(August 29 – written by Dave)
We reluctantly said goodbye to Philipp and Tine this morning. We are probably taking different routes from here to La Paz. I say probably because they are sometimes a bit ‘fluid’ with their plans (a good practice to have on long cycling trips) so you never really know. At least for today, we had different routes, but for sure, we’ll meet again. Until then safe travels chicos and see you soon.
We had a few Ks of city and traffic riding before landing on our own private road. Well, it was not technically our own private road but rather a nearly completed second set of lanes that will make the road between Juliaca and Puno a dual carriage way. We had this more or less for 30k. At times the pavement was so new that you could almost smell the paint of the new stripes. Other times it was a little older. At all times, it was at least partially blocked so that cars and trucks had to share the two lane road to the side. We mucked about a bit on our private road because it was just too much fun.
Below, Nancy going crazy on the centreline…
At the end of the new road, we had to rejoin all the other traffic on the main road. It was far less fun. The shoulder was ok for a while but got a bit narrower in the last 5k, on a steepish hill. There seemed to be a lot of traffic when we were watching the busy road from our private road but when actually riding on it, it was not too bad.
We made the lookout over Puno by about 10AM and stopped for photos and to make a plan of what to do next. We decided to ride through the Plaza de Armas on the way to our targeted hotel as it was too early to go straight there and check in. This was a grand plan, except for the super steep streets that we tried to follow. We had to go down one downhill that was crazy steep. I rode it with my butt hanging off the back of the bag on my bike. Nancy decided to walk it. Woops. Nancy’s shoes gave out on her and she took a walking tumble. Luckily her bike bags had more rolling resistance than the tires did and the bike stopped once it was on its side. There wasn’t much I could do as there was no place to put my bike so Nancy had to get herself sorted and continue on. When she got to me, half a block further down we straightened her handlebars and rode the rest of the way down (it was less steep here).
With all the mucking around on the steep roads and our need to check the maps, we no longer need to kill time and rode right through the Plaza de Armas to our hotel. And when we got here, we discovered that check-in is at 11:00 anyway. We are staying just a few blocks off the plaza at Kuntur Inn – a lovely hotel that our friends Manja and Martin recommended. The owner is super friendly and we knew that we could get a good rate because Expedia had lots of rooms at a discounted rate. We were checked in and showering before 11:30 – just what we needed after the last few longer days.
After showers we headed out trying to find a local restaurant that the owner recommended. We couldn’t find it but ended up at a cafe that had amazing lomo saltado lasagne – sort of a combination of Peru and Italian dishes. Plus Nancy had some fantastically flaky empanadas. Getting here early today meant we got to eat lunch and dinner out, in a tourist town to boot. Yeah, more good food.
For afternoon entertainment we wandered the Plaza de Armas and found great coffee shop. We also found a tour company to take us out to the floating islands tomorrow and then went to the Coca museum. The museum was small but pretty interesting. Coca is native to this region and is thought to have been in use for at least 3,000 years. They have found mummies with lumps of coca in mouths and many tombs with coca leaf offerings. They had a section on cocaine and the history there as well – with German scientists leading the way in its formal discovery. Only a couple of the coca plants can produce cocaine – good to learn as we sipped on complementary coca tea.
For some reason, the 3rd floor of the coco museum contains an area with indigenous costumes, including a “you try on” section. We had some fun there but I’m not sure how much the mask I chose to wear is different from my normal face. Nancy got to try on one of the all-too-small local hats – I’m not really sure how the locals keep them from flying off.
We tried out a fancier restaurant for dinner that was supposed to be spicy and have a Creole influence. We had a very nice meal but there was very little spice. Peru is not the place to come for hot and spicy food. We’re off to bed now so that we can get up early for our island tour. We will be taking the day off the bikes after covering more than 400k in the past 5 days, the legs need a break.