Thursday, August 20, 2015

Eccentric Shopkeepers, Nasty Dogs, and Tasty Treats, August 18-20


From Tam´s journal:
August 18th
On our way out of Cajamarca we stop at the bank to exchange our 100 sol bills (approximately US$30) for smaller ones. This is necessary because no one will accept bills this large, not even in the city to pay for our hotel room! It’s next to impossible to buy anything on the street without small coins.
After a short discussion with a friendly bank employee, I come back feeling like a millionaire with a giant wad of 10 sol bills.

Leaving town, the traffic is horrendous.  The strategy is to honk loudly and make your way out into the road, regardless of what other traffic might be coming.  You can imagine what an intersection filled with bikes, moto-taxis, cars, and trucks would look like. We carefully make our way through and out towards the town of Jesus.

We need to buy some bread for lunch in Jesus and, when we arrive, ask numerous people around town where we might be able to buy some. Eventually we are directed to a dark doorway on a side street, where I poke in my head and see that, yes, there are baskets of bread. The older gentleman who sells them to me is quite a character.  He asks me what we do when we reach places on our bikes where there are no stores. I patiently explain that that’s exactly why we’re here buying bread. Prices in Peru, by the way, are excellent. 16 bread rolls for 2 soles (US$0.66)!

As we’re leaving we ask for directions to the next town, and instead of telling us how to leave town, the gentleman at the shop tells us that once we start to climb, we’ll get to a place where there are no people and no houses, and we’ll have to summit the coldest, highest, most terrible mountain. All of this sounds pretty good to us. But, he protests, there is no way you’ll arrive today! We explain that we can camp on the way up, but he is already in an argument with another guy about how long the pass will take us. They decide on five hours. Haha, okay. It will actually take us all afternoon and some of the next day.

Beautiful skies and wheat fields
Local villagers are very cordial as we ride along. One guy stops and salutes us, then makes us promise to stop by his place next time we come through. Kids are always staring at us as we ride by, rarely adventurous enough to do anything more than yell “gringo” and point. But at one point, several small kids start to run along behind us, trying to keep up with us as we ride. At first they’re trying to be quiet, thinking that we don’t see them. But of course we do, thanks to our mirrors. Honestly, it’s pretty cute; we’re probably the most interesting things these kids have seen in a while. Danny yells out some encouragement to them, and they begin to race. They keep up with us for a good while, until we begin to go downhill and they fall back panting. Adios!

Danny here. Everything else in this post is by Tam, but I´m filling in the next story. At one point while we were climbing, a car pulled alongside Tam and asked the usual questions about where we´re from, where we´re going, etc. The driver told us that if we need anything, he lives up the road. This kind of thing happens about ten times a day, so we didn´t think much of it, but about an hour later we recognized his car and decided to ask for some water. We didn´t know if there would be any more water sources farther up the hill. The small adobe house was about 100 feet below the road, and I walked down the uneven stairs with our water bottles. I didn´t see anyone at first, just a small pond, a dozing dog, the house, and the valley beyond. As I approached the house, a dog walked by, looked at me, then kept walking. All the houses have dogs. Still no one around. 
I was about to say buenas tardes, good afternoon, when the formerly sleeping dog got up and started barking. I had hoped to find the people before a dog took issue with my presence, because when one dog instigates, they all follow. Predictably, the other dog joined in, then another appeared and started barking as well. Another came around the corner of the house, and another from who knows where, and all of a sudden I was surrounded by a pack of snarling, angry animals. I started yelling at them as they formed a circle around me, lunging. I took off my helmet and started smacking any dog that got close enough, but one got through my defenses and bit me on the ankle. Right at that moment, people came out of the house and, realizing what was going on, rushed at the dogs, yelling at them and causing them to disperse. I looked at my ankle; luckily the teeth hadn´t broken the skin, only left a red mark. The family apologized profusely, giving me a cream to rub on my ankle and filling up our water bottles with gusto. From now on, I won´t be approaching any houses without people already outside!

Perfect riding
Tam here again. That night, from our spot behind a house, the Milky Way spreads across the sky in its full sparkling glory, and the lights of Cajamarca twinkle far below.

Setting up with some help

August 19th 
We bike up and over some big passes until we reach the town of Cachachi, where it's time to go shopping.  At the first small store, I walk in and ask for six packs of instant noodles. The lady behind the counter is extremely confused. She brings over a pack of noodles and asks if they are what I want. I explain that, yes, I would like six of them. She tells me the price of the packet. I explain again that, yes, thank you, I would like six of them. She still has no idea what to do. At this point her husband intervenes, asking, "you want six of these, right?" As he packs the noodles into a bag, he explains, "I'm sorry, my wife doesn't understand your language."
I find this to be a rather amusing statement because I was speaking Spanish and he clearly understood. Perhaps she didn't understand my accent, but really, how difficult is it to understand the number six?
My conclusion? She was simply overwhelmed by having a gringa in her store.  I'm not the usual sort of customer. The whole family comes out to stare at us as we pack the noodles into the bags on our bikes. 
I never would have thought that buying instant noodles could be so entertaining!

The best weather we´ve ever had at 13,000 feet
Amazing views

Waiting for the traffic jam to clear
Descending into that expansive valley after a stop in Cachachi
More of the descent
At the end of the day, we stop to get water at a house and ask about camping. They direct us towards the sports field, which is flat, but we're wary about camping on fields; there's inevitably a game on late at night. When we ask a lady walking by if she knows another spot to camp, she delivers us to a house further along the road and says some quick words to the people inside. Soon we are being directed to a large, flat field and instructed to camp away from the biting ants. As we start to set up, several of the kids return, their hands filled with fresh citrus fruits, which they pile upon us. What a great post-riding snack! We don't have much to give them in return, but we get out our photos to show them where we've been and tell them some stories.

The one on the left is a lima (pronounced lee-mah). It´s juicy and flavorful, but without the usual citrusy bitterness.

Taking in the sunset with our bikes

August 20th 
In Cajabamba we find a lovely, cheap place to stay. We're taking the afternoon off to rest a bit and prepare for the next stretch. Some exploring in the colorful market leaves us with bread, cheese, fruits, veggies, and garlic cilantro sauce! I'm already looking forward to dinner... the ever-hungry cyclist.

Toque claxon = honk your horn. A sign everyone happily abides by!

Route notes:
Cajamarca to Cachachi: flat, paved roads out of the city turn to a rough dirt climb out of Jesus. Mostly gradual and all rideable, but rocky in parts, especially near Jesus and near the top of the climb. Wild camping options abound near the top. Bring water.
More rocky dirt down to a little village then a climb back up and down to Cachachi. We were aware of this guy´s story, took his advice to blast through the area, and had no issues with anyone. We also downloaded the same guy´s GPS track, as the road was not on any of the maps we had. Turns out the route is very easy to follow, no GPS needed.

Cachachi to Cajabamba: two route options: 1) the ¨mountain way¨ going up and over a pass then down to a river before hitting the main road, or 2) the ¨valley way¨ going straight down to the valley and riding flats for about 10k before meeting the other road just before crossing the river. Both dirt. We took the latter, dropping straight down. It was rocky, sandy, steep, and sometimes all three. If you´re going up and don´t know any better than we do, go the mountain way. The climb might be bigger, but the surface is probably better.
The main road to Cajabamba is paved and sometimes with a shoulder. Some traffic, not too bad. Our room at Hostal Sol Naciente in Cajabamba was clean and spacious for 25 soles per night with slow Wi-Fi and a shared bathroom. It's two blocks uphill from the main plaza.


  1. wow! Can't believe you are still going! Total inspiration.
    It's been over a year since I met you in the Yukon near Lake Kluane. Looks like I need to get back on my bike and catch up with you both!

    1. Thanks Max! Yeah, and we´re doing way less mileage now so you would definitely catch up to us no problem! Mexico is big, though, be warned... that might take you at least a couple of weeks! Although it seems like old news now, I hope the rest of your tour went well and that you met up with your family okay. We´ll be in touch when I get more into packrafting :)