9th till 15th of June 2019.
Do you also still presume how a town will look or how food will taste? We love to be surprised and we don’t mind to sleep at an other location almost every night, in our tent or between walls, but what me still makes me wonder is why we still imagine how things will be. Even if we recognize that expectations don’t often meet reality.
The river town San Francisco is much smaller than we expected but does offer more than the other villages we have passed during the past weeks.
Of course Saturday night was a real Saturday night with the same songs, the same beat until 4 in the morning. Being at the outskirts of the village did not prevent us to enjoy the celebration of a wedding from our bed.
We can’t complain as we can sleep in, enjoy a breakfast at the riverside and work on the blog.
We wonder if this hotel will make it in the long run. We don’t see anybody for the whole day. They left glasses and other stuff of last night on the tables and they don’t try to sell anything.
It is so nice to be at a lower elevation which is linked with nice warm, humid weather and even in the evening it is not cold. It feels like holiday especially when we have a lovely fish lunch with a river view. And a haircut for 3 Euro.
I am gonna have my cake.
Rested we decide to do an easy ride on Monday until Chirumpiari as from there a steeper climb will start. Beautiful gravel ride along tropical forest alternated with pineapple plantations. We have fresh cut pineapple and pineapple cake only just minutes out of the oven at one of the roadside stands. The sugar drips from our chin while the soft cake melts on our tongue. All while ducks walk between our feet and cars get their pineapple refill in a drive through. People are too lazy to get out of their car to buy a piece of pineapple. A big one is sold for 1,5 Euro, in the weekend she will sell around 50 pieces. Did you know that if you put the top of a pineapple in the ground it will start to grow and will carry fruits in 3 years! I want to try this, don’t you?
Things go better with coke.
This environment is also the place where fields after fields of coca leaves are harvested. Coca is legal in Peru and mostly used at higher elevations in tea or to chew on to reduce the impact of altitude sickness and fatigue. Locals use it to be able to work harder and feel less the urge to eat or drink. In the Inca area it was used for ceremonial purpose. I also used it a few times but only above 3,000 meters and if I don’t get enough air and feel that pressure around my chess. I have to say it works for me, maybe between my ears but what the heck. The leaves are also used as an ingredient for Coca-Cola.
I move chickens.
Chirumpiari is a roadside town where the local chico’s guide us to the “best” hotel in town. Also this town, as the others we have passed through the last days, closes the road between 22:00 and 3:00 at night to reduce violence and robberies. I am happy to sleep indoors and can take a cold shower after a very hot day. No kitchen, so some food in one of the roadside restaurants. After having been passed a few weeks ago by trucks full of skinny chicken which smelled of decay and must have had an awful life, I try not to eat chicken anymore. This is a real challenge in Peru as chicken is less expensive than vegetables. In restaurants you can choose meat or eggs, vegetables are only in soup. It is only a tiny bit of meat you get but still I feel sorry, we only try to eat what has had a good life.
Lucky we did not continue yesterday and climbing almost 2,000 vertical meters over a switchback road with steep sides confirms that camping would have been a true challenge. Small road with mostly asphalt but no flat and free piece of land. Strange to see no houses for almost 25 km but jungle which in some places is overtaken by coca. The jungle bleeds.
In this area we don’t see or smell any eucalyptus trees. After crossing the pass we refill water bottles at a shrine at the side of the road.
We come to a military checkpoint, where our info gets registered, they inform us that the villages on the map are not big and that the road will be closed between 20:00 and 6:00 to reduce robberies and violence. Conversation with the soldiers went like this; “Is it dangerous?” “Yes it can be a little dangerous”. “Can we pass?” “Yes you can pass”. Sweet guys with big guns. After they have let us through we reassure each other that they would not let us through if it would not have been safe.
Time to hide.
We at least can cover some miles downhill, you see we have entered a new district as the road is wider and they are still improving. Good surface alternating with gravel. Around 16:00 it is time to start to look for a camp spot as also here there are not a lot of flat pieces of land. iOverlander mentioned a spot which we find. Leveled and not visible from the road but next to abandoned roadside stands which supported a touristic attraction at the bridge. We see some of the huts are now used by people to live in, but no living soul in sight. Mattresses and cooking gear are hung at the roof, so we presume no people will be sleeping here tonight. We can’t ask anybody if it is OK to sleep here, so pitch tent in a corner of the “parking lot” which shows no recent car tracks. We even have the luxury of a squat toilet, by the look and (lack of) smell of it, it has not been recently used. Our only concern is a motor which is parked between the stands, out of sight from the road.
It is fun to cook again, I do miss our chairs as it is one of the first times we don’t find anything to sit on. Only possibility is call it an early night as it is too cold to sit outdoors.
We both wake up around 23:00 by a car which stops and we hear people loading stuff. We cross fingers that they don’t see the reflection of the bikes or tent and keep quiet. After some time they leave and a bit later we also hear the motor leaving the place. It gives an eerie feeling and we both don’t sleep very well.
Today we want to cover some miles so alarm at 5:00. Bit cold which is nicely solved with a strong cacao-coffee and real oatmeal and ready to roll at 7:00. Lush green environment is often related with humid early mornings and the sun has not yet peaked over the mountain ridge
We follow Rio Kepashiato which becomes wilder and lager the lower we come. We both love the tropical heat and humidity, but would not mind if the black bugs would not be here. Even if you have put repellent they will find tiny bits of skin which are not covered, even I get bitten! It is the day of river crossings (not all with dry feet) and beautiful orchids.
That was weird.
Beautiful green environment slowly changes and it is only after the second somewhat lager village that the strange feeling we both had is disappearing. We can’t describe what we felt, why did we feel unsafe? Was it because the few people we saw did not react to our greetings? Was it because this area was really poor? Was it because there were almost no houses and roads close at night?
Waste of towels.
We finally arrive in Kiteni where there would be a performance of Paisana Jacintha, but before we have found a place to stay and have had something to eat it is time for bed. Why so late: when we found a hostel with two beds (if available we do prefer our own space) and we agree to pay more for two beds as for a matrimonial, we only get one towel and even if we ask for a second one she says it is not possible. After a long day this is enough for Frank to turn around, reload the bikes and find another spot. Which we do, better and quiet, with a small kitchen which is great in the morning.
Next day we roll up and down steep hills continuing to follow the river, staying the whole day between 650 and 850 meters. Nice and warm! Very windy with very sharp curves where I need to squeeze myself against the wall for an upcoming truck as he had not seen me. If I would have been a car I would have been flat. Smell of ripe citrus fruits accompanies us the whole day. We even get oranges!
In Palm Real we find a hostel with shared facilities, what is shared as we are the only guests, as in most places we have stayed during the past weeks? Where are all the tourists? Will it be different getting closer to Machu Picchu?
How much fun is it to discover toucans in the morning. They have a very specific sound.
Toucan Fun Facts (copy from internet)
- Omnivores: Most Toucan species forage in the rain forest canopy for fruits, insects, and lizards. They also take bird’s eggs and nestlings to snack on!
- Highly social birds: You’ll almost never see a Toucan all alone. Larger species and Toucanets usually stay in pairs or small groups, while smaller Aracari Toucans often troop through the forest in groups of about ten!
- Beak envy: Male toucans have slightly larger bills than females. This difference is very apparent when you see a male and female together.
- Super smart: Toucans appear to be quite intelligent. They can learn to do tricks, and have even been reported to “tease” other family pets! Toucans actually act a lot like crows and jays — another family of smart, social birds.
We are both not in a pushy mood so we decide to take a small dirt road detour to Encharati and call it a day at midday, the municipality of this area. People in suites and big avenues. We hope to find a spot to work online but spend the afternoon looking for the impossible. We do find some great chocolate and meet Oz from Israel who works as a volunteer in the finca of Mario. Awesome dark chocolate with chili and salt. Did we say we have passed endless plantations of cacao the past weeks?
Most travellers will approach Machu Picchu from Cusco but if you are biking from the north I have to say that the route we have followed is impressive as you have had the Andes and the outskirts of the Amazon.
Leaving Echarati we have a coffee stop just a few kilometres out of town Senor Luis who left the pampas and found his new place here 4 years ago. 2 years younger than Frank and lives here alone, building a new finca and offering slow filtered coffee. Only coffee and no food so we share our crackers with tuna and avocado which he gladly accepts. He loves living here with his own spring with clean water, river view and nice temperature whole year round. Land providing sufficient to live from. He will not go back to the highlands as he divorced and his kids are grownup .
As reaching Santa Teresa is too much of a stretch we find a clean bed in Santa Maria to close a hot, humid, green week. In Santa Maria we see first signs of tourist activities.
Getting ready for the Machu Picchu adventure. Are you looking forward to see which route we have followed and how we solved the issue that we did not pre-book the Inca Trail hike (which has been a very long time on our bucket list)?