26th of May till 1st of June 2019.
The experience of being shaken out of your bed at 2:40 is something not to be repeated. To realize in the middle of your REM sleep that the movement of your bed is not due to too much alcohol (as we only had two glasses of light red wine with the excellent steak) takes a minute and then when surfacing from your sleep you remember that you are not on a boat, but in your hotel bed and you hear things falling down. We jump out of bed, grab the camera bag (with our money) and the passports, grab a coat and my helmet is laying next too it, so why not take that too, all when the floor is moving as if you were at sea. Get out of the hotel and then things stop moving.
With possible after shocks in mind we go around the corner to the main square and wait for 30 minutes until people are returning to their homes. Appears to have been an 8 earthquake with the epicenter 600 km north from us. No damage here, only some light landslides. At the epicenter there were some casualties but minor compared to previous earthquakes, as it was in a remote area. It took some time to get back to sleep, for the first time in 2 months turned on the TV to see if there was news but that did not come that quick. Peru is situated along the boundary of two tectonic plates: the Nazca Plate and the South American Plate.
The plates collide, move apart or slide past one another. These movements finally can cause earthquakes.
Our week starts on a Monday enjoying the asphalt and even with 900 vertical meters and 56 km in combination with a late start (as we did some reassuring WhatsApp calls before leaving,) we are still already at 16:00 in San Rafael. Basic place with one basic hostal. Road till here was busier than we are used to and we pulled off several times to let big trucks pass. Oh well you can’t have it all as asphalt is nearly always related with more traffic.
One of the delicacies of this region is flat bread (similar to pita bread) fresh from the wood oven! With the same dough they make different shapes. Most houses will bring their freshly baked bread to the village in the evening . You get 5-7 pieces for 30 eurocent (1 sol).
Next day we want to reach Cerro de Pasco but after 55km on asphalt we need to admit that more will not be reached today. We have seen on iOverlander a small village where people have been camping. Just before reaching it, a tilted truck reminds us of the crazy drivers on these roads.
Jarapampa is nothing more than 3 houses, a small school with a municipal building and a football field. We start to talk with a lady and you notice she finds it strange that tourists, want to camp here. She gives us the approval to camp on the concrete football field or on a grassy stretch. Both are not very far from the road and in view of traffic but there seem to be no other possibilities.
When we ask her husband if we could sleep in the municipal building (mentioned on iOverlander people have been allowed to before) you notice he is a bit reluctant, but 10 soles help to agree that we can set-up camp behind a closed door. Gives us still a better feeling and again happy we have now the free standing tent of which we can use the inner tent separably as a mosquito net.
Next day I want to bike a detour to Cancahcucho as there should be a stone forest. But first great oatmeal as a start of the day. Climbing uphill some pre-hispanic structures distract us during the long steady climb to +4.400 m.
Second breakfast/early lunch at the chilly mining town of Villa de Pasco, cheap sheep soup and stew. As all this is at an elevation of 4.000+ and it is quite windy it is nice to have some hot food in your stomach. The main benefit of the detour is that we leave the relatively busy 3N to follow the 20A. Asphalt and almost flat! You can feel me smile, can you 😊.
We have time to visit part of the Huayllay park, Bosque de Piedras. Forest of stones, stone forest. Volcanic eruptions, frozen in time and eroded by the wind into different shapes and figures. Some have been named, others you use your own imagination to create a story behind what you see; beasts, faces, etc.
We find a clean, basic place with shared facilities. You can easily camp here, small village with almost no traffic and enough flat places but we don’t mind a bed and space to spread our stuff as it is freezing at night. We use our own sleeping bags to stay warm even inside!
For the first time we have dessert, rice with milk and thick, dark chicha morada, made from black corn. Jammy!
On request our host arranged fried eggs with bread for breakfast which is served outside 😊 so still bit of camping.
The grass is frosted and for the first time we leave wearing our down jackets. We follow a route I have drawn with MapOut, guiding us to Chinchaycocha lake, located in Reserva National de Junin. A slightly steep climb over the rim and then a rolling gravel road following the west side of the lake. Encountering for the second time alpacas. Alpacas produce wool similar to sheep’s wool, but it is warmer, not prickly, and has no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic. Alpaca fiber is naturally water-repellent and difficult to ignite.
Around the lake.
What a joy! We discover afterwards that Junin lake is the largest lake of Peru and one of the highest lakes in the world. Titikaka lake is larger, but half of it is in Bolivia. It is very important as a water reserve but also for preserving wildlife, hence as a wild life spotting area. Hearth breaking is that also this area is polluted due to the mines, agriculture and sewage from the city of Junin. People try to make a living and plant potatoes in areas which should be left alone as potato farming erodes the earth and doesn’t hold the water. Same with cows, with their hooves they damage more than lamas. Still a beautiful area to travel through. 530 km2 of water with pink flamingos and ducks with blue beaks.
A bright blue sky with almost no wind makes us very happy! To not impact the fragile environment with camping 😉 we bike to Junin and sleep in Neby’s Hostal. Nestor is really as friendly and interested as people have been saying about him on internet. He warns us that the road we will take going south will guide us through one of the most polluted areas of the world. As the other possibility is too much climbing we still continue the chosen road.
Small road with no shoulder and a lot of big trucks makes us take as much as possible parallel gravel roads to La Oroya. Where is the benefit of asphalt?
What would you think when you are at +4.000 in elevation, no houses in sight, largest lake on the left and then in the middle of nowhere this empty attempt (at what?)
2016 Time Magazine wrote that La Oroya was one of the 10 most polluted areas in the world. The area approaching the mining village has been stripped from all green, it looks as clean as after heavy chemo therapy. The sky is blue, looks like no pollution, but in 2016 90% of the kids had too much lead in their blood. We are lucky not to live here when chemical clouds cover the sky, but just pass through.
Biking brings you not only closer to the wonders of nature but shows you the devastating impact humans have on nature. Not only the huge conglomerates but even just the agriculture which has now such an impact on the lake.
Walking around town after we have found a clean love hotel with WIFI we end-up in a chifa restaurant. More and more chifa restaurants appear here, kind of chinese and they serve kind of fried rice or tallin (noodles), so hungry we are, we both eat two portions and are surprised there are vegetables in there, wondering if they have been farmed closed to here and if they contain contaminated metals.
You can only leave town by following Rio Mantaro further downstream which has created a very tight deep canyon not allowing in any sun until 11:00. Cold downhill ride!
Good asphalt lets us cover easily 80 km to Jauja, a shoulder would be appreciated as we now have to pay a lot of attention on on and upcoming traffic and give way to them.
In hot Jauja we find Casa Jauja just outside centre with an area for the bikes and we can enjoy some time on the terrace so no need to look further. Some cuddling with the house cats. One has 6 toes on each paw !
Dinner in the city as cookie did not show up in the hotel restaurant. You may wonder why don’t we cook? As we can eat a standard dinner for 2-3 euro per person, it is easier to look for the local specialty if you are the whole day in the saddle and most of the time there is also no space to cook. One of the downsides of not camping.
Our 7th day biking brings us to Huancayo along a straight road . We can’t resist to pull off the road at 11:00 to enjoy the best pulled pork sandwich ever! 10 hours it has been cooking! And she is here every day. Sells in the weekend one pig per day, during the week ¼ per day.
Huancayo is the world 10th highest city with a population of + 100,000. Through Booking/Google maps we find a hotel which offers also an apartment. Dust is accepted as we have a kitchen to cook! Still on time to do some grocery shopping at the small Mercado, luckily Frank joined and we carried more than 10 kg back home! Whauw having a couch and even a terrace. Maybe missing that aspect of regular life a bit? No I don’t but it is nice to enjoy it again!
A different week with a record in kilometers for this second part of the trip. Good to feel the possibility of covering miles without being totally drained at the end of the day. We don’t yet feel the need to look for gravel as traffic is still reasonable. And it is much warmer!