Saying goodbye to a lovely country like Bolivia was hard, but after nearly a month, it was about time to move on to the next country, Peru. And we have to admit it: Peru was bulls eye from the very start. Border crossing was a breeze, Peruvians are super kind and helpful and the views were just awesome.
After the perfect paved road until Puno, we decided to head for Arequipa following the dirt road. Despite a local lady in one of the villages insisting on us taking the brand new sealed road, we still opted for the ‘carretera antigua’, the road less travelled. And we didn’t regret it for sure. The landscapes were jaw dropping at times, we had the track all to ourselves and the ride was just superb, with lots of hard pack, some rocks and a bit of sand. We decided to camp near the top of a 5000 m high mountain, somewhere half way through the track, at the edge of one of those lovely lagoons crowded by countless pink flamingos. The cold during the night didn’t bother us too much after one of the most lovely sunsets ever. We didn’t care about our tuna and sauce that got lost on the track due to a holed plastic bag. Some old bread, a carrot and some tomato puree was what we had left and oh did we enjoy it.
Arequipa is amongst the most beautiful cities we have visited on the trip so far. Especially the historic center is really nice with the many impressive and authentic buildings, full of character. Even Burger King is housed in one of those amazing historic houses. And yet Arequipa is a lively city where people dance traditionally in the streets, where music is everywhere and where drinking one (or more) of those delicious pisco sours is a must do!
But as usual, the hunger for dirt kicked in after only a few days in Arequipa. We headed for Chivay with its amazing Colca Canyon. We stubbornly denied the existence of a tar road, straight from Arequipa to Chivay and opted for the fine grey lines on the map. Or that one track that isn’t even on the map. Toms nose for a good dirt ride came in handy. Sand, muddy rivers, rocks, washed away track… we saw it all. I have cursed more than once in my helmet but at the same time enjoyed the amazing beauty of the nature surrounding us, especially when riding past a volcano that decided to start spewing ash and smoke at that very moment! What an experience!
The Amazon rainforest would be our next stop. After weeks on the arid, cold Altiplano, we now almost went down to sea level and got steamed alive in our Gore Tex jackets. The closer we got to Puerto Maldonado, the greener, wetter and hotter it got and by the time we arrived at our hostal, we were soaked and poured at least 4 cms of water out of our boots. ‘You guys just arrived on time. There’s some really heavy rain coming up’, the hostal owner said with a bright smile on his face. Well, the rainforest did her name justice with probably the most impressive downpour I have ever seen in my entire life.
Our hostal, Villa Hermosa, appeared to be a little paradise surrounded by nothing but green, with colourful parrots, curious monkeys and by far the best breakfast we had in all of South America. For us it was the ideal spot to work a few days, get back on our feet and plan the route ahead. Our hike to the rainforest with all of its exotic flora and fauna, completed the whole picture. Our batteries are definitely recharged for the remainder of Peru!