(June 27 – written by Dave)
First a quick report on the new kettle. It worked perfect. We had tea last night and coffee this morning. It fit on Nancy’s bike nicely this morning, in a sporty North Face bag – an extra one we’d been carrying. It looked so good that Nancy attracted zero comments from the locals. In truth, most locals probably think our whole set-up is a bit odd and are generally too polite for comments. Anyway Nancy was happy with the purchase – happy wife, happy life.
We had a little bit longer day today than yesterday but the forecast was about the same so we were relaxed this morning. By the time we hit the road it was already starting to get warm – we are loving these lower altitudes. We rode in shorts and short sleeve jerseys again today. Our route took us uphill, albeit very slowly, for most of the morning. We rolled up the lovely Utcubamba River valley for the first 30k. It is reported that they grow corn, cotton, rice and bananas in this valley but from what we saw today, they grow tons of rice. We rode past many flashy green rice paddies making pictures mandatory and progress slow. Nancy even got in on the act snapping a few shots for our Instagram site.
When we reached our hotel today I looked up the rice production by country. For sure Peru has to be up there. We eat a lot of rice here and we have seen some much rice since we hit the lowlands here in Peru, including what we saw today down in the Utcubamba River valley. It turns out the Peru is one of Latin America’s highest consumers of rice per day, but they only come in 20th in terms of global rice production. There are just not enough people here to drive more production. At least not enough people when compared to the much more populated countries in Asia.
At the end of the flattish part of the valley we stopped for morning tea and watched a bit of the Sweden v Mexico World Cup soccer match. Even though Peru was out of the tournament within their first two pool games, the folks here still lover their soccer. Any game is worth pulling your rig over at a small roadside restaurant and watching. Sweden scored early in the match and I think most of the Peruvians were pulling for Mexico. I’ve been using Peru’s victory over Australia yesterday as an icebreaker with the locals the last 24 hours. Everyone is still happy about that one.
We had a really steep climb at this point taking us up the side hill and then back down the valley we’d been travelling through. The river must be really wild here for all the work they put into building the road up the side hill. We had nice photos of multiple switchbacks on both the uphill and downhill. The uphill was the hardest of the day.
Once off the “diversion” we were able to just ride up the valley, which by now had become a proper mountain gorge. We had towering hills on both sides of us and a rather angry river rushing down the middle. We somehow lucked out on a major road construction area where the road was only open from 11-1PM. We snuck through the lower closure point at about 12:30 and passed through the upper closure point after 2PM. The last hour of our ride was super quiet as by now, they were not letting any more cars through.
The Utcubamba River gorge is stunningly beautiful. The river here would be an amazing kayak trip for someone interested in those sorts of things. I’m not sure that it is all paddle-able actually, especially the part where the highway left it. For sure it would be a challenge with one head scratcher rapid after another to figure out how to get past. We didn’t see any river operators today – and later checked and only found one online. Kirti, Jonathan? You guys up for it?
We rolled into Pedro Ruiz about 1:45 and only had to check out one hotel. Nancy’s recon had found a hotel on iOverlander that had hot water and good WiFi – Hostel Amazonences (or something like that!). It looked pretty rough from the street but inside it’s a little gem. The lady running the place is very sweet, though I think she’s pushing 80 years old (Senior Editor’s note – though of course that is not “old” Mom…).
We are both a little tired tonight after today’s climbing but know that we have more in store for us in the coming days. We’ve decided that we are not going to visit the famous Gotca Falls. They look amazing in the photos but they are a 5 hour hike from the road – we’ll hit them on the next trip.
Instead tomorrow, we are heading for Nuevo Tingo, the jumping off point for Kuelap Inca ruins. The ruins are being called “Machu Picchu without crowds”. There is a new aerial tram from Nuevo Tingo that gets you to the ruins quickly, and eliminates a 5 hour bus ride. But more on that later – we’ve seen amazing photos from the route between here and there. Fortified with strong coffee made with our new kettle, for sure tomorrow will be another great day.