The land of the Incas

Peru was the heart of the Inca civilization. An empire which knew its peak during the 15th century before the arrival of the Spanish invaders. Nowadays, the countryside people have kept various traditions and beliefs of this era. The main part of the population continues to speak the Quechua language (Inca language) and believe in the Pachamama (The mother earth). If we acknowledge that the Incas were impressive by their ingenuity and their empire size, it is important to mention than Peru hosted hundreds of civilizations. Each one with its own culture and traditions. A rich country in culture and diversity that we crossed in 3 months.

It is on the border of the Titicaca lake that we cross the border between Bolivia and Peru. Early in the morning, fisherman families are on the beach, taking out the Ispis from the fishing net. Once in Puno, we would like to spend the new year in Cusco ( The Inca empire capital ). Despite the strong rains, we complete 600 kilometers in one week and we arrive for the celebrations. The festivities are quite unusual. Numerous fireworks burst in the middle of the crowd. The disorder is everywhere and it is funny to see. To end the festivity on a good way, the nativity scene on the central place starts to burn because of a firecracker misoriented.

Instead of sightseeing the ultra-touristy Macchu Pichu, we decide to go to Choquiquerao ruins. We cycle on a muddy road until the village of Cachora, starting point of the Choquequirao trekking. The landscapes are just amazing and give us a taste of the coming days. The day after, we walk with our heavy backpack towards the ruins. 2 days of intense trekking have been sufficient to reach the ruins which are set in an unbelievable place. As it is difficult of access and it requires a good physical condition, the site is not really frequented. The day when we go in, they are just 10 people on the site. We feel like the first pioneers, discovering the ruins.

Early in the morning, the site is full of mysticism due to the mist passing through the ruins.

The site of Choquiquerao, as numerous Incas cities was built on a clever way in harmony with nature. In the indigenous world of the Americas, the organization is dual, it is the case for the Incas cities. The most fascinating is the hydraulic system : various canals cross the site  distributing the water from the highest point ” Hanan” localized at the North towards the lower point ” Hurin” localized at the south. Before to reach the several cultivated terraces located in the lower part, the water had to pass through the sacred place called Ushnu, this place was dedicated to the sacrifice and to the astrological observation.

A sole factor in Choquiquerao : the llamas drawn with white stones inserted in the inferior terraces. They are oriented to the north, towards the sacred water of the glacier Corihuayrachina, the main apu of the city (an apu means: glacier, mountain and gods). This observation shows us than the water is really important in the survival of the Incas.

After this trekking, we are back on our bikes, ready to face the last mountain stages of this incredible cordillera of the Andes. Our days towards the capital, Lima, are made of various uphill. The shortest ones were around 20 kilometers and the longest ones around 65 kilometers.

On the summit of one uphill

Each morning, we wake up knowing that we have to face endless uphill followed by a long and beautiful downhill. We accumulate more than 3000 kilometers of uphill in just 10 cycling days. The tour de France does not afraid us anymore !

On the road, we have the luck to participate to the “Tunantada” celebration in the small village of Jauja. A tradition which take place on the mid of january. This celebration relates the story of the Spanish invaders imposing their rules to the indigenous communities. We spend a nice day with local people and get back on the road with a lot of memories.

Sunday is a sacred day in Peru. With other words, the national drinking day. Many times, we are invited to one beer or more…. it results that sometimes we have to face an uphill in a state of drunkenness

We will always remember our last day towards Lima. We start the day by ending the uphill started the day before. Around twenty kilometers to reach the snowy summit of Ticlio, set at 4700 meters of altitude.  We are very happy and proud to end this complicated stage in Peru. We just have now to go down and to enjoy the longest downhill since the beginning of our journey. A downhill of 100 kilometers passing through the snowy summit to the heat of the pacific coast. All this in just a couple of hours.

Once in Lima, we meet our families after one year of travelling without seeing us. So much happiness! it is when you are far from your family that you realize the importance they have for you. We spend 9 fantastic days travelling around Peru. We go to the Titicaca lake in Puno, until the beautiful city of Cusco. We end this family travel at the famous “Machu Picchu”.

Other news, from now, our aventures will be shared with our new fellow, Bertrand, who have decided to join the project Cycling-Togeth’Earth until the end of the Americas.

We would like to thank Walter and Marco family who welcome us during 10 days. We spend a very great time with all of them. Meanwhile, we had the time to edit our new video ” one year of adventure in 4 minutes”

When all is packed, we are ready to go to the White cordillera, in Huaraz. To reach Huaraz, the road goes up. To initiate our friend Bertrand to our cycling trip, we prepare a surprise for him : 100 kilometers of uphill that he succeeds without any problem.

In the small village of Mayorarca, we have the luck to participate to the carnival. This one is absolutely unusual. The tradition is the following: the men from the village go to the forest to cut a tree ” El corta monte”, meanwhile the women are waiting around the central place.

Then, they come back with a big eucalyptus on their shoulders. The goal is to set the tree in the hole dug on the main place.  All the men shout and organize themselves to lift the tree. The task is not easy at all, many times the tree fall down and everybody has to start again. Step by step, the tree rises under the sound of the music produced by the flutes and the drums. Once set, some stones are placed to keep the tree straight. All along the celebration, a hot beverage of sugar cane is shared with everybody in the goal to keep strengths.

Once the sun goes down, the music starts again. This time all the people are together. Children, women and men dance in a circle around the tree decorated with many gifts. Each person in the circle has to contribute to cut the tree. Thus, we dance with an axe in the hand in giving 3 shots on the trunk. The state of drunkenness is raising; thus the axe shots start to be unsafe. Indeed, Julien got a flying axe on the feet. The trunk size starts to reduce, the intensity of the music goes up, the tree end to fall down on the crowd which is in a hurry to collect the gifts. The festivity continues until the morning; once the souls of the villagers are too tired because of the alcohol and the dances.

Once in Huaraz, we stay in Miguel house. His family adopts us for several days to help us to make the next part of our video report on the disappearing of Andean glaciers. In this context, we interview Benjamin Morales, President of the institution INAIGEM ( national institute of investigation on the glaciers and the mountain ecosystems). Have a look to : Andean glaciers endangered.

Miguel and his family

interview with Benjamin Morales 

Before to go to the north, we have the luck to taste the famous Cuy Chactado. This is a guinea pig fried in a pan. A plate very appreciated in Peru.

We have now the goal to cross the border and to arrive to Ecuador. It is with high speed, following a furious river, that we cross the legendary cañon del pato : 47 tunnels, which plunge us sometimes in the absolute darkness. The cliffs, filled of unstable stones, are not really reassuring. The slightest movement could produce a landslide. We keep the control of the situation and reach the Panamerican road.

The panamerican is not an interesting road but at least it is plane and we cycle fast. Our average is 100 kilometers per day. Even if the road is quiet monotonous, there is always an element to wonder the day. On the roadside, we have the luck to see a white herons colony. The eggs hatched and the young birds claim food. Hundreds of herons are fighting in the sky to fill the appetite of the newborns. An amazing spectacle.

As always we meet fantastic people. As Cesar and his wife at Santa Rosa beaches.

Arriving in the village of Guadalupe, we meet Roberto who invite us to spend the night in his local. The day after, in the afternoon, the sky obscures quickly. A cloud is turning around the village. Suddenly, a strong rain falls 0on us. In less than one minute, a mudslide invades the room. We move the bikes and try to set them in a dry place. We try to put the water out with some brooms. In that way, we succeed to maintain the water level down to our knees. One hour later, it is the calm. The house floor is covered by a thick layer of sand. We help to clean the local and continue towards the north where others surprises are waiting us.

In Chiclayo, a strong rain surprises us. The streets are converted in a real Olympic swimming pool. The sidewalks are totally covered by water. It is impossible to distinguish the potholes on the road. The situation is complicated but we finally go out of it before the nightfall. The next day, we have to take another road lengthening our itinerary. The main road is flooded. The river has just jumped its banks. We are now cycling in a greener and warmer region than the previous one.

Iguanas, birds, insects and mainly crickets (because of the strong rains) are appearing.

We are now in Piura, at 100 kilometers of the Ecuador border. A country that we are waiting with impatience because we are going to do a special expedition in the Amazonia. Surprise in the next episode of our adventures.