The last few days have been pretty interesting for me. With a date set with my folks in Cuzco, I left Fearghal and Marina in La Paz, and headed “on my own way”. The road was pretty flat on the way to Lake Titicaca which was to my legs´ great relief, as they hadn´t been on a bike for over a week. When I cought my first sight of the lake, I felt almost at home, the open expanse of water feeling to me, quite like the Irish Sea. The road meandered across the small landmass that almost links both sides of the lake together. The rickety looking wooden barge that took me across the gap was first propelled with a big wooden pole, Cambridge punting stylee, then the mighty 50cc engine roared into action and propelled the barge the rest of the way. By the time we got to the other side, it was getting dark, so I began climbing up the mountain with the aim of finding a campspot that was safe, and with a good view of the lake. After an hour of night cycling, I succeded, set up my tent, took out my food and stove my mouth watering with the prospect of a big stew. I went to light the stove…….damn, left my fire stick (fancy lighter) in the hostel in La Paz. And so it was that I had a yummy can of sardines for dinner, mmmm!
Fuelled on sardines, I had a 25km climb up to 4251m (just what I like first thing in the morning) which was made slightly easier by the idyllic scenery around me. After an afternoon eating in Copacabana and another in Puno, I started the final leg to Cuzco. I had been warned that the road to Cuzco was closed due to protests, but I headed off anyway. As I neared the closed off area, I had loads of locals tell me “no passer, no passer”, and another tell me that the protesters are were crazy and violent. Was this a spook story for the silly gringos or was it real? To find out, I headed on. I was in the middle of sticking my “real” wallet and passport down my lycra shorts for safekeeping, when a motorbike passenger jokingly pretended to slash my bike with a couple of huge sickles, like the ones Getafix used in Asterix books. This made me anxious to say the least, was I letting myself in for a robbing and slashing by a group of nutty Peruvian protesters?
On my way to the first group of protesters, I happened across a guy who was trying to fix the wheel of his bike. My trusty Leatherman dealt with his problem quickly, and then I had an adversary. When I got to the large group of lads, my heart sank when one of them said I couldn´t pass, but my new friend overruled him and let me through. Exellent I thought, that´s it. Not so, for the next 40km I weaved through rock and glass that was strewn all over the road, over huge mounds of earth and past about 10 more groups of angry Peruvians. Sometimes they were friendly so I just smiled and waved. Other groups took more convincing, asking for directions (making them feel superior) followed by my “my leprechaun looks like me” joke, always put them into hysterics and they let me through. A canadian motorbiker told that the last blockade was the worst. It wasn´t, they waved me through then gave me cheese accompanied by choclo (corn) taken from one of the delayed trucks.
And what was the protesting all about? I´ve heard thats its about food prices, about mine problems, and the most common being that they want asphalt in their towns because all the other towns have it, but, I´m still not sure.