Sunday 6 May 2018

21st April. It is all the way up to Huinco, Peru

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April 21st, 2018

Hot, hazy and sunny day that clouds over mid-afternoon.

Up at 5:30 a.m. again but this time to pack and get going on up the valley to Huinco, the next planned stop. Well I am ready to go by six but unfortunately no staff will be in before eight! I go birding.

On the way at last, after some photographs by all of the staff with their smartphones, well they don't get many visitors who look like me and who have such an interesting and heavily laden bike do they? Backtracking for four hundred yards, I get on the correct road and so begins the steep climb. I am surprised that the road from here consists of dusty, compacted stone instead of tarmac or concrete. To emphasise the dusty nature of the road, eight motor cyclists pass and I am enveloped in dust clouds. Each one greets me as I make my non-motorised struggle. Thumbs up time!

The hills look amazing both to the west where the vast rocky slopes are now in the sunlight and to the east where the hills are still in cloud and therefore the view of them is of hazy layers, each hill appearing lighter than that afore it. Now I call them hills but these must be over 7,000 feet high. They would tower over Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK but as where I am going the real mountains approach 20,000 feet and are snow-covered I will stick to calling these hills. As for my present altitude, I am at 5,000 feet and rising!
Turning a corner there is a juvenile Black-breasted Buzzard Eagle sitting on a rock above the road. It ignores me completely as I pass by. Additions to the Green bird list begin. The way I see this World record attempt is that I need to see just over three new birds each day of the adventure. I will be Green Birding for 204 days and the current record held by Dorian Anderson is a magnificent 618. Before today my average has been 5.2 so I feel that I am ahead. I love statistics like these and have the details with graphs on a spreadsheet. A pale phase Variable Hawk soars overhead. It is mostly white with black primary tips, terminal tail band and dark along the primary and secondary wing edge. The whiteness of the tail shows translucent allowing the bird's feet to be seen. The face is white with black on each side.
Parts of the road cling to the hill's sides and there are precipitous drops down the river far below. 

Rounding corners along these stretches give wonderful views of valleys heading off into the distance. The river has carved it's way for millennia and left such beauty that it is quite breath-taking to stop and stare. This just has to be one of the most spectacular Biking Birder days ever for scenery. Other parts of the road go along these valleys and sometimes there is shade to be given by roadside trees. Villages are becoming less frequent and smaller, with the road becoming more and more degraded, bumpy and stony.
The road eventually crosses the river by way of a strong steel bridge beside some beautiful waterfalls. Here an overloaded motortaxi stops to chat. The driver wants to know where I come from, from which country and where I am going. His motortaxi has three large mattresses and a table skilfully tied on!

Midday and I arrive at my destination, Huino. Three and a half hours of pushing (!) and cycling to reach here. A few small stalls sell fizzy drinks, Coke and the like, chocolates and biscuits and cheap, one sole packets of sugar puffs, nuts and other cereals. One lady sells roast potatoes and I buy three. I eat one straight away. It is delicious and somehow she has got some cheese inside it which has melted. I ask about a hostel in the village and am pointed up a road. On reaching it I find it is closed for refurbishment or just not the season to be open and on telling the potato lady this she takes me to a small house and shows me a room with five beds, a sofa and a table in it. It looks like a storeroom but it is perfect. She also shows me a room upstairs that has a single bed in it and a tiled floor. It has only a very small shuttered window though and I prefer the larger room. Maybe it is the large snake sealed in liquid inside a large bottle that makes my decision easier! Fascinating, I wonder why?

With bike and possessions stowed away in my storeroom bedroom, I head off birding back to the river. There is a large dam here that hides a lagoon created for electricity production but there is no access for a keen birder wishing to view it. Privado to all except workers at the hydro-electricity plant. Where water gushes violently from within the wall of the dam there are a series of steps being splashed by the surging water. A White-capped Dipper is exploring each step in turn for morsels to eat. Two Black Phoebes are on the rocks below here. The road from here zig zags steeply and I want to explore the scrubby vegetation on the dry slopes. Scrub Blackbirds are common and noisy in small family groups of five and six. It takes half an hour to reach an area where I can view down into the vegetation and here there are Cinereous Conebills, Collared Warbling Finches and a few Band-tailed Seedeaters. The best bird though is a single Yellow-billed Tit-tyrant, a superb black and white stripy little bird.
On the way back down a cleft in the hill has tall flowers and these are being aggressively shared by Giant Hummingbirds and Sparkling Violetears. Peruvian Sheartails sneak in for their own share of the nectar. An Oasis Hummingbird makes up a set of four Colibri.

Back down to the village for another potato and then up hill again, this time on the more thick vegetated east bank. 

Two Peruvian Pygmy Owls stare at me as I pass by. Brilliant to see these smashing tiny little owls. In a deeply cut flash flood scar on the hill there are a lot of very tall comfrey-like plants and shorter but still six foot or so pale orange flowered foxglove-like plants. Here there are a lot of Sparkling Violetears and a couple of Giant Hummingbirds. An immature Chiguanca Thrush is being fed by an adult.
I descend and cross the gully and walk along a pathway that leads to another gully cut by a flash flood in the not too distant past and the village's cemetery. More hummingbirds are here, all Sparkling Violetears or Giant. I sit and watch their antics and sounds.

Turning back towards the village as time approaches twilight, birds are being ab it more visible than before. Golden-bellied Grosbeak now number six and a startling and startled Least Seedsnipe explodes out of some scrub and disappears again angrily calling all the way.

Green Year list : 111 birds average new birds to list per day : 5.29 birds

Distance cycled, pushed and walked : 11.71 miles

elevation up : 5,399 feet, down 3,880 feet altitude : 6,186 feet

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