248 Km (& 1 Puppy) Later …

23 December 2016 – My last post got las motocholitas aboard the BMW, its snout pointed toward the maze of downtown streets that will eventually lead us to the highway. Michaela is in superb control of the machine; I am uneasily aware that from now on, it’s up to me to get the biking gear on & off my body and my body on & off the motorcycle, all by myself, just like a Big, Brave Girl.

Finally we’re free of the city. We hit Highway 3S, and there’s nothing between us and Ayaviri but 248 km of top-of-the-world open road.

I don’t have to worry about anything now but mirroring Michaela’s body angles with my own. I am free to exult in this fiercely glorious play of sweeping mountain ranges & brooding sky. My brain makes a few comparisons — highlands of Iceland? the Canadian high arctic? — and then settles down to enjoy the Peruvian here & now.

“We’ll stop for lunch,” says Michaela eventually, her voice popping into my ear via our headsets. “This is my favourite place, if I’m not powering right through, I always stop here.”

Ocobamba is just a village strung along the highway. Dogs & pedestrians take their chances as huge trucks roll on through, doing the Cusco-Puno run.

Ocobamba, along Highway 3S

I admire the wall art — !! I’ve been dying to see some up close for the last hour or so!! — and learn that it’s almost exclusively political sloganeering, left over from the 2016 national elections.

I join dogs & other humans in judging the moment, and dive back across the highway to join Michaela under the fronds of the open-air restaurant.

the must-stop restaurant, Ocobamba

Fried trout, potatoes, rice & salad for both of us, plus a generous selection of herbal teas. I snag Clove & Cinnamon, Michaela chooses Camomile; when the trout arrives we both drop slivers under the table for a very persistent, astoundingly noisy, kitten.

There is also a puppy lolloping about, but he is otherwise occupied.

puppy vs coat hanger, Ocobamba

Well … somebody has to show that coat hanger who’s boss!

Back on the bike (yes! I make it!), on we go, and eventually here we are, in Ayaviri.

It is the capital of Melgar Province in Puno District; population 25,000 or so (I slightly nudge the 2007 census); market town for an important livestock region (beef & dairy cattle, sheep); at 3,907 m./12,820 ft., it is some 500 m/1,670 ft higher than Cusco — and, one must admit, it is not particularly attractive.

Raw-boned, scoured-looking, functional.

Ayaviri, Puno District

Though, and you get a glimpse in the image above, with some very colourful sidewalks.

Ayaviri, Puno District

Colour, too, in the market, its stalls heaped with fruit & vegetables from other parts of the country and elsewhere in South America, as well as local cheese, butter & yogurt. (Michaela gives me a quick smirk — I’m interrupting her contemplation of this apricot versus that one.)

Michaela chooses fruit...

Colour in the mini-taxis …

mini-taxi by Plaza de Armas, Ayaviri

less so in local dress, seen here in Plaza de Armas — though up close, some of the women’s traditional woven mantas (ponchos) are vivid in their intricacy.

Plaza de Armas, Ayaviri, Puno District

All this is fine, and I am ready to eat, ready for bed, but I am also so eager to wake up again & start meeting the people, seeing the work, that has drawn me to this place.

It is, of course, centred around the Cathedral of San Francisco of Asisi, whose towers poke above the level of surrounding shops…

San Francisco de Asis, from Jiron 25 de diciembre

and whose majestic 18th-c. bulk commands the Plaza, and indeed, the city.

San Francisco de Asis Ayaviri

Tomorrow, I tell myself; tomorrow.






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  1. Your photos capture so much of the different feel of this part of the world. I feel excited as I read this post, and a shiver of anticipation as I await the next one. Your excitement and anticipation are contagious.


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    "Traveller, there is no path. Paths are made by walking" -- Antonio Machado (1875-1939)

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