Diaries from Peru

Alex Kornhuber

/ Peru

Alex working in the Colca Valley

Ruedi Bösiger has just left, back to his family and job in Switzerland. We crossed together the last stretch of northern Argentina, the length of Bolivia as well as the first 130 Km of Peru, from the border of Yunguyo to Puno. The FLYER will now be handed over to my friend, colleague and surf instructor guru Alex Kornhuber. We met in Zurich back in 1998 at the offices of the now defunct photo collective Lookat Photos. Alex came in with a unique series of images from the frontlines of the war in Kosovo. He had managed to join the Kosovo Albanian rebel group KLA fighting the Yugoslav federal army at the very beginning of the offensive. Regrettably or perhaps luckily, at Lookat photos we failed to properly distribute the images that might have given Alex a career as an international war photographer. Alex went on to make Zurich his base from where he worked for various newspapers and magazines until 2004, the year he went back to his native Peru. Colombia’s (where I have been based for years) proximity to Peru made it possible to keep our friendship lively. Over the year we undertook countless trips together in Peru. We’ve worked together in the capital Lima, in the fabulous Colca valley, in the Amazon jungle as well as in the north of the country. Alex together with his girlfriend Fiorella Lopez de Castilla and his photographer friend Michael Robinson Chavez is the founder of hiddenplanetexpeditions.com

Welcome Alex!

Puno to Abancay

/ Peru

A heard of Alpaca surrounded by the Raya mountain range on the edge of the Puno and Cusco departments.
Sheppards near the town of Maras above the secret valley.
The Chimpuya a mountain 5,489 meters high part of La Raya mountain range on the edge of the Puno and Cusco departments.
The Peru Rail train running between Cusco and Puno, crosses La Raya Pass at 4313 meters.
The Huaypo lagoon
A lady Sheppard looking after her flock near the Inca ruins of Moray.
Giant palm trees adorn the main plaza of Curahuasi.
The Ch’iqun (Quechua ch’iqu workable stone) is 5,530 meters. Here viewed from the town of Maras.

Lone pedalling

/ Peru

There are so few, it borders on the incredible when you come across a long distance cyclist here in the Peruvian Andes. None of the ones we meet have an eBike. There is usually a warm moment of mutual recognition as fellows from the same tribe.

We exchange tips, talk about the state of the roads ahead, inquire about altitude differences and distances between places, about sleeping possibilities with hot water and where to buy the next provisions. Then comes the moment when we say that we’re mounted on eBikes. Most fellow cyclist start laughing and look at us as if we have committed something morally outrageous. Tribe expulsion follows.

We met 27 year old Lucineide Lima from Brazil travelling north out of breath, making her way up the 4210 meters high Saraccocha pass that leads to the town of Ocros in the Apurimac department. The meeting was short, we offered her coffee and some oil for her squeaky bike chain but she didn’t accept either. We left thinking that she must be the toughest woman on the continent and that obviously we’ll never see her again.

That night we slept in the town of Chincheros beyond the Saraccocha pass thinking about Lucineide and wondering how far she might have gone up the pass. The next day we leave Chicheros late at around 10AM on a long downhill ride. At the bottom of the valley one crosses the river Pampas that divides the Apurimac and Ayacucho department. A few kilometres after the river crossing, a cyclist appears further ahead struggling uphill. It’s impossible, but here she is; Lucineide again out of breath, damming the mountains, smiling and craving for the high-plateu plains.

Happy about the reunion we take a break and have more time to talk. Lucineide left the town of Florianopolis in southern Brazil, after selling her belongings six month ago.

She wants to travel around the world with her bike because travel makes her happy and pedalling is like a therapy. She hates the dogs that run after her on the road and hopes to never feel enclosed or trapped in life. She’s afraid, yes, because she’s alone and something could happen to her; but so far nothing bad happened.

On the contrary when she left Brazil, people warned her to be very careful in Argentina because Argentines supposedly were bad people. When she arrived in Buenos Aires on her birthday she found lodging at a family that organised her a beautiful birthday party. They bought a cake and Cachaza to make Caipirinas and presented her with the saddlebags for her bike. From that moment on her thinking changed towards Argentinians and Argentina.

Abancay to Huaraz

/ Peru

A statue of Christ above the town of Huancarama.
Entering the town of Ayacucho on the 15th of April my 45th birthday. The day also marked 7000 Km and exactly 4 month since the beginning of the eBike diaries journey.
Potato Harvest: According to the International potato center more than 4,000 varieties of native potatoes grow in the Andean highlands of Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Selected over centuries for their taste, texture, shape and color, these potato varieties are very well adapted to the harsh conditions that prevail in the high Andes, at altitudes ranging from 3,500 to 4,200 meters.

A carwash advertising placard invariably involves a half naked woman, here near the town of Huancayo.
Farmer Josefino ploughing his field
Dry stones are used to build corrals for sheep above the town of San Pedro de Cajas.
A monument dedicated to the Maca root in the town of Huayre. Maca root (Lepidium meyenii) has many health benefits. Maca is often termed as Peruvian Ginseng due to its natural stimulating qualities that are similar to the benefits found in the commonly known ginseng-related herbs. Most exports go to China.
Between Huancapallac and Chavinillo the road passes by the Corona del Inca at 4000 meters.
Alex Kornhuber on the FLYER passing trough the Huascaran national park where the Puya Raimondi, the largest species of bromeliad known can be seen. It reaches 3 m tall in vegetative growth with a flower spike 9 to 10 m tall.
The half cloud covered mighty Huascaran 6778 meters at sunset

Huaraz to La Balsa

/ Peru

Cañón del Pato (Spanish: Duck Canyon) is on the Rio Santa (Santa River) at the north end of the Callejón de Huaylas (Corridor of Huaylas) in north-central Peru. The mostly rocky canyon walls are too steep and arid for cultivation, and in only a few places are the slopes of the imposingly rugged canyon suitable even for grazing domestic animals. The canyon was formed by the river where the north end of the Cordillera Negra range (to the west) converges with the Cordillera Blanca mountain range (to the east). These two Andean ridges run generally parallel for nearly 140 km from south of the city of Huaraz northward to the Cañón; the Cordillera Blanca continues northward for another hundred kilometers or more. The Callejón de Huaylas is the valley between the two cordilleras averaging about 16 km (measured on a map from the crests of the two ridges) in width but in places as much as 25 km in width.
Up from the town of Celendin to the El Indio Pass 3050 m then down to the town of Balsas on the Maranon River 700 meters, then up again to the Barro Negro pass 3580. This took us two days and was one of the most demanding stretches of the whole Peru crossing.
We encounter Josefino on our way down to the Marañón river between Celendin and Balsas where the region of Cajamarca borders with the Amazonas region. Josefino has been chewing coca leaves all his live, much in the same way his ancestors the Chachapoya people used to. The alcali is extracted from the leaves by adding a small amount of lime on a spatula. Cheweing coca leaves have a stimulant effect and helps to overcome fatigue, hunger, and thirst. It is considered particularly effective against altitude sickness.
A forest growing along an affluent of Marañón River. On the left the road that takes form the town of Balsas to Leymebamba both in the Amazonas region
Donkeys used to carry cement to remote areas where high voltage electricity pylons are being built.
The fortress of Kuelap is a walled city associated with the Chachapoyas culture built in 6th century AD. It consists of more than four hundred buildings surrounded by massive exterior stonewalls. The complex is situated on a ridge overlooking the Utcubamba Valley.
Gocta a perennial waterfall with two drops and a measured length of 771 meters. This image shows the second drop of the mighty waterfall that is found in the region of Chachapoyas in the Amazonas department.
Colonies of white Herons can be found near the rice fields between Bagua and Jaen in northern Peru.
Raftsmen unloading the FLYER after the crossing of the Marañón river, between the town of Reposo and Santa Cruz in northern Peru.
Alex Kornhuber happy during the crossing of the Marañón river between the town of Reposo and Santa Cruz in northern Peru.