In the beginning, centering this trip around riding dirt roads was an idea, a goal. Now it’s become reality. Paul and I jetted out from Cajamarca almost three weeks ago, finally arriving in Huaraz, spending some 850km linking up one remote village after another. And to finish with a finale, we ended this leg with the premiere Cordillera Blanca Triple Heart Bypass- but more on that to come in the next post. First up, the beginnings of our expeditions into El Silencio regions.
No hay nada arriba, everyone warns. Just the way we like it.
Things started ok. Two shepherds watching their flock came running up to ask who we were, what we were doing. Normal. Less normal was when they wanted us to accompany them to meet unknown-spanish-word up the road, to the point where one put a hand on the bike’s handlebars to stop me from leaving without him. Suspicions rising.
Northern Peru, Cajamarca province. The Spanish came to the Andes in the 1500s looking for gold. Whatever they found, they shipped back to Spain. 500 years later, mining rights to Peruvian gold, silver, copper, plus many more mineral deposits are sold to foreign companies who come in to extract as much as they can. Peru the country might profit from this, but less so the people living in the immediate vicinity. Cajamarca, one of the richest states in terms of mineral resources, is one of the poorest states in terms of personal wealth.
Country #11. Below, my typical daily view on this stretch, from Cuenca in Ecuador to Cajamarca, Peru:
Our start in Peru fast paved riding, banana tree surroundings harkening back to the first days in Colombia and every single Central American country. The paved road at first climbs into the hills, asphalt progress incongruous against the slow pace of the villages it passes through. Adults sit on chairs, benches beside the road there, the towns just collections of houses one or two rows deep on either side of the road. Children play in the street around the coffee beans sun-drying on black plastic tarps, village chickens pecking their way among them. Will spend the most time in this country out of any since the US. Mountain roads calling, the highest stretch of Andean cordillera here, thanks to extensive research by other cycle tourists long stretches of mapped out routes await too. Immigration official gives us 3 months visa time, probably just barely enough. A Canadian ex-pat says no problem to stay past the visa date, just then have to pay $1/day for every extra day. Have another reason to maintain southerly progress, in less than three months the transition to the rainy season scheduled to start. So ample external motivation to keep moving.