Colca Canyon to Lake Titicaca, our last jaunt in Peru

Having made the decision not to head to Cusco or Machu Picchu I was genuinely excited to visit the Colca Canyon and Lake Titicaca, the two other places on the Southern Peru tourists ‘must visit’ list.  We were lucky enough to score a palatial abode through warmshowers in the village of Yanque in the Colca Canyon.  I took an overnight trip to Arequipa to get my 5th and final rabies jab whilst Nathan relaxed in the house.  Still, on my return I got to make the most of the fully equipped kitchen, something which is now a luxury in our lives.

We were running out of time (Nathan’s visa was running out and I had plans to reach La Paz to meet a friend) so instead of riding out bicycles to Cabanaconde, the launching point for treks down to the bottom of the canyon, we instead decided to try catching a bus there.  The villagers in Yanque all gave us the times for the buses, and so we waited and nothing came, maybe we were in the wrong part of the village, we gave up and went home.  Being a tourist was hard work, we had to rely on something else than our own motivation and strength and it just was not fun, tourism is so much harder than bike riding.

We decided to use the time saved to our advantage and hit the road, allowing me to arrive in La Paz in good time before my friend Charmian arrived from London.  Leaving Chivay on the paved road we found the amount of tourist traffic quite overwhelming, and our moods soured somewhat by cold winds and the threat of rain and snow.  A day after leaving Chivay we hit the ripio again, here we found some fun, a thigh deep river crossing, our final night of snowy Peruvian camping, and a misty morning.  We then hit the asphalt to save some time, crushing around 150km in just one full day of riding.  In Juliaca we caught a bus to Puno where we would stamp out of Peru.  Again we failed to do the tourist thing and visit the islands on the lake.  We then rode the lower traffic route along the eastern side of Lake Titicaca, and into Bolivia.

The past month or so of high altitude rough riding and camping in cold conditions was beginning to catch up with me. I struggled to find this route inspiring, although it was pleasant enough.  I am slightly ashamed to admit that I spent a lot of time just waiting to arrive in La Paz.  I continue to laugh, moan and share the road with Nathan.  You really should check out his blog for route information and a far superior post on this ride.

                                 12th August – Arequipa to Yanque by bus

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I enjoy my jaunt to Arequipa for my final rabies jab, Peru’s second biggest city has a real bustle. I am a little overwhelmed,  I have become a mountain woman. After all that time in the wilderness with only Nathan and alpacas for company it now feels so strange to be launched into modern life . One point I fall down a pot hole, too busy gawping at city life to pay attention to the path.  At 2700m altitude the temperature is balmy…

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… but I am happy to return to tranquil Yanque.

                                         13th August – Yanque 

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Nathan and I are in high spirits as we leave the house on our voyage to be tourists for the day. We wait around for a bus to Cabanaconde that doesn’t arrive, we then give up and go home. Riding a bike is easy compared with this.

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We retire to our palatial residence.

                                      14th August – Yanque to camp

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Attempting to look unimpressed with the days riding, Nathan can’t stop laughing.

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After an uninspiring day we finally make it to the top of the pass, we are freezing but luckily the descent includes some climbing which warms us up and keeps us going until we find a suitable camp spot hidden from the road as darkness sets in. Nathan is such a pro at finding good spots.

                           15th August – camp to camp

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Morning camp

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We set off that morning in search of water

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Paved roads have their plus points

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We then turn off and spend the rest of the day on ripio, clouds chasing us all day.

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The flat pampa makes it easy to cover distance

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We lunch in the delightful village of Chalhuanca (dubbed C-huanc the 2nd as this is our 2nd Chalhuanca of the trip). Nathan and I give a lot of these towns alternative names. These two amigos follow us out of  the village.

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Locals in C- huanc 2nd tell us there is now a bridge to cross the Rio Chili, which we are unable to find. We follow the car tracks and resolve to cross the river. I get in first to find the shallowest crossing point. We take several crossings to get all our stuff across. Nathan chivalrously carries my bike across. Check out those leg canons.

                           16th August – camp to Santa Luisa

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The previous evening we cycle until dusk, finding a lovely little spot just before the snow sets in.  We eat cereals in our tents and spend the evening shouting across to each other.  We wake to our final snowy morning in Peru, we are no longer phased by such conditions.  The sun fails to hit the camp that morning.

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Snowbikes

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We emerge from our camp spot….

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We hit the road, the only traffic is a single moto

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An amazing way to start the day

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Majestic mist and blue skies, it feels incredible when the sun comes out and we can strip off several layers of clothing.  An amazing way to end our last jaunt on unpaved Peruvian roads

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Vast landscapes

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We arrive on the outskirts of Imata and are keen to avoid getting our feet wet  again so attempt to find a track along the river. We fail and have to wade across and into the village.

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After a long lunch in Imata we hit the highway, we put our heads down and manage 75km to Santa Lucia, there is a fiesta happening so we struggle to find accommodation, we eventually find a lovely family run hospedaje. We wander the town in search of snacks and dinner, and then hit the hay.

                          17th August – Santa Luisa to Juliaca

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Out of Santa Lucia only half a days riding to Juliaca. We had hoped to get to Puno that afternoon to stamp out of Peru but it is Sunday  so the office is closed.   Instead  we do some jobs in the Casa Ciclista in Juliaca and eat a lot of Chinese food.

                                    18th August – Juliaca (Puno by bus)

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The following day we take a short bus ride to Puno to get our Peru exit stamps as there is no immigration office on the eastern side of Lake Titicaca.  A tourist infrastructure always means decent coffee, and we don’t let the chance of some baked good pass us by. Rico Pan, Puno

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During out trip to immigration in Puno I bump into Leah who is holidaying with a friend visiting from the states. We spend the whole afternoon laughing and recalling tails of our Mexican leg of this trip. So happy.

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The always smiling Giovanni, and the dog who ate my knickers. Casa Ciclista, Juliaca.

                                        19th August – Juliaca to Moho

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Juliaca was the kind of city we like, bustling, gritty and full of life, but the outskirts were a stinking tip.  As we crossed the river we saw people washing their clothes in the litter and sewage strewn river, possibly the most abject poverty I have seen during my time in Peru.

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Our first glimpses of Lake Titicaca life. There are plenty of women collecting reeds from the rivers edge, I wonder if this is to dry to fuel fires or for thatching?

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The rivers edge must be fertile as people are ploughing right up to the reeds. That night we make it to the town of Moho.

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As our time in Peru draws to a close we say goodbye to our favourite road fuel, the triangula chocolate bar – we have powered our high altitude adventures on this humble looking stick of chocolate (we converted from sublimes around 2 months ago)

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Mapping our fast progress on the altiplano of the lake during dinner.

                                   20th August – Moho to Escoma

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Moho (pronounced Moe) has a great restaurant where the kind and humble owner Sara cooks us a hearty dinner. The following morning she opens early especially to serve us this giant plate of food.  We can also recommend the municipal hotel, we had a bed with real sheets and hot showers for 10/s pp

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Sara who cooked up the incredible food. Her husband has been to Europe playing traditional Peruvian music.

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On the outskirts of Moho we really get to see the lake in all it’s beauty

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The celeste water shimmered in the sun and lapped against the shore, and ducks dived into the water, the scent of the eucalyptus trees seem such a treat after being above tree level for so long.

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We stop to snack in the village of  Conima. A man asks us the usual questions, sometimes we give different answers just to stop ourselves getting bored. I hold back my chuckling as Nathan tells this man that we rode here in 2 weeks from England.

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Conima´s relaxing square with impressive tower, it´s balconies facing the lake remind me of Biaritz in France

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The lake seems so vast, like a high altitude ocean

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The road has been paved in recent years making for some easy, fast riding

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We pass our final village in Peru and buy carrot juice and lots of snacks with our remaining soles.  There is a 13km unpaved section between the two countries with some climbing, there is just a simple police station on the Peru side.  It wouldn’t be right to end Peru without a climb on the ripio.  Our hearts feel heavy, Peru has been such an adventure, still, not sure why I look quite so miserable

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A low key border crossing

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Goodbye Peru, you have changed me forever

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Life on Lake Titicaca seems tranquil, subsistence farming and fresh air

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A little bit of ripio to make Nathan happy which continues all the way to Escoma

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To stamp into Bolivia there is a Police Immigration office on the outskirts of Puerto Acosta, they were incredibly sweet. We were given 30 days on our visa and told we could get up to 60 more at the immigration office in La Paz

                                               21st August – Escoma to Batallas

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We spend the night in the cold village of Escoma in some mining digs.  The following day is all paved.  Our first rudimentary observations of Bolivia are that people are just as friendly, the buildings seem better constructed, but Nathan is yet to be impressed with the snack options.

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Pot holes and the Cordillera Real, the wind behind us we cycle some 115km that day!

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If I advance, follow me; If I stop, push me; If I retreat, kill me.  Che was killed by the CIA here in Bolivia and images of his face are everywhere.

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The roads around the lake are flat so cycling seems popular.  That night we make it to the village of Batallas, there is no official lodgings there and the municipality do not offer us a floor.  We pay a lady to let us sleep on a floor in her mini shopping centre.  In my opinion a floor is always a safer option than a cheap hostel.

                              22nd August – Batallas to La Paz

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Leaving Batallas the villages initially become more frequent until there is no longer any gaps between settlements, the traffic thickens out and before we know it we are in El Alto, the city that sits above La Paz

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La Paz, from El Alto.  We then snake our way down without any real stress and into the city where another cyclist finds us on the street and takes us to the legendary Casa de Ciclistas.  The Ilimani volcano in the background.  WE HAVE ARRIVED!

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