DAY 552 - CAJAMARCA TO CARAZ (1)
Day 553 - Jesús, Peru - 11332 km
I followed the mountain bike route from Cajamarca to Caraz, mapped by Joe Cruz. The route follows (mostly) dirt roads through deep gorges and +4000m passes. After Mollepata I deviated from the route and choose a higher road going up to Pallasca and eventually joined the route again at the tunnels of Cañon del Pato. This is the first of 4 blog posts.
Well rested (or maybe not entirely) I leave Cajamarca on a straight paved road, after which it goes up steep on a dirt road. In a little town called Jesús I buy supplies for two days. Oranges, biscuits, bread, chocolate, nuts and pasta. The landscape is dry, but the valley looks colourful with red stretches of dirt and crooked horizons under a cloudy blue sky. It’s not easy to find a flat camp spot at the end of the afternoon, but eventually I settle for a tiny bit of space in a grassy ditch with an amazing view. While I cook my dinner at dusk a farmer passes by with a giant cow. He scared of the stranger on his daily walkway home and the farmer has to pull the rope as hard as he can to let the cow pass. The weather is with me and my hopes are high to see the sunrise coming from the other side over the valley.
There was no sunrise in the morning, in fact, I woke up in a cloud and it would stay grey and drizzly as I climbed up to 4000m. There was no traffic, sometimes a donkey and a farmer. Above 3900m the fresh smelling Eucalyptus trees make way for pine forest. After the pass the road circled down through a valley with small villages. In the distance I heard ‘gringo!’ constantly from the houses, but I didn’t see any people. It seemed as they were scared.
When I reached a little villages, children screamed from excitement from the hillsides. I made a stop. Hesitant they came down. We had some small talk. Then I pulled out my camera and they ran away, like it was a gun. When I was far away enough, they got courage again and screamed “plata, plata, Hollanda!” (money, money, Holland!) A little but further was a little girl, who was braver and dared to talk to me. Her little brothers stood quiet next to her. She didn’t mind taking her picture. It’s really funny how scared people are. They probably never see foreigners. I’d meet two girls walking on the side of the road and they would stop walking and stand off the road on the side of the hill, covering their face until I had passed and was far away enough to continue their walk.
In the little town of Cachachi I bought some fries with chicken which I ate sitting on the steep central square. I considered taking a hotel, but that idea got quickly killed when music came out of huge speakers on the other end of the square, so loud it made every cob house shake. There seemed to be an event today. A group of men walked up to me and wanted to shake my hand to welcome me, they were clearly drunk. I cycled out of town and passed a small theater where a bull fight was going on. It’s a populair sport in Peru. Families that weren’t able to buy a ticket sat on the side of the road that went up around the theater to watch the games.
Not far out of town I found a place to camp. A secluded spot with a great view, just before the long down hill to Cajabamba.