipa, Sat. Feb. 7

Today was a lazy day. I went to the bus station to get my ticket to Puno. Then I rode around the Centro Historico admiring the old, and modern colonial architecture.

Then I passed the Mercado Central. It is an incredibly colourful place from mountains of fruit and candy, along with the slightly bizarre, a bull's head for dinner.

After finding a bank that would accept my ATM card, I rode back to the Plaza de Armas. Today was a day for preaching the gospel, and feeding the pigeons. The children were having a wonderful time,

as were some older children.

The individual Peruvian is quite security conscious. The bags were tied to the park bench

I left the plaza, rode back to the Tambo Viejo, reorganized my junk for tomorrow's bus ride, and went to bed.

15  Arequipa to Puno, Sun. Feb. 8

I left Arequipa in the rain but when I arrived in Puno 6 hours later, it was brilliant sunshine. The new, paved road from Arequipa to Juliaca, follows the railroad, and reduces the trip from 15 jolting hours to 5, relatively smooth ones. Juliaca does not seem to have many redeeming features in the section I saw, and Lonely Planet suggests that it is a destination only to get somewhere else. I am going to try to avoid it when I ride back.

Puna is in the midst of its biggest festival of the year, Candlemas, or Virgin de la Candelaria. The small version that I saw last Sunday in Lima pales in comparison. The main festivities and marching takes place in the Plaza de Armas but the entire area around it for 6 blocks in all directions are closed to cars.

Although most of the people were in colourful Folklorico costumes, many were dressed as the monsters of Carnival. This is a small selection of the pictures I took.

16  Puno, Mon. Feb. 9

It poured rain for most of the night, and was still lightly drizzling when I went down to get my bike out of storage. I discovered, then, that a small part of Candelaria, had visited me.

By the time I reached the port, the drizzle became real rain. I have started to carry all my rain and cold weather gear in a new, larger, backpack, so I put on my Gore-Tex jacket. Later in the morning the rain diminished, and we started to have sunshine for the later part of my visit to Uros, the famous floating islands made of the totari reeds that grow here. I have known about these islands since childhood and have always wanted to visit them. They do indeed float, but are amazingly solid underfoot. There is a pleasant spring, but no feeling of dropping into quicksand. Modern society creates cash flow problems so tourism is the major income basis of the society. This allows for such niceties as wooden dinghies that are the real working boats, instead of the totari boats of the past. It also allows them to purchase solar cells for electricity in their homes. Totari reeds make their islands, houses, boats, and, when young, are edible. They have a pleasantly dull, non-taste.

My visit ended at about noon, with the sunshine in full force. I had run out of memory on my 16meg memory card so I went back to the hotel to download it to the computer. After I was finished, I came back out, hoping to book a tour that left at 2:30pm but discovered that Candelaria had isolated me from the travel bureaus that ran the tours. I wandered around my half of town, that included a quiet Plaza de Armas,

and eventually decided to leave Puno tomorrow. It is 400km (250m) to Cuzco. I estimate at least 10 days, depending on the terrain, and how well I handle the altitude. If it is raining tomorrow, I will take a bus.

17  Puno to Cuzco, Tues. Feb. 10

After some thought, I think the risk is too high to try to ride to Cuzco. Although, theoretically, I can quit at any intermediate town, the busses that serve these small towns carry all their baggage on top, and the strain of lifting all my stuff up that high may exceed all reasonable limits.

After some more strain than I expected I finally found the Bus Station at about 8:35am and discovered that there was a large, double decker bus about to lave for Cuzco. Much to my delight, I was able to put thee bike and trailer into their large, walking luggage compartment on the back, with out any disassembly.

The first 200km north out of Puno was treeless, high ridges, mostly covered with tussock, and some real grasses, defining a broad flat valley, and flooded areas near the road. North of the halfway point, Sicuani, the valley narrowed, and there were some trees. In the late afternoon there even was some sun. Except for a couple of major towns, all of the villages south of Sicuani looked too small for supplies or a local Hospedaje. There was no place to camp without being visible from either the road, or local houses, or both, and absolutely no place to lock up my bike to an immovable object. I arrived in Cuzco at about 5:00pm, and located the hostel of choice, one run by Dominican Nuns, only to discover that they were full. It was getting late, and I was trying to decide where to go next, when a man saw me and said that there was a place just south down the street. This was a residence run by the Sisters of Santa Rosa. It was virtually empty, has a good place for my bike, and will be my place to stay in Cuzco.

Although the trip was quite good, and I now have enough time to really explore Cuzco and Machu Picchu, it was not without incident. As we were leaving Puno, there was an incredibly tragic accident. The bus hit and killed a small child. He/she was probably about 5, and had his head run over by the left front wheel. The skull was shattered, and the brain splattered across the road to the far bank. His mother saw the body under the bus and was uncontrollable in her grief. The villagers were struck by the horror of it all and their sadness was obvious.

The police arrived almost immediately, and themselves were affected by the tragedy. An investigative inspector came and asked many questions, took notes, and made lots of measurements.

After almost an hour, and after cleaning up the scattered body parts, they pulled the body of the young child out from under the bus. The sadness, and waste, was emphasized by the smallness, and incompleteness of the body. I was sitting by the window just above the impact point so I was able to see most of what was going on.

After the investigation was completed, we drove up the road to the National Police Station, where the police impounded the bus, and forced all the passengers to get off. The bus company Etra Sur sent another, much smaller bus for the trip to Cuzco. My bike and trailer still fit, but there was a small problem of attaching the trailer to the bike. The trailer hitch seems to be slightly bent.

18  Cuzco, Wed. Feb. 11

Cuzco is indeed a pretty place. There was some sun in the morning and I took the opportunity to ride into the Plaza de Armas. It is quietly impressive with a deep charm. The Cathedral is not the biggest and the Church of Jesus, put up by the Jesuits to overshadow the Cathedral, has an appropriately baroque facade.

Balconies and colonnades seem to be a definitive feature of a Plaza de Armas or Plaza Major in Peru.

The Plaza de Armas has another church tucked by the Cathedral, and a small building dedicated to tasks required of the Inquisition.

The streets around the Plaza had much more interest and intrigue than those around any other Plaza de Armas in Peru that I have seen.

All of the Palacio de Justicias that I have seen have been grandiose.

Does this mean that Justice is held in high regard in Peru or is this an attempt at compensation.

My Boleto Turistico let me in to the Museo Qorikancha, but not to the Convento Santa Domingo above it.

The most impressive display in the museum was a collection of skulls whose owners had been subjected to brain surgery. The conjecture is that coca was used as an anesthetic.

There was also a small collection of pottery, and a set of maps showing the evolution of Cuzco in the image of a puma.

The courtyard above this underground museum had a PreInca fountain that apparently venerated the rock polishing properties of water.

By late afternoon, the rain was so oppressive that I made my way back to my hostel, and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening relaxing.

19  Cuzco, Thurs. Feb. 12

After an early morning of writing my journal report, creating my first Cuzco portfolio, and a pleasant breakfast with Asta, a German girl who is doing an internship here in architecture, I rode out to try to find, again, the bus terminal so I can continue on to Nazca and Lima. I tried to find it yesterday afternoon and failed. It is in times such as this that I really miss my GPS. This time I was successful, finding Plaza Manco Copac,

and, with the help of a bus driver, the terminal hidden down a small road behind it. I now have a plan for visiting Nazca on my way back to Lima.

After yesterday's distressing afternoon rain, I have abandoned my plan to ride to Urumbaya and take the train from there to Machu Picchu. It was clear that the trains had to leave from the Estacion San Pedro so I went up a road that seemed from my map to end at the train station. Instead, it dead-ended in the Barrio San Pedro

The main entrance to the train station was beside the Iglesia San Pedro, and was completely locked. Evidently I was not going to get any tickets here. I rode up to the tourist office and discovered that the tickets were sold at Huanchac, Cuzco's other train station. This station is right near my hostel, and it would have been nice if the trains left from there too. Unfortunately, they still leave from San Pedro, which is apparently only opened up in the morning and evening for those trains.

There is a local train to Machu Picchu, but only Peruvians are allowed to use it. This train costs $9us. There are two trains for foreigners, the Backpackers, at $60us and the Vistadome at $90us. Both leave at about 6:00am in the morning from San Pedro and arrive in Aguas Calientes four hours later. I opted for the Backpackers for Saturday, and will spend two nights in Aguas Calientes, coming back Monday night. The Barrio San Pedro is dangerous, so a taxi in both directions will be required.

I spent the rest of the day wandering from museum to museum, until the rains came at about 5:00pm, mercifully late today. The Inca Garcilosa Museum is in his old colonial house.

Although Inca Garcilosa had an Inca Princess mother, none of this blood seems to show in his portrait.

Just across the plaza, in another colonial building was the Contemporary Art Museum.

I must admit that, in many cases, the architecture of the museum is, for me, much more interesting than what is inside.

20  Cuzco, Fri. Feb 13

Toady I rode up the hill, looking for an easy way into the Sacred Valley. The most obvious streets near the Plaza de Armas, go straight up the side of the mountain, and are so steep, that only, in shape, pedestrians can go up them. Saphi/Plateros on the west side of the Plaza de Armas goes up gently, and then does a switchback to gently rise up the side of the mountain. By the time it gets to Iglesia San Cristobal, which is now above all of the straight up the mountain pedestrian streets, it starts to get steeper. Iglesia San Cristobal is the first lookout (mirador in Spanish) overlooking Cuzco.

Under the cape, in the courtyard, there was a couple, indulging in what seems to be a Peruvian national pastime.

The lower, pedestrian entrance to Saqsaywaman (Sexy Woman), is only about 250m from the church. Although the road that continues up form here is getting steep, it is almost flat compared to the old Inca road that leads to the ruins. Your first introduction to the ruins are some Inca walls of the main fortification.

As you continue around, the walls become real fortifications with entrance doors.

On the very top, are the living quarters.

The best view of the general structure of this highly fortified part of the ruins is from the Rotadero, a small hill to the north.

The Rotadero side of the fortifications is highly protected, but the cliff on the Cuzco side was so steep that nothing was done to it. The cliff edge, is shown on some maps as a Mirador, a lookout for Cuzco.

I continued up the hill, finally ending up at Tambo Machay. This is a very small ruin, known for its waterfalls into small pools.

This was the end of my uphill. The coast down was very easy, except for the strain of braking so I could see, and enjoy, all the way down. At 4:00pm, I had lunch, bought some groceries, and went back to my hostel.

It was a good day ... and the sun was still shining.

21  Cuzco to Machu Picchu, Sat. Feb. 14

The nice people at my hostel, Sisters of Santa Rosa de Lima, arranged for a taxi to come and pick me up at 5:30am. At 5:35am, they came out to check, and decided that the driver was lost. The found him, probably near the entrance of a small street that eventually leads to the hostel. The people here have been incredibly nice to me.

It was a short /s3 ride to the Estacion San Pedro, and I was on my way. The train climbed out of Cuzco using many reverse direction switch-backs that I have never seen before. The train would come up on the lower track, go into a short dead end track, change the switch to the upward track, reverse direction and continue up. This does not need the space for a large S track so could be used to climb almost any cliff.

After we climbed out of Cuzco, which took almost an hour, the ride was over a flat plain, then through narrow river valleys enclosed by high sandy ridges. The really interesting part of the trip started when we left Ollantaytambo following the Urubamba river. The ridges slowly changed from sand to granite (rock?) as we got deeper into towards Peublo Machu Picchu, formally Aguas Calientes. The muddy Urubamba River had the roughest water I have seen in a river without waterfalls. I don't know how to classify rivers on the 1 to 5 scale of rafting difficulty, but the quieter parts probably ranged from 3 to 5, but there were sections that looked rather suicidal, with large breakers curling back into themselves. Needless to say, I did not see anybody trying to run it. One of the roughest sections ran through the centre of Aguas Calientes. I have no pictures of it , because my small, new memory card was full of pictures of Machu Picchu.

After finding a place to stay, I took the bus up to Machu Picchu. The sun of Cuzco had now been replaced by low clouds and rain. Even with this less than wonderful environment, Machu Picchu was spectacular. The setting of the city is absolutely incredible, on shear cliffs, with inspirationally shaped mountains all around.

22  Machu Picchu, Sunday, Feb. 15

This was a spectacular day. It started out with high clouds, that were replaced by late morning with sunshine, and by mid afternoon, an almost empty city. The smaller one and the higher Wayna Picchu define the northern end of the city. On Saturday, I couldn't even see Wayna Picchu. On a good day, when you enter you see Machu Picchu lying at your feet and the two mountains, with Wayna Picchu on the right.

I climbed to the top of Wayna Picchu to get a more stunning overviews of Machu Picchu.

The top of Wayna Picchu has its own ruins, complete with a house, and terraces. Why is it here? One plausible explanation was that it was a military lookout. No suggestions were made on how they signaled their observations back to Machu Picchu.

The road up to Machu Picchu gives some indication of the steepness of the cliffs.

The western cliffs drop down about 450m (1500') to the Urubamba River

The ruins themselves show the engineering and design skill of the Incas. It is an absolutely wonderful experience to wander around, admiring the shape and architecture.

If Machu Picchu had had the misfortune to be located on the Mayan flatlands of Central America, it would have been only a minor site. But it is not, so it is absolutely incredible.

23  Machu Picchu to Cuzco, Mon. Feb. 16

Since my memory card is full, and yesterday was such a glorious day, I did not see Machu Picchu again. Since the train back to Cuzco left at 4:00pm, I decided to walk up the trail to the entrance. From Aguas Calientes, you drop for about 2km beside the Urubamba River before the climb of 450m (1500') begins. This is mostly through the woods, with stone steps most of the way. However, it was produced by the Peruvian Parks Department so it is not as steep as the normal Inca steps. It was pleasantly exhausting climb, and a slightly painful, on the calves, descent. I arrived back in Aguas Calientes at about two and had the best fried trout, in a small stall by the market, that I have had in Peru.

The trip back was uneventful, except that at Poroy, a small town at the top of the cliff above Cuzco, we were given the option of taking a 15min bus ride into Cuzco, for /s5 instead of taking an hour to negotiate the switchbacks into down. I took it and was delighted to find that the bus dropped us by the Plaza de Armas, a safe walk, for me, down Avenida del Sol to my hostel.

It was a wonderful visit.

24  Cuzco, Tues. Feb. 17

Today I rode up the hill behind the Plaza de Armas on my way to Q'enqo, a strange Inca site on the top of a ridge above Cuzco. All the streets that appeared to go directly to the site became stairs so I ended up by going far east before I started up.

I stopped below the park, and walked up over the ridge through a cool eucalyptus forest with wonderful views of Cuzco.

Below the main site are a few walls,

but the site itself is quite unusual. It is a large rocky mound, that has stairs and steps carved in it, a large monolith, surrounded by a circular wall. It appears to have been a ceremonial site, possibly because there does not seem to be any other plausible explanation. The Incas were not able to write so detailed information about them is rather sparse.

There was a tunnel under the mound, that looked, for the most part, natural.

and two curious circular posts right on the top.

It is, indeed, a strange place.

25  Cuzco to Nazca, Wed. Feb. 18

At breakfast I received some very sad news from Asta. On Saturday, while I was at Machu Picchu, someone broke into her room and stole her locked suitcase, which had everything she owned, except for her passport, which she had with her when she was off interviewing. I felt very badly for her. She commented, ``Given enough time, everyone who comes to Peru will get robbed. This was my third time here.''

Just after breakfast, I went down to the bus station and got my ticket to Nazca. Later that morning I finished being a tourist by visiting the cathedral, and at 4:45pm, the bus left for Nazca, in light rain.

All this rain gives a lush green to the mountains around Cuzco, a welcome change from the dry, shrub and cactus that you get as you approach the coast. This is midsummer, but the rain changed to snow as we passed over a 5000m (16,500') pass on the way to Abancay. The mountains were no less rugged, although much less green, as we approached Nazca in the early morning. Although the road is now paved, except for the occasional washed out part, all the way from Cuzco, it would have been a very tough ride, continual up and down switchbacks, almost the entire way. It was quite beautiful, in a stark way, and except that I couldn't get any pictures, I was glad I was on the bus.

26  Nazca, Thurs. Feb. 19

After a brief rest stop as we entered Nazca, my bike was taken off, and I put it back together, all the while being harassed by touts trying to give me ``free tourist information on hotels and flights over the Nazca lines''. The Hostal Alegria II, recommended by Lonely Planet, was just across the street, and I was able to put my bike in their locked courtyard.

My main reason for being here is, of course, to see the Nazca Lines. I was able to arrange, at the hostel, for a 11:00am flight for $30us instead of the $45 that a the girl, who was harassing me earlier, was going to charge.

There have been many theories about the origin of the Nazca Lines. The most interesting, and plausible, that I have ever heard was given in a BBC video that was playing, when I arrived. Water is probably the most important commodity that existed in this parched region. The Nazca high god, lived on the top of a nearby mountain, and was portrayed as crying. His tears were the source of the water. Along with the famous animals, where the walking around the outline was supposed to show reverence to the god, were trapezoids and long straight lines that pointed to water sources (springs) that were the lifeblood of the people.

We overflew all the figures, going around each of them twice so all three of us in the plane could see them. I was quite disappointed by the lack of clarity and definition - you had to look very hard to see them - and by the confusion caused by the many stream beds that ran all over. In addition, my camera overexposed almost everything so I got very few pictures.

In the afternoon, I got some lunch, some groceries for supper, and my ride tomorrow Palta, Ica, and Pisco. Nazca is small, and not particularly exciting.

I came back to my hostel in the late afternoon, drank some sweet Peruvian wine, and gave an English lesson. It was advertised as semi-seco. It appears that Peru makes only sweet wines. I tasted several in Lima, and this bottle confirmed that experience.

27  Nazca to Ica, Fri./Sat Feb. 20/21

I began riding just after dawn, with the sun behind me and nice coolness in the air. The desert here shows what the Nazcas were working with when they were praying for water.

About 25km north of Nazca, there is an observation platform overlooking two of the smaller figures.

Even in this morning light, the lines were difficult to see clearly.

From there the desert continued, with the occasional bit of green shrub, until the major oasis of Palpa.

I had intended to stop here, after 50km of riding, but it was only 10:30am, and Palpa did not look very enticing, especially the suburb that I saw riding up over the ridge to the Rio Grande valley.

The climb, about which I had been warned at the Alegria in Nazca was grueling and hot, but nothing compared to the road between Cuzco and Nazca.

After this tough climb, the road dropped into some real desert. My map shows no towns for about 60km north of Palpa and Rio Grande and it was clear why.

It was getting late, and I needed to find a place to camp, but this countryside was not conducive to being invisible from the road. At about 4:30pm I saw a long line of shrubs (trees?) stretching off into the desert. At 5:00pm, I reached them, the currently dry bed of the Rio Santa Cruz, and went at least 150m off the highway to hide behind one of them. I was virtually invisible from the highway, and was completely out of the line of any headlights.

I was totally exhausted, and, although I felt I was invisible, secured my bike to a big branch of the large shrub behind which I was hiding.

In the morning I discovered that virtually invisible was not enough. During the night, someone had come in and stole the only thing that was not locked down, the Canadian flag on the back of my trailer. Normally I take it off, but this time I forgot.

I started off towards Ica, passing by a mountain that was slowly turning into a large sand dune.

I was able to replenish my water supply at the small oasis of Ocajue, and continued north until I hit the major oasis of the day and the area, he Rio Ica valley. I still had 30km to go to Ica, and it was now the intense heat and sun of midday. After a lunch break, many water and banana breaks, I finally reached the rather depressing road leading into Ica.

However, that road was not anywhere nearly as depressing as what happened to me just after I crossed over a bridge and headed to the centre of town. While I slowly making my way through a congested area of 3 wheeled cabs and pedestrians, I was subjected to my second robbery of the day. Two guys ran up beside my bike, one on either side. Simultaneously, one grabbed my reading and map-reading glasses that were on my left, and the other grabbed the small pouch that had my passport and all my other valuable stuff on my right. The glasses gave away immediately, but the right-hand pouch, is secured by aviation wire, and all he did was pull me off the bike. A cab driver came by, and asked if he could help, and mentioned in passing, that Ica (or was it Peru) was a dangerous place.

I continued into town, until I found the Sanctuario Señor de Luren. Since I couldn't read my map without my glasses, I got the second pair of map-reading glasses that I brought, out of my pack, in the relative safety of the small plaza by the church. In a short while I found the Hostal Sol de Oro and stopped for the day. They have a, hopefully, very safe place for my bicycle and trailer in one of the rooms of their living area.

After an hour or so of recovery, I went out and walked around the busy market streets, near the Plaza de Armas, and had several ice cream cones, for supper. I found a market and bought some breakfast food and wine.

I did not feel totally secure walking back to the hostel in the dark, but made it uneventfully.

28  Ica, Sun. Feb. 22

I had intended to take a bus to Pisco today but failed. Pisco is 5km off the Pan American, and the major bus companies do not go into it. They are willing to drop off passengers at the turnoff, but not any baggage. I am sure there are smaller companies, with, possibly smaller busses that go into Pisco, but I did not find their terminals.

On the way to the bus terminal, I hit the kickstand of a parked motor scooter and sheared off the right kickstand on my trailer. Fixing that kickstand, and the one on my bike that was distressingly loose, was the main task for the day. With the help of an auto parts dealer, I found the bicycle centre for Ica. One of the stores had a small kickstand that I hoped would work on the trailer - it did - and another had a bolt and screw that I was able to use, with some difficulty, to fix the bicycle kickstand.

I spent the rest of the day relaxing, and adjusting the kickstands in the Plaza de Armas

29  Ica to Pisco, Mon. Feb. 23

I left just after dawn to ride to Pisco. It was cool, no wind, and almost no uphill. The sandy desert was as advertised,

but there was more water around than I had imagined. The road was lined with farms (fondos), some of which seemed alive,

and others that seemed to have an overdeveloped sense of needing to protect their valuable farm land.

Then there were many houses for which the income producing land was quite mysterious.

I arrived in Pisco at about 11:30am, after a very easy ride. The onshore winds had just started to pick up as I arrived.

I am intending to spend several days here in Pisco because I don't want to arrive in Lima too soon.

I rejected a couple of the more highly recommended places to stay because they were second floor walk-ups, and decided on the Hostal Commercio where they allowed me to wheel my bicycle and trailer into my room.

30  Pisco, Tues. Feb. 24

Today I was a tourist and took the full day tour to the Islas Ballestas and the Paracas Natural Reserve. There are more than 6 tour operators offering the half-day tour to Islas Ballestas and the full day which includes the Paracas Peninsula. Although they try to differentiate themselves, they seem to be virtually identical, combining groups in busses and boats.

The Islas Ballestas is a wildlife (birds and sea lions) sanctuary. Everything is seen from the boat. On the way, you pass the Candelabro, a symbol that is now seen all over Pisco.

It is reminiscent of the Nazca Lines but completely carved out of the sand. What is most amazing, is that the design, combined with the prevailing winds, clears, rather than fills, the lines.

The island sandstone, combined with the wind and waves, have riddled the islands with tunnels and caves.

There is some commercialization with an active guano industry.

The real reason for coming were to see the birds, and there was no disappointment, except that we did not get close enough to the Humboldt Penguins for a picture.

The islands are home to sea lions,

and the largest colony of babies that I have ever seen.

For the afternoon tour to Paracas, I was combined with a totally different group. This tour was very leisurely, with stops at the Paracas Visitor Centre, a rock formation on the shore called the Catedral,

Our final stop, for 3 hours, was at a small beach, Lagunillas, where we could get lunch and swim. I had some ceviche (marinated raw fish), and fried filet of toyo (fish - English name?), that was quite delicious, and so far, I have not been sick.

During the entire tour I did not see anything growing. It is hard to believe that this area supported an entire civilization. There are two campgrounds in the reserve to which I had thought of riding, but after seeing them, and the surroundings, I won't bother.

It was a good day.

31  Pisco, Wed. Feb. 25

Today was quite lazy, riding around town, and not finding anything outside the market and the immediate area around the Plaza de Armas. I spent a couple of hours wandering through the Mercado Ferial and found a new fanny pack that I was able to convert into an armoured pack that is a little more convenient, and comfortable than the one the previous version I created in Lima. The highlight of the day was a ceviche lunch at a small stall run by a woman who was being helped? by her daughter. We talked somewhat, and I took her picture.

Later in the afternoon, I was able to get a large copy of it printed on photo paper, that I took back to her in the market. She was delighted, and so was I.

I spent the early evening watching people in the Plaza de Armas. The kids were being entertained by their parents with rented electric cars, and another, who was obviously not too poor, was playing with his radio controlled sports car.

32  Pisco to Lima, Thurs./Sat Feb 26/28

I had intended to take the bus this morning to Ayacucho, but there is a nation-wide truckers protest, and the major, and a number of minor bus company workers have chosen to join it in a strike. My company of choice, Ormeño were on strike but had their ticket office open to say so. I was told I could get a bus from San Clemente about 10km away at the junction of the Ayacucho road and the Pan American. Indeed Molina, said they were ``running normally'', but I was afraid that perhaps tomorrow they would not, and I would be held hostage, not by the Sendero Luminoso but by the bus companies in Ayacucho. So at 10:30am, I decided to ride north, through the desert to Lima.

At about 3:15pm, I reached the ocean,

and found a place resort? that had depressing rooms, but allowed camping. It was early, so I decided to continue, but the beginning of a long climb into the real desert convinced me to return.

There was only one family staying here, but a truck and a car of day trippers, about 20 young people, came in from the beach at about 5:00pm. They returned my chairs and table, cut up some watermelon, for everyone, including me. There was great interest in my bike and trailer, and my life history in Peru. It was much fun.

I left at about 7:00am to tackle the hill, which turned out to be the beginning of 40km of pure desert. The Peruvian government seems to think by placing new villages, such as Nuevo Ayacucho in the desert, some miracle will occur.

Occasionally I got close enough to the shore to see the ocean.

The first oasis was at Cañete,

Although the eating corn is white, not at all sweet, and very starchy, there is red corn, that may be used for cattle feed.

I left Cañete, passed some desert hillside villages,

and found a place to camp on the beach in Rosario. I was not alone.

I locked my bike up to the pole of one of the beach restaurants, and discovered, in the morning that it had been visited, and thoroughly examined. It was quite secure and nothing was touched.

Very early, Saturday morning, was a quiet time in the Plaza de Armas, Rosario.

I started the 100km to Lima, passing through total desert, without anything growing, for most of the way, including beaches,

but occasionally found some greenery.

Just outside of Lima, I ran across several new sand cliff housing developments,

The concrete fences delimiting them indicated that there was considerable government intervention. However, it appears that not all the political parties agree on such a thing. One large billboard said ``What Peru needs is justice, not more utopias!''

Perhaps justice would make such factories, as this one just outside Lima, not need such security.

The watch towers were the norm, not the exception.

I took the Pan American into Lima until I recognized a major crossroad, Benevides, that ran into Miraflores, and arrived at Hostal España at about 6:15pm.

It was a good day.

33  Lima, Sun. Feb. 29 to Tues. Mar. 2

My last three days in Lima were spent looking for things to fix things that were broken on my bike and trailer, discovering that superglue, that is quite inexpensive here (15 cents US / tube), and sold in alarming large quantities by street vendors, would seal the small holes that have developed in my Platypus water bag. Superglue seems to be almost the only glue you can buy. I tried, and failed, to find some tubes of contact cement to repair, if needed, my air mattress.

I also took some more pictures of interesting churches. Lima seems to have one every few blocks so there are still many I missed.

My room is on the fifth floor, with a much better view of the Convento San Francisco.

Miraflores has blessed one of the favourite pastimes of Peruvians.

This couple are able, when so inclined to stare out at the Miraflores beaches, although beach is perhaps a slight exaggeration as the sand gives way to large rocks about 10m before you even get to the water.

34  Lima to Montreal, Tues. Mar 2 / Wed. Mar. 3

My flight left at 11:50 pm but I did not want to ride at night so I arrived at about 4:00pm. Only passengers are allowed in the departure terminal so it was quite empty, and quiet. I found a vacant place near the empty American Airlines gates and packed my bike with no audience whatsoever. It was very nice.

The plane was late coming in from Santiago so we did not leave until just after midnight. The service, though, was typical exemplary Lan Chile and I had plenty of margin in New York. JFK's elevated Air Train made the trip between terminals very easy, although the other passengers on this particular train had been stuck for an hour between stations. I was fortunate - there were no delays.

I arrived home to a welcomed cool sunny day. The front chainring on my bicycle was slightly bent, and they friendly airport security had let the air out of the tires, but, other than that, it was in good shape.

35  Comments: Security in Peru

Everyone I met, including the Peruvians, were worried, and upset about the problems of personal safety, as the tied up bag in the Plaza de Armas in Arequipa showed.

The Baptist Missionaries that I met on Uros live in Miraflores. They told me of having a neighbour robbed at gunpoint outside his house and of a car, that was parked on the street in front of the missionary's house that had its entire front-end cut off and stolen overnight.

There were some people I met that had not been robbed, but many, if not most had been. Christine told me of a man she met that had four cameras, stolen at four different times. The first was when his bag was snatched from between his legs while he was eating in a restaurant. I also heard that the Peruvian wife of one man had been robbed five times, once being given the choice ``Give us your money or we will kill you!''.

Ella, a woman I met at the Hostal España, went to sleep one night on a bus, with her money belt under her pants, and woke up with it on her lap, opened, and empty. Another man, that I met in Machu Picchu, was almost strangled when he and his wife were jumped just as they were opening their apartment door in Cuzco. He had just taken out his neck pouch at a neighbourhood store, and was evidently seen. The robber ripped open his shirt and tried to rip off the pouch. That failed, so he cut it off and they all ran. Aviation wire, in this case, could have been fatal.

I was told, many times, that I should not leave my bike outside on the street, or it would be stolen. Several times I was invited to bring it into the store. Once I was eating lunch at a counter of a small food stand in an Ica market. I took off my day pack, and tied it to the chair I was sitting on. The lady that was serving me insisted that I put it inside their stand while I was eating.

It was very tiring having to be alert and vigilant 150% of the time.

File translated from TEX by TTH, version 3.02.
On 7 Jan 2009, 06:28.