It’s been a while so I think I will split this into two posts… one today and one tomorrow. When I last wrote I was in Espinar and planning a slightly easier route for a while in the hope that it would help me get rid of the lingering chest bug… but there was still the matter of a 4700m pass to get over in order to get away from Espinar and find that mellower riding. Espinar was cold too, ‘only’ at 4000m elevation or so but it sits on a wide plain surrounded by mountains and I wondered if the local geography was influencing the climate. In the midday sun the climate was quite agreeable but in shadow or indoors .. brrrr. My feet were perpetually cold there.
The region north of Espinar used to be the heartland of the rather unpleasant Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) movement and hence never had any kind of tourism or travel industry, and still doesn’t given the not too distant honeypots of Cusco and Puno. As such the people along the way are invariably very happy to see a visitor, even to the extent of being stopped on the road from time to time for a chat. Places here are well worth making the time for even if they appear to initially have little of interest. My memories from around here are some of my happiest from anywhere.. just little things that bring a smile to my face like the funny guy that absolutely insisted I share a 2 litre bottle of bright yellow Inka Cola with him on the steps of a polleria (it is yucky stuff IMO, definitely an acquired taste), to being ‘adopted’ by a little girl of no more than 3 yrs old. No idea why, I’m not cuddly… A chap in Velille commented on how hard the saddle of my bike was. I told him I had a hard arse. Everyone within earshot fell about laughing. It just doesn’t happen at home. I will miss it.
Espinar… main reason for the pic, the sports shoe hanging dead center. Loved it.
Espinar. No ‘tourist sights’ as such but I found it a thoroughly agreeable and friendly place. Some good food to be had :-)
Espinar sits on a sun-bleached plain at 4000m through which the Apurimac river flows.
The road north from Espinar was a lovely, mellow, traffic free trundle for a few miles…
…with some interest as it wound it’s way through a range of low hills
I like bridges…
Inevitably however, being Peru, a long, stiff climb was not far away.
..back up to 4700m. Nice riding.
Stunning views of the road ahead.
The riding out here really is sublime.
As elevation drops to below 4000m the climate is more conducive to farming and a few little farmsteads begin to appear in the valleys.
I briefly had to travel a couple of km on a route used to access one of the very many mines in the area. This is why the residents of the villages get a bit pissed off when the mining companies don’t invest in the roads. Huge convoys travel along singletrack roads through villages, wrecking the surfaces and making life unpleasant for the folk that have to live close by. Marshalls close the road in each direction alternately to allow convoys of up to 30 or more trucks to pass. The drivers are a friendly bunch however, especially towards a cyclist :-)
I happened to stop in a small village called Velille on the night a local religious celebration was taking place. It all kicked off in the dusty plaza just as the moon rose behind the mountains. It was all rather wonderfully atmospheric. I think it was something linked to the larger Corpus Christi festival that takes place through the region. As with many such events in Peru it is a weird mishmash of Catholic, Inca, and other animistic influences, in this case involving whipping with a rope. Tired after a long day on my bike I narrowly avoided being dragged into join the fun…. I did ask a chap the meaning of it all but with all the racket of music, drums, shouting, and firecrackers I missed most of what he said.
As with all the little villages I passed through the folk are super friendly and welcoming. The chap that ran the little pension I stayed at said he saw maybe one or two foreign faces in the town each year, at most.
Velille. Terrific, highly detailed costumes.
Velille. The celebration went on for hours.
Kids on bikes always a happy sight. These two escorted me a little way, the younger sat astride the crossbar.
another photogenic bridge
..and a mellow stretch of 20km or so along a river, no idea of its name. Riding along here with a gentle breeze at my back and a warm sun beating down felt like a real holiday if you get my meaning…
The village of Esquina.. so called presumably because it is on a corner… well, a junction of two roads.
Easy bits never last long around here… more climbing with some views back down the valley.
Animal enclosures on the hillside at around 4600m
… and some booming great views in the direction I was headed… more of which in the next post.