The ride through the mountains of Peru is finally at an end. That was a mere 3,471km of cycling laterally and 53,000 metres of cycling vertically that I will not forget in a hurry. There could not have been a happier nor more relieved cyclist than your correspondent as he crossed the border into Bolivia. It has been a wonderful challenge to ride border to border through the glorious mountain scenery of Peru but I’m so glad to have a final final blast across the plateau at 4,000 metres from Cuzco to the border and Lake Titikaka to bid adios to Peru.
Yes, riding Peru took endurance both physical and psychological, particularly enduring the ever-present chorus of roadside “Eer Gggrrringo!” (Non-cyclists will be blissfully unaware of this) and the near constant bleating of car horns.
I could return to Peru one day, under a somewhat bizarre set of circumstances. Perhaps if an enlightened Peruvian transport bureaucrat instigated a national “Let’s all jam our vehicle klaxons in our collective bottom-holes” Day.
The Peruvian battle between the decent and the irritating can, however, now go on without me. From the vantage point of Bolivia, where the horn and the “Grrringo!” have mostly been silenced, I can happily leave Peru to grapple with its inner moron.
Copacabana, eight kilometres inside Bolivia is on the shore of Lake Titikaka and is the stepping off point for a boat ride to the Isle del Sol (Isle of the Sun). It is a tourist ‘cappuccino town’; one of those places where the tourist buses stop to disgorge backpackers who don’t seem to turn up anywhere between the bus stops and cappuccino cafes and pizza places. These folk simply don’t exist in the flea bitten truck stop towns sporting one restaurant serving chicken and chips, frequented by this traveling bicyclist,
I therefore spent a day after trekking across the island just stuffing down pizza and lattes. It proved difficult to leave so an extra day is spent wiling away an afternoon WI-FI-ing and carb-loading in a cafe.
From Copacabana (which in reality proved less enticing than it’s name sake in Brazil) it was a lovely ride across to the north shore of the lake towards La Paz. Was lucky enough to happen upon a large fiesta on the road, the women all decked out in their finest bowler hats and multi-layered skirts twirling away merrily and the men-folk spinning (truck-shaped) clackers while shuffling from side to side in a cleverly synchronized dance motion that almost concealed the fact that they were all tanked to the eye-balls. Three brass band’s blurted away with gusto the sound melding into a vast cacophony of trumpet, euphonium and sousaphone (of no particular tune). One band had six sousaphones, no less! Great stuff! The atmosphere has certainly changed from a few km back up the road and your correspondent had the opportunity to dust off his trumpet skills, adding yet another layer of dissonance to the enthusiastic noise.
A lake-side hotel is the last stop before La Paz and the last chance to look out over Lake Titikaka (refer photos).
The ride into La Paz is a dramatic plunge off the plateau down into the city centre. The atmosphere is relaxed an friendly and it will be a good base for a couple of days where I can stock up for the ride through the remote south-east.
La Paz is also a kind of marker where the Pan-American Highway, which has been tracking south-east from Quenca in Ecuador now turns due south towards the final destination of Ushuaia in Tierra Del Fuego in Argentina The road from La Paz to the Chilean border promises to be great fun. Crappy dirt rutted roads and the famous salt plains some horrible sand tracks, volcanoes, lakes and then across to The Atacama Desert of Chile.