A little bit of Ayacucho

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.

Ayacucho

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.

A slow afternoon for troubadours…

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.

Ayacucho

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.

Ayacucho – hopeful pigeon.

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.

Ayacucho
Ayacucho – pink urban camouflage
Ayacucho
Ayacucho
Ayacucho – it’s laundry day
Ayacucho. I find local papers interesting; to know the issues that are important here as well as a refreshing absence of northern hemisphere politics… aka Brexit, Trump and so on.
Ayacucho
Ayacucho
Ayacucho
Ayacucho
Ayacucho.. well ‘patinated’.
Ayacucho
Ayacucho
I have no idea what ‘Randy Geneticos’ refers to…
Ayacucho
Ayacucho – I thought I should try and include at least one pic giving a flavour of the architecture… it is rather lovely.
Ayacucho.
Ayacucho – churros are fried dough, kind of like doughnuts but long instead of circular, and dipped in chocolate sauce. Health food.
Ayacucho – the fish market
Ayacucho
Ayacucho
Ayacucho – generations are very distinct as plenty of smartphone zombies in western youth clobber share the streets with their elegantly attired elders.
and finally… the fine view from the roof of my gaff.

 

6 thoughts on “A little bit of Ayacucho

  • “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.”

    Quite possibly true. Until the pendulum swings the other way. One thing nice about the U.S. is that you can walk your bike onto an Amtrak and travel several hundred miles overnight, wake up in a new place, hop on and ride. City buses often have front racks on them, though I wouldn’t call that just “slinging” a bike on. I’ve definitely read many a cycle-tourer’s blog’s account of throwing bikes on buses in India, Pakistan, China, the ‘Stans, and places in South America. Kinda sad that’s becoming more difficult. One wonders if it’s just the growing pains of a country. I’m sure in the U.S. 60 or 70 years ago it was easy to bring a bus on, then in all likelihood it got near impossible, and now many cities and states are pushing bicycles as a way to get around and so want buses equipped with racks, and space on subways for them.

    As for your health, do whatever feels right. You’ll either be more cautious and hold off, or you’ll risk maybe getting sicker. Something will trigger a decision one way or another. That’s what I always find when I’m stuck between two options.

    Cheers

    • that’s awesome about Amtrak. The UK is a right mess as far as trains go. Different companies have different policies, some make it easy, some make it difficult.. for example from where I live trains on Great Western can have a max of just 2 bikes on board, and must be booked in advance… and if someone has booked a segment further up the line, even if there is space where departing from then you’re stuffed. In a wildly backward move Great Western just received a new fleet of trains that have either no facility for bikes at all, or very minimal – as I understand it space for one bike provided it does not have fat tyres or wide bars.. road bike only based on passenger experiences..
      Ive thrown my bike on buses all over the place too, but South America is the place where I’ve really noticed the correlation between prosperity and attitudes towards bikes. Argentina and Chile generally require a bike to be boxed/packed. Colombia I have been able to get my bike on unpacked but only after a ‘fight’ and a bribe for the driver. Peru is still very variable, generally pretty easy but encountering more resistance on each visit. Bolivia was very easy years ago, probably it still is because of the nature of the place. Turkey was a revelation.. very modern buses but with massive holds, my bike went in standing up on its wheels which I thought was amazing, why all new buses cannot be like that is beyond me. National Express buses in the UK allow a couple of suitcases, worse than airlines!

      I’m still sitting tight in Ayacucho waiting for clarity. Chest is much better but not such that I feel confident going back up yet. Got lots of work to do and am surrounded by really great, fun, local people at the place I’m staying.

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