Posted by: davesnewadventure | August 30, 2007

Taking the Contraband Highway, Cuzco to Juliaca, Peru

Dave’s New Adventure: Adventures from the South American
Continent: 04/2007 – 05/2007

Taking the Contraband Highway, Cuzco to Juliaca, Peru

The Journey to La Paz, through Lake Titicaca.

I rested and recuperated in Cuzco for a week and a half. I also had to repair a lot of equipment. When I fainted from hypothermia, I managed to jam my camcorder, and the hike wore down the bottoms of my timberland boots, and my bags. I checked into Hostal Samani, a small family run hostal off the corner of calle Ladrillos, where the family let me use their stove to cook. At last, I ate well. I cooked large breakfasts, dinners, and lunches for myself and on occaision, the family. Marco, Dante and I rented a 4X4 to explore the 2nd largest precolombian wall in South America, in Sicuani, which is also known as the Temple of Viracocha. Viracocha is an ancient, mythological wiseman who helped the indigenous people learn the basics of civilization. We combed the left over wall, ruins, fountains, and then took a drive off a dirt road into the andean wilderness to a beautiful high mountain lake. Then we went back to Cuzco.

Sicuani, the largest precolombian wall in South America.

A guide explains the legend and lore behind the wall.

Entering the Noble´s resting grounds in Sicuani.

Waterfountains of Sicuani.

A Sicuani woman sells her goods.

I couldn´t stand Cuzco. I stayed in Cuzco for two months in 2001, and back then, it was a den of locals, rogues, wanderers, explorers, backpackers, tourists, ex-pats, theives, villains, and hippies. Back then it was half locals, and half foreigners. It was gritty, often dangerous, and I revelled in the wild west atmosphere.

Now, six years later, it was overrun with tourists. In the central plaza, I had a hard time spotting any locals. Even back then, it was tacky. Now, it was Disneyland, and I couldn´t wait to get out. I spent a few days reminiscing, and looking for my old hang outs. Back in 2001, I was in Cuzco for several months, learning spanish, romancing a local girl, learning salsa, making friends, and I watched the September 11th attacks on the TV in the local spanish academy and in the bar. Now, the bar, the academy was gone, my past romance was married with children, my old friends left. Cuzco changed, like all things do, and often human beings don´t like it. I count myself, on occaision, as one of them.

The famous incan stone wall of Cuzco.

Fabricating a new set of nunchakus.

The only thing I didn´t do back then was visit the musuems, so I spent a day exploring them, and like most musuems, they were small, well organized, and filled with ancient trash. I finished my stay by fabricating a new set of nunchakus from an amazon hardwood at a local carpenter´s shop to prepare for the next leg of my journey into the highlands.

I left Cuzco, and headed east towards Lake Titicaca, to Juliaca. From there, I´d decide if I wanted to retrace my old route through Puno and Copacabana, or to head north into the rarely travelled territory north of Lake Titicaca, where a road, was literally just a track in the mud.

It took a week to get to Juliaca. Sometimes I camped, other times I hostaled. In Pucara, I stayed an extra day to explore the ruins, and a home made solar shower. In Juliaca, I studied my maps, and asked the locals about the route north, as I rested during a strong outbreak of diarrhea.

Taking a break at an ancient Incan ruin.

That´s the contraband route, it´s dangerous.

You´ll be fine, it´s beautiful there, because almost no one goes there.
It´s all dirt. No cyclist or motorcyclist goes there because it´s a very difficult route.

I heard one conflicting report after another, and finally, when I recovered from my streak of the runs, I headed north. I chose the contraband route. I was armed, I was prepared, and I was about to enter an area that hadn´t seen a cyclist in over thirty years.

The author hard at work practicing his defensive skills.
The author hard at work practicing his self defense skills
To view a slideshow of this section of the journey, click here

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