The bus brought me and my French friends (Ludo & Emilie, www.les-andes-andouilles.com) from Ayacucho to the highest city of the world, Cerro de Pasco at 4.300m altitude.
What a strange city! It’s all based on mining and they have digged a huge hole in the center of the city. The hostal we stayed in will be gone in 2 yrs time, the owner will start with a new hospedaje in another town.
Even in hostels we – the gringos con la bici – are special guests, getting food or as in Cerro de Pasco a very special sightseeing tour in the city. We ended up at his brother’s petrol station, who wanted to invite us for a beer. It was Saturday and obviously we didn’t leave after one beer but continued the fiesta in the backyard of the petrol. Our souvenir from this afternoon are the jackets with emblem of the petrol station on it.
From Cerro de Pasco we had “todo bajada” (all downhill) for 120km until we got in the evening to the town of Huanco. Entering the town in the evening we passed many fiestas next to the road, had to stop for photos with the locals who were giving us their children for a photo – almost like the pope on a bike.
We didn’t make the entire way down to Tingo Maria that day, but stayed at the school of a little village in the jungle. There was no way to understand what the old guy next to the school was saying about sleeping in the school, so we started to set up our camp in front of the school. A neighbour – the reverend of the baptist church in town – must have seen our torchlight, he came over and offered us to sleep in his house. Very friendly! We were very happy to escape the rain, got a proper breakfast and we’re still carrying the bible he gave us as present.
Ok, down into the lowlands, we had lunch in Tingo Maria and through the tropical heat of the Amazonas we got to Aucayacucho in the evening. It was the first the day of the “San Juan” festival, which is big thing in the jungle and followed us until the peak on Friday. That night the Miss San Juan was elected in this town. In between the few hundred locals on the main plaza, they even mentioned the 3 gringos, who are here only for San Juan. The next morning we even had to give a interview for the local radiostation…once again feeling like a popstar!
This actually would have been the last day of cycling 3 of us together, I wanted to go back to the mountains via a small road on the map, while Emilie & Ludo were heading north to Tarapoto. I said goodbye to them and set off on a very bad gravel road. After a few kilometers I crossed a river with a ferry, when the first people told me that road I wanted to take doesn’t exist any more and it would be only possible with a horse and machete. I decided that was a bit to much of an adventure for me and tried to catch up with Ludo & Emilie again. On the way back I met John, who showed me a shortcut which should be easier than the main road – it ended up into single-trail mountainbiking. He was very happy to show the way and asked me to sign on his shirt…once again feeling like a popstar on a bike!Due to the heat I cycled in sandales, in the afternoon I realized that I lost my biking shoes…bad luck.
The night I was reunited with my french friends.
Friday is a pulic holiday in this area and everyone is going to a fiesta at the nearby river. It was the hottest day in the jungle by far and even a bath in the river didn’t help much. In addition to that I had a puncture, which I fixed with the help and under the curious looks of a bunch of locals. After only 20kms on bad gravel we decided to give our bikes a rest for today and stayed in the charming little village of Puerto Pizzaro. While “San Juan”, everyone eats Juanes (rice with chicken, packed in big leaves). We got a big Juanes in the morning from the family we stayed with, ate one for lunch, got invited in the afternoon from other people in the village and got a last one from the hospedaje…that was even for hungry cyclists too much.
At the next day about 120km bad gravel would have waited for us, so that we decided trying to get a truck to take us until the paved road. We were lucky, before we started cycling we found a truck. They delivered merchandising articles for the upcoming “Copa America” from Lima to Tarapoto. One of us went with the 2 drivers in the front and the others had to go in the dark and hot back of the truck. It took incredibly 6 hours to get to the paved road, the road was really bad, there was big climb and we had to refill the cooling water every few kilometers.
We cycled a bit in the evening until we got to a very nice juice bar, we all knew this would be a good place to stay over night. Indeed, the family offered us to sleep in their restaurant, they have hosted cyclists before. We spent the evening drinking Coconut-juice and played cards with the entire family. Only the huge amount of mosquitoes made it a bit uncomfortable for us.
Waken up early by the sun and the mosquitoes, we cycled all the way into the capital of the jungle, Tarapoto, with the little help of a truck on the uphill. Here we found a nice hospedaje and spent an entire day doing nothing.