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The next morning I start with the hard and steep climb from the city to El Alto and the Altiplano. After 75 km I´m at the temples of Tiwinaku from pre Incan times. But the temple area was used by the Incans as well.

On the Altiplano

During a frenzied thunderstorm I visit the museum. Afterwards the road is covered with 5 cm of wet snow. But that melts quickly and I´m back on the road to Peru and Lake Titicaca.


The border crossing is easy. Two more stamps in my passport and I´m in Peru. Money changers linger on the Peruvian side and change my Bolivianos into Nuevo Soles. In Desaguadero there is a carnival, bands playing everywhere and people are dancing in the streets. Finding a quiet hotel isn´t easy.

The next day starts with sunshine and pleasant temperatures. I´m back on the road early and enjoy nice views of Lake Titicaca. The road is paved, but has many potholes. Traffic is increasing and mini bus drivers are very rude. Cyclists are fair game. After 100 km I arrive in Ilave and look for a place to stay. Not an easy task, even police officers tell me to cycle to Puno. But I don´t feel like doing another 60 kms. The altiplano is too densely populated for camping. I find a nice but very basic hotel for the night.


Next morning I start early again, because there is less traffic and hardly any wind, but that picks up around noon. So I´m in Puno for a second breakfast, and head for Juliaca after a short stop. The whole city is on the streets because of the carnival. But I need cash urgently and all banks are closed and heavily guarded. Only in one bank I am granted access to the cash mashine and this accepts my EC card.


The last dancers stagger home when I start cycling the following morning. The road leaves Lake Titicaca from here and finally the traffic eases off. The road was tarred last year, which is pretty good for my sore back. If I hurry up, I´ll be in Cusco within three days.

But before Cusco I´ve to cross the pass Abra la Raya which is 4.338 m above sea level. Not a big problem since the Altiplano is already at 3.600 m. But I caught a cold (again) and cough dryly. The pass is the watershed between the semiarid Altiplano that has no outlet and the hot and humid Amazonas lowland. All streams from here contribute to the Amazonas and run over 6.500 km to the Atlantic Ocean. An incredible journey.

Peruvian railway

From the pass the road leads downhill. The scenery is changing dramatically from the bare high planes to steep valleys with lush vegetation and rich wildlife. The arrival in Cusco is delayed for one day. I´ve got fever and stay for two nights in the only hotel in Sicuani.

On my birthday I´m back on the road early and have a barking dog on my heels within five minutes. But after three months on the bike my reflexes are good. The dog gets some cold water from my bottle straight into his eyes. This keeps most of these pests away for a while. There are a couple of steep grades on this road. And after the bridge over Rio Urubamba it´s 30 kms uphill to Cusco. My first stop in town is the LAN Peru office to pick up my ticket. The city is vast and I stay in the hotel El Niño, a Dutch project for street children.


Cusco (Quechua for navel of the world) was the capital of the Incan world from 1200 until 15th of November 1533. When Pizarro subdued the Incan empire and destroyed the city. He confiscated all gold and silver and destroyed the Incan temples and palaces. The big square blocks were used for building Christian churches. Cusco lost its importance due to the founding of Lima by Pizarro. And the city was heavily hit by two earthquakes in 1650 and 1950. The Incan walls withstood the earthquakes but more than 90% of the Spanish churches and buildings were destroyed.

Only after 1911, when the hidden city of Machu Picchu was discovered, did Cusco start gaining importance again. Today the city is the tourist center in Peru. The Incan ruins and the center of the town with the colonial buildings were declared an UNESCO world heritage site in 1983.

Incan walls in Cusco

I spend two days in Cusco fascinated by those stone walls with their huge clean cut cubic blocks, that are put together without cement. And book a trek on the Inca trail. Which is impossible without a local guide.

There are many sights in the vicinity of Cusco as well, and I spend a pleasant day exploring the ruins of Sacsayhuaman, take a bus to the Urubamba valley and visit the local market in Pisaq. But here are more tourists than locals. The goods on sale are accordingly expensive.

Market in Pisaq

Inka Trail

Two days later I´m in a mini bus together with two British girls to Ollantaytamba and start the Inca Trail at 8 a.m. We follow a small part of the 22.000 km long trail system of the Incas to Machu Picchu, the hidden city of the Incas for three days. They didn´t have horses or wheels. So everything had to be carried by lamas or porters.

The first day is easy, we walk through green fields and pass several small ruins to Wayllabamba. At 1 p.m. the porters set up the tent and at 1.15 p.m. it starts pouring with rain. It´s definitely rainy season here. So I spend the afternoon reading a good book and sleeping a lot. Later we are served tea and have dinner in a separate dining tent. What a difference to the lonely evenings in the desert.

Lichen covered tree

On the second day we start very early after a good breakfast with fresh fruits and sweet pancakes. We are the second group at the gate to the national park. The groups in front of us is much bigger. But I pass them on the way up and have the pass to myself. But due to thick clouds the view isn´t good, and I leave soon. I´m at the next camp at 10.30 a.m. before the porters. I set up my tent and leave it only to grab some more food. Outside it´s raining most of the time.

After the 1.200 m climb on the previous day we follow the zigzagging trail through the amazing mountain rain forest.

Rio Urubamba

Andrea and Shona

On the last day we start before sunrise to be at the sun gate in time. From here it´s only one hour to Machu Picchu. We have an incredible view and the whole town to ourselves. The city is perfectly sheltered by high mountains and dense vegetation. It was invisible for the Spanish conquerors in 1532 and avoided destruction afterwards. After four hours I´ve seen every building and climbed the hill above Machu Picchu and take the bus to Aguas Calientes. There are hot thermal wells above the village. Just right after a long journey. I spend too much time sitting in a hot pool and almost miss my train back to Cusco.

Machu Picchu

One day later I board a new Airbus A320 to Lima and after a stopover in Madrid I´m back in Frankfurt 24 hours later. It´s been a memorable trip with 3.200 km on my bicycle and 34.000 meters uphill. But one weekend later I´m back in the Frankenjura climbing.

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