Saturday 23 June 2018

Day 69 Towards Ollantaytambo . . . Laguna Huaypo

June 8th, 2018

The now regular . . . very cold overnight, sunny and warm once sun up

Off early morning, just as the sun is rising, the air is very cold and I continue wishing I had more than two jerseys. Reaching a village a few miles down the road there is chaos as a large agricultural fair is taking place. I stop to watch as masses of people mill around stalls and animal pens and arrive en masse on the back of lorries, in cars, buses and minibuses.

Through Izcacucha, I turn off the main road that heads towards Cusco and instead take a dirt road that goes up a small rise through a woodland of Eucalyptus trees. Sitting having a drink at a place where I can see over the ridge and over the trees, a White-throated Hawk circles around giving fabulous views.

Over the ridge there is a village that sits beside a large lake and I spend a couple of hours birding, counting each bird specie to be seen. These include Black-necked Stilts and a couple of Lesser yellowlegs as well as, surprisingly, a Little Blue Heron. Some White-tufted Grebes dive through small gaps in the floating vegetation to catch fish. At the east end of the lake I am delighted when a young pig, which I hadn't noticed because it was sleeping in a shallow ditch, comes up behind me and gives me a knock. I presume it wants to be scratched and am doing so when the owner, an old Inca looking lady comes out and joins me in scratching the contented animal.

A few miles further and I come across a lake that makes the last one look like a puddle, Laguna Huaypo. In the first reed bed there are some Yellow-winged Blackbirds, doubling my day's Green Birding Year ticks. I continue around the fabulous lake with it's magnificent views of massive and magnificent mountains that fringe the Sacred Valley south of Urubamba. I meet a young couple who are sitting in the grass and the girl is from Huddersfield originally but now lives in Barcelona. Not much of a difference I suppose!

Onto the main road between Cusco and Urubamba, I head towards the latter and enjoy ten miles or so of downhill plummeting. The views of the surrounding mountains are wonderful.

There is still an hour or so of light on reaching the large town and so I continue towards Ollantaytambo. I stop after five miles on seeing a nice looking hostel beside the road. The cost is a little steep, eighty Soles, around £20 but it will be fine for one night. I go off in search of some food along a nearby side road and am bitten by a small dog on the back of my calf. It isn't too bad and doesn't draw blood but the little thing has left his mark with a ring of little bruises. What is it with dogs in Peru?

Green Year list : 216 birds average new birds to list per day : 3.13 birds

Distance walked, pushed and cycled : 33.30 miles

elevation : up 1,739 feet, down 3,538 feet

altitude : 9,493 feet

Day 68 To Ancahuasi

June 7th, 2018

Very cold overnight, sunny and warm once sun was up once more

I leave the hostel early just as schoolchildren are arriving at the adjacent school. Another day of pushing is ahead of me and I hope that I can reach the top most point before it either gets dark or before I get too tired. May and June have been extremely tough on me and I am getting fatigued. I still feel happy though and every day my feet are improving. The only long lasting blister is on the heel of my left foot and, although the big toe nails are black, there is very little pus from them now.

Once out the village I see a few hummingbirds that chase each other around. I desperately try to see the undertail but cannot so cannot assign them to species. I continue up a road that seems steeper than the usual and each miles seems to take forever. A coach stops and the driver asks me whether I want to put the bike in the luggage space. Incredible that this has happened so often.
After pushing for around ten miles or so I come around a corner to see masses of smashed cola bottles strewn over the road. To one side a large cola lorry, with canvas sides has had part of its cargo fall out and the road is being swept of the debris. Piles of broken open plastic bottles of Inca cola are left in ditches on both sides of the road and I wonder how long before these are cleared up.

Further up the road I come across an area where the hillside is being removed. A digger is at the top of a huge white cliff and is sending down cascades of rocks to another one far below. Here the rocks are being scooped up and then dumped over the road edge. How someone can work at such a height in such a precarious place is incredible to me and fascinating to watch.

A couple of kilometres further and a car stops and a lady comes out to ask whether I want a lift to the top. On hearing me say “no thanks,” she gives me some nuts that I don't recognise in a bag before driving on.

Early afternoon and I am amazed when I come to the top point of the road. A long descent follows that goes through a toll gate and I reach the village of Andahuasi. Finding a hostel with a couple who are absolutely delightful, I head off down a dirt track to bird the rest of the day away. A Cinereous Harrier flies almost over me and a superb Aplomado Falcon is on a pylon nearby. Puna Ibis are feeding in a field and the usual Rufous-collared Sparrows are feeding in old maize fields. I search around some hedgerows and see a beautiful Chestnut-fronted Mountain Finch making it seem like I am destined to get one new bird for the Green birding Year list every day.

Back at the hostel I am greeted with a free meal of omelette, fried potato chunks and American-style pancakes! The kindness of strangers.

Green Year list : 214 birds average new birds to list per day : 3.15 birds

Distance walked, pushed and cycled : 20.80 miles

elevation : up 5,313 feet, down 2,234 feet

altitude : 11,417 feet (high point during day - 12,228 feet) 

Day 67 - Fifty Miles to Limatambo

June 6th, 2018

Heavy frost in the morning, otherwise sunny and warm once sun was up

Sun up and ice melts from the tent as I pack everything away and remove the tent pole repairs. I am soon on the road with a five mile push ahead of me. Abancay is smothered in thick cloud which I am above and which fills the large valley as far as I can see. Only mountain peaks are to be seen above the sea of cloud, making for an incredible view. The cloud dissipates as the sun gets higher in the sky. A van stops to offer a lift and the driver can't understand why I say no. He drives off laughing. Wonderful people!
A Variable Hawk flies over and lands on a nearby fir tree top. I actually feel good. Yesterday's fever and sweatiness has gone and life is good once more. As I reach the top most point of the road I pass an area where thousands of small fir trees are growing, obviously planted not that long ago. The view down to the city of Abancay shows how the road twisted one way and then the other and the city looks to be thousands of feet below me.

The long descent begins and the kilometre posts go back wonderfully fast, so unlike yesterday when the push of the bike between each kilometre post seemed to take forever. I pass a road sign that states that my next destination, Limatambo, is sixty five kilometres away and the ever nearing Cusco one hundred and forty two. Sixty five kilometres, just over forty miles, I will take that if it all downhill like at the moment.
With fabulous views in every direction I stop to photograph a glacier atop a high mountain to the east and see a few favourite White-collared Swifts. After twenty or so miles I stop just after a large new bridge at an open sided church and have some lunch. By now the weather is very hot and sunny and I am grateful to be out of it and in some cool shade. Everyday I seem to be moving from summer to winter and back again.

Next to the church, along the road, two masked Peruvians are collecting plastic bottles for recycling. They ignore all other pieces of the dreaded stuff and they tell me that it goes to make fleeces. Great to see this being done but I can't help but think that this isn't cost effective. No matter though, at least the one use plastic bottles are being removed from the environment and that has to be worth their combined wages.
The wonderful views of snow-capped mountains continue and the tall, branched cacti appear once more as I descend further towards a large river, which winds between steep-sided bare rock hills. A jinx seems to be broken. Ever since Dr Rob Williams asked me to keep a record of all of the Andean Condors I see I haven't seen any. Therefore I am thrilled when I see an enormous adult condor soaring along a high ridge. I saw around twenty during April yet didn't see one during May.

Crossing the orange suspension bridge, it is unfortunately time to start pushing towards Limatambo. I have another ten miles to go and once the road leaves the large Apurimac River, it gets steeper and the going gets tougher. A superb mottled grey butterfly grabs my attention as I struggle uphill, as does a family of Smooth-billed Anis.

A beautiful and rather small sandy-coloured lizard has a black sash down it's side. I seem to recognise this road and yes, I know I have been down and up it a few times before when travelling on a Cruz del Sur coach on the way to or away from Cusco but the memory seems more recent. Turning I corner I know why I remember it so well. There is a large sign that states that the condor watching site I came to last year is located here, The Mirador de Condores - Chonta. 

I well remember the superb day I had there last year, seeing around a dozen condors flying past at close range with just three other people. So different to the crowds and tourist paraphenalia at Colca Valley near Arequipa.
I arrive in Limatambo after dark and find a hostel for the night.

Green Year list : 213 birds average new birds to list per day : 3.18 birds

Distance walked, pushed and cycled : 53.98 miles

elevation : up 6,929 feet, down 10,496 feet

altitude : 8,507 feet (high point during day - 13,098 feet, low point – 6,429)

Day 66 Away from Abancayo

June 5th, 2018

Heavy rain overnight, dry and cool day

Ollantaytambo, a small village from which I intend to walk to that most famous World Heritage site, Machu Picchu, is one hundred and thirty miles away. This morning I start in that direction. Today is Tuesday. I want to be there by Saturday and then do the long thirty mile walk to the village at the foot of Machu Picchu, called Aguas Calientes, hot water, on Sunday.

Leaving Abancay starts with a long push up the steep and very busy main road. Whereas when I walked to Ampay nature reserve two days ago I could go the direct route and take the side roads that go straight up the hill, albeit much steeper. Now, with heavy laden bike, I have to take the long and winding road, which adds miles to the route. The first four miles seem interminable. I shouldn't be doing this. I am sweaty and feverish. Mind you, look at the bright side. My little problem downstairs seems to have stopped!

The road, once out of the city, is a mass of switchbacks, hairpin bends and long, ever rising stretches within tall Eucalyptus trees. A coach stops, one of the many travelling this route between Lima and Cusco. The driver, Juan Carlos, waves and shouts me over and offers me a lift to the top of the hill. Curtains are pulled back as paying customers with Peruvian faces peer out to see why the coach has stopped. I explain the usual thing about my adventure being totally without the use of a motorised vehicle and Juan Carlos passes me a glass bottle of Aloe water. The man behind him gives me a two litre bottle of mineral water. Two very friendly men giving gifts to a feverish Englishman. The kindness of strangers. They drive off. I continue my push. Well I do after I drink the aloe water.

It never ceases to amaze me how, despite the slow pace, soon one gets elevated views of the place one has started from. Views of the city down in the valley makes me feel that I making good progress despite the sweat. I look down and think was I really on that road just an hour ago. The road from the city seems miles away. I go past an entrance with a large display showing various Peruvian animals; Puma, parrots, monkeys and a Spectacled Bear. There is a zoo down the dirt track that I am never going to visit. I don;t like zoos in any country and to see the pathetic sized cages and enclosures in a Peruvian one would leave me irritated and angry.
A few birds keep me hopeful of a year tick, a new bird for the Green Year list, or two. One dark hummingbird, that I stop for to identify, is rapidly going from one twig to another and refuses to give any prolonged views. It has a bright chestnut breast band and otherwise almost blackish brown plumage. I can't see any white on it and think that it must be a juvenile Gould's Jewelfront. Yet they aren't supposed to be amongst roadside flowers at this elevation. The only other bird that is similar, that has a similar chest band, is a sub-species of Collared Inca, omisa. That has a bright white undertail. This bird's tail is as the rest of the bird, very dark as almost to be black. Whatever, it is a new bird for the list and appreciated both for that and it's beauty. I need new birds as I feel I am lagging behind. The average new birds a day figure (see below) may not look that much below Dorian Anderson's figure of 3.39 but each day that passes without seeing new birds makes The Manu and the Manu Road so desperately important.

The road continues as an amazing series of switchbacks and long uphill stretches that go through Eucalyptus woodland and past the occasional mudbrick building and village. Late afternoon I start to think about where to pitch the tent and find a spot where the tall yellow flowered bushes hide the tent away from the road. Immediately on placing the repair metal tube over the broken pole and fixing it with strong insulation tape, so the other side of the pole snaps! Half an hour later with guide ropes attached to bush branches and both breaks in the longest pole fixed, the tent is up to a fashion and I crawl inside and have a very long sleep. I am shattered from the day's efforts.

Green Year list : 212 birds average new birds to list per day : 3.21 birds

Distance walked, pushed and cycled : 18.01 miles

elevation : up 6,651 feet, down 2,439 feet

altitude : 12,018 feet

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

5 th January                                                            Tragedy                                              The Bee Gees   ...