Cycling above the Clouds

Riding the Andes by Bicycle

Back on the road

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After our wonderful break in Ayaviri, we got back on the road to head to Puno and Lake Titicaca. The route took us through Pukara, where we’d planned to camp. It turned out they had a big fiesta for the local saint’s day with a huge market bursting with everything from food and clothing to mattresses and furniture. The small town was all abuzz and heaving with people. We were regularly told to be careful of our things so plumped for a local hospedaje on the main Plaza de Armas instead.  That gave us the peace of mind of having the bikes being out of sight but was also our least salubrious accommodation to date, with smelly well-used bedding and no running water in the bathroom (no cooking to be done there this time that’s for sure!).

Lighting candles in the cathedral for the saint’s day

The market ran right through the town and all the way up the cathedral steps


Buying bread at the market

The following day we veered off the main highway to ride across a really stunning pass to the small and beautiful town of Lampa. We were delighted to spot a number of pink flamingos in the river running alongside us. After a picnic in the field on the way up, and a swooping descent into the town we rewarded ourselves with a small beer to watch the sun go down.

The stunning pass to Lampa


Pink flamingos! – The pink is in their tail feathers, difficult to spot here but quite noticeable in real life;)


Another beautiful church, this time in Lampa – home to the world’s only life-sized replica of Michaelangeo’s La Pietà statue which sadly we didn’t get to see.

Strikes
Something we’ve come across a fair bit in Peru, right from our first day in Cusco, are the teachers’ strikes. Now in the 8th week of strikes and with thousands of pupils still at home, it’s been very odd cycling past eerily empty schoools every day. Strikes are apparently pretty common in Peru, although I gather this one has gone on for an unusually long time. The teachers here are lobbying the government for an increase in pay. From what I’ve read, the most recent government offer was for USD$600 / month in 2018, however the main regional unions have refused this, lobbying for closer to $1200 with immediate effect. Doctors have also now joined the strikes, pushing for an increase in the healthcare budget and salaries in Peru.

We’ve seen large strikes blocking the main roads in most of the major towns and cities we’ve cycled through. The protests we’ve seen have been peaceful, mostly blocking the road with burnt tyres and bricks for a few hours followed by a procession through town with banners and chanting. Waiting traffic appears to be patient and sympathetic. The local media does however suggest otherwise. After the strikes started to affect access to Machu Picchu last week, the government declared a state of emergency in the Cusco region, banning large public meetings and marches and allowing raids and arrests without warrants. They are now threatening to only continue the talks once the teachers are back in their classrooms and if not, will cut off all teacher pay.

Teachers’ strike in Sicuani – we’ve always been waved through although advised not to hang around

 

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