Early bird gets... to see Maccu Piccu. We found out many travelers couldn't get to Aguas Calientes due to the strikes and the disruptions they caused. At our hotel we spoke to several folks who were stranded in Aguas Calientes after seeing MP.
We were up at 4:20am to have a little brekkie before catching the bus to MP at 5am. I think part of the mystique of MP comes from being a sleepy or weary traveler as I was a little out of it when the bus pulled up to this wonder of the world.
MP is strategically placed high in the mountains and between several peaks, so that it remains partially hidden and shrouded in mist. The sun appears late on this mountaintop, adding to the magic and mystery of the ancient Incan ruins.
We walked the grounds in the brisk air with our tour guide, Vilma, who explained the historical importance of the different structures. Sun burst through clouds, slowly warming up the air. The site is overwhelming, it is enormous and spread out. As I meandered, I tried to imagine what MP was like as a thriving little village. It is belivwd that the Incans observed the land and climate many years before they built upon it. This is how they knew exactly when the equinoxes and solstices occurred, and how they were able to build a Sun Temple which the sun shines through on the solstice.
After Vilma set us free, our group decided to hike Wayna Piccu, a higher mountain beside MP, with an altitude of 2,668m. The steep climb up was slow-going at points, and I kept thinking about slipping and falling over the edge. (Unlike the US, Peru doesn't feel the need to 'idiot-proof' the grounds, so there aren't any guardrails.) There are tiny steps that even my 6.5 foot cannot fit on.
The breathtaking view from the top was worth the climb. Although we were among the first groups to climb Wayna Piccu that morning, it got hairy at the top as there were too many people vying for the perfect selfie or photo.
After the treacherous climb down Wayna Piccu, C and I wandered the grounds a bit more before catching the bus back to Aguas Calientes.
Back on the bikes at 8am. I hope I am becoming a better cyclist, getting stronger. Each day pressing onward. I can't always keep track of my distance because it's told to me in kilometers, (so I'm always doing the math in my head). I just keep pushing forward.
After we dined on banana quinoa pancakes with our host family on the peninsula, we set out cycling. It was so damn frigid this morn that I had to pile on extra layers. I logged 20 miles at around 12,000 ft before 10am. I was happy to hop in the van to travel onward to the next location.
After a few hours traveling by van we unloaded the bikes. This ride started out downhill, then the road was up and down, as we rode through two villages and past the Quattro Lagunas. The ride added another 9.45 miles to the daily total. I'm feeling strong and accomplished.
Everyone has various levels of experience cycling, the 19 year-old Scottish kid is extremely fit and speeds on ahead of all of us. The hubby and wife from New Zealand have been on many trips and cycle a lot at home. The Aussie keeps a good pace. I think I'm the only one huffing and puffing at times.
C and I are different types of cyclists. My style is more slow and steady, with stops to smell the flowers (or photograph the alpacas). I'm more of a meanderer on a bike. (Whereas I'm a city walker, and keep a fast pace on foot.) C is a competitive, strong cyclist, pushing herself, very technical about things and happy to finish among the first, (and not so happy to be a long the last). Sometimes she waits for me or cycles just a bit ahead of my pace. I don't mind cycling alone, I am pushing myself each day, more than I have ever before. I have to remind myself, I've only just started this sport, cycling with a bit of seriousness since April, on my hybrid road bike. Previously, I meandered along in my beach cruiser, complete with my late great min-pin, Miss Holly Go-Lightly in the basket. (I've included an old pic of Miss Holly & I below).
Lago titikaka, or Lake Titicaca, means "puma head" in the indigenous language. At 3800 meters, Titikaka is the highest lake in the worldand belongs both to Peru and Bolivia.
We boarded a boat around 845 in the morning to access the man-made floating island of Uros. It took about 30 minutes to reach Uros.
I was a bit uncomfortable at first, because it felt like we were exploiting the people there, as it seems they put on a show for us (tourists in general). But they have chosen tourism as their main source of income. Four families live on the island of Uros, and they have set it up for tourism. The community works together to build the island by tying layers of tampote grass. (When dried, it reminds me of bamboo). Obviously, the grass rots from the bottom up, as it sits in the water. Layers must constantly be added to the top to keep the island from disappearing. The people built their homes in the traditional way, made of grass and straw so that tourists can see how they lived in the past. The women on the island hand embroider and sew various handicrafts.
We hopped back into the boat for an hour and 45 minutes to reach the peninsula of Llachón.
I suppose it was good to have a rest day off of the bikes and an interesting stopover at the homestay, though I could have lived without it. The people are genuinely kind. It was freezing last night and though C and I cuddled close and were warm enough in bed, we couldn't get out of bed. There wasn't any heat, electricity or running water in the rustic accommodations, and I woke up stiff and achy this morn. One of my glands feels a little swollen, I'm hoping it's just because I slept fitfully last night. We huddled under the covers by 845 last night and called it a day.
We slept in the canyon, in cabanaconde. The temp dropped down but there were many warm and heavy blankets in our lodging. Usually I'm a furnace during the night, so C snuggles up close to me for warmth.
We left after breakfast so we could view the condors putting on their show. The Cruz Del Condor is a location that has thermal winds, which the giant birds catch to become airborne. This is a big tourist a lot with several local traditional women setting up shop to sell handmade alpaca items.
After about an hour, we hopped on our bikes and began our descent into the canyon. 3800m (12,844) and traveled 17k. After lunch I rode another 10k to the town of Copraque, before hopping into the support van, while the others continued by bike to the next location. I am usually the last rider in, the slowest, but I'm getting the job done.
The isolated accommodation was, by Peruvian standards, a resort. There were hot springs on the property, so we soaked our aching bones for a bit before dinner. It's been a few days since I have been able to get online. (Totally okay with that.)
Last night was chilly and we had piles of heavy blankets on us in bed. When we came back from dinner, we found a lovely and mysterious surprise of candy on the nightstand. When C got into bed she exclaimed how warm my feet were, but my feet weren't yet under the covers! Along with the candies, we were left the gorgeous surprise of a hot water bottle at the foot of the bed. Although we were in bed early, we were awake enough to watch a (pre-downloaded) episode of Orange is the New Black on my iPad. (Almost done with this season!)
The next morning we loaded the van to continue on to Puno and Lake Titicaca.
Cycling Day Two: Arequipa
The van brought us further out into the countryside and we cycled around small villages, up some killer hills and some slow, steady inclined as well. We covered about 10 miles and reached an altitude of 2900 meters. Whoa, that's high!
I think I'm adjusting to the altitude alright so far. Tomorrow we head out to Colca Canyon, reaching an altitude of 4800 meters.
We arrived in Lima after a long day of travel. Jet Blue actually canceled our first flight (from Newark to Fort Lauderdale) but they were able to get us on a flight at JFK so we could still make our connecting flight to Lima. We were shuttled off to JFK via Lyft. JFK is a cluster. I remembered why I don't ever fly out of that airport.
We made it into Lima and to our accommodation in the Barranco neighborhood just before 1 AM.
We slept well and we slept in. After we dined on the meager breakfast provided at our hostel, we headed out walking to explore the neighborhood. On our way to the ATM we happened upon a free walking tour and decided to join. Along the way we stopped at el Pointe de Suspiros, the Bridge of Sighs. Legend says that if you hold your breath while walking over the bridge you get to make a wish once you reach the other side. The tour concluded with the tasting of the national drink, a Pisco sour, (but of course I did not partake).
Barranco is a manageable neighborhood with many places to eat, drink and dance. To my dismay, there are also (several) Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts. Traffic is crazy bad in Lima and Barranco is no exception so we enjoyed wandering on foot.
On Thursday we took the local tram car into the city center and checked out the catacombs at the San Francisco Church. Sadly, I wasn't allowed to photograph the many piles of human skulls and femurs we saw there.
In the evening, my goal was to get to an AA meeting and then go dancing at one of the 4 gay clubs in the city. I arrived at the meeting a few minutes late because the cab driver dropped us off at the wrong church so we had to run a few blocks to get to the correct location. However, once at the correct church there was no answer on the big brown door. First mission failed. It was only 7pm and the homo club didn't open until 11... consequently mission number two failed as well because I didn't have enough mojo to stay out until then.
Hi, I'm Reverend J, a queer+ sober wanderer, activist, writer and ordained minister.