Thursday 17 May 2018

Day 31 Away from Marcapomaconcha. Losses and Gains 1st May 2018

May 1st, 2018

Cloudy morning, light in my face breeze, showers with hail briefly in afternoon, sunny intervals.

Goodbye to Hose, Lee and family after breakfast, a pair of shorts, a t-shirt and Manuel the cuddly toy pig for their toddler will lighten my load. I had wanted to keep Manuel until Salvacion and give him as a prize to one of the wonderful children of Chaskawasi-Manu but he has a small split after the 'accident' the other day back at Huanza and therefore I worry that the damage to him will increase if he stays on the bike.
Elba, the kind shop lady, who helped me on my arrival in the village the other night, is walking with two friends and handshakes and cheek to cheek kisses are embarrassing but nice. There is a bank of soil on the hill opposite the laundry buildings and it is full of large hole. Two holes have attendant Andean Flickers and another one sits on a rock by the road and is totally unperturbed by my passing.

After the brief push uphill from the village edge, the dirt road is all downhill to the next road junction. I stop to watch a juvenile Mountain Caracara fly over and land nearby. On looking more closely I count twenty one Caracara in the area. I wonder what attracts them here.
Turning left, north, onto the next road I cycle downhill. What a thrill to be actually cycling again but really with it being nearly all downhill this is really 'just falling in style!' Around a few bends and on a flat river plain stretching away into the distance are a number of good-sized lagoons and on them Chilean Flamingos.

I stop to count them. Fifty three. There are also lots of Puna Ibis, Andean Coot, a few Giant Coot, Speckles Ducks, Moorhen, eighteen Andean Geese and four Black-crowned Night Herons.
Continuing down the valley there are flocks of Puna Ibis, one flock contains an almost completely white bird, a partial albino, yet Passerines are few. An Andean Negrtio on the bog, a few White-winged and Cream-bellied Cincloides with the occasional Peruvian Sierra finch, Plain-coloured Seedeater and Bright-rumped Yellow Finch.
Past an old checkpoint with attendant barking dogs and hanging meat over the doorway, there are two fence posts with dessicated carcases of young dogs. How bizarre. Another thing to ponder.

The valley stretches out into a wide, grass-covered plain with large enclosures with various domestic herds. Once more every bit of the landscape, excepting the mountain rocky peaks, are over grazed and the landscape takes on the appearance of The Pennines or mid-Wales. There is even a limestone-layered hillside that looks like Malham Tarn and Ingleborough. 

Within the paddocks are herds of cattle. Outside are herds of cattle, sheep and the animals that prove I am in Peru not taking a road over Wensleydale, Llamas. Such fabulous animals, the males are huge and their movement is camel-like. 

The herd has animals of all ages and colour combinations of brown, white and buff.
One anclosure of cows has around one hundred and fifty Andean Geese behind them and they make a spectacular sight and sound as they take off together with dozens of Puna Ibis.
There are also large groups of horses. Six horses are being taken along the road by two men with three dogs. An old-style lifestyle it may seem but perfect for this environment. The one horseman has large bags either side of the horse and they slowly progress along the road.

Now I am a tad nervous of passing cows nowadays for the obvious reason. Once battered twice shy! So when a herd of cattle approach me along the road I carefully stand to one side and watch carefully as they pass. They too seem nervous of me and the odd cow stands for a while before running to get past. I am ready to get over the barbed wire fence if any come closer than the other side of the road.

On one bend in the road there is a small pool with seven Chilean Flamingos. I stop to look closer and a herd of cows come down the road but won't go any further with me being there. This time I do climb over the fence and go to the other end of the road to where they are and persuade them to move along. Luckily they do. Returning to the pool and my bike I scan the pool and am delighted, no I am totally surprised to find a Solitary Sandpiper! I had given no thought on this being available in the High Andes as a bird for the trip, thinking that this beautiful wader would be in North America by now. A bonus bird I feel that heightens moral.

There are lots of pools in the area and checking them brings two Lesser yellowlegs to go with the other Yank. There are also flocks of Puna Ibis, a common bird in this habitat. Andean Negritos seem to like the marshy edges as well for there are a few of them.
The road splits once more and my way takes me along long stretches that zig zag and gain height. On one bend three Puna Snipe dash out of the roadside ditch, calling as they, very much snipe-like, fly low and disappear into the grass clumps and marsh ground nearby. I try for half an hour or so to photograph and video them with very limited success. Their call is very like that of the European Common Snipe and the markings on mantle and wings likewise, with mantle stripes and wingbars. About fifteen show themselves in their usual low projectile fashion.
The hill climb completed, there follows a very long, mile after mile slow descent in rain and hail. A pale phase Variable Hawk sitting on a fence post stops me. A shelter of a very basic sort helps me dry out for a while and the rain stops within half an hour.
The descent continues on dirt track roads and another pale phase Variable Hawk flies low in the valley below.

Around a corner there is a junction where large lorries carrying mud and pebbles have been joining the road. Here starts some serious road works and the way is bumpy and wet, with mud clinging to the wheels. I am stopped on one stretch as a lorry dumps it's load and a, what I would call in Britain a JCB, flattens it all out ready for two steamrollers, much larger than the ones I remember from my childhood with two large tyres at one end and the metal roller at the other, to finish the job.
After being let through the road is extremely bumpy along long descending stretches that have yet to be done. I am stopped again though by more of the same sort of vehicles but the mud this time is far wetter than before. No chance to cycle here, once let through I have to push.
Once free again, the road goes down to a river and ascends the other side where I find a confusing junction. My map tells me to go right so I do. Two miles later I come across another, larger river and find myself unable to get across because it is a three foot deep ford! 

I contemplate fording it for about ten seconds with memories of the disaster of when I did so in February of 2015 in Devon. The ford on that occasion was flooded and my decision to try to cross, instead of returning and taking the ten mile diversion, ended up up with me waist deep in freezing water clinging onto the bike. Not this time thanks.
I look down and think of how my panniers would cope if I did try to cross. Panniers. One is missing. Front left. As I walk and cycle the two miles back to the junction I try to think what was in it. I suddenly panic and think that it is the one with my passport and wallet in it! I get off and quickly look inside the one that is still there. Thankfully my passport and wallet are in the one I still have. Now that would have been a disaster. So what is in the one I have lost. I work it out as I get nearer to the last junction I had seen it. Socks, not too bad to lose. Toiletries, well I can get them at the next village. A t-shirt, bugger, I liked that one and the bicycle pump. Now losing that could be a problem obviously yet I have faith in my Schwalbe Marathon tyres.
Having not found it on reaching the junction I consider whether I had really seen it there. Maybe it had fallen off on that very long, bumpy descent. The thought of walking all the way back up there didn't thrill me. Also it is by now only an hour before dark. I decide that it is gone and walk the five kilometres to the next village. No hostel here so I camp in a field having tried to get to the next village, Santa Barbara, before dark but not making it. Setting the tent up in the dark is fun.

Green Year list : 184 birds

average new birds to list per day : 5.94 birds

Distance cycled : 33.78 miles

elevation : up 1.862 feet, down 2,994 feet

altitude : 13,356 feet

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