(July 26– written by Dave)
Today was a departure from the magnificent scenery that we’ve been riding through for most of Peru. We rode up the Rio Blanca all day but the river was not overly photogenic and the hills of the canyon were kind of ordinary as well.
I had promised Philipp that we would have a tail wind and was happy to see the wispy smoke from a morning village burn pile sort of drifting up the canyon. It wasn’t ripping up the canyon but you could tell that we’d get a tailwind at some point. Had I got that one wrong, I might have lost my junior tour guide license. By late afternoon, we had a pretty stiff tailwind and my license was well and truly left in good standing.
We left Huánuco at 7:30 but still had some busy, noisy traffic to get out of town. The town of Huanuco had 70,000 people in 2007 and 170,000 by 2014. It would appear that the road infrastructure has not kept up with the population boom. I tried to figure out why so many people had moved to Huánuco but the internet didn’t have much information. At any rate, we were happy to reach a toll booth about 10k from town as the traffic from there on died down considerably. In fact, from that point it seemed like all we saw was tour buses and large petrol haulers. The road we were riding is the main road between Huánuco and Lima so lots of people and goods move up and down it.
We stopped for morning tea at a Primax servo – Primax is a large petrol seller here and generally has nice bathrooms and sometimes a store. They all say that they have a store on their signs but many of them don’t actually have one. Luckily today we found a store with a few lukewarm drinks. Philipp and I spent the 5k leading up the stop discussing why his gears were slipping. By the time we arrived, we had a reasonable plan of attack to get things adjusted – and the plan worked. Not only is my junior tour guide license still intact, I get to also keep my junior bike mechanic license as well.
We passed a restaurant at some point called El Gringo – which means “stranger”. We didn’t stop. One side of the restaurant was actually painted with Chicharrones El Gringo – which means “fried stranger”. I mention all of this here because over the past weeks, we’ve started to be called gringo a lot more (or gringa if it’s just Nancy/Tina). We read that some people or other travellers are offended by being called gringo but so far it has not bothered us at all. In fact, most of the time, the tone of the person calling out is friendly. Lots of children call out as well so clearly the term gringo is not intended to be offensive. We are just happy to be recognized really – there are many countries where people stare at you and don’t say a word, almost looking right through you. Call us gringo and you’re going to get a friendly wave and hola back, with a smile.
We stopped for lunch in San Rafael, pulling off the road into their main square. By now we had bright sunshine and it was almost warm. We enjoyed bread rolls and empanadas that we picked up in Huánuco yesterday. Somehow, Philipp and Tina both had one chocolate one left from the morning. I think that they may have bought all of the chocolate rolls on offer in Huánuco.
We had one more stop in Huariaca, where we had originally planned on stopping for the night. There were a couple hostals on the main street but it was only 1PM when we arrived so we decided to push on 12k further up the road where we’d found a “nice” hotel on iOverlander. Everyone was getting tired at this point but we had that tailwind and it was only 12k. So push on we did. The grade up until that point had been pretty gentle. From that point onwards, it got steeper and our speed dropped. Oh well, nothing to do but ride on, no turning back now.
We eventually pulled into a nothing town with no formal name to find the Hotel Catobe. And what a find it is. I know that we comment on the bad hotels a lot and to be honest, our expectations were low for a middle-of-nowhere hotel. Boy, were we wrong. By Peruvian standards, Hotel Catobe is fantastic. It has all the features that we like – hot water, wifi, toilet seat – plus we have very nice, clean room with heaps of extra space, a sitting couch and a table and chairs. Who would have thought?!
A little before the hotel we finally spotted our first crew of political painters. We see so many buildings painted with political ads but we are never sure who does the painting. Today the crew was painting a highway retaining wall – and I’m sure that they had all the right permits to do this. They didn’t look super professional. Their work was good but I don’t think that they painted signs for a living – probably more volunteers for the candidate that they are painting on the wall. Many of the ads talk about 2019 to 2022 – so these ads are going to be up on the wall/building for some time.
The hotel serves dinner and brekkie. The later reportedly starts 6:30AM so we can get an early start tomorrow if we choose. We have a couple choices for route tomorrow, one long, about 110k and one short, about 60k. En route we pass by Cerro del Pasco – reportedly one of the most polluted towns in the world (mining). We may not know where we are heading tomorrow, but we can for say for sure one place where we will NOT be going – Cerro del Pasco. For now however, we are just going to spend the rest of the arvo enjoying our nice clean hotel room and relaxing. Clean is good.