Made it to Puno. Found a hotel and booked a half-day trip to the floating islands tomorrow. Feels great to have a hot shower after five days on the road. Even had my laundry sent out. First time in South America since I normally wash the worst in the sink or shower.
It wasn’t always graceful, but a nice ride up to and through the Altiplano. I find this area beautiful in its own way.
Day One – Yura
I got doored today. All is fine, but it did delay my departure on an otherwise short day.
Left after breakfast since I expected today to be a short day. Plan was either to go to Yura or have a good breakfast there and start part way up the hill. Traffic was reasonably heavy starting out.
At four kilometers I was passing a parked car when unexpectedly the door swung open. My fault for riding too close to the cars and the motorists fault for not looking back before opening the door.
My pannier took the brunt of the impact. Not sure exactly how but bike ended on its side and I was mostly upright. No major scratches and the bike looked OK as well. The front brake pad had popped out and my bicycle bell was broken but otherwise, the bike looked fine. The pannier was split wide open.
After assessing the situation, I decided to walk back to the bike shop and see what I might do about the pannier as well as put the brake pad back in. They didn’t have any panniers and said that wasn’t really something used in Arequipa. However, they did know a repair shop that fixed shoes, luggage, and other things and might be able to help.
Found the repair shop and left my pannier. Found an internet café and two hours later, went back to have a fixed pannier. Packed the bike up and left for the second time.
To the right was one of the volcanoes near Arequipa. I believe I’ll cycle around this one.
A photo looking back on Arequipa
This route also is roughly the route taken by the railroad. I figured that might help keep the climbing/descending in check.
I even saw a train a while later.
Made my way into Yura which seems to be dominated by a large cement plant. I went downhill a bit to where I knew there were both thermal baths and a hotel. I missed the hotel but found a nearby guest house that seemed as well, once I could convince them to let me put my bike in the garage.
Otherwise still not a long day and gave me some time to relax and otherwise get ready for next day of climbing. As expected, no internet here at the guest house.
Day Two – to the toll booth
Today a climb up the hill to 4000m/13,200ft.
I debated a bit on how to best adjust to the altitude. One guideline suggests “climb high/sleep low” but sleeping only 300m/1000ft higher each night. Imata was the highest point at 4450m and the toll booth at 4050m some 50 kilometers before was a good early point.
However, should I go to the toll booth directly or camp once before. I wasn’t sure if 4050m was too high to start but an advantage of going to the toll booth is there would be roadside restaurants in sort of truck-stop fashion. I decided to go up the hill and see where I ended. In hindsight, made it all the way to the toll booth and other than being more easily winded climbing 7% hills, seems like that worked OK for altitude.
Left Yura hostal around 7 am. It was 5C (40F) and likely as warm as I’ll have at that time of day for a while. Two kilometers brought me back to Yura and the highway as well as the cement plant.
From here the next 41 kilometers were a steady climb. It got as steep as 7% but more typically in the 3-4% range with one or two spots of mostly flat for a kilometer or two. The sun was out and almost no clouds in the sky.
There was a little store at 15km. In addition to snacks, it also sold medicine based on coca for altitude sickness. I already had some I had bought in Arequipa.
One of the volcanoes. The main road went mostly around the volcano from the point I left Arequipa until the end of today.
An example of the gradual climbing.
After a while, the area was designated as a park.
A lupine along the way.
Once I reached 41km, I was mostly on the top with flatter roads as well as signs for vicuna.
At their assigned spots near the signs, I saw vicuna.
The train passed by.
More vicuna. They were not as easily spooked as antelope on the great plains.
Welcome sight to see the toll booth coming up. I stopped and got lunch here. I asked at the police station if they might have extra space/bed (other bloggers had been successful) but nope, so found a spot close by for my tent.
Day Three – Imata
Last night camping was a bit of a mess, though also comedic in hindsight.
When camping near small settlements, there are often two choices: one is to try to hide and camp someplace out of the way, another is to realize locals will probably notice so camp in more public spot. I opted for the latter though perhaps overly so.
Not far from the toll booth there was also a control point where they were controlling traffic headed to Arequipa. For produce or something else, I’m not quite sure. There were a few buildings here, though it was getting to edge of town. One looked fenced off and otherwise shut down and I asked the neighbors if I might camp in front of that stall. They said it wasn’t theirs but otherwise seemed OK.
I set up my tent with some attention from a few children in the area but otherwise nobody paid attention. I set everything up inside and was in the tent until around sunset. Most of the businesses were quickly closing down but I managed to find a bite to eat. It was already getting cold. It got dark quickly and not much later one could see a wonderful array of stars including milky way.
Overnight it got to around -5C. My double sleeping bag worked well, though every three hours or so, it would start to feel cold from underneath as the thermarest pad lost just enough air to not insulate as well. I’d roll off and blow it up. I was also out once or twice to take care of business. The combination meant I didn’t really get an uninterrupted sleep.
At 2am, suddenly lights shining on the tent and car horns honking. Not sure what was going on but I got out of the tent. Owners of the business I had camped in front had arrived! They didn’t seem to car too much about me being there, but it was a bit of a drama to sort everything out. After that, back to napping in short spurts. As best I could tell, it wasn’t so much altitude as traffic noise and cold that kept waking up.
Around 6:15am the sun came up. It was cold, though with sun shining seemed to start warming fairly rapidly. I was able to get a bowl of warm soup and pack everything up and get on the road a little past 8am. My odometer still read -2C (29F) but it warmed not long after on the road. Photo above is the tent in the morning when I’ve already taken most stuff out and am getting ready to pack up.
More of these vicunas today.
At 6.5 kilometers I came across this canyon and low point for the day, ~3900m/12900 ft. From here there was a reasonably steady climb.
Crossed this valley and looked like there was mix of ice and some water. My water bottles and camelbak both froze last night, but not completely solid.
Up on the plain there was a great view back of a few of the volcanoes. Arequipa is behind them on the other side.
The viewpoint was at 4320m/14250ft, as high as Longs Peak in Colorado and still more to climb.
I got up to somewhere around 14,600ft today.
After that it leveled out and became more open as I was riding to largest village in the area, Imata.
Nice to reach outskirts of the village.
I was surprised to find a hostal here. Immediately stopped and asked for a room. Nice follow up from my camping debacle from last night. Also since I am ~400m higher than last night it may get colder.
Surprisingly there was also a hostal across the street, though it looked closed up.
Day Four – Santa Lucia
Over the top (4528m/14856ft) today and back closer to 4000m. My body seemed to adjust ok to being at 14,600ft though I noticed a slight headache that would come and go when I slept. I also find myself a little more easily winded climbing a 7% hill than I would lower down. However as a whole, the strategy of spending that first night at 4000m and second one at 4400m worked ok.
Today was a pretty ride with a few hills but more downhill than uphill. I was on the road at 8am just a little before temperatures got above freezing. Last night the hostal listed hot water on the sign, but there wasn’t water at all. Instead, a toilet block out back where one would throw in a bucket of water. In the morning, the barrel for water had a good layer of ice on it.
The first 10km were almost flat but with a slight crosswind. I then came along the valley shown in photo above.
There were some gentle hills here including one that had this memorial posted. Looks like it happened almost a year ago.
Several spots with herders bringing their vicuna herds out to the fields. These rocky buildings looked a bit like their homes. It would be a cold and tough life up here on the altiplano.
Another vicuna herd.
After a few false starts, I came past the high point, 4528m. The longest climbs for the day were actually after this sign.
Several lakes. This one had flamingos though it is tough to see from this far away. The first gradual hill was on the other side and over the ridge.
As I came past the top, I came to this stop with restrooms and tourist items for sale. A large bus had just stopped so they had good business. The lake was behind.
I descended the road on the left down to the lake.
There were also flamingos here.
The longer climb for the day was on other side. It wasn’t particularly long, but had a few 7% sections that definitely tired me out.
On the other side, the last 20km for the day were mostly downhill following a valley. Great views to the side.
This brought me to Santa Lucia. Only a few roadside businesses but I found the hostal. They said they weren’t open but directly me to another place in town. It took some discussion but found a spot for my bike and place for me inside.
I walked out and found what looked like an OK place to eat. Meat was extremely tough and had some oversized corn chunks. Wasn’t the best food I’ve had but hopefully will fuel me on the road ahead.
Day Five – Puno
A longer ride but almost completely flat and hence quicker average speed than I have ridden in a while.
It was warmer last night in Santa Lucia than the previous two nights. I left around 8am and in hindsight, could have left even earlier. The hostal was busy last night, I believe with construction workers.
The route today started by following a low valley on a very slight downhill.
I’ve been seeing more cattle, pigs and sheep in addition to vicuna. Rather than fences, they will frequently tie them to stakes on the ground.
Small church on the way.
At 34 kilometer mark, the small town had closed the main highway and directed all traffic around the town on this rather bumpy road.
I had barely passed the town when I came to the short cut road to Puno. The paved route was 52 kilometers via Julianca and the short cut was only 35 kilometers. It however turned out to start as gravel. I cycled up this road for a kilometer but it didn’t get better and so decided I would go back and take the faster route on pavement.
Julianca started with a nice wide street.
This statue was on the way.
Once I got to the middle of town, everything was completely stopped up. As best I could tell, there was some sort of protest or march being organized. I got off the bike and walked it as a pedestrian past the largest jams. After that I came to sections like this where it looked like banners were being arranged on the street and then the marchers might go find their banner.
Julianca was a reasonably large town, and after getting through the chaos in the middle I was back on the main road. This route now joined the road from Cusco and had more traffic. However, still very flat. The left lanes in this photo are under construction and not yet open to traffic.
Mira must be a local candidate for 2018 since I notice the hat for the cold.
Toll booth and first once since Colombia that explictly mentions bicycles.
This was the other end of the short cut road. It was paved here.
Up over the largest hill for the day and on the other side was a welcome for Puno.
Down looking at Puno as I descend into the town.
Found a nice hotel close to downtown. Got a shower, sent my laundry, updated this blog. I haven’t looked around further yet, but tomorrow is a half day tour of the floating islands and then chance to look around town. Also time to plot out the next days. I expect from here to La Paz will have more occasional towns. After that in Bolivia will be some larger gaps, even than this five day section I just finished.
Nice to be in Puno.