We will be leaving Peru tomorrow after twelve very interesting days exploring this diverse country and riding some fantastic roads--many of them at high altitude. Jean has done a great job of summarizing our time here, but there is one day that has not been discussed yet. That is Tuesday, November 16, the day we tried to ride to Puno from where we would visit the floating islands on Lake Titicaca
Ross did his usual good job of leading us out of town (Cusco in this case) to the road to Puno. It was a nice spring day and the first two-thirds of the ride took us through a rich agricultural area. The fresh green of new crops poking up through the hand tilled soil was a pleasant sight and reminded us a bit of the springs we experienced in northern Algeria many years ago.
The road was fast and high--11000 to 13000 feet; the G650s get 75-80 mpg at these altitudes! When we were about 15 kilometers out of Puno, we saw long lines of transports parked along the side of the road. Soon, ahead of us was a solid line of trucks and buses at a standstill on the road. We also saw lots of rocks on the road; the common way here to halt all traffic.
We stopped and soon learned that there was a transit strike and the road to Puno was blocked. We could try to pick our way through the blockade or take one of two dirt tracks; we decided to stick to the pavement and slowly advanced past the stopped traffic. No one seemed to mind us doing this and some even moved rocks out of our way. Many people were walking in both directions carrying their luggage; those going in our direction asked for a lift! We soon encountered another obstacle: broken glass on the road! To be sure, we slowly picked our way through this mess for about 6-7 kilometers until both lanes were blocked. Enterprising young men were ferrying people back and forth on small motorcycles and from one of them we learned that even they could not reach Puno.
Staying on the road at 13000+ feet was not an option so we decided to turn around and head back to the last town we had passed, Juliaca, about 35 kilometers away. We again picked our through the rocks and glass without any punctures and eventually found a decent hotel for the evening. We have since met a few people who were trapped in Puno and taxis were able to get them past the blockade (on one of the dirt roads) in 2-5 hours at very inflated prices.
Not knowing when the strike would end and what the road surface would be like, we headed for Arequipa the next morning (after carefully checking our tires for embedded glass and correct tire pressures); another high road reaching nearly 15000 feet in altitude. Along the way we saw flamingos in the high altitude lakes, llamas, alpacas, and more vicunas.
Lake Titicaca will be saved for another time; Chile and Argentina, here we come!