Tuesday 29 May 2018

Day 57 A Real Big Push

May 27th, 2018

Sunny intervals

Off at 6:30 a.m. With the mission to get up to the summit of the lump between me and the next town. That is over eighteen miles away and the road goes up with a fair gradient for the whole way. It starts with the usual twisting loops as it climbs through agricultural areas. It is a beautiful day with just some cloud forming over the mountain tops. The whole push is beautifully scenic and it is a pleasure to be on such a journey. There are even some birds to see along the way. Golden-billed Saltators fly like small partridge, Spot-winged Pigeons seem to favour sitting in the Eucalyptus trees. American Kestrels fly low and Black-chested Buzzard Eagles soar high, circling far overhead. Everything is perfect.
A motortaxi stops by me and the family inside, father, mother and very young child give me a bag containing a large piece of bread with hundreds & thousands on it and four tangerines. Kindness of strangers.
I stop for breakfast at a place where a crash barrier stops and a grassy ledge gives me incredible views towards distant high, snow-capped mountains. A young boy, around twelve years old leads a small herd of eight cows down the main road. No school for him. There is work to do. A man is cutting a tall grass-like plant and laying them in heaps nearby and a field down in the valley has beautifully arranged stoops stacked as green cones. All is peaceful and my surprise bread and tangerine breakfast goes down fine.
Carrying on and after a few miles that take me a thousand feet higher, the landscape changes to Puna grasslands with very little cropping. A few Rufous-naped and the larger, white-tailed White-fronted Ground Tyrants are searching for food on a large ploughed area. Another ploughed area a little later has three women working on turning the soil using short-poled hoes. Hard work in this sunshine. I am amazed at how many women I see out in the fields. Two women later have three dogs and around a hundred sheep to follow for the day.
Further still all ploughed areas stop and there is just course, dry and yellowing grass with some moisture areas in one small valley. Here there are two Andean Geese. A small pool has a Puna Ibis and an Andean Lapwing on it.
The regular kilometre signs tell me that I approaching the wished for summit and a cyclist coming downhill towards me stops for a chat. His helmet is incredible. It looks like a black Kryten helmet from Red Dwarf, with the eyes taken from the Green Goblin in Spiderman! On top of it is a camera. The owner of such a fine cycling helmet announces that his name is Luis as he passes me a business card and takes selfies of us both and then one of just me with the bike. A professional photographer, Luis' card states that he is available for all types of events.
The summit. I sit down for some lunch and to admire the view. I can see for miles and miles; snow-capped mountains to the left, Puna grassland hills and mountains all the way to the right as far as I can see. I can also see the road I am going to go down and am glad that I put all new brake blocks on yesterday.
Over twenty five miles of speedy downhill cycling passes quickly as I go around bends, enjoy the straight moments and watch as I reverse the habitat changes I saw on the way up. I even video the ride for a minute or so as the bike goes along a section where one faces the distant mountains.
Through villages with the usual holas and buenas tardes, I stop once or twice to take photographs. I also stop for a minibus that has a flat tyre and get all the food in my rucksack out for the stranded passengers.
At the foot of the hill, after views of incredible beauty, I stop and watch a football match with a few locals. The home team are, sorry to say, totally outclassed and I see four goals go in for the away team in the half an hour I see. The local crowd are desperate for anything good and the noise level increases when their team looks like scoring. Sadly they never do. I know how they feel!
A few miles of pedalling and I arrive at Andahuaylas. Finding a hotel, I get into my neat and tidy room and celebrate having achieved the mission. Forty seven miles! Brilliant.

Green Year list : 202 birds average new birds to list per day : 3.54 birds

Distance walked, pushed and cycled : 47.00 miles

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

altitude : 9495 feet

Monday 28 May 2018

Day 56 Uripa

May 26th, 2018

Sunny in the morning and hot. Less Cloud in the afternoon than recently so warmer. Windless

Today my football team attempt to get back into the Premiership after being away in the Championship for two years. They are playing Fulham in the Play off Final at Wembley, kick off 5:00 p.m. In the UK, 11.00 a.m. Here in Peru. I am in place in an internet shop, sitting behind console number six, my lucky number, by 10:30. Here's hoping.
England are playing cricket against Pakistan at Lords, London and when I find the match on the BBC cricket webpage I find that they are doing disastrously bad. I set up a webpage so that I can keep tracks on both and start finding maps of the route that I need to take in the month of June. From Here, Uripa, I hope to be at Abancayo by the month's end and then aim to push on to Machu Picchu and Cusco. I have an aim to be at Paucartambo, the village ear to the beginning of The Manu National Park by the first of July. That is the plan. Using Mapometer I collate all the maps showing the routes, distances, elevations and altitudes.
I turn back to the cricket and the football in turn, being superstitious that if I leave a map unfinished then that will be bad for them both! Ridiculous, just like when I used to wear a claret sock on my left foot and a blue sock on my right when I attended Villa matches in the 1970s. If ever I forgot to do so, and luckily I had two pairs, then my superstitious nature would be convinced that the Villa would lose.
I should have worn the socks today for the match ended up with Villa losing 1 – 0 to ten men. Fulham had a player sent off with twenty minutes to go. Another season in the second division, I mean The Championship for the Villa so I will be watching them there when I return in October.
Meanwhile the cricket has improved. England's batsmen, Josh Butler and debutant spinner, twenty year old Bess, have put up some spirited resistance and we haven't lost another wicket. I love cricket. It can look really dire, defeat looms and then two players stick around and things brighten up. Will this match take on Headingly 1982 proportions?
With mixed emotions I head off for the Eucalyptus forests to bird the afternoon away. Taking a different route to yesterday, I head off up a hill where a narrow path follows a water courseway. Birds are as few as yesterday and after a couple of miles of struggling because of the state of my feet, blistered and cut, I turn and take a different route back to the village. No new birds for the Green Year list and no photographs taken of any either. I do list them with the intention of placing the record on eBird when I can.
Back in the town, I search the market for shoes. There are half a dozen stores that have a good number of shoes, in fact they are shoe stores but the largest they can come up with is size 42, size 7 in the UK. As my present shoes are 44 and still way too small for me, I will have to cut away the front leather on the boots I bought in Ayacucho a week ago. The stall owner and I have a laugh at my Ugly Sister attempts at getting the trainers she thinks will fit onto my landowners. My usual size is UK 11! Another stall owner says that I won't be able to get any my size except in Lima. Oh great! How stupid of me not to foresee this problem occurring.
Having managed to find the right size spanner for the brake block nuts and bolts this morning, I spend the last hour of lovely sunshine changing three blocks and making sure everything else is tightened up as well. I also have bought some antibiotic cream and plasters for my feet and spend some time cutting nails as far back as I can and cleaning all problem areas. I remember meeting a rather strange man last year when I was at Chaskawasi-Manu in The Manu, the charity that I am supporting this year together with Birdlife International. Well, this man, I forget his name, insisted on showing me where he had cut off one of his own toes because of getting an infection! He used novocaine and a pair of scissors, as you do. Anyway, I have a long way to walk and push tomorrow, over eighteen miles of up a steep road and I want my feet to be as pain free as possible and I want to keep all of my toes thank you. Some may be a bit twisted due to previous accidents but they are mine. My leather boots now look like sandals at the front as I have cut off the leather that rubs against my toes and I don't care if wearing socks with sandals is not in fashion. My feet come first, socks and sandals it is. It was frustrating this afternoon to look at the superb mountain peaks and think that in the past I would have walked up there. Memories of doing so at Mount Parnassus and Mount Olympus in 2011 in Greece, Gavarnie, Col de Portelet, Infierno and Cauterets on the French side of The Pyrenees in 1990 and 2009 and various high hills around Cusco and Pisac here in Peru last year. The right shoes and no problem.

Green Year list : 202 birds average new birds to list per day : 3.61 birds

altitude : 10,535 feet

Day's bird list :

Rufous-collared Sparrow 17
Chiguanca Thrush 5
Black-backed Grosbeak 3
Blue & Yellow Tanager 1
Cinereous Conebill 6
Yellow-billed Tit Tyrant 4
Hooded Siskin 3
Band-tailed Seedeater 4
Golden-billed Saltator 4
Spot-winged Pigeon 1

Day 55 To Uripa

May 25th, 2018

Sunny in the morning and hot. Cloud in the afternoon making it feel cool in a t-shirt. Windless

Same as yesterday, up at six and packed by half past, I start the day with a five mile push that takes me over a thousand feet higher. The sky is blue and the Sun has yet to show itself above a high craggy mountain. It is cool, so cool I can see my breath. The road turns one way, then the other as it climbs out of Chincheros. I pass a construction that looks suspiciously like a new concrete bull ring. I am assured by the workers that it isn't and that it is a new football stadium.
The Sun is up and it is soon warm enough to take off one of my three layers, the red alpaca design woolly jumper. Two lads around sixteen years old on their way to school stop me and ask in English about who I will be supporting in the coming football World Cup. Vamos Peru!
An immature Mountain Caracara is a strange bird to see sitting quite close by on top of a large hay bale and it twists it's head around to watch me closely. I photograph the good luck arrangements that are on top of most of the houses I pass. In Cusco they would be double bull terracottas but here they are metal figures based around a cross. Some have condors or parrots, others have butterflies and flowers but all are topped by a small red and white flag of Peru.
There is the usual friendliness of everyone I pass, be they men chopping logs or ladies with small children. There is always a Hola! A Buenos dias, which may lead to the usual questions and handshakes. Such wonderful people. I wonder why the ladies wear those distinctive black or dark brown hats?
Passing fields I wonder why tall dead stalks of maize are left to go brown instead of being cut down.
Reaching Uripa I don't immediately plump for the first hostel or hotel. Instead I walk around a few streets. It is a town more than a village and very busy with lots of motortaxis and students in tracksuit school uniforms. There is a large golden statue of an Inca warrior in the middle of a traffic island. There is a big market building and construction on new school buildings. Eventually though I do choose a hostel, a rather dirty affair and therefore cheap, twenty Soles a night. I will stay for two.
Finding an internet shop, there are the usual big black boxes and monitors in a line along two walls of a dark, dingy room. The usual fee, one Sole for each hour used, I sit down and respond to emails, find out how England are doing in the cricket against Pakistan, not very well as they keep dropping catches and download all recent photographs onto Facebook. I feel better having done this as I don't want to lose any. I have them on my laptop and on memory sticks but those could be lost, stolen or broken.
Outside again, I need to find a small spanner for the bike. One of the bolts that tighten the brake blocks has worn too much for my adjustable spanner to remove it and I need to change the blocks in readiness for some serious hill descents. I also want to give away my camouflaged coat. It's waterproof qualities have been negligible and there is a large rip from where the bull got it with one of it's horns back at Huanza a month ago. Through the market and around the streets, I don't find any shop or stall that looks like it will have a size nine spanner. I will try again tomorrow before the big match. Oh yes, I haven't forgotten that Aston Villa take on Fulham at Wembley tomorrow for the match that will decide who goes up into the Premiership. The Championship Play Off Final, starting at 11:00 a.m. Peruvian time, will be worth £160 million to the winners!
Time for lunch, the waitress in a clean cafe thinks I want the toilet when I ask for the list of what food they offer and keeps laughing as she insists on showing me the Men's room! A gentleman sitting at a table already eating speaks English and he explains that all I want is food. We sit together, are joined by a female work colleague and talk about Peru, families sport and travel.

From the cafe and after having collected my camera, binoculars and notebook, I walk along a very long street that heads towards the Eucalyptus covered slopes of the hills to the north. A few hours birding, I turn off the street after passing a large church and find myself amongst small fields with shrubs, bushes and extremely tall Eucalyptus. I try to work out how tall one particular tree is and estimate one hundred feet, maybe more.
Rufous-collared Sparrows are common and there are a number of Chiguanca Thrushes. A Great Thrush, three Sierran Eleanias, a couple of Red-crested Cotingas, a couple of Band-tailed Seedeaters, a few Hooded Siskins, Cinereous Conebills, Yellow-billied Tit Tyrants and a White-browed Chat Tyrant are all noted down and an Azara's Spinetail is added to the Green Year list making that now stand at 202. The whitish throat standing out on this bird and warm rufous tail. The mantle seems an olive colour, which I do not expect on this species. Not many species seen in the afternoon but beyond this area of fields and trees there are just masses of Eucalyptus trees with practically no understory due to grazing.

Green Year list : 202 birds average new birds to list per day : 3.72 birds

Distance walked, pushed and cycled : 5.98 miles

elevation : up 1,460 feet, down 132 feet

altitude : 10,535 feet

Day 54 Chincheros - New Birds for the Green Year List at Last!

May 24th, 2018

Sunny in the morning and hot. Cloud in the afternoon making it feel cool in a t-shirt. Windless

Up at six and packed by half past, I start the day with a four mile push that takes me over a thousand feet higher. Usual problem with dogs including one pack of five that bark and snarl much to the amusement of their owner, not to mine.
Reaching Chincheros at last, I quickly find a hotel for thirty five Soles, around £7.50 for a double room en suite. Nine a.m. off to explore the village, I find a shopping mall! It has two shops, some fruit and veg sellers and two cafes upstairs. I choose the one that has tables and chairs on a terrace overlooking the mountain scenery and order the usual breakfast, rice, chicken and yucca. Add on to that a large cup of milky coffee and the cost of six Soles, around £1.50, is as expected. The tip I give of two Soles is not.
Exploring further, I find just beyond the beautiful village Plaza, an internet shop. Going inside there are around twenty old box computers in two rooms. I am placed at computer number eighteen and away I go, catching up with news, emails and the Test match, England versus Pakistan. In the UK it is half way through the afternoon and yet already England have been bowled out! Ouch!
Midday I leave the cricket and head back to hotel to collect my binoculars and camera to go birding for the afternoon. This is the first time since Izcuchaca, thirteen days ago, that I can go proper birding instead of just seeing what birds I find along route. There is a large white statue of the Virgin Mary holding a baby Jesus atop a hill behind the hotel and there are scrubby bushes and tall Eucalyptus trees. Surely there are birds. I set off to find out.
After some steps take me to a dirt road, and after being disgusted at a beautiful mural which sadly shows the evil that is bullfighting with the added twist of an Andean Condor being tied to the bull's back, there are plenty of butterflies but precious few birds. After climbing to the statue I still haven't seen more than a handful; Chiguanca Thrushes - three, Sparkling Violetears – also three and a single White-bellied Hummingbird. Past the statue two workers are building a wall and it looks from the sign of the derelict wooden buildings and a couple of empty and dilapidated swimming pools, most likely for baptism ceremonies by the looks of them, that a new cafe or similar is being built to replace the broken down ones.
From here I have the choice of two paths; one goes straight on at the same height along the valley and through the trees, the other goes up higher. I take the first. After half an hour of bird glimpses I feel that I have seen the feathers of five bird families but not identified one of them to species. I sit down on a Eucalyptus plank, there has been a lot of tree felling and plank making here, and watch. There has been a tit-tyrant species, a woodpecker species, a hummingbird species that I haven't seen before, a cotinga likewise and a really frustrating warm brown spinetail, probably Azara's, that just dives from one piece of cover to another. Did I see a rufous cap on it? I take my time and sit and watch. A bird allows a view higher up on a branch. Rufous-collared Sparrow, I might have known. I remember reading a trip report where the writers had joked that rufous-collared Sparrows were rare. They're not. They are very common and everywhere.
After sitting for twenty minutes or so and not seeing a lot, I decide to walk back and take the path that goes higher. A Cinnamon Flycatcher agrees with me and shows itself nicely, hunting from a nearby branch. The smart looking bird keeps returning to the same branch and shows both sides, front and back. Having it's wings spread a little I can see a small square pale yellow rump just below the olive green mantle. Cinnamon Flycatcher is a beauty of a bord. The tit-tyrant is on the other side of the path and shows itself as well, a Yellow-billed. It's crest isn't as large as I would have expected but everything else fits. Things are looking up so I do. There is another Cinnamon Flycatcher on a high branch of a very tall Eucalyptus. A Black-throated Flowerpiercer is doing just that, piercing the yellow flowers of a Broome species.
Along the new path I reach the end of the tall trees and sit on a plank and watch the valley. A blue, speckled breasted hummingbird lands very close by my very still form. Now why didn't I put on a less conspicuous t-shirt? Bright white just isn't suitable! The bird spots my binocular movement and is off. A Lesser Violetear goes onto the list. (This bird was previously known as a Green Violetear but was split into two species - 2020) 
At last a new bird for the Green Year list. I haven't had a new one for nine days! Another hummingbird lands on a bush about thirty feet away. This one has a split and body length long tail. Green and white, another new bird for the Green Year list, a Black-tailed Trainbearer.
I move to another area and immediately see the Cotinga species but this time it is sitting still on a dead branch instead of hiding in thick undergrowth. Now that I can see it I know it to be a Red-crested Cotinga, yet another new bird for the growing list. This is beginning to be a fabulous afternoon. I hope it doesn't stop.
The Sun that allowed the butterflies to be so common on the way up here has by now gone behind some thick cloud that has developed around the mountain tops. This has made things feel cool and I sit wishing that I had brought a jumper with me. There is no way I can stop birding though as new birds are appearing regularly. Two more Cinnamon Flycatchers sit together on a branch. A White-winged Black Tyrant sits on another nearby. Then a large Tinamou flies past, the whoosh of it going past my head is impressive.
Four p.m. I start my way back to the hotel. A tit-tyrant stops me but before I can reach for my binoculars, a loud woodpecker-like call turns my head in the opposite direction. The woodpecker lands on a bush and I can only say that it is the most wonderfully coloured woodpecker I have ever seen. It isn't far away from me and I watch as it moves around on a couple of branches before settling on a dead tree stump to root for insects. What a bird! Scarlet-red head, mantle and back, well spotted breast over yellow underparts with a black throat and white face mask, it is just a bit larger than the European Great-spotted Woodpecker and far more spectacular. A Crimson-mantled Woodpecker goes onto the Green Year list and my life list. Black on the crown tells me she is a female. It is a real thrill to see such a magnificent bird. The warm brown skulker shows and immediately disappears. One that got away.
Back by the statue, I take the dirt road down the hill instead of the zig zag path that I took to get up here. Immediately there are birds, lots of them and the panic is to see them all before they skedaddle. In quick order I see more Rufous-collared Sparrows and a flock of ten or so Hooded Siskins. Blue & Yellow Tanagers, a House Wren and a Streak-throated Bush Tyrant. Taking more time to view, there is a bird in the high canopy of the Eucalyptus. I eventually decide that it is an immature or female Yellow and Blue Tanager.
Coming down to the shrub layer once more three bright yellow birds draw my attention. One has a cinnamon-coloured head whereas the other two don't. These two completely lack any supercilia, have a uniform yellow-green colouration and have grey legs. Their overall colour has me confused but if they are immatures then they would be the offspring of the Rust & Yellow Tanager, a final new Green Year list bird and lifer once more.
The flock passes and a gentle walk down to the village is interrupted by a friendly shopkeeper who wants to give me a bottle of pop for free. Down at a local Primary school they are having a festival and I watch from the outside as a line of five year olds dance with a little help from their teacher.

Green Year list : 201 birds average new birds to list per day : 3.72 birds

Distance walked, pushed and cycled : 4.03 miles (not including afternoon walk)

elevation : up 1,381 feet, down 355 feet

altitude : 9,196 feet

Day 53 23rd May 2018 A Low Point but not in My Soaring Spirits

May 23rd, 2018

Sunny and very hot. Little cloud. Windless. Cold descent as Sun is behind mountains.

It is cold when I wake up at 5:30 a.m. There is no cloud as the light of dawn grows brighter and not a breath of wind. Thick condensation on the windows. How different to the last week. Back to the mountain climate once more.
The usual heralds for a new day, dogs, are announcing it's arrival. Looking at a map of the route, which follows the 3S road all the way to Abancayo, I can see that today will be more of a plunge into this deep, steep-sided valley. Tomorrow, well that's another story and will involve two to three days of pushing the bike up the 6,000 feet ascent. I will try not to think about that. Hey, come on, be positive Gary! You did just that on a dirt track a month ago. Yes, I did, didn't I? Barba Blanco to Huanza Similar height difference, similar distance and this time I will be doing it on a smooth tarmac surface. OK, point taken.

I take a look at my feet and decide that some alteration is required to the boots. My left big toe has blood and lymph coming from underneath the nail and is painful. The front toe area of the shoe is going to have to come off. I have seen fast bowlers such as Flintoff and Broad do this. There is a large blister on a smaller toe. Memories of my daughter, Rebecca's wonderful blister on the little toe when we travelled around Italy together in 2005. She named him and I have a photograph of it with a small blue butterfly sitting upon it whilst we waited for the sensational Palio event in Sienna one extremely hot day. Nothing I can do about this one. I'll leave it be. The right big toe has a cut across the knuckle joint and here I cut the leather of the shoe to allow it to give more room to this area. Alterations made, time to pack and get ready to move on.

Mariabella and children are on the steps as I come out. Adios to them all, I am off down their dirt track road to the nearest shop where I buy two large bottles of orange juice. Everyone in the shop wants to know about my companions so I tell them.

Downhill for around ten miles as the road meanders amongst fields and trees. The larger trees have cloud forest moss dangling down from every branch and twig. The first straight road for many mile still has a steep angle of descent but has a small pueblo along it. As always everyone waves or says Buenos Dias, Hola!

Through another small pueblo, the road curves and descends down to a large river plain. The stones and gravel are a pale grey and there is a large bridge over the fast flowing waters. Two Great Egrets fly over me as I cross it. The road now follows the river course but goes up and down causing me to push more than cycle. 

After about five miles and after having refused the offer of a hostel in one village, the road leaves the river and starts to climb. A steep road takes me past avocado orchards, fenced off with padlocked gates. By now it is 11:00 a.m. And it is very hot and sunny. No breeze like yesterday to keep me cool. I can feel my upper arms start to get sunburnt.

I stop to cut the shoe leather some more. Both big toes are very painful and I don't dare take my socks off to have a look at the damage. Shoes back on, I carry on. 

Birds are scarce in the heat. Scrub Blackbirds are back, as are a couple of Black-backed Grosbeaks. A flock of parakeets fly over, around twenty of them, Mitred. The usual butterflies are to be seen as I push hard up the hill. A dead tarantula species shows me what could be found in the roadside scrub. Watching the cliffs and roadsides I spot a large cat, about lynx size making it's way across a well vegetated cliff. It only allows me a few seconds to watch before it disappears into the undergrowth. Now what sort of cat was that?

The road passes parts where there has been substantial landslip and debris covers an area of road on numerous occasions. My feelings tend to be a tad nervous when I am pushing past such areas of high erosion and I imagine an earthquake occurring and burying me. It's one of those hard days when I struggle to stay as positive as usual. They happen every so often. I am human and must fight step after step. Maybe I should have had a rest day at that hostel a few miles back.

The kilometre posts number my progress, coming in twos. It is really useful to have these black and white posts, either every kilometre or every two. They have 3S on the top of each one yet the S is laterally inverted, as if it is seen in a mirror. At least I know I am on the right road and I like to know how much distance I have travelled and how far to the next destination I have to go.
Speaking of the next village. I pass the hundred and fifty kilometre mark since leaving Ayacucho and wonder where the village marked on my list has got to. Chincheros should have been here by now according to my figures but it isn't. The road seems interminable with it's dog leg turns and steep angled ascent.
After stopping for some lunch, banana sandwiches again, some dried corn and juice, I continue for another mile or so when I come across a grassy bank that looks to lead up to a small grassy field. It does and is a perfect place for to camp. It is 2:30 p.m. and the heat is oppressive and debilitating. I decide that as the bushes to the side of the long, green grass is creating some shade, I will camp up and give my feet some rest, as well as myself. This perfect spot cannot be seen from the road. Cicadas serenade my afternoon siesta.
Looking at a Mapometer map, showing my route between Huancayo and Ollantaytambo, I note that I am half way. The route shows 500 miles and I have just past the 250 mile mark. There, that's a reason to be cheerful. All done in thirteen days. If I can do the next half of the route then I will arrive at Ollantaytambo around the sixth of June, a very important date in my life. It was on that day, back in 1994, that I met my wonderful, so beautiful, green eyed late wife, Karen.

Green Year list : 196 birds average new birds to list per day : 3.70 birds

Distance walked, pushed and cycled : 28.37 miles

elevation : up 4,328 feet, down 5,422 feet

altitude : 8,153 feet Low point of the day when crossing river . . . 6,404 feet. I haven't been this low for over a month!

Day 52 Up and Down to Chumbes. An 8,000 feet elevation!

May 22nd, 2018

Sunny and radiant heat is hot. Little cloud. Cool breeze.

Up at six in my small tent, I eat a banana sandwich for breakfast and pack. On the road by seven, I have another day of pushing the bike up the steep road. I figure I have another ten miles before I reach the plateau. I put my earphones in for the MP3 player and listen to Frank Zappa as I pace.

Soon beyond the tree line, the road twists one way and the other as it climbs. Mountain Caracara, four of them pass quite close.
On reaching a summit the road stays almost at one level as it circumnavigates one large valley after the other. Sections of downhill are met with corresponding sections of get off and push. There are birds here too. Both Cincloides species, band-tailed Sierra Finches and Andean Flickers. A long circular road passes a number of high altitude lakes and as I push the bike once more, a motorcyclist stops for a chat. He is from The Netherlands and has hired a Honda 250CC to carry out a tour of Peru. 

He has already been to Machu Picchu and is now on the way to Ayacucho, Ica and Nazca. He kindly gives me some water, desperately needed and a bag of nuts, raisins and seeds. The kindness of strangers.
I continue on and the next bend gives me hope that I have reached the true summit of the road and that from here on it is all downhill. For three or four miles I go steadily down but when coming around yet another bend I come across a huge valley where I can see the road meandering down before it ascends once more across the valley's plain and up the south side. 

The descent is quite steep and is quickly accomplished. The ascent on the far side takes over an hour. The breeze always seems to be in my face as I walk steadily along the road. The road over the hill is long, creating huge circles on the plateau. It passes Llamas penned in by a long and high fence. Outside Vicunias are in small family groups and I don't see any group larger than four.

Reaching Laguna Parionacocha, I am greeted by a flock of ten Andean Flickers pose on rocks beside the road and twelve Puna Ibis land by a nearby pool. Three dogs here belonging to an Incan lady shepherdess, charge at me barking loudly. My equally loud shout back at them stops them in their tracks and they return to their owner.

One of the pools has a Greater Yellowlegs wading in it's waters. Fabulous to see what I think of as an American wader so high up here in The Andes.

The true descent begins after a few miles. This time the road is white knuckle steep and my brakes are constantly employed/ The road covers every hills side as it twists and turns, doubling back on itself in places. The drop is immense and my arms ache from the strain. Ten miles goes by quickly.

Landslides adjacent to the road are negotiated carefully and I reach a pueblo. Not seeing the size of it until I have passed it I continue on my way down. I pass a large distance notice but am startled to see that Abancayo is now 296 kilometres away. The sign seen at midday had stated the distance to be 246! I think they have put the signs up the wrong way around as it must have been about fifty kilometres between the two. Andahuaylas suffers the same fifty kilometre anomaly.
The road becomes a platform along a massive cliff in one section and here there are piles of stony debris almost blocking the road in places. A few more miles and I reach my hoped for destination pueblo, Chumbes. The first hostel I see I stop at and knock on the large steel doors. Soon inside, Mariabella, the owner, takes my passport details and offers rooms at 15, 20 and 25 Soles. I take the latter as they don't seem to have much custom.
Just past twenty past five and as I sit on the double bed in my twenty five Soles room I can't stop shaking. Is this from the rapid thousand feet drop that I have just completed? Is it from the temperature drop when the Sun went behind the mountains for the night or am I suffering something? Time will tell.

The village is quiet and the immense steep face of the mountainside faces my window. Taking my new boots off and my socks I find two large blisters and a large toe nail going purple. I am going to cut the shoes with a sharp pair of scissors and try to find larger ones when I get to Abancayo. My feet are a 46 in size yet these are only two sizes smaller but they are crippling me!

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

Distance walked, pushed and cycled : 53.29 miles

elevation over last two days since Ayacucho : up 8,304 feet, down 8,045 feet

altitude : 9,296 feet

BB 2010 Oops, crash and a motorway Abominable Snowman in Hemel Hempstead January 5th

5 th January                                                            Tragedy                                              The Bee Gees   ...