Oh glory, glory day: Cusco to Pisac - South America: a first time for everything - CycleBlaze

September 4, 2013

Oh glory, glory day: Cusco to Pisac

Heart 1 Comment 0

THAT CLIMB out of Cusco was hard. We knew it would be but it was like ripping off a plaster. Once done, the pain was over. And, the pain over, the pleasure, the joy, could begin.

The hardest part of the day came right at the start
Heart 0 Comment 0

The mosquito-like mini-buses that buzzed around us, resistant to any measure to shake them off, died away on the upper slopes. Hotels, then houses, then the small workshops and finally the tourist stalls thinned the more we climbed. A camera poked backwards from a taxi to record our eccentric pleasure. Craning faces looked in surprise from bright blue tourist buses coming the other way.

Heart 1 Comment 0

We passed, on our right, the ruins we had visited a day earlier, with stones of up to 100 tonnes that the Incas chiselled - with soft bronze - into the exact shape to face the stone next to it, then hauled by hand, by rope and on rolling logs to lift into place. The Incas gave up three months of their lives to this work and it took two dozen men a week to move each block.

An imposing white Jesus stood close to the road, overlooking the city and beseeching it to behave. It was a gift, we learned, from Cusco´s Palestinian-Israeli friendship group - which means that, if it was indeed Jesus rather than just a symbolic preacher, it was an odd choice.

Looking back down on the ever-growing city of Cusco, which has enveloped its own airport and turned it into a suburb
Heart 1 Comment 0

Four kilometres further, the road settles into a plateau of gasping air and thin mountain sunshine. We are close to 4 000m. Llamas sniffle in the grass at a distance. The hills to our left are terraced, brown but not dusty. To our right, the deep valley. It is too early for most bed-bound tourists, yawning off their meals and drinks of the previous night, and we are the first customers of the day at a café of mud bricks, behind a shallow fence and overlooking the valley.

Fizzy drink halt at a mountain-road drinks hut
Heart 1 Comment 0
Just another everyday roadside service station...
Heart 0 Comment 0

A brown and round-faced woman wearing a felt hat and a shaul is delighted by our arrival, if puzzled who and what we are. We sit at round tables beneath straw parasols or on logs rolled against a shallow grass bank and we talk of the things that cyclists talk before leaving an ebb tide of empty cups and drained plastic bottles.

Cold drinks all round, please señorita...
Heart 0 Comment 0

The plateau is more gentle now. There are pale blue-grey eucalyptus trees and bored donkeys. The fields are small and roughly square and lined by shallow stone walls. Some have been ploughed, or at any rate turned, and if we stop we can make out now and then a man in rough trousers and a blue shirt working at we can't see what.

Heart 1 Comment 0

He and his fellow farmers live in linear villages which follow the fold of descending rifts in the hillside. It's not clear how they get out of the villages because the mud-and-stone trails we see are as occasional as they are steep and rough.

Heart 0 Comment 0

Another few minutes and the road forks, both arms descending but the right more abruptly. That is the way that the villagers must go, I conclude, while the barely larger road to Pisac goes left. And, as it goes, it drops and turns endlessly, never too steep to spoil the ride or blur the view. A rock wall rises to our right. To our left, the valley, sometimes nearly cavernous, and beyond it the deep folds of chin-stubbled rock, small bushes and desperate trees clinging wherever they can.

"They´re not bare mountains," one of us observes. "They´re woolly mountains."

Just glorious, isn't it?
Heart 0 Comment 0

Time doesn´t count in countryside like that. I don't know how long it took to whirl to the river more than 1 500m lower. Time doesn´t count. The urge is to slow down, not to go faster. Time and again I look in short, dusty, brown and grey villages for a bar, not because I'm thirsty but because I long to touch ground, to deepen the experience, to make it last longer. This isn't a long ride but it is glorious. If all Peru is like this, well...

Reality returns noisily in the valley. Mechanical diggers are working on the banks of the river that fringes the town. Workmen have put up a single-track steel bridge no more elegant than it needs to be. Traffic lights sort out who will go which way and when. Those who get it wrong or need to be whipped along are blown into order by a short woman in sunglasses and a white cap and a uniform of brown and yellow. Much of her aggravation comes, I get the impression, from the Delhi-like tuk-tuk tricycle taxis, each elaborately and almost hallucinogenically decorated. They have paint-sprayed eagles on their sides, or pumas (a reference to the Inca representation of the tangible present). The back windows of the more daring show pouting white bikini girls curving mountainously on beach towels.

We are there. Our day is over. And it will be hard to forget it.

Rate this entry's writing Heart 1
Comment on this entry Comment 0