Sunday 3 June 2018

Day 59 Setting off For Abancay

May 29th, 2018

Sunny and hot during day, cold once Sun gone down

                After a day off yesterday in order to let my feet have a rest and repair themselves somewhat from the blisters, I am awoken at 4:45 a.m. By the noise outside of the egg and chip ladies setting up their two stalls on the corner of the road opposite. Yesterday's breakfast was two bread rolls filled with egg and chips, delicious at one Sole each, around fifty pence Sterling for them both. I had thought of having another of their items, omelettes, for lunch but by ten they had dismantled and gone, replaced by a sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks stall. People have gathered there with the ladies already and the sound of laughter and lorries filters through to my room. Peru gets up early and so shall I.
                I have around a hundred miles to get to my next destination, Abancay and there is, of course, a large climb to do before then. It starts right away for the road from Andahuaylas rises from an altitude of 9,495 feet to a summit of around 14,000 feet with a slight dip half way there. From the top the road mostly goes downhill so I hope to get to the city in two days, although on my planned itinerary I have given myself three days. I have three more climbs, well pushes really before the trek from Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu and each one has a greater amount to get to the summit than the last. Today's 4,500 feet is superseded by the climb after Abancay, which is 5,000 feet and then the last climb is 6,000 feet. Oh well!
                OK, time for breakfast from the ladies and packing. The time is the title of a famous song by The Who, 5:15 from Quadrophenia and in my case it isn't a beach but the mountains 'where a man can feel, he's the only soul in the World that's real!' But that's another song for another time.
                Breakfast eaten and the bike takes me to the main road. It is very smoggy and the slight rise over the first two miles has me breathless. I am feeling worse here than if I was at 14,000 feet!
                A few miles later and a thousand feet higher I am out of the smog layer and the sound from my MP3 player, Freebird by Llynrd Skynrd, has me singing and the smog behind me can be seen as a layer over the valley. Three hours of battery so a lot of songs to sing as I push up the relentless hill. I am well into this a little later when I notice a couple sitting on the grass on the opposite side of the road. I hope they like Sympathy for The Devil!

                Cows pass lead by two women, a village passes and consternation from a teacher as all of his ten year old pupils surround the bike. One of them had called me a Gringo and on my fake anger saying, “please not Gringo, Amigo,” they all came running. They're all laughing and interested in my 'friends.' I apologise to the teacher. Lo siento.
                A police car stops me and try to explain that the road about twenty miles or so is blocked by a landslip. I say try because, as usual, my lack of Spanish makes it difficult for them. Eventually I get it and thank them. About an hour later though I notice that some vehicles are starting to come down the road and I feel confident that the road block has been cleared. I look on my map and see that there is a way around this if it is still blocked but it will take me along an un-tarmacked road and is a much further way around.
                Thy pass me again about three hours later and flash their headlights and put their thumbs up. What they say from their loudspeaker as they pass I don't understand but I get the gist that the road is clear.

                It's definitely potato harvesting time and I pass group after group of people bent over double picking up the exposed potatoes or carrying large sacks on their backs. I watch as I see four people lift a sack and place it on a man's back for him to carry it to the attendant lorry. Some of them are sitting together having lunch and one group wave me over. I don't know why but I feel shy and I wave thanks but gesture that I need to keep going. Another group shouts “Hola!” I love the way Peruvian people treat me as I cycle, pedal or push. They may be different with each other but the way they treat a tourist, a Gringo such as myself, is delightful. I ask two men how far to the top. They laugh and start at twenty kilometres then change it to ten and finally one! I might not believe these two.
                Joe Jackson, Laughter and Lust album, must have been going through a divorce when he wrote this. I sing along but lyrics sting as their truth and resonance with my own past hit home. Most days I think of my late wife Karen and most days, as soon as the thought of her arrives in the internal conversation that never ends with oneself, I have strategies for changing the subject. Karen was so fabulously beautiful but troubled and as I listen to each song in turn and sing along I hear echoes from a mutual past. Yet the album starts with a castigation of a pop star trying to stop a young man cutting down a tree in a rainforest. The over rich telling the ultra poor what to do with their land. So different to the political sounds from the next Joe Jackson album on my player, Blaze of Glory. The hills are alive with my anger at The Evil Empire!

                Seven and a half hours of pushing. I am bushed and so on seeing an area that is flat with large boulders that is unseen from the road, I decide to stop for lunch, some birding and setting up my tent. I rest up against a rock, get out my lunch and immediately fall asleep. It can only have been for a few minutes but refreshed I look around and see a White-browed Chat Tyrant on a rock close by. 

Further up the hill a Rufous-webbed Bush Tyrant is on a bush. As I sit still other birds come close and others soar overhead. I start to do a list and have fifteen species in the next hour. A fair number of Variable Hawks and Mountain Caracaras come over.

A Rusty-fronted Canestero shows itself well in a bush nearby. Two new birds for the Green Year list, I am enjoying this. To cap it all a pair of Aplomado Falcons land on rocks some distance away but then the female takes off and lands on the top twig of a nearby fir tree. The male then comes and mates with her!
                Sitting against my rock I watch as the Sun goes down and the temperature immediately changes. It is cold. Time to put up the tent. As I put the longer of the metal poles into it's slot it snaps. I get the repair kit out and as the light fades fix the break and get inside the tent to arrange the inflatable mattress and sleeping bag. The pole snaps again. I try to fix it but cannot see it well enough to do a good job and the tent immediately falls down. I get inside my sleeping bag and accept a night ahead with a flat tent. Memories of a lovely Dutch couple I met in The Camargue in Southern France in 2007. Both of them had small tents and the girl's tent had a broken pole also. I remember seeing her sunshine face poking out from her flat tent in the morning. I had slept in my car and we shared fig jam sandwiches in the morning, the start of a passion for such jam. Birding The Camargue, I have been there three times. The first time was in the summer of 1990 and I had hitch-hiked there. I walked from St Maries to La Digue, a lighthouse about half way across the seaward side of the area and had not seen a soul. I had slept in a sleeping bag in the sand dunes with the headphones of a Walkman to distract me from the billions of mosquitoes. Watching the star-filled night sky, a huge fireball went over and I stood up, still in my sleeping bag, cheering. In 2007 I was back there having driven around France for a few weeks and the changes were immense. Now there were dozens of people along that same pathway, using mountain bikes to access the area and there were hundreds of campervans set up along it. There were far fewer mosquitoes and hence far less dragonflies. The last visit was in 2014 with two great friends, Jason Oliver and Tony Barter. Great birding with great friends, a perfect visit thoroughly enjoyed. I remember standing on the roof of my car in order to get a better view of a reed surrounded lagoon. Well worth it.

Green Year list :  204 birds                         average new birds to list per day  :  3.46 birds 

Distance walked, pushed and cycled : 18.00 miles

elevation : up 5,416 feet,  down 6,434 feet       

altitude : 9495 feet

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