(August 31 – written by Dave)
We rode out of Puno this morning thinking that we would be riding by ourselves today. Boy did we get that wrong. We met up with 11 other cyclists today and much to our surprise, two of them were Philipp and Tine. We thought they were taking a different road to La Paz and they were for two days, but today they cut back to our route and we met them for morning tea, completely by chance.
But they weren’t the first cyclists that we met today. Earlier we came across Jean Pierre and Natalie from France. They are headed south like us and had pulled over for a break. Jean Pierre is making his second trip down to Ushuaia, starting his last trip in Alaska. He and Natalie started this trip in Brazil and are basically heading to the bottom just like us. We ran into them in the first 15k while we were still riding along the Titicaca lakeshore. There was lots of activity with more people out cutting reeds today.
We left the lakeshore and had mostly flat riding until morning tea. We were just getting ready for a break when we came across Philip and Tine having their morning tea, what a surprise. We rode with them the rest of the day catching up on what they’d been up to. Our stories of visiting the islands of Lake Titicaca matched pretty much – so at least we now know that what we saw and heard was fair dinkum.
About an hour after rejoining we came across 4 more cyclists heading north. They were two guys from Spain (Basque region) and two guys from Argentina. We didn’t get their names because we were too busy swapping information about the roads ahead. They were most helpful as they’ve covered a lot of the places we are planning on going. A little later we passed the girlfriend of one of the 4 guys as she was heading north as well. And just a little further we passed the last two of their party of 7. We didn’t even stop to talk to the last two because we’d probably still be out there. It’s funny how in a day, we went from not seeing many cyclists then suddenly you see so many that we don’t even stop and chat to all of them.
We stopped for lunch around noon, at a fancy bus stop in the middle of nowhere. You could almost call it a “rest stop” like we’d see in Oz or the USA – which is odd in that we’ve probably not seen a proper rest stop since California. They are just not a priority outside the more developed countries.
Shortly after lunch we ran across a bunch of rope makers out on the highway. I know, you’re probably thinking “rope makers, what’s that?” Well, it appeared that someone had figured out how to braid rope and built a machine that would do it efficiently. He’s come through the area and sold a bunch of his machines to the locals and now they make a living in the roadside fields making rope. Ok, it all sounds a bit odd, but check out the photos below for a small sample of what we saw. Note there are not many buildings in the background, this is all out in the open. Yeah, I don’t get it either.
We reached Juli about 2PM and Nancy and Philipp started the hotel search. I think they set a record looking at, or at least trying to look at, seven hostels/hospedajes. At least 3 of the places no one answered the bell. Tine and I didn’t see the bad hotels but we’ve ended up in a place that could probably be classified as bad without too much of a stretch. Nancy and Philipp swear (and we believe them) that the Hotel Embajad is indeed the best of a bad lot. It has a toilet seat, hot water and WiFi but it is not what you would call clean – oh well, it’s only one night.
We had dinner at a Chifa (Chinese) restaurant and then walked around town looking at the sites. It’s not a bad looking little town so it’s odd to have such a poor selection of hostels and hospedajes.
Tomorrow we have about 50k left to ride until we reach the border with Bolivia. We only have 10k to ride beyond the border to reach Copacabana. We lose an hour however as Bolivia is one hour earlier than Peru. We may take a day off in Copacabana as we need to sort out new money, a new phone SIM and may have to get an adapter for our extension cord. We’ve heard that Bolivia may use a different power point. It’s been so long since we crossed borders, we’re a little rusty on all the things we may have to do… But hopefully all will go well and tomorrow we will be writing you from Bolivia!