So very different to the quiet towns and villages of the highlands; noiser, grittier, busier, Ayacucho at times feels a little overwhelming to someone more used to the quiet places. There is good food, coffee, and cake however which helps enormously. It is a very different environment for street photography… I find it quite distracting and confusing, and the light doesn’t have the quality of the highland towns. Still, I’ve had a crack since I started to feel a bit more energetic.. hence this post.
The only downside to Ayacucho, like so many cities, is the traffic. The narrow colonial streets are clogged with mostly stationary vehicles, drivers banging their horns. The Plaza de Armas is a quieter space and a couple of the streets approaching it are pedestrianised which helps. Returning to such a place always reinforces how antisocial motor vehicles are in an urban context. Even more so in a place like this where the street life is so rich and busy yet confined to narrow sidewalks by long lines of stationary metal boxes spewing toxic fumes. I’m surprised by the numbers of vehicles on the road, fuel is not cheap here – around £3/litre. It’s a strange thing the way cars have become so aspirational in human culture, ‘everyone’ aspires to own one yet in an environment such as this, with the exception of the oil and car company execs and shareholders, nobody benefits. The population are squeezed into ever smaller spaces and forced to breath toxic emissions, investment in making cities pleasant places to live is corroded, and owners spend their lives stressed at not getting where they want to go, and are paying enormously for the privilege… as well as suffering all of those other consequences.
I digress however; despite all that Ayacucho is a decent place. It lacks the breathtaking beauty of Arequipa and its companion volcano, El Misti, but the colonial architecture is lovely, the people are great, the market is excellent, and it’s not been overwhelmed by tourism.
Tomorrow is the final of the Copa America; Peru are playing Brazil. Everyone I’ve spoken to is absolutely wired with anticipation. I don’t care for football but I can easily buy into this match and would love to see Peru win. Their recent victories over Uruguay, and then Chile in the semi-final were unexpected. If they do win I can only imagine the party…. I’m hoping there will be a giant screen in the plaza.
As for me… I’m a bit stuck. I still have bronchitis and a persistent chesty cough, although no longer feeling as wrecked as I was a couple of days ago. It seems probable the pollution is making it worse than it needs to be however. I changed ongoing plans quite a bit to take account of the time lost and visa expiry ticking closer… and now think I should head to Cusco, yet again, by bus from where I can ride a traverse of Ausengate and on into Bolivia by the ‘back door’ sort of thing. Finding a bus willing to take my bike has been no easy task but I found one that will take me to Andahuaylas from where I can hop another to Cusco. Years ago here it was so easy to sling a bike on a bus but sadly it seems that as a country becomes more economically prosperous the more limiting the public transport becomes. The problem with all of that is I cannot decide if it is a good idea or not. It seems highly likely that my chest will need a month or so to settle down properly, and knowing from experience how cold, high, and ‘austere’ the Bolivian altiplano is the likelihood of a recurrence also seems quite high, and I rather suspect it was pushing on too soon two years ago that started all this trouble in the first place. It’s just that there are a couple of remaining blanks in my Andean map of riding I really wanted to fill in – Lauca and Sajama national park in the far north of Chile and west of Bolivia respectively, and the Atacama desert proper having gone via northern Argentina last time. I’m having a hard time letting go of that. I’ll sleep on it some more… although of course there is that ancIent proverb that says “when in doubt ask the internet…”.
In the meantime, a few snaps.