Monday 28 May 2018

Day 44 To Anco

May 14th, 2018

Hot and sunny, no cloud and very hot again

It is quite cool in the shade of the deep valley as I cycle downhill away from Quichuas. The stunningly beautiful scenery continues as the road descends adjacent to the river. I stop frequently to photograph the view in both directions, upstream and downstream.
There are more vehicles on the road today, it being a work day. They cause a cloud of eye stinging dust every time they pass. They are nearly all very friendly though with waves and shouts of Buenas dias or Hola! Getting into the sun the temperature immediately changes and it starts to get hot. I stop at a tiny roadside cafe and watch the Disney film, The Incredibles with a toddler. It is in Spanish but that doesn;t matter, I know the story well. I am served a large cup of some sort of coffee and make sandwiches out of an avocado and two bread baps. The avocados are not long off the tree for the cafe has an avocado orchard behind it. Cost for my breakfast, four Soles, just under a pound.
Carrying on, I stop when a small bird goes into a tree by the roadside. Up to now birds have been few and far between. There isn't even any song or calls except for Scrub Blackbirds, which up to now have been the most frequent bird. Red-eyed Vireo goes onto the Green year list! Brilliant and very unexpected, I feel thrilled to have a bird that I have seen in Britain, despite being an American bird.
The valley stretches out in places allowing room for maize crops and avocado orchards. Here the river widens and large gravel banks appear. In other places there is massive erosion of the hillsides and the road has parts where muddy, gravel-filled slurry covers the road, possibly the aftermath of Saturday's thunderstorms. Lorries and other vehicles have flattened these parts somewhat but they are still awkward to pass. One such area is quite long and the only way to get past it is by pushing the bike through muddy water and thick mud. It covers my ankles and leaves the bike's wheels caked in mud. I get to wash it off at a ford about a mile later where a lady is washing her clothes in the river.
All of these long sections of gravel deposits in the river makes for a useful resource for building and road repair and I see three places where large diggers and lorries are collecting gravel of different sizes, sorted by a large metal grid. One of these places has a machine that sounds like an old steam locomotive as it takes gravel up to a conveyor belt. I stop here because despite the noise of the engine I can hear parrots. Then I see them, large red-headed parrots are in the trees on the other side of the river. I struggle to get a photograph of them as they fly across the gravel collecting area and are gone. Red in the wing and the call, a repeated single syllable note tells me that this a flock of around a dozen Scarlet-fronted Parakeets. Later two soaring Black-chested Buzzard Eagles fly high overhead. Their tails seem to merge into their wings in the way that I saw Fan-tailed ravens do last year at Masada in Israel. An American Kestrel starts to mob one of the them and they drift away.
A very sad sight awaits as I come around a bend at one very large landslip area. In the river at the base of it there is a bus, upside down wrecked in the water. I ask some workers what happened and they tell of the bus trying to negotiate the landslip before the local heavy diggers had arrived to deal with it and here was the result. Only the driver was in the bus and he was killed. The passengers had got out while he tried to get through.
It is quite a shock to see the wreck and to know that someone died in it. I imagine what it must have been like for the driver. Further on I come to a section of road that takes a very steep and seemingly never ending course to avoid the huge, eroded areas from the river up the hill. My day has just got harder as I start the long push. On either side of the river there are large areas of eroding rock. On the west side to my right, the rock is a soft sandstone type, bright red in colour and the erosion goes back all the way up a valley with a steep incline cut into gullies in a striking manner. There is a strong, muddy waterfall within it and a delta of debris as the stream nears the river. On my side the rock is a mixture of colours with some reds, some greys and some dazzlingly white deposits. All the rocks are quite soft and the road, especially where an inland bend occurs, has rocky debris that has totally destroyed the surface veneer of tarmac. By now I am back up at 9,000 feet, the height I started at at Quichuas. Occasional cars and lorries pass and nearly everyone gives a friendly greeting. One car slows and a hand comes out to give me . . . an orange! Muchas gracias! It is hot so must have been on the dashboard but I wolf it down and rejoice in the timing of the gift and the nature in which it was given. I needed that. No pips. It's my lucky day.
After an hour and a half of pushing the road descends but only to go through a small village of two occupied houses and a dozen or so empty, ruined ones. Up again for another couple of kilometres and then a long, twisty downward stretch that aches my wrists as I brake hard and avoid fallen rocks, potholes and severe bumpy sections. All the time there is a dizzying drop just off the edge of the road that precipitously goes down to the river, hundreds of feet below.
Turning a large bend I come across three small shrines. I have seen quite a few of these, around two feet high each with a gabled roof and a box like structure, usually empty but sometimes with flowers or a toy. These are particularly poignant as they all occurred on the same date, last Boxing day, the 26th of December 2017. Maybe the three were friends returning home when disaster struck and for some reason over the edge of the road they went. The cliff here is very high and any error would be fatal. Diego, Carlos and Yuliana would have no chance.
From this sad point and after a tricky narrowing of the road where, once more, water has eroded most of it away and where I wait as a large lorry safely negotiates the awkward bend, the road rises for a while before descending into the village of Anco. At last, after a hard day and around twenty five miles that seems like fifty, I have reached my destination village. I quickly find a hostel and once in the courtyard wait for the proprietor. A young ten year old boy, Hose arrives to wash the sheets taken from the hostel's beds. Hose has a helper today, me and together we pummel the sheets in a large stone sink with cold water and detergent, rinse them out, squeeze out what water we can and put them all on the various washing lines. Two other children arrive, younger than Hose, his sister, Diana and his brother, Marco. Diana has cheap rubber shoes that have large holes in the toes and she enjoys showing off by climbing the stair railings and using the balcony railings as a climbing frame. Diana looks about six years old. Marco could be a twin. He looks around the same age as Diana and he joins in with the railing antics. They have a sort of competition over who can stretch the furthest between railings and make their way down the stairs with the least touches.
They all leave after telling me that their father will come after he has returned from his work up in the mountains near to a large lagoon. Three hours later, around six thirty in the evening, a young man of around fifteen arrives on a motor bike, asks me for twenty Soles for the room and at last I have a bed. He leaves and I shut the door of my room in order to go and find a young couple who had been asking about having a room about an hour ago. Realising that I need some cash for a meal and having put the bike in my little bedroom, I go back to get some. The door is locked and I have no key! Oh great, if no one returns I will have to sleep in another of their rooms and get my stuff in the morning. After searching for the young couple with no success I lie down on a bed in an adjacent room and wait. An hour later the whole family arrive and I am reunited with my incarcerated bike. By now I am too tired to eat and I go quickly to bed.

Green Year list : 193 birds average new birds to list per day : 4.39 birds

Distance walked : 28.85 miles

elevation : up 5,336 feet, down 6,164 feet

altitude : 8,040 feet

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