Thanks to some very good friends, Mom and Western Union I found myself back on the road heading south towards Puno, Peru.
Puno is on Lake Titicaca which is supposed to be one of the most beautiful lakes in the world. The ride to Puno was one of the most beautiful I have taken on my adventure, but as for Lake Titicaca, I will never know. As soon as I arrived in Puno it started to rain, and rain and rain and when I woke up the following mooring it was still raining and I decided to make my way to Chile.
The map showed an almost straight route from Puno to Tacna which seemed quite short and would put me in Chile the next morning. Puno is not well labeled so I had to ask for directions, nobody seemed to know the way, I always got the same response “It’s near the cemetery, Go to the cemetery and ask there”. Who was I supposed to ask at the cemetery? Zombies? I went to the cemetery, found neither people nor zombies to ask for directions, but there was a scary looking road protected by some nasty looking dogs. I decided to take an alternate route.
My alternate route took me north along the same road I had come to Puno on. This is not something I like to do, ride the same road twice, but this road was so beautiful I am glad I made the exception. I would ride north for about two hours and then head west towards Arequipa, then south to Tacna. According to locals I would easily reach Arequipa before dinner, how wrong they were. For the first 5km, I was in heaven, beautifully paved roads, twisty enough to be fun, straight enough to make good time. At 5.5km the road turned to gravel, mud and potholes and stayed that way for the next six hours. After an hour of riding I heard thunder off in the distance and I soon saw lighting. I was proud of myself for stopping before the rain started to get my rain gear on, (I usually wait until I am getting wet to do this). Just as I was about to put my helmet on I got pelted, with HAIL, not rain but hail, and it stung. The hail was coming down so hard that I had to take shelter under and abandon building until it slowed down. It slowed down enough for me to get back on the bike and started heading through the mountains again. Riding on hail covered dirt roads is not fun, it’s slippery, wet and cold; and all part of the adventure. Six hours later, after passing over mountains, snow, hail and mud and lots and lots of potholes I was back on the pavement and still two hours away from Arequipa. It was dark, I was very cold and even more hungry. Lucky for me a restaurant was still open along the highway that had great soup and coffee, let me park my bike inside the dining room and also had a bed for me upstairs, they charged me $5.50 US total.
For the first time on this entire trip of mine, the bike had trouble starting. When I woke up in the morning it was still very cold and I was having trouble breathing, so I must have still been in high altitude. The bike started on the third attempt and never gave me any further trouble. The road to Arequipa was amazing and I saw many Alpaca along the way. It was soon desert again and for the first time in days I was feeling hot. I drifted off, thinking of nothing in particular, just enjoying the ride and what turned out to be several hours later I was in Tacna, Peru, 30 minutes from Chile. I will enter Chile tomorrow.
Peru was amazing! There is so much more to see and do, I will be back.