(June 28 – written by Nancy)
We continued our ride along the Utcubamba River today, through a beautiful gorge with steep rock walls on either side of us. Nice weather, beautiful scenery, easy gradients and not too long of a ride – couldn’t really ask for more than that.
We started off with oatmeal and coffee in our room – made with our handy dandy kettle (mock, mock). Funnily enough, yesterday we had trouble finding UHT milk in bags or cardboard cartons that we have been able to find up until now. All we could find were cans of evaporated milk, and when we asked no one seemed to sell it any other way. So we bought a couple of cans and tried some this morning – it wasn’t actually too bad (we haven’t seen fresh milk in forever). So, in a pinch I guess we can work with it. The hotel we stayed in last night, Hotel Amazonense, actually turned out to be pretty good – it was very quiet back in the courtyard and it was great not to have to drag all of our bags up and down stairs.
Our aim today was the small little village of Nuevo Tingo, the closest village to the Kuélap ruins. The road stays right along the Utcubamba River, which changed over the day from the fast-flowing river we saw yesterday to a much calmer waterway as we made our way upriver. It is still quite a muddy brown colour though, which is not surprising seeing the number of landslides and gravel pits that line the road.
We rode under quite a few impressive overhangs along the way today – I don’t expect any large trucks can get too far on this road as there wasn’t a lot of space underneath some of them. There were quite a few small settlements along the way as well, with small farm plots anywhere there was a bit of flat land. We stopped at one spot to get some cold drinks and I walked into what seemed like a very small shop/restaurant only to find it was completely full of mine workers all watching the soccer match on TV. As we left the shop, there was a loud explosion up on the hillside – we turned to see debris blasting off the top of the mine.
We rode up into Nuevo Tingo about 1:30, with a nice 3k climb on a dirt road required to get to the village that sits at the top of a hill. As we rode into the town square we heard someone calling after us in English and met Alan and his partner Jo from New Zealand. They are also touring cyclists and are doing a series of three month trips making their way north. They are bikepackers and know Hana and Mark. We ended up sitting down with them at a corner restaurant and having lunch, talking cycling of course.
After lunch we headed to our hostel, Muya Hostel, to get checked in and cleaned up. This is a funny little hostel with a backpacker vibe, but our room is big and clean and we have hot water. It is quite small, with just a few rooms set around a small courtyard. There are two little kittens and several dogs who have come to see us since we got settled – it’s a bit of a challenge to keep them out of the room when the door is open!
Old Nuevo Tingo is located down on the main road, but apparently this new town has been developed over the last couple of years in the hopes that the big tourist boom from the Kuélap ruins will arrive at any minute following the recent opening of the cable car that takes you almost directly to the site. It seems like there are quite a few hostels here but I don’t think the boom has quite taken off.
We also met a young couple from Boise Idaho who are staying here in the village and are on a 3-week tour of Peru. They highly recommended the pizza restaurant at the hostel where they are staying, so we walked over there and had a couple of very nice pizzas. I was sure we would not be able to eat two pizzas but they seemed to disappear without too much work. The Kiwi couple also came for pizza, so we all sat around and chatted away the evening with pizza and tea – a nice way to end the day.
We plan to take the cable car up to the ruins first thing in the morning. Before the cable car was completed it was apparently quite a trek to get up to the ruins. From here it is now only about a 20 minute cable car ride across a wide valley – a bit of a Disneyland ride to start the day before we get to the historical part. I am sure Dave will write all about that tomorrow…