Hi all.. I have pictured this blog and also an older one, press HERE
to see those photos when finished here.
Many thanks to Kieran Gallagher for his kind donation to my Paypal account towards the run!
Have a great holiday Kieran.
By the way because I am just getting over a cold I took my short break in Arequiba before finishing Peru. I also got routine blood and health check ups and all is well! Many thanks to Joss, Ana and family for hosting me these last couple of days. Friday evening I return to the Pirwa backpackers hostel in Puno where I left off. I will start running the last three days towards the Bolivian border on Saturday…
Another marathon took me to the wonderfully sounding city of Ayacucho, famous for it´s 33 churches, one for every year Christ lived for. It may sound nice but Ayacucho was the birthplace of the notorious Peruvian guerrilla group known as the Shining Path. A Maoist group which was founded in the late 1960s by Abimael Guzman, a former university philosophy professor.
Its stated goal was to replace what it saw as bourgeois democracy with ” New Democracy ”. The Shining Path believed that by imposing a dictatorship of the proletariat, inducing cultural revolution and eventually sparking world revolution, they could arrive at pure communism.
JUST LIKE HOME!
The group inflicted violence deployed against peasants, trade union organizers, popularly elected officials and the general civilian population. The Shining Path is described by the Peruvian government as a terrorist organization. The group is on the U.S. Department of State’s list of Foreign List of Terrorists and the European Union and Canada likewise describe it as a terrorist organization and prohibit providing funding or other financial support. Since the capture of its leader Abimael Guzman in 1992, the Shining Path has declined in activity. Certain factions of the Shining Path now claim to fight in order to force the government to reach a peace treaty with the rebels. Similar to militant groups in Colombia, some factions of Shining Path have adapted as a highly efficient cocaine smuggling operation, with an ostensibly paternalistic relationship to villagers.
More information HERE
Then an almost all uphill 38km day and not a hostel in sight. Local people told me there was one in a place called Condor Ccocha, so I commuted there after finishing at km 420. It took about an hour to get there, a village well off my route and on a side road. When I arrived I had dinner in a very busy restaurant. I kept asking the waitress about the hostal and she kept saying she would ask the owner for me. The owner didn´t seem to be in a rush as he was playing cards with his mates.
Peruvians are not exactly well off but I cant get over the amount of people that still use restaurants for their meals. Often whole families go out for dinner, I have seen street cleaner with poor footwear go out to breakfast.
Eventually I approached the owner who took a timeout from the cards to show me my room. It was a brand new hotel, still under construction as it had no electricity. He wanted $8 which was about double what I have been paying lately. Not exactly in a bargaining position – more or less being over a barrel and having to pay whatever he asked for I still managed to bargain him down to $6. It was a lovely room.
I then had to borrow his flashlight!
I HAD TO BORROW HIS HEADLIGHT BEFORE HE RUSHED BACK TO HIS GAME OF CARDS.
Back on the highway I was making my way over more dusty rough roads towards Ocros. I haven´t seen a shop or anywhere on the road to buy anything for 80km, the longest service less stretch of the run so far.
Then I come to a major roadwork project. The main contractor is a company called Cosapi. The road works go on for about 40km. The road workers stop me a couple of times. Their company deliver them lunch, and there is no shortage of food. Soup, rice, fish, veg and mate, which is a form of herb tea. In fact I stop for two lunches!
LUNCH NUMBER ONE IN A COMPANY BUS
Very few Peruvian workers have cars. Most big companies bus their workers in and out. This operation is huge as there are about twenty buses and its a 24/7 job.
AND LUNCH NUMBER TWO... I TELL YOU THAT RUNNING AROUND THE WORLD IS A GREAT EXCUSE FOR GLUTTONY
At the end of my day one of the buses stops for me when I finish at km 69. They tell me they will bring me back in the morning. So I manage to find a hostal in Acros. I am amazed I found it as many of the crew are based here. They have taken up most rooms in town and I passed by one large building and could see through the open door that there were about ten bunk beds in that room alone.
Even the restaurants were serving the workers paid breakfasts by the company and dinners in the evenings.
The towns restaurants were almost like company canteens much so much that they had all the company policy notices, workers rights, sick benefit and maternity leave information all posted on the restaurant walls.
RUNNING INTO OCROS
Some of the workers told me they don’t get annual leave but get seven days unpaid off after working 35 days.
Another worker that I became friendly with, a man called Luis who worked in Provo, Utah, USA told me that holidays are paid into the hourly rate, just as they do in some US union jobs – where they pay a few dollars an hour extra in lieu of the benefits which is called ” fringe benefits.”
I remember from my time working these jobs in the USA that one soon becomes accustomed to the higher rate and felt cheated that I only got three or four days paid leave in eight years working there!
Luis told me that he was married to an American woman in Utah but the relationship ended as he couldn´t find work there due to to the downturn in the American economy. He returned to Peru as this is a good job.
” I love women! ” He told me.
“ Because I married three times! “
Next day I was up at 5.30am and had breakfast in the restaurant with the workers. They brought me back to my finishing spot and fed me lunch again as I ran the 29km to finish early in Ocros. It was a very hard tough day as I went over a mountain on that terrible road. The pass was about 4,400 metres.
Then out on the road the very next day my instincts tell me that I am in an unsafe area. I was puffing my way up a hill when a young lad seemed to make a suspicious movement towards his right pocket. I gave him some small talk telling him I was only there for a short vacation on my way to Cusco. Then he starts asking me how much my camera costs, as it´s on my arm strap. Then he tells me about a shortcut across some field!
” No loco! ” I say and run on. Perhaps I should have left the loco bit out!
No harm having my senses tested and practised as one can easily let ones guard down after meeting so many nice people.
About an hour later I am going through a village called NiÑa Bamba.. I see two lads standing beside a motorbike at the side of the road. I greet them with a ” Buenos Tardes ” and get ignored, I am reminded of the American hatred stares I got in parts of Central America.
So I keep going.. I come to a school just as the children are being let out by what looks like a teacher and the school principle.
They stop me to ask what I am up to. The principle gives me an orange, so I got to drop the rock I got in my hand for safety reasons!
THE SCHOOL BUS DRIVER GETS THE AFTERNOON OFF AS I LEAD THE CHILDREN HOME!
I ask for the honest answer, not the home proud one to my question… Is this a dangerous area.
” Si “
I talk to the kids for a while and walk with about a dozen of them down the road as they make their way to their houses. I suspected a few lived the opposite direction but they came along for the walk! One by one they wave adios as they arrive at their houses.
On I go through that beautiful valley and get stopped by Johan and Ils a couple from Belgium. They are nice motor bikers and give me food, fruit and top up my water bottle.
NICE BELGIAN BIKERS!
Their trip around the world, which they plan to do in two stages is strangely called ” Kiss the Ride.com ”
As we are talking by the side of the road we are looking down the next switchback and saw a bus and a petrol tankard almost collide.
The dust is still incredible, it´s like being on a construction site kangooing down a wall.
That night I got into a village called Ahuayro. There are four hostals which seems a lot for such a small place. There is a major water pipe upgrade going on in this area. The first three hostals I go to are full, full of construction workers. Construction projects could pose a threat to my safety should accommodation fill up for I run with just a 3 kilogramme backpack and 2 kilos in my pockets, no sleeping bag or tent. I am wondering about where I will sleep should the fourth place also be full. I may have to put some of the survival skills I have studied to use sooner than expected.
I smile as I approach it. It also serves as a mini bus ticket office. It´s far from being a ´squalor dollar ´place, more of a ´rent for a cent ´I smiled for surely no reputable company would house their employees here and there would be a bed for me.
I had to go all the way into the owners kitchen in the front of the building for they never heard my hollers.
A friendly man came out and unlocked a door, I don’t know why he locked it, nor I later for there was no window. It was covered by plastic, walls nailed together by bits of wood and a bumpy sloped mud floor.
I WAS THRILLED TO BITS TO GET THIS ROOM TONIGHT!
Yes, definitely the most basic room I have gotten in the run but rarely have I been more delighted for it was damn cold out there. There was a clean bed, a roof and walls of sorts around me, and that’s all I needed that night.
Some of the places I stay in I can see they don´t change the sheets, so usually I just sleep in my clothes, how I must stink, but happy living the dream.
WHAT´S THE SONG? JUST LIKE HEAVEN! AND IT WAS THAT NIGHT... FUNNY HOW ONES PRIORITIES CHANGE... LUXURY
For the next 70km or so out of Ahuayro it´s mostly climbing again. A cop tells me to be careful for it´s dangerous, but only at night he adds. Like most places I tell him.
I get to a town called Uripa. More construction work going on. It´s like the reconstruction of Baghdad for the road literally disappears in the construction and detours.. I lost the road!!
Everywhere there are trenches, holes and moulds of rubble and dirt. Perhaps it´s the crappiest place I have ever set foot in. Besides the heart being ripped out of the town there is the other Latino hobby… The compulsion by so many people to collect and stack blocks and bricks beside their houses. Perhaps collected from old derelict buildings, hoarded to build the extension that may never be built for their houses.
So I called it a halt that day as I spent a fruitless half hour looking for the road.
Earlier, I saw a woman feed her young child cocoa leaves. Cocoa leaves are the basis for cocaine and are sold openly here.
They are chewed and the juices keeps hunger at bay and give an extra edge to ones energy. They can keep it, I got no interest.
I was shocked by this mother feeding her child with the leaves, as it also errodes teeth over time.
An elderly woman called Zaragoza directed me up a trail to where the road magically appeared. She really humped it up the hill, putting me to shame!
I WILL HELP YOU FIND THE ROAD SAID ZARAGOSSA!
On the way we passed a dozy dog that looked sick and perhaps rabid to me. When I asked her she nodded and just said ” Infirma “
On I ran and ran towards Andahuaylas. It was a lovely day and I finished strongly.
Around lunchtime I was told by a religious woman in a shop that El Senor would look after me…
” El Senor.. Dios…God! “
Then she asked me why I was running and not in a car or on a bicycle, so I told her that El Senor gave me legs and not wheels.. Yes I think thats a great reply from now on!
Then a couple of good days a 48 and a 52km day
I finished in a small village called Ccotaquite. I was told there was an hospedaje there but in fact there was none. It was almost dark when I stopped at the very last buildings in the village and asked a man if there was anything. Soon three women came across the road. I explained my situation. They had a chat about what could be done for me. Eventually two young children walked me about 400 metres down a lane to the school house. I spoke to the teacher who lived next door. Her name was Marie-Luz.
She was very friendly and soon opened up the school house for me to rest up. Valeria, her daughter and a couple of other young children, Luis and Maria came in with a world globe and asked me to point out Ireland and then my route.
LUIS GIVES ME A WELCOME BLANKET, MARIA SMILES AND VALERIE ASKS WHERE IS IRELAND
Marie-Luz brough me in a blanket, for I was shivering heavily. Then she brought me in some coffee and bread and asked if I needed another blanket.
It took her about half an hour to get the other blanket and I reckoned she had not got another one and had to go around the village. She also got me a piece of styrofoam to lie on.
It was a coldish night and I reckoned I picked up a cold here as a couple of days later I am coughing heavily and have a runny nose.
In the morning after some more bread and coffee I said goodbye to my newest friends on the run, so many wonderful people.
I ran on towards and then through the largish city of Abancay which was pretty routine
June 6th was a lovely warm day, I ran on some trails that cut right through the steep switchbacks and enjoyed every one of my 45 kilometres finishing in a small village called Ramal de Cachora Saywite. I asked a man coming out of his restaurant where the next hospedaje was.. Here he said. I reckoned it was not really a regular place, just a spare room in his house, but do you think I care, only 10 soles, $4 and it´s cold outside!
Then a magnificent 60km day of which the first 50 were mostly downhill.. Not to mention my 19,000th kilometre :)
I was a bit greedy and wanted to finish a further 12km in a place called Limatambo but didn´t I fell a bit short and finished at a bridge Puenta Sisma. I hitched a ride on a truck to Limatambo and next morning it took me an hour in 3 vehicles to return to the same bridge.
A pretty tired 33km was my punishment for yesterdays big effort. I did cut it about an hour short when I met a man called Edever who suggested that I could stay in a private house and pay about 5 or 10 soles. There was no hospedaje in that village called Chinllahuacho. He brought me over to a shop where I rested while he made some phone calls and I reckoned went to see a few people.
Eventually Edever returned and said his uncle Arturo and his family would put me up for the night.
ARTURO AND FAMILY WELCOMED ME
Arturo gave me a very big welcome while his wife Nasaria dished me out two bowls of delicious hot vegetable soup, followed by corn cob, maize, potato, bread and coffee.
There were four generations of the family in that room, just like in many Latino homes, Arturos son and his wife and two young children plus his mother a tough 66 year old woman called Maria. I thought she looked about 80, the hard life here is a harsh ager.
On the floor ten guinea pigs ran around, also a cat, a dog and some chickens.
called cuy are an expensive delicacy here. Once I heard that they are not from the pig family but in fact from the rodent family I make a big effort to avoid them… I must be getting old as there was a time when I would have searched out cuy!
The house was pretty typical, a mud brick simple structure with a wicked slope on the compacted dirt floor which had plates sliding down the table. There was no refrigerator and all cooking was done over the wood burning fireplace.
THE FAMILY COOKED A DELICIOUS MEAL OVER A WOOD BURNING FIRE PLACE
There were a few built in shelves which were carved out of the walls mud bricks and covered by a blue plastic material.
The family showed me to my room which was an adjoining storage building. They had put a mattress and blankets in a corner. It was a few minutes to seven when I settled down to sleep that night.
Next morning no sooner had I started running when a lady stopped me to give me a cup of mate and bread. I was on my way to Cusco and nobody asks me where I am going now, every gringo goes to Cusco, so that would be a stupid question.
That day was a long tough day as I didn’t get the early start I wanted, I am a sucker for stopping to talk to people! I ran 57km but for most of the day it looked like I would have to finish short and that would mean returning to the spot or run for a couple of hours the next day. I was having none of that and ran after dark finishing around 8pm.
CUSCO AT LAST!
Perhaps a silly thing to do, but it´s done and dusted now.
The run into Cusco was pretty terrifying as I have never seen so many dogs in all of Latin America as I did that night. I stopped at a market place and the dogs were packed into a skip by the roadside scavenging through the rubbish.
I AM NOT A DOG LOVER AT THE MOMENT!
They were everywhere, in every doorway, crossing the road in packs. I passed this area several times in tour buses the few days I stayed in Cusco and only because I knew where to look I saw the grubbiness.. Just goes to show I am seeing the world up close and personal, like few others and am getting to know countries better than many iof the locals.
The problem with Latino dogs is they are just left to wander around, left wild and not trained. I lost my Dazer dog deterrent a couple of months ago, there are two waiting for me here in Cusco.
No not for each hand, I will keep a spare in the Heavy Bag.
It´s funny to watch dogs run away, even the big fierce ones when I bend down or even pretend to pick up a stone. They obviously know what that means.
Why are dogs in this culture not trained? Why do people litter so much here? Is it cultural? Lack of education? Or just plain lazy? These are questions I have been asking myself this past year.
Eventually I made my way to the city centre, it´s clean and very much tourist orientated. I found a great backpackers hostel called Pirwa Hostel in San Francisco Plaza. I would base myself there for a week while I checked out the sights I have waited most of my adult life to view.
At the moment there is a festival of Cusco going on every day with parades of mostly children in traditional costumes.