LaPaz & more

Will I live tomorrow?
Well, I don’t know
Will I live tomorrow?
Well, I don’t know
But I know for sure
I will live today

Jimi Hendrix

Thoughts of our visit to LaPaz. It is another city. It has it’s unique qualities such as being built in a steep valley. I am amazed at the steepness of the slopes of which they build on, and multistory buildings. The city is apparently somewhat divided by the richer and poorer areas as are most cities. In taxi rides about town one saw the discrepancies, in general lower elevation were preferred. There is a gondola which stretches over the city from one end to the other. I am not sure if it is tourist or transport oriented. That view would provide an interesting perspective.

As in much of Bolivia trash is scattered about and there are smells of all sorts of human activity. Street vendors are scattered about the sidewalks and in the roadway, selling everything from kitchen Formica to tourist knick knacks, food vendors with some delicious looking meals. And hidden away restaurants which are difficult to see on the outside but delightful inside (with wifi). A barrage of the senses. I did not eat much as feeling sick but on our departure while waiting for Ellen, our cook, to do some final shopping for wine and cake I did sample an excellent empanadas. Fresh out of the oven and just delivered to the street vendor. Filled with beef, vegetables, hard boiled egg, olives. Oh my gosh it was a taste sensation. Sickness be damned. The two two dozen which were delivered were all gone by others by the time I had eaten and paid for my empanadas and coffee.

We had arrived in LaPaz on Friday afternoon and as noted in an earlier blog I was alone and got lost. Now I have discovered I was way lost not even remotely on the route. But I made it and another adventure was had. Saturday early we began the death road bike trip which took an entire blog site. One addition to the end of the death road was when we finished at a place called Monte Carlo resort where we had eaten and showered. After eating we were sitting out on patio watching the parrots arguing and flying about and seeing monkeys on the other side of the valley. Joost and I noticed under a banana leaf a white nodule about 10 centimeter across and deep with crawlie things. So we inspected to get a closer look. It appeared an ant colony as the critters were about medium ant size. Getting yet a closer look and lifting the leaf more the white nodule began to turn black and pulsate.. It was a wasp nest and they were now mad. We scrambled away waving arms like mad men. Ouch and ouch. 3 of us got a painful bite joust, Barry, and myself.

Sunday arrived and I was still feeling as they say in Australia a bit crook. But the diarrhea seemed somewhat at least under control. So joined 7 others we hailed to cabs by waving your arm in front of them as they drive by and proceeded to a futball game of the local LaPaz team against someone else. What a hoot. About 8000 in attendance and being Sunday was family day. Stadium was open air and about 1/2 to 2/3 full. No announcer to rouse up the crowd but all was good. Bought our tickets through a chain link fence wandering through the team paraphernalia, styrofoam cushion for sale, and food vendors of which I had to try. Empanadas, sausages, oh my gosh great. Diarrhea be damned this was amazing.

The game was good although not great. The home team won 2-0 and the fans were happy. When the final whistle blew everyone took there styrofoam cushions and tossed them into the air. At this time it was raining hard so Terry and I each purchased a poncho and worked our way out the only exit open. Found a cab in which the driver was not familiar with our area of town and we wandered around a bit, when we decided to walk, as we knew we were in our neighborhood. Another adventure.

A good meal at a restaurant, my first as had not been feeling well. Home to the hotel and wonderous sleep. Buck woke me at 6:30 and I rushed to dress and prep for day. By the time I was dressed in bike gear I was exhausted and realized today’s biking was not to be. It has been six days of diarrhea and enough, so started antibiotic in hopes it is bacterial and changed to street clothes. I was going to go in the truck.

Our two trucks are converted fire trucks and designed to hold up to 10 people including the driver. Enroute out of town we stopped at a gas station filling up with 200 liters of diesel of which local price was $68, but we have to pay tourist price of $190. That is established as there is a different rate for tourists and locals. And fire trucks are not designed to drive long distances. One must admit it is unique to drive cross country in Bolivia in a fire truck. Today there were 8 of us. Robert the driver, Maria his wife, Ellen our cook, and in the back Cristen from Norway, Elizabeth from Australia, Vivian from Australia who started in Quito but had left in Cusco for her daughters wedding in Sydney returning to trip in LaPaz, and Barry from Australia, and me. 135 kilometers later we are what we call a bush camp. Just camping beside the road near a village where there used to be a hotel but it is no longer there. Robert went and checked with the mayor ( or whatever the official is) and asked permission that we camp in the futball pitch. The mayor came and met us ( none of the bikers had arrived yet) and he seemed impressed I was from Alaska, the land of the white bears. If it rains hard it may be a bit muddy as the ground is just dirt.

The countryside is continuing altoplano. Looking out it appears the new sprouts of grass are emerging and the sheep with their new lambs give hints of coming springtime. Great time of year.

And today is Jeanne’s and my anniversary. Marriage is not always easy but I believe I am proving easy does not always make it good. Sometimes working hard leads to a wonderful time. And I would not trade the past 23 years for any other adventure. Hoping for another 23 years.

And an amazing afternoon and evening. Set up tent and shortly later 5 mm size hail then pouring rain. I thought wow, in 3 camps thus far for me I have had more rain than Joe and I had in 71 days on the great divide. But then the rain stopped and the wind with thunder and lightening. Keep in mind we are out on a big plain. I and assume others were in our sleeping bags just napping keeping warm, but the wind was now blowing about 30 mph. (Sorry I cannot guess kilometer). And my tent was sideways. It is the same tent I took on the great divide but it had never been tested in wind. Thought it was going to be flattened but it survived. Finally after a nap and watching the center pole bend in all various contortions, I got out and reset the tent length wise which made the tent happier. It has to last 2 1/2 more months.

The trucks during this time had moved. Apparently the school next to futball pitch had invited us to use two classrooms for cooking and eating. Hence indoor in one of the classrooms. Great meal noodles chicken, sauce, spinach, beans, with a great Bolivian wine of a good year (2014). Guess I will learn to like wine as entering some great wine country. After a cake with whipping cream, and some fruit on top. Then I put myself on cleanup and dishes began. Cleaning up for 45 people plus the school headmaster and a couple of students and teachers. A four part system first a big pan of hot water with soap and heavy dose of Clorox, two people use this and do first wash, then second wash is same without Clorox, third is rinse then dry and fourth separate the dishes into appropriate bins. And a good time was had by all (about 10 of us).

On the school walls were a few papers showing studies of the crusades in Europe, and studies of the valence state of the elements of the periodic chart. Not a book in sight or paper other than that on the wall.

After dinner coffee and chocolate and I meander to my tent by 8:30. Late by my standards. Feeling better would like to ride tomorrow but will wait to see how the night goes. Only a 99 kilometer day with 350 meters of elevation, but do not want a setback.

And looking ahead until 14 December when we end in Ushuaia we have only 13 hotel, hostels now. So this is my home for a while. Goodnight all. I hope you are all well and finding life as interesting as I do.


Traffic police outskirts of LaPaz

Terry buying a ticket for big game


Copacabana – LaPaz. Stage 43-44

Slept great at hotel but awoke about 3 am with difficulty breathing. Not difficulty but just seemed I could not get a full breath. Realized altitude was affecting me, even after nearly 4 weeks. Talked with others at breakfast and all seemed to have similar experiences. No matter if acclimated there is still a shortage of oxygen here.

So got on bike at 8 am and proceeded to climb 800 meter climb over 13 kilometer. What a way to start the day. But the day proved great. As one said every once in a while the ride of the day is great. Up the hill, the across the big hills at 4185 meters and a descent down the other side of the peninsula through the eucalyptus trees. Beautiful lunch spot over looking town where we caught the 15 minute ferry ride. Vessel was a wooden thing carried a bus and about 20 bicyclists. Push off and land via poling, then a 35 hp motor pushed the we meter long boat. No charge to board but 5 BOB (about $.85) to get off. Then another climb and descent. Road great with smooth pavement and few cars, none aggressive. Beautiful riding, a bit chilly to start but ended warm after 68 kilometer along shores of Lake Titicaca. Inca Utamaro Hotel & Spa. Rooms not ready but bike dreams had soup and birthday cake for Bridgit outside while we waited. Then, less than an hour after eating I could not help it and went swimming. Not coming this far and not swim in Lake Titicaca. Very nice although only went about 50 meters, temperature not bad low 20’s maybe, although every one else said way to cold. I thought great, but immediately after did take a hot shower to clean off.

Several folks rather sick and took truck today. Explosive diarrhea. Ugh. Hoping I can avoid, but eventually probably will be hit.

And after a week feel like I am am beginning to integrate. Folks learn me and I learn them. 35 people who have been through hard times is a hard group to join, but it is happening. Feels good. Each of them said even at the beginning they had a week or two to coalesce as a group. Some very fascinating people.

A and new tidbit about the Incas. Apparently at the what is here the winter Soltice In mid June, they would look to the stars in search of a 15 star cluster known now as the Pleiades. If it was clear the following planting season was to be good. If the cluster was not really clear they held back planting a bit, recently an American scientist looked at this and the events correlated with El Niño years. In other words they could predict El Niño 500 years ago and change crops accordingly.

Beautiful hotel here at side of southern end of lake, the Cordillera Real is visible with its big snow covered peaks, which six are over 6000 meters in height. Once again I am discovering the Andes are big. A fisherman was out on his reed boat this evening. A nice afternoon. And not the least bit frustrating as I did not even try to find wifi and internet. Hence no crashes and timeouts and such. Technology, maybe best to enjoy the moment,,

Writing this as a continuum as seems appropriate, but more important as internet wifi allows. Everywhere advertises wifi restaurants hotels etc but when more than two people log on system crashes and none. Yesterday I just wrote the blog and did not even try to post. Felt good to not be frustrated.

But today the 26 of September stage 44 to LaPaz. Diarrhea twice last night and seriously considering going in truck but felt ok this morn although hotel did have eggs for breakfast which I could not resist. Resisted other usual, fruit salad, jam, etc. figured 84 kilometer day and only 225 vertical. One of the easiest days one would figure. Wrong. Started out ok although I was not pushing only doing about 20 k/h back of pack. For 20 k we rounded the last southern bit of lake Titicaca and waved goodby to this huge lake. Then just gradual uphill climbing from 3825 to eventually 4100 on outskirts of LaPaz.

I was slow and ended up by myself. The daily map made no sense to me and gps would say turn right then would say off course. Basically ended up lost, even going through a pedestrian market which was quite chaotic with the bike. On a street which GPS said was arrival destination, but no bike dreams. Finally Carmen and Julie came out of a hotel after checking in there, one we are at did not meet there standards I guess.

Was the hardest ride of the trip yet for me. Numbers wise it should have been easiest. Again on the fourth floor huff puff huff puff up the stairs. Why am I always on the fourth floor. Last nite there was an elevator supposedly highest in the world, also the slowest and creakiest. Arrived at hotel I was going to take a shower but only Luke warm so just went to bed. So the diesel fumes remain.

The day was full of diesel fumes, traffic, potholes and was as advertised. On the morning briefing we were told to be careful coming into LaPaz as it has a steep descent into the city center where we are. Informed of potholes curbs, cars manholes without covers and they were all there. Plus trying to navigate.

LaPaz is a metropolitan city of 2 1/2 million mostly which nestled into this steep valley. From above it looked pretty, but once in its clutches another crowded city.

Just went out and found a vendor for crackers and some yogurt. See if that will stay in my system, rather than just pass right through.

And again as soon as we showed up the wifi internet system crashed. On way for crackers found a Internet cafe and will try and post this. Unsure about pictures, that may be too much.




Death Road

Arrived LaPaz to 2 days of scheduled rest. Rest has not happened yet. We arrived Friday afternoon, now Sunday morn and continue to pile on the activities. Hence have been unable to post my impressions. Have been down with continuing diarrhea and have not been eating in restaurants where I can get a wifi connection. Whenever 40 of us hit the hotel internet it crashes and is getting extremely frustrating.

But LaPaz is in a mountainous area, the city nestled very tightly into a steep valley. The roads are steep and have not seen a flat one yet. Outside of town up one of the valleys is a road leading to the northern sections of Bolivia. Up until 2006 when a new road was finally built it was acknowledged to be the most dangerous road in the world. Google “death road” or “most dangerous highway in the world” and this road comes up. It is built into a cliff and at places is only 3 meters wide and is a 2 way road. Rules of the road changed so one drives on the left instead of the right, as in England, Australia, and several,other countries. Only on this road is it done so that drivers have a better feel of where their tires are. Sometimes in passing tires will overhang. Up to 330 people a year died on this road, and it is still open and used for traffic because the new road is over three times longer. It is so steep and has big drops there are sections that have been used for BASE jumpers. (Parachutist who jump in this case from land)

I find that most places would find such a thing appalling. Bolivia has turned it into a tourist attraction and is now a destination mountain bike road. We hired one of the local mountain bike companies to provide guides (generally one per five riders, but being experienced we got 2 for 20), full suspension bikes, and two busses to take us on the 67 kilometer death road. Departing our hotel at 8 am we worked our way through LaPaz and up to the hills above, finally achieving an altitude of 4725 meters (15,500 feet) where high alpine conditioned prevailed. It was snowing but turned to sleet and rain with foggy condition limiting visibility to barely a hundred meters. The company provided rain gear but acknowledged it had been used so many times it leaked. We became rather wet and cold stopping at a roadside vendor and getting hot coffee and snacks while paying our road tax for the death road.

So with a blessing of the bikes for our safety with an offering to Pachamama ( an Inca god). We poured rubbing alcohol on our tires, on the ground and a sip for us. Whew I have massive amounts of hair on my chest now.

I have ridden harder mountain bike rides but never one with the exposure of this one. At first we questioned our sanity, but as we descended through the rain and waterfalls biking was fun. A 67 kilometer high speed descent. Wow. Our guides were great stopping us every few kilometers to relay a bit of history. The worst was a bus passing went down with 130 people. Now it is inattentive mountain bikers who die, as I remember about 9 a year although I could be off on that. Looking around is not an option except when stopped. It is a steep, rutted, gravel road with water running down it.

We dropped down at one point measuring 60 kilometers an hour. The vegetation turned to rain forest and reaching the bottom having stopped and shed many layers we were in jungle with banana trees, papaya, parrots, and monkeys. Elevation 1100 meters (3600 feet) a 3600 meter descent (12,000 feet). With minimal pedaling.

A few beers to celebrate and a hot shower. Why hot showers down there and not up here in LaPaz I do not know but it was nice. Then the 3 1/2 hour bus ride feeling the decreasing oxygen as we returned to the hustle and craziness of LaPaz. A great day.

Now lying in bed in hotel my roommate Buck just said this is like a climbing trip. Each of us waiting for the other to get up and start the stove.
OK just waiting for breakfast at 7:30




Arrived late evening (well for us) at 5:30, an hour later time change in Bolivia. Hotel at first seemed awesome large entry, staircases going to various places. Beautiful woodwork and artwork. Stairs to our third floor with a railing ready to breakaway. Room with Buck has large 2 double beds, beautiful wood floors and a view out onto beach. Bay filled with boats. Ok that is the good side.

Shower was luke warm, the room cold, and internet crashed shortly after arrival. Can’t have everything. But bike dreams had hot soup for us downstairs in the restaurant.

After cleaning up, unloading trucks, and usual chores, Buck and I went wandering. I had changed money at the money changers at border so we were ready. Took a bit but found the tourist street with restaurants and reported back to hotel. Numerous restaurants to choose from, pizza being the primary desire, and good wifi. Chose a Mexican one which seemed to meet the criteria. As soon as password was passed around for wifi it crashed. I ordered chicken enchilada with guacamole and a beer, others there pizza and some wine from Chili.

Took almost an hour for food to come but reasonable taste although my enchiladas were vegetables mostly onions. No guacamole. And no pie or ice cream for desert. Ended up getting ice cream sandwiches from vendor down the street.

Copacabana seems a tourist town and numerous backpackers. Streets not as busy as other towns, maybe because it is off the main routes a bit. One street in particular is main tourist central where we went to breakfast of a good omelette looking primarily for wifi which they said they had, but even though 4 bars it was the circle of death and nothing not even a simple text.

After a walk 50 meters down street where Internet cafe for 18 Bolivianos (about $2.00) let me sit and upload pix and talk to Jeanne via face time and have a wonderful time communicating with friends and family. Most of us agree internet more important than hot water.

A walk down the beach and getting warm. Just watching people laying out, washing cars. One taxi was about 40 meters from water and he had plastic bags he would fill, carry to his car, and wash till water evaporated. Women with their long black hair to waist in two braids tied together with hat, colorful skirts, sweater and apron, often carrying the colorful blanket tied over shoulder for a load of anything, baby, water, food, reeds, sticks, whatever.

Just a nice day lounging about. Lunch, beer, desert, pondering Bolivian existence. A tourist town and a rest day for us.

Tomorrow we head for LaPaz a two day journey with hotel enroute. La Paz will be busy two rest days there but much planned. Bike ride on death road and a football game Friday. Have never been to a real football game (soccer), should be interesting. Not sure about pictures due to internet.





On pace lines and pelatons

The legs on the bike go round and round making
The wheels on the bike go round and round

Depart Puno with a police escort. Originally James and I took off but called back as we were following our written directions, and police had a better route. I felt like a King or maybe Sarah Palin; traffic stopped and we flew on through.

Shortly we were on road south along Lake Titicaca and a peloton formed after a few kilometers, then as road narrowed we went into a nice pace line cruising along at about 27-28 kilometers an our. Toos was out front.

For those not bicyclists a pace line is a line 2 to 3 or more riders following one after the other. The first rider breaks the air and creates a draft for the following rider to follow. When I was a teenager my friend Brent Cook and I would play with techniques and found when really going you could detect the draft effect almost a hundred yards back. For full effect generally one rides with wheels inches apart. It is great and it can increase your speed significantly. The problem is you are inches apart and riders must be aware of each other. The line becomes its own organism.

A peloton is similar except instead of a line, riders not only ride front and back but side to side. This works well with not only headwinds but crosswinds as it protects riders downwind..

Thus was the theme for Puno to Copacobana. The first 20 k was long pace line of maybe 20 riders. Too much traffic, but was nice just cruising alongside the lake. After a bit I figured Theo needed a break and I felt good so I broke from my 3rd or 4th position and went up front, but quickly found myself leaving the pack behind. I had rested up and felt good. Theosophy wife Toos came up and said best to stick to around 27 k. I dropped back although difficult for me to maintain constant speed. Then a little hill came up and those that could did and I felt like my lungs were going to explode. A hill climber I am not. The pack separated into varying pace lines.

A word on the altitude. Even though most have been at altitude for 7-8 weeks it still affects them. There just is not enough air. One person said “I feel good and think I am ok then bend over to tie my shoes and am out of breath”. For myself I feel good but do feel exhausted from little tasks. Like walking up a flight of stairs. Lake Titicaca is at 3810 meters (12,500 feet) above sea level. 40% of the earths atmosphere is below us. The locals have developed over time greater lung capacity and blood counts so they can live here over a lifetime.

At about 25 kilometers I decided some pictures would be great, as carrying my big Nikon today. So again I broke away and sprinted ahead till about 500 meters ahead. I felt like a biathlon, where you exercise greatly then do a task requiring total stillness. I did not catch up the 500 meters I fell behind for 11 kilometers when they stopped for construction. But it was great fun. Made lunch stop about 70 k and 11 am. Flying!

Lunch was about 1/2 hour and time to move on. Buck said he was dropping as first day he had ridden in two days due to illness and wanted to not push too hard, I said I was going to try and keep up with the line again as it was fun. Buck said to ride at my pace and not do more than I can. I thought of Joe, who did the divide and said ride my own ride. A peloton of 6-10 people was formed and great but after my lead I could not maintain and dropped out. I was pooped an decided to just enjoy the day. Stopped and took pictures, enjoying he scenery. Locals out preparing fields for planting sheep llamas feeding at side of road. The traffic had diminished greatly.

It was a great day although I was totally exhausted at the end. 145 Kilometers, cross winds, head winds, severe sun, some hills totaling 745 meters of climbing (2400 feet) and crossing the border into Bolivia all played a part in tiring everyone out.

Peru is done and a rest day in Copacabana, Bolivia.





Internet very bad here off and on.

Cusco – Puno

It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of the country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. But you remember them as they actually are, while in a motorcar only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.

Ernest Hemingway

Cusco -Racqui Ruins stage 39 122 kilometers

Great day and am beginning to understand the routine, up about 6 (first light about 5:30) organize self, decide on bike clothes for the day, breakfast at 7 and discussion of days plan. 8 am load trucks with gear. Gear is separated into three bags: camping gear (tent, sleeping bag etc) which only comes out at camps, a bag of not needed stuff comes out only on rest days, (spare tires, parts, and things only needed in rest days). The final bag is day bag of things used everyday. That one is by far my heaviest.

This morning we left as group because of Cusco traffic and not a timed day to prevent racing in traffic. Stopped at Plaza Mayor for pictures by local newspaper. Then a lap of all around the Plaza with more pictures in front of cathedral, and finally off. It felt good and I realized I had wasted a good worry, wondering if I could do this. Once on bike I remembered I knew how to ride and it was fun.

People along the sides were cheering us on and the police stopped traffic at numerous stop lights so we could go nonstop through the first part of town. Then onto a busy road and we moved to the southern part of Cusco, eventually reaching outskirts and a pace line developed about 20 miles into the ride, which at this point was slightly downhill. We were cruising at about 35-40 km per hour, and it was a kick. But the roads like the sidewalks require constant vigilance as grates are not always perpendicular to the bike wheels, there are holes and bumps, curbs, and traffic going in all direction. There does not seem to be a 3 foot rule here so cars, buses, and trucks occasionally come close.

We wound our way to the Urobamba river and proceeded to slowly climb the valley the rest of day. It is the same road Jeanne and I travelled nearly 2 1/2 weeks ago on our bus trip to Puno. Camped at same Inca Ruins we explored on the tour. Remnants of one of the largest Inca buildings is here. Only the wall remains. A beautiful camp on the grassy flats. Not sure about latrines, as none. One of the girls commented not many trees for them.

But currently laying in tent pondering if I need to put up the rain fly as would be awesome stars tonight, but can hear thunder in mountains..

Wow I made it to 6:50 and now in tent trying to ID stars. Very nice stars with the Milky Way. Spent afternoon lounging around. Went to the town square where tourist stuff was set up, took pictures and just enjoyed. Just finished dinner and now in bed.

And many concerned about tomorrow hence a 6:15 breakfast and early start. We are at an elevation of 3475 meters with a climb to 4335 meters and descending to Pukara 159 kilometers away. One of the bigger distances on the trip. And tomorrow we enter the altoplano which we will cover for nearly 3000 kilometers in 4 weeks. Mostly flat, but high.

Exciting stuff

Racqui Ruins – 3 K short of Pucara bush camp stage 40. 159 kilometers

Awakened at 5 am by loudspeaker over the valley with some political announcement. Peru has an election coming up 5 October. Pack up tent and sleeping bag a bit wet do to dew. It did freeze last nite, but once the sun hit about 6:30 it warmed up nicely. Depart at 7:15 after packing trucks.


A great day of riding but long. Made it in by 4 pm and distracted by soup before completing mission of getting camp gear. Then it started to sprinkle and I went to set up camp. Area is like the high desert but no sage brush, but has cow patties. Nice place but hard ground. And as finished setting up tent it really began to rain stopping when the truck siren went off announcing dinner. Good timing.

As for the day, 20 k very pleasant gradual up then started climbing for the next next 40 K arriving at pass (Aba la Raya) at 4335 meters about 11:30 to another awesome lunch. Roll, meats, cheese, guacamole, onions, veggies, and bananas and apples.



Beautiful descent for 25 K averaging 40K per hour, then flattened out and kept a steady 20-25 K for the last 75 kilometers to camp. At first rode with Mario just so we had someone to ride with, but his gut was off with diarrhea and after 2 times for trip beside the road (no shelter or cover anywhere) he decided to take the truck which was still behind us, then I rode for a few kilometers with Hardy from Germany. He just joined in Cusco after riding Germany to Spain and flying to Brasilia and taking 3 months to ride to Cusco. He leaves in Mendoza and will ride to Rio. Says will miss trip south to Ushuaia, but stated one always will miss something. Better to just enjoy what you have. I have to agree with his philosophy. After a few K I left him and rode alone for remainder of day. Other riders way ahead.

The birds were amazing. Hawks mostly, a kestrel like bird, but appeared like a peregrine but did not act as such. A huge hawk, like a goshawk, soaring above. And a crow like bird size of raven with red and yellow beak. All the birds seem to have larger than usual wings.

And riding a gradual uphill about 10 Kilometers from end the usual dog laying beside the road. Seems a dog every kilometer or so and all appear to tired to barely look around, but this one just as I passed decided might be worth a try, and he took off. I had a head start so thought I could outrun him. Then his buddy from house 50 meters off other side of road decided to join in. I topped out at 38 kilometer an hour and thought they would quit, but they stuck with me for 1/2 a K before calling it off. One on each side. And I was pooped. Next move would have been slam on brakes and just stop. Everyone here agrees that is best: give them nothing to chase.

Watching folks was great along the way. Out of Cusco the corn is about a foot high and folks were out weeding. As we approached the pass they were just planting potatoes. All by hand with plowing either by hand or draft cows.

At one of the toll booths stopped by guard who wanted to congratulate me. At least I think that was the conversation. He only spoke Spanish hence a bit of confusion, but fun anyway. Bikes go through the toll for free. We are riding the main highway of Peru from north to south, although I think there is a main highway on coast too. Traffic much less near pass but still one must be cautious.

The people have been very pleasant and kids coming out to high five and slap hands going by. Makes me feel like I am part of something. Brought tears to my eyes when I think of this. But then I get tears when I see anyone pushing the limits and doing their best, no matter what; racing dogs, skiing, climbing, or raising kids.

And a great dinner of beef stroganoff, with a pudding like desert with bananas and something else in it. I had two helpings of dinner and desert. Now 7 pm and everyone in tents for another early start tomorrow. Very pleasant in tent. As Rob says camping is much nicer than hotels as every night is the same home. Hotels are different each time and you never know what to expect. Camp is consistent and mine very comfortable everything in its place.

And beautiful now as up to pee for before bed. Tents scattered about most with a light on, I suspect doing much as I am, recollecting the day and listening to it rain.

Pucara – Puno stage 41 111kilometers

Up at 5:30 so as get to Puno early, so those that want to can go visit the floating islands. Left camp at 7:15 arriving at lunch truck just shy of Juliaca by 9:30; 60 kilometer of flat riding. We were told to ride in groups as Juliaca can be a rough town. Apparently from the tour to Puno nearly three weeks ago with Jeanne they said Juliaca was only established about 1985 and is mostly immigrants from Bolivia. I remember it for the 15000 foot runway. Going through on a bus was one thing, riding bicycles is totally different. I half expected a gun fight to emerge in the streets. Then through the center of town with Marius, his wife Hannie, Brigit (all from Holland) and I all agreeing traffic was like Delhi and India. Except no elephants or camels, but there were sheep, pedicabs, 3 wheel bicycle carts, taxis, trucks, buses, minivans, pedestrians and us vying for the same small space. Wild! Have to watch the usual road conditions but 360 degrees around you as things come from any direction and rapidly. We were glad to make it through.

Other than Juliaca and the city of Puno the riding today was great. Flat (except last 8 kilometers with a 435 meter climb) but reminds me of why I like touring. You see the horizon and you just keep going to yet another horizon. You see hills in the distance and then you cross them and the next horizon emerges. I love it. Some did not like the flats but alas. And I realized my fear of starting in Cusco with the others having ridden for six weeks was a realistic fear. But the mountains wore them down. They are tired having ridden an average of 120 kilometers a day over rough terrain and climbs nearly every day of 1000 to 2500 meters. All are tired. At first I was very jealous of missing the ride from Quito to Cusco, but now not so sure. One cannot fail to underestimate the effects of altitude on us low landers.

And discussing living here, Hannie described it as bleak. Very few trees, and growing things is difficult. And it is dirty with trash. So much different than seeing from the bus. From the bicycle one gets the feel of the hills and altitude, the cold, and the existence of the locals. Very interesting I find.






Am finding internet connection frustrating and this is not receiving the editing it should. But I should be enjoying the trip not playing with technology. Hope you are enjoying it. I am.


More Cusco

“We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves strong. The work is the same.”
Carlos Castaneda

The Bike-Dreams folks arrived past Tuesday afternoon, today being Friday, and all were exhausted. They had had a rough past few days. Looked like I feel after pushing hard in a race. All they wanted was to wash the mud off from three days riding and camping, communicate with the world outside, and have a three day rest.

Well 40 people quickly overloaded all systems. Water shut down in the entire area, hence not only no hot water but no cold water either. Not just the hotel here (Carlos V) but several nearby hostels. A few people went looking elsewhere for alternate habitations. For me not much of problem all though I had to remember not to flush the toilet as it would not refill. (I had a bit of diarrhea, my roommate Buck waiting in the hallway saying I smelled like a barnyard). Water returned that evening.

The previously very slow internet was quickly a very sporadic affair with everyone catching up on emails, blogs, texts, phone calls and the necessities of modern life. At home am used to 15 GByte downloads and 10 GByte uploads, whereas here under best of circumstance 8 Megabit upload and 0.8 Mb download. And when all connected with a minimum of two devices (phone, tablet, computers), well I
shall say it became unreliable. Apparently Max as a hobby comes in and straightens out the wireless mess in the hotels helping it along. He cannot improve the hardware speed, but can clean it up a bit, making it work better.

Folks are definitely nice people. Languages flowing, Dutch, German, English, Spanish, French, and I suspect others I did not recognize or hear. All outgoing and welcoming. But tired and they were on a mission to get themselves and clothes clean.

The laundromats here are numerous and advertise 2 or 4 hours, but I have not understood the 2 or 4 format. I think what it means is 2 and 4 together means 24 hours, although sometimes it can mean the same day if brought in early. But the important part is clothes come back clean and folded, costing 4 sols (about $1.20) per kilo.

Most folks left for two days to sacred valley and Machu Picchu. Jeanne and I had done that tour last week, hence I did not repeat. I had two days here pretty much alone to wander about Cusco. But I have been wandering about Cusco for two weeks now and for me getting anxious to ride. Did a nice ride up in hills to town of Q’ orea. The spent time sitting in park thinking of the memory of Joe Molitor. His funeral was Tuesday and Wednesday.

Picked up laundry for folks gone on the two day tour, and created little errands for myself. Yesterday went to find a new rear bike light as one I brought does not work. The shops here seem to consolidate a particular type of shop in same area. Printers, office supply, etc., discos are in the area where our hotel is. Found the bike shop in area of chain saw shops. Turns out it was a great shop with a full variety of parts. Had my choice of four different lights.

Helped Lucho (the mechanic) with bike repairs. He is Peruvian and was once the national champion of Peru on bicycles. He lives on the coast which the group visited earlier in trip. I guess he threw quite a party, when they stayed at his village. He is famous for opening his house and helping bicycle riders. His English is very limited so was interesting helping and learning from him. My Spanish leaves a lot to be desired. He rebuilt a couple of bikes including wheels which the hubs were done for. Brakes, cleaning, tires changed, derailleurs adjusted, new cables as needed, the list potential repairs goes on and on. And a variety of bikes including some 27.5 and 29 inch. Had been advised against those due to availability of parts. Apparently the 29 inch tires were available in past weeks but the tubes were exceedingly difficult to find. Interesting to see the number of bikes and kinds, full touring, cross, front fork type suspension or not, handlebars, disk or caliper brakes. Full variety. Folks are changing tires because leaving the big mountains and gravel mud for more developed highways, at least for a while.

Again I have not met a bike which could not teach me something new, and the same goes for a mechanic. Very interesting watching and helping Lucho work. Even changing tires I learned new different techniques for setting a difficult bead. (Involves a door). Always something to learn no matter how basic.

Dinner with Max at a Polloria out of the tourist area. Choices were 1/8, 1/4, 1/2 or a full roasted chicken with potatoes. (French fries). About $3.00 for a 1/4 chicken with lemonade. And more perspectives from another person on “the ride”. Everyone has their viewpoint, especially the race part. I will have to decide for myself.

Officially this is a stage race. 107 stages with me joining in at stage 39. Turns out only about 10 folks are really “racing” with only 1 “James”really going for it. The numbers of people racing vary. Remainder not really racing, but still I suspect faster than me. Steve Aberle said in a comment recently to remember the reason we ski raced. “To make the others look good!” Somebody has to do it.

The sag wagon is available for a ride but one must decide prior when to taking the truck, morning or afternoon. Ride in morn, then get out at lunch and bike, or bike in morning and get in truck for afternoon. Important thing is finish by about 4 as dark at 5:30-6 and sunrise same. Tomorrow’s ride is 122 kilometers with 1086 meters of elevation gain, and day after is 159 K.

Breakie this morn, actually twice, once at our hotel of the usual rolls, jam, butter, coffee and fresh juice. Then off to a proper breakfast (as we Americans like) with eggs, bacon and the previous breakfast ingredients repeated. I understand the food on this ride is like our first continental type with the addition of muesli. Then all were off in varying directions; James for bike parts, Michelle and Liz to explore Saqsaywaman, another good Inca site just up the hill from hotel which Jeanne and I visited on one of our first days here, Rein to hospital for his second rabies injection from dog bite earlier in trip. ( Two thus far to hospital on this trip).

And as Buck says amazing how fast the time goes. I am enjoying the downtime, although I do not really need it now, but the next months are going to be full and tiring. Talked with Michelle who is also staying in Ushuaia at end for a few days. She says she feels she will want to just sit and do little in the days after this ride. My thoughts also, but also thought I will not be getting to Ushuaia very often, so best see it while I can. Hence I am staying 4 days longer than necessary. Michelle is heading for a 12 day tour in Antarctica. She went to Galapagos prior to start filly utilizing vacation. Me, I will be headed for Christmas in Dallas.





Thus tomorrow my riding begins. We have two what they call bush camps then two nights of hotel before reaching Copacabana, Bolivia and our next rest day. Bush camps are just us camping, as opposed to an official campground. Looking forward to it. Concerning this blog I will try and write keeping up, and posting as Internet allows.

Facing One’s Fears

I have always struggled to achieve excellence. One thing that cycling has taught me is that if you can achieve something without a struggle, it’s not going to be satisfying.
Greg Lemond

Well it seems training is over. Time for the ride to begin. I have the same butterfly’s I feel before a ski, bike, or whatever race. The butterfly’s are just wiggling their wings in my stomach. It is that feeling I get when taking off on a solo trip somewhere. What have I gotten myself into? Have I done the best I could to prepare. Did I make the right decision joining this ride.

My friend Buck Benson is here in Cusco and he is starting to feel a bit better from the past weeks trials of altitude, cold, and illness. We are just hanging, going for walks about the city, sitting in the sun in the park, watching tourists taking pictures, winding their way through the local vendors plying their wares. It is great having him here and listening to stories and instructions. He has said everyone agrees it has been one of the more difficult trips they have done, and these people have biked all over the world . But at the same time Buck has reassured me they are just people like us all, and I will do alright. The range of abilities is great and it sounds to me it is just like any other activity I have done.

So what is this fear? I said before I left the biggest fear I had was showing up in Cusco where it has already been established that Cusco is a difficult place to join the group due to the altitude of 11,200. And this is an established group who have been biking together nearly every day for six weeks.

Well it is that time of my fear and I am feeling good. It is what it is and will be whatever. I cannot tell the future. As discovered last week with Jeanne’s dad one never knows what will happen. But until I get into the swing of things I will have a fear.

So what is that fear. I guess it is the unknown, or perhaps will I be alright, or embarrass myself. Who knows. But if you do not try you will never succeed. Buck and I were talking about former days of mountain climbing. I mentioned my friend Doug Buchanan who said he felt a successful summit once in 20 was good. He carried a jello cheesecake in the bottom of his pack to celebrate a successful peak. I was lucky enough to share a few successes with Doug and by the time we got the cheesecake the package was a crumbled mess, the result of sitting in the bottom of his pack for multiple unsuccessful trips. No matter it was delicious. You have to have failures, the success is in continuing to try.

Carlos Castaneda (incidentally he was from Peru) in his Don Juan series of books mentioned you must be decisive with decisions, and be prepared to stake your life on that decision. Now that seems a bit heavy. But suppose you want to go to lunch; OK, but you have to cross the road so you decide to cross the road. No big deal, but pedestrians get hit and killed. That decision to go to lunch requires defending that decision even with your life or decide to not have lunch, which is another decision. Minor decisions can lead to big results. We make decisions hoping they are right! But never really know until the results are given. The point is we cannot tell the future.

We make decisions based on the best information we have. No one I believe goes out and purposely makes a bad decision. Maybe later with additional information we can decide it was a bad decision, but it seemed correct at the time given the information available. These decisions are not made blindly. One prepares as best you can. When running a river you never blindly go into a rapid without checking first. You gather and prepare yourself with the information available.

And so it is with this trip. Of course it is scary, but then any change is. We like things the way we can understand and relate to. Sometimes we have to extend our boundaries. Find other ways of doing and seeing things. Without knowing the limits there is no growth, no revitalization. We cannot learn if we do not reach out.

And keep in mind there is no real safety in anything. Last spring I was helping with the ski jumping program in Anchorage, and jumping some myself. Seems most people thought it dangerous and crazy. Well, I fell walking down the steps breaking my wrist. It is the little unexpected things that get you. But if you do not try what is left?

As Jeanne tells me when I come in near last place in the Tour of Anchorage 50 kilometer ski race, “there were 250,000 people in Anchorage who did not even enter”. And it has always been fun for me even near the end when I am near collapse.

And thus it is with this trip. I realize I am pushing myself and risk failure. But then who defines failure and success. In this case I get to. To not try is failure. The definition of success will come later.

Tomorrow the Bike Dreams biking tour of the Andes arrives in Cusco. They have a three day rest and are going to visit Machu Picchu for two days then a day in Cusco, after which we all head toward Copacabana and Bolivia, riding along Lake Titicaca.

Training is over.

Machu Picchu

Finally made it to the storied site of Inca civilization.

Aguas Calientes is the tourist town below Machu Piccu pueblo. As lonely planet guide book describes it: “It is a tourist town designed to cater to the one night stand tourist who will never be back”. It is a gauntlet of venders hawking their souvenirs. Restaurants, hotels, hostels, and the train tracks dissect the town.

Arose for a 5 am breakfast and were in line at 5:30 for the shuttle bus to top. (We being the members of Lares Trek) 15 steep switchbacks later we were nearly 2000 feet above town. Machu Picchu is on a ridge with sides dropping steeply down to the Orobamba river below. Unfortunately it was cloudy so our sunrise was not to be the drama desired. But it made little difference as once you pass through the gates with ticket checked and ID confirmed you walk out to the famous view. It is as spectacular as one would expect. Pictures all around trying desperately to capture the feeling and moment, knowing the photograph will never capture that sensation. It was here Jeanne and I planned our Christmas card picture. Alas, things change.

After dozens of pictures in our group, Reuben our guide spent the next 2 1/2 hours guiding us through the historical features of this civilization, which in many ways was more advanced than ours. Maybe not more advanced just different. Hence the Spanish attempted to destroy it. I will not go into the history of the Incas as it is long and complicated and subject to historical interpretation. I suggest he book “Turn right at Machu Picchu” by Mark Adams as a great read.

It seemed funny to me that since Jeanne had left I felt alone despite group being around and great. I missed my partner. Normally I relish my solo time and seek it out but now this time was not planned for and I could not get into the feeling of viewing the remains of a lost civilization. Hence I headed off to climb Wayna Picchu, the peak behind Machu Picchu. I had obtained one of 400 daily permits to climb the trail. Reuben had said allow an hour, the ID and permit check booth said 2 hours. I did it in 1 1/2 but did not dawdle. Trail is steep with some exposure. One set of stairs on descent I measured a slope of 68 degrees for about 200 feet, another not quite as steep but a wall on one side and 2000 feet on the right. But the views were spectacular varying the usual Machu Picchu pictures.



Returning, it was time to catch the bus down and the train back to Cusco. The journey to busses was slowed by massive number of tourists viewing the site. Many folks do the trip in one day from Cusco, arriving about 9 or 10 and departing about 2-3. Visitors are limited to 2500 a day and I wound my way through all 2500 of them trying to also navigate the narrow mazes of the old city network.

Made it back and connected with group for last time, as I was on a separate train for unknown reasons. It still amazes me how one gets thrown in with a diverse group and shortly you become friends quickly. Something about shared suffering I guess.

Sat with a couple from Mexico City who had very passing English and enjoyed the trip and conversation with Jorge and Rosa. I guess I misunderstood the directions and got off the train at Ooraythombo instead of end of line as I was supposed to do. Thus no one to meet me. Pulled out the phone and turned on cellular which was going to cost dearly. Was going to get a SIM card here but they are expensive too, so had opted out. Called Llama path,the tour organizer, and told them of my plight. They were very helpful saying get a taxi and have them talk to Llama path for payment. Hence somehow I ended up feeling like I was being argued over, who was going to drive me to Cusco, about a two hour drive. Keep in mind my Spanish is extremely limited. I figured the choices were one of the ubiquitous 3 wheel motor scooter taxis, a car taxi, or minibus. I had no idea who had what as they talked on my phone with my minutes to Llama path which said they had to be in Cusco by 8 pm an hour and half away. Ended up in a minivan with 14 others for ride back, making it at 8:15, too late for Llama path to pay so I paid driver the standard rate of 80 Sols (about $27). Had a window seat and watched the stars, but do not know the stars in the Southern Hemisphere. (Hopefully I can change that in next months) Very nice not having the light pollution of everywhere else.

My friend Buck ( in Cusco this morning from being sick on trip. Altitude and the cold had dealt him some sickness and he came to Cusco before rest of group arrives Tuesday. He had an all night bus ride and came here to hostel and is currently sleeping. Sunday and I am relaxing about Cusco. Later will park to city park for another festival. And time to reorganize gear from trekking, buses, tours and rearrange into biking travel. Tired I guess from the stresses of travel and being sick which has improved, but lungs still a bit congested. I will survive.

Talked with Jeanne via FaceTime when she arrived in Atlanta, for changeover to flight to St. Louis. Face time is a wonderful thing. Amazing world.

Everything works out for the good.
Amir Rockman

Pictures Lares valley Trek and Macchu Picchu


Boy walked quite a distance to see us.

Gear hauling

Marta pondering the meaning
Giuseppe, Erin, Marta, and Dave watching the boy receive tablet

J. R. At Macchu Picchu

Top of sun temple for determining solstice

Mountains above train ride before I got off at wrong stop

Descent from Wayna Picchu

Pictures are hard to load on this site so another site with dozens is my
South America iCloud sharing J. R.’s pictures
These pictures have minimal editing as difficult wit iPad and phone. Have to wait until December to Really edit.