Monday 28 May 2018

Day 46 to Huanta

May 16th, 2018

VERY hot and sunny, no cloud. Sweltering again!

After a night of disturbed sleep, disturbed by the frequent lorries coming through the village at all times, I am disappointed when the workers on the hostel's building work arrive to start at 6:15! Loud banging and sawing to wake me up good and proper.
Screams and cries outside my open bedroom window. A young girl has been bitten by a dog. Every day I get barked at and chased by dogs and now to see a young girl bitten by one is alarming. How many people get bitten by these dogs. Don't get me wrong, I love dogs but it is ridiculous how many vicious ones there are here in Peru. An old man grabs the dog and takes him indoors. The girl runs off down the street. Nothing else is done.
With another very hot day ahead I set off and walk down the high street. There are a lot of stray dogs and I don't want to be the next one on the bit person list. 

After getting to the end of the street, the road dips down around a bend and to a large bridge. Immediately three dogs come running out from a shack and stand snarling and barking at me. I am not happy and tell the owner so when he comes out to see what all the fuss is about!
Over the bridge unscathed, the road is of an excellent smooth quality tarmac with some rock fall along the right hand edge. The landscape is cowboy western with very tall cacti and small shrubby trees. Birds are almost non-existent. A handful of green and white hummingbirds, most likely White-bellied and Scrub Blackbirds are seen and a group of four Bright-rumped Yellow Finches add a splash of colour, yellow.

The tarmac disappears at a large flash flood gully and reappears again once I have crossed a wooden log bridge. Obviously a new bridge for the tarmac section of the road hasn't been built yet. About four miles down the road, tarmac once more and with sections where downhill cycling is speedy, safe and an absolute pleasure, the tarmac abruptly stops and I have to back track through a sparsely inhabited village. The small mudbrick and corrugated iron buildings have masses of cacti everywhere around them and I wonder how children play in such a place. I have to be careful myself as clumps of massed spined pieces of cacti are on the paths as I trudge towards the old bridge. Oh yes. You see by now I have found out why the tarmac stopped. A brand new bridge is within days of completion and then the tarmac road will go over a wonderful, large and no doubt expensive bridge. 

After saying hello to families and a gentleman milking one of his goats, which emits a strange pleasurable groan as he does so, I find the old suspension bridge. First I am surrounded by eight curious men who laugh at the cuddlies on the bike and all insist on shaking hands with the twit who has them.

Eating some fruit for breakfast on the other side of the planked bridge, whilst watching a Black Phoebe catching insects by the river, I watch as immense lorries have to negotiate gravel banks and two wooden log bridges because the old suspension bridge has a fifteen ton limit. 

I walk the bike along a dirt road section and on reaching the far end of the new birdge a group of Peruvians are gathered for what reason I do not know. One of them, a middle aged man, shouts “Hola Gringo!” at me. “Gringo?” I reply. “Gringo!!!” I walk towards him and the group laughing. “No Gringo . . . amigo!” And so I meet them all, laugh with them all and explain how, why and where I am travelling. Handshakes and laughs all around as I do my usual silly handshake routine that embarrasses my daughter so much when we travel together but people love it. A lady suggests a group photograph. My pleasure. Photograph taken it is goodbye and I carry on.

The road is flat. The road is smooth and the cycling is easy. Enjoy it whilst you can Prezza. It won't last. It doesn't. The landscape by now is in sharp contrast to the claustrophobia of the last week, with it's towering cliffs and twisted rock formations, clinging roads high above the river with ever present precipitous drops. Now it is wide and expansive, the hills are soft both in rock type and colour and the shades melt into each other with layer upon layer of pinks, yellows and greys. There are orchards and one can see for miles. Now the road starts to climb. This I am expecting and accept the challenge of a ten mile ascent to the town of Huanta.

A raptor on a high mudstone cliff has me confused. The fully grey head, with no white areas and breast suggests a Roadside Hawk. It's underparts below a well defined breast band has bright rufous barring. 
An American kestrel on a telegraph wire is easier. The push goes on. A small dead, silvery snake is on the road. The first snake I have seen.

Croaking Ground Doves, a favourite bird of mine, appear again and still the relentless climb in extreme heat.
Birds there might not be many of but there are plenty of butterflies, including two that are dead by the side of the road. One is a Monarch, I put it in my passport. The other is a beautiful black and white Monarch like butterfly, which has been avoiding my camera for days. There are yellow species, white species, Grizzled Skipper species and the occasional blue. One species I do know and please remember that Peru has more butterfly species than any other country in the World, around 4,000 of them, is the Brazilian Lady, which looks like a small Painted Lady with dark red instead of the orange. There are lots of them.

Higher still and around a bend in the road, I can at last see Huanta but it looks a lot further away than I expected. I carry on pushing. A small, green plastic bag floats by on the convectional breeze. Coming across a bridge a young man with a long stick is carefully yet confidently walking down the road. He is blind and his courage is inspiring. I can't help but tell him how fantastic and amazing he is.

Huanta is still five miles or so away and he must have walked all the way banging his stick against the curb to know where he was. Incredible.

Eventually I reach the town and after having negotiated a very steep hill I find a very busy road with lots of motortaxis and cars. I ask which way the town centre is and am pointed to the right. Cycling along with the motortaxis, I pass one big plaza and then another. A hotel looks a better bet than the cheap hostels. I want a shower desperately and maybe a hotel will have hot water. It may even have the internet!

It does. It has both and most of the rest of the afternoon and evening are spent cleaning, well scrubbing myself and catching up on family news. I do go down to the market and enjoy a plate of chicken, rice and pasta but by early evening I am asleep, dog tired!

Green Year list : 196 birds average new birds to list per day : 4.26 birds

Distance walked : 19.28 miles

elevation : up 2,710 feet, down 1,305 feet

altitude : 8,667 feet

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