Section 5, part 2: Incan Highlands


Day 63: Puno to Juli, 83k

Rob and I decided to take it slow today since we are still recovering from the excitement a few days ago. We rode the bus to lunch which was around 53k. Bruce rode from the hotel and we waited for him to arrive at lunch to start our day.

The morning was very chilly even with the sun shinning, everyone was bundled up in cold riding gear. The ride started by navigating the narrow cobblestone streets of Puno, which were confusing even with light traffic. After leaving Puno you could view the lake, which looked like a sheet of glass. We followed along the lake for about 15k, then turned into the alpine prairies that we have been riding through. Many small farms with livestocks and food plots, and small houses or even a teepee in a few locations. The road was pretty flat, with only a few rollers and calm winds.

After lunch we only had to go 30k to our camp. It was a good test for Rob to see how he as recovered and adapted to the altitude. My neck was still sore and I could not look over my shoulder completely.

Right after lunch we entered a busy town with rough streets, just outside the town we crossed a bridge and to our left were a flock of Andean flamingos wading in a small body of water.

IMG_2492The ride continued through the alpine prairies with rolling hills with more downhill to coast than climb. We started seeing red rocks breaking through the horizon in beautiful and unique formations. We stopped several times for pictures and to study the rocks.

As we entered the town of Juli, it seemed like a big town but most of the shops were closed and we barely saw anyone. Almost creepy for being too quiet. As we rode closer to the plaza, we started to see more people and cart vendors were starting to set up for the day, apparently 11am is too early for this town! The side roads were newly paved with stone pavers and the plaza was covered with topiaries. IMG_4462We descended away from the plaza towards the beach passing massive churches and schools. We get to camp on the beach of Lake Titicaca! The area we are camping is busy with a pier, restaurant, souvenir shop,  and ATV course. IMG_8458Several school kids crowded around the dinner bus watching the staff prep dinner, as they often do in small towns with not much going on. All the riders were into camp before noon, so everyone enjoyed a relaxing afternoon listening to the lake waves crash into shore.

Day 64: Juli to Copacabana, 63k

BIG day! Half way day of the entire trip, just 64 more to go! AND we crossed into Bolivia!!

IMG_1877The morning started very cold but with a crystal clear blue sky. It was a very short day so Rob, Bruce and I went took our time and enjoyed the amazing views of Lake Titicaca. IMG_6600We stopped several times for photos. We continued through the alpine prairies and farmland for most of the day, but we started to see more trees.

As we approached the border, the houses became nicer and the more South American modern they became, multistory brick with glass windows and actual roofs! It was a drastic difference from what we saw when entering Peru. You can tell we are riding along a very popular tourist route.

IMG_1813We crossed the border after lunch around 53k, near the end of the day. Exiting Peru and entering Bolivia took only 30 minutes, a record border crossing so far! We were underwhelmed by the fanfare and Welcome signs for Bolivia. IMG_8201However, I was impressed by the modern homes and rolling mountains. At first glance of Copacabana, we were on a top of a mountain and the lake blow was stunning.

The town is chill and laid back with a plethora of shops and restaurants.IMG_1895We stumbled upon a bakery on the plaza that was owned and operated by a couple from Chicago. They came to Bolivia 6 years ago to volunteer for a year building irrigation for small villages. IMG_1814After their year, the locals asked them to stay and the couple have opened two restaurants to collect proceeds for the projects. They made amazing pizza and cakes. It’s called Pan American Picnic Basket, if you find yourself in Copacabana.

Our camp was at a hostel next to the water, we camped in the grassy courtyard and enjoyed a relaxing evening.

Day 65: Copacabana to Hutajata, 67k

We woke up to another cold morning, frost covered our tents. Everyone bundled up and anxiously awaited the sun to rise over the mountain. We enjoyed our breakfast with a pack of stray dogs who were persistent for attention. They were so sweet, It was basically my heaven, surrounded by dogs at an alpine lake.

IMG_1833The ride began with climbing away from the lake. As we left town we had amazing views of Lake Titicaca and Copacabana. The climb continued for another 11k and gained 400m. FullSizeRenderWe stopped multiple times for pictures, the views of the lake just kept getting better. The road cut red up and around sprawling alpine prairies with golden grasses.

As we began to descend, we passed a mirador, or outlook, for Incan ruins. IMG_1842A couple other riders had just come down from the top and gushed about the views. They were not wrong. The other side of the mountain was an epic view of the lake and snow capped mountains. This view is one of the reasons we love riding our bikes through countries. Absolutely stunning.

We continued to go up and down for several more kilometers and had more views of the snow capped mountains at various sections.

We enjoyed a 10k decent back down to the lake where we jumped on a ferry boat to cross the lake. IMG_1967The towns on each side were bustling with tiny shops selling soda and snacks, ready for the tourists that pass through. As soon as we finished our own cokes we started another climb of 150m over 5k. Again more stunning views of the lake.

We finally descended down to a semi flat road that passed through several villages. We noticed the villagers dressed up and sitting in large groups. IMG_6663We assumed it must be another holiday. A few kilometers from our camp we stumbled upon a parade setting up. There had to have been 200 people lined up for this parade with the most beautiful and intricate costumes. A marching band was at the front and provided the soundtrack for the dance groups that were in the parade, everyone did the same dance. It was amazing to watch, we were blown away by the culture in this tiny town.

IMG_1980Our camp was by a restaurant right on Lake Titicaca, we camped on the grass meters away from shore. The restaurant served the most delicious and moist trout straight from the lake. It was a little hectic because two different wedding parties came through to enjoy dinner at the restaurant.

So far, I am blown away by Bolivia’s beauty. The scenery has been gorgeous, the villages are nicer to look at with mostly finished homes. The people have all been pleasant. I am excited to see what else we get to experience in the next two weeks,

Day 66: Hutajata to La Paz, 67k

Frosty morning again! After everyone had put away their tents, we crowded onto the dock with our coffees in the only sunshine available.

IMG_9436The ride was pretty easy, very gentle grades of climbing that seemed like flat road. The road had developed into 4 lane divided highway.  We had a nice shoulder for most of the day, or we could use an entire lane because traffic was light. And a glorious tailwind!

After the first 5k we turned a corner and the stunning white capped mountains that we have enjoyed spotting the last 2 days welcomed us but even closer. we followed along the distant ridge line for most of the day. Along the road was mostly developing villages and prairie lands. It is strange to see a highway and over passes built before the community has flourished.

The last town before Lima was crazy. It was still a 4 way divided highway, but with rough gravel sections from construction, and vans weaving in and out of traffic picking up and dropping people off. Some of the drivers drove the wrong way on the road into traffic, which always gave us a fright.

IMG_1599Our stopping point was at the cable car station. The tour leader had arranged for us to drop-off our bikes with her and we rode the public cable cars down into La Paz. It was an amazing experience. I really think Columbus needs to consider these. Rob, Bruce and I crowded into one car with a single mom and 4 kids and two grandparents with their granddaughter. The grandmother was dressed in traditional attire and was very sweet and asked us the usual questions. The grandfather asked several questions as well. As we rolled above the city, we got a glimpse of Sunday life. In La Paz, streets shut down and the biggest open air market in the world consumes every inch. IMG_7060There were stalls set up 4 or 5 wide on the street and in roundabouts going in all directions. From our vantage point you could see the goods being sold; clothes, kitchen supplies, food, cars, motorcycles, car parts etc. ANYTHING! At the end of the cable car, we said goodbye to our new friends and started the walk to the hotel among busy traffic. We walked along more markets and a marching band was playing, Bolivians love their marching bands. Once we arrived to the street of the hotel, it was crowded with another band, role everywhere set up with rates of beer and the church was decorated with yellow banners and dried flowers were being thrown. As we walked the half block to the hotel another parade began, much like the one we witnessed yesterday. Everyone is still celebrating the Virgen del Rossario. Throughout the day, we witnessed at least ten other little parades with marching bands, costumes and people dancing the Morenada. It was exciting each time. So far Bolivia has been one big party!

La Paz

IMG_7612We spent most of our time eating and shopping. There really isn’t a lot to do in La Paz, it seems like its more of a starting point for expeditions surrounding La Paz.

I did organize a van to take several of the riders to a tourist spot in the suburbs called Valley of the Moon. IMG_8699Its a short hike through geological features that look like stalactites. The wind and rain have eroded away the mountains developing the rocks. IMG_2874It was interesting to hike through the area. However, we were surrounded by houses therefore no picturesque landscapes.

Categories: bike touring, Bolivia, cycling, Peru, South American epic, travel, Uncategorized

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