There is only one border gate between both countries, I directly came to the Peruvian border gate without passing through the Chilean gate. This is due to renovation works done at the Chile, Argentina, Peru and Bolivian border gates between the years 2017-2018. It is planned to renovate all the border gates in the next years reducing to one building to economize labor. All the paperwork of both countries is done at a single gate where Peruvian and Chilean immigration officers sit next to each other. The Peruvian officers at the entrance side of Peru and the Chilean officers at the entrance side of Chile. The border gate is crowded. The other border gate between Chile and Peru is near the town Putre which I have mentioned in my previous article. But since that gate is situated at a really high altitude and the road is unpaved, everyone using a motorized vehicle uses this Arica border gate at the seashore.
I lined up taking my bicycle into the building. After a long waiting time, my turn came. The agreement between Turkey and Chile is 90 days for visa free visit. Then, I can extent for 90 more days upon paying a fee. The customs officer was a woman at her 60s.
She took my passport. Then,
- Ooo, you are Turk?
- Yes I’m.
- I love Turkish TV series, they are wonderful. Magnificent Century, Brave and Beautiful, Forbidden Love .. (she mentioned many others I even didn’t know)
- Well, our TV series are good, thank you
- How long are you going to stay in our country?
- I’m traveling on bike. Therefore, I prefer the longest permission that I can get.
- Alright, I’m giving you 183 days.
Is there such a long free visa permission existing?
If so why I didn’t hear about during my previous entries?
How come? I have visited 60 countries so far, but I never received such a visa. 183 days, hahaha. She just stamped and wrote 183 days. Then, she came out of the cabin and hugged me. That was just like a movie scene. How come, dude? The Turkish flag and being a Turk resulted in so many interesting memories in South America. : )
After crossing the border I didn’t want to ride further. The next town was Tacna and it would be better to arrive in the town during daytime. Now, half of the day had already past and when I would arrive in Tacna only after it got dark. No need to pay for an overnight stay. Better to find a place to overnight near the border and start to ride in the morning towards the town.
Just after I started to ride, I saw tiny luncheonettes on the left side. I asked to the owner of one of them, for permission to camp behind the place. He said yes. The gate was closed after a while. I put up my tent and cooked. It got dark. I read an e-book for a while, then fall asleep.
In the night I woke up with a terrible sound of snoring.
- Dude, who is snoring? And where the hell?
I unzipped the tent door and saw a car parked 3 m away, its owner sleeping inside with open windows. I can’t tell you how deeply/densely he was snoring. I took out my GoPro camera and recorded his sound of snoring. Dude! How come you found me and parked your car next to my tent on the huge Pan-American road. I put my ear-plugs on to continue to sleep.
(Attention! Goes to space)
The next day I arrived in Tacna, the first city on my Peru travel. The date is 2019, May 16th, I have 400 TL (about 70 USD) on my bank account and 100 TL (about 18USD) cash. Why so?
In my previous article I had mentioned that I flew to Santiago to get a new inflatable mattress.
Also, my stove which I was using for the last 9 years broke and I had to buy a new one, 350 USD, and the other expenses resulted in that I was out of money for that month. Meanwhile, while riding towards Tacna, the fork bearings became loose. Now, I have to find a bike shop in Tacna.
As I entered the city heading towards city center, I realized that people were on strike. Everywhere was closed, the main square filled with people. I asked a couple of people about what was happening. There was water supply shorty since a long time and on top of it the government increased the water bills. Consequently, folk rose up against the government. Saying “There is already water shortage, assholes, how come you increased the bills?” everyone went out on the streets. Hugh! And I just run into this chaotic situation. I had to, because the bank ATM’s were located right in the middle this chaos. I saw a BBVA bank and I had a Garanti BBVA bank card. Well, I thought they may not take any provision but dude the banks do not show any mercy. The bank immediately took 50 TL provision. Dude, I’m traveling around the world for so many years, have written to Garanti Bank for so many times about this issue. Their reply is: “SIR, WE ARE SUPPORTING TURKISH ATHLETES FOR MANY YEARS AND FOR THE SAKE OF THE CONTINUITY OF OUR PROJECTS WE ARE NOT ABLE TO OFFER MORE”. They had sent the same massage in 2011 and then in 2019. I just wanted to say “don’t take any provisions from my credit card, or wire fee, or account maintenance fee, that’s all. But you didn’t give me the opportunity to say this. I don’t want any financial support from you. What I wanted from you, wouldn’t put you on harm or result in huge budget losses. But no! All what I did, I couldn’t reach a responder.
I parked my bicycle in front of the bank. I was about the enter the bank, when an athletic guy came next to me and said:
- Did you lock your bike? This is not a secure city, keep an eye on your bike. Well, I’ll wait, just go and do your banking.
- I have locked and thank you very much, it won’t take long.
The guy talking to me was Orlando living in Tacna. He was working as an engineer at the Peruvian State Railways. He was also a mountain bike racer. He and his daughter rode mountain bikes at many spots in the country and attended races. He also helped me to buy a new cell phone line for this country. Then, we went to his home to take his bike. Afterwards, he took me to bicycle shop where I could find spare parts for my bike. How come, there is a bike shop where I could find all the spare parts I need in Tacna? The guy had filled his home garage with bicycle equipment. On top of it, with really high quality equipment. But I didn’t have the budget for all the spare parts I needed to buy not on my bank account nor in my pockets. First we calculated the prices of the equipment I would buy, and then I said to the guy: “I’ll leave my bike here, you start to mount the parts on the bike, I’ll pay when I come to take my bike.” Chain, rear cassette, front stem bearings, oil, brake and gear cables were to be replaced. I wanted to buy also pedals but he didn’t have. Thanks to Orlando, I found a cheap hostel to stay at. He also gave his phone number to me and said if I need anything just to contact him. Well, super!
At the hostel I immediately sent the list to Kron Bicycle Company in Turkey. Kron Bicycles, sent me the amount of many right next day to my bank account. I withdrew the money and went to the bike shop to take my renewed bicycle.
After staying a couple of days in Tacna, I’ll continued towards Moguegua. According to the map, it is a city situated deep in a valley. Before arriving in the city, I’ll be passing through vineyards, the grapes grown for Pisco production.
Well, what is Pisco? Pisco is a South American alcoholic spirit produced by fermenting 8 different grape varieties. Though, it is said that Peru and Chile claim that Pisco is a national drink, it is just a myth talked among the tourists. Ask any Chilean citizen, the answer would be directly: “Pisco is Peruvian”. If he doesn’t say it, just to be a jerk. Everyone knows to which country this spirit belongs, for sure. Through my travel in Chile form south to north not a single Chilean said that Pisco is their native drink. Who ever talked out of his ass, such a gossip was spread all around. “Pisco is a Peruvian liquor” But, nonetheless, this liquor is produced in Chile. Well, let me add that, even it is a Peruvian spirit, the country in which more than 100 or different Pisco cocktails were made, a better marketing and advertisement were made and higher export ratios are achieved is Chile and unfortunately not Peru. The economical gap between these countries can be realized from just considering the product Pisco. As a former bar owner and a person enjoying preparing various cocktails in his own bar, I tried to drink various cocktails made from Pisco in both countries during my travel. I must say that the amount of sugar put in is higher in Chilean cocktails compared to that made in Peru. And this is not only typical for Pisco. Chileans like to consume sugar. The taste of this high alcoholic spirit softens due to sugar but at the same time intoxication rate increases and this results in headache the next day. Reducing the amount of sugar or replacing with other ingredients in the cocktails, as I had prepared in my bar, result in no headaches. The Pisco liquor cocktails are much stronger, and as I payed attention in some bars, the sugar mother liquor extracted from sugar cane, raw cane sugar, is directly used in these cocktails. Those cocktails don’t result in headache.
Even, my Chilean friends like the cocktails made in Peru for being stronger and better. The talk on Pisco can be continued forever, but there was another issue which caught my attention. Well, I mentioned that this is a liquor produced from grapes in both countries. Now, on the Peruvian vineyards there is a fly species which is not found on Chilean side. I have traveled in 60 different countries so far and came across this type of fly in Peru for the first time. As a human being bitten by various spiders, black scorpion, 60-100 different species of mosquitos and malaria diagnosed, it is the first time I see this fly species in Peru. It is a fly native in New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia, Malesia, in South America in Peru and Columbia. I inspected the fly on my skin. It doesn’t have a needle which it pricks into the skin differing from a mosquito, it bites the skin and collects the blood it sucks in a sac on its back like a mosquito. Its appearance is more like an offspring of a housefly. It likes day light but doesn’t like night or shadow places and loves sweat and body odor. Stopping to ride on my bike, the flies surrounded me within 2 minutes. I only recognized them in 9 seconds after their bite. When I kill or just push the fly, more blood comes out from the bitten wound compared to the blood from the fly. The bitten skin part doesn’t swell, you only see the bite. But, after one day it starts to itch and the degree of itching increases incredibly for the next 10 days. The itching caused by mosquitos is nothing compared to this. Well, about 20 of these flies had bitten me for the first time in this region. I have had never suffered such before. Under such conditions, I usually spread my own saliva on the bitten area. But recognizing it is hard to cope with these flies, I started to wear trousers for the first time at hot weather. This is a fly living between 0 – 2000 m altitude and seen on the vineyards located at the areas where desert sand and alluvial deposits meet. I didn’t encounter this fly in Chile and South Africa possessing similar environmental conditions and agricultural fields. The flies I have seen in Middle Africa were only attacking animals and not humans. I’ll continue to inspect these flies in the other countries I’m going to visit. You may carry mosquito repellent liquids if you plan to visit the countryside of Peru and Columbia. It will help against these flies.
Before entering Moguegua, I overnighted at a gas station just at the exit of the city. I didn’t want to stay in the city, just passing the city main square and then continue. The first thing which caught my attention was the caps the polices were wearing. They were wearing high hats similar to the ones worn by the soldiers in India during colonial times. Well, how come? I know Great Britain had ruled most of the world but here?
The square was also very interesting, surrounded by so many beautiful houses. Really interesting, I wasn’t expecting such a place. I sat on a bench and started to read about the history of this city on my cell phone. I was sure I would learn something weird about this region.
The archeological excavations date the settlement back to 3500 BC. This city and its surroundings belonged to Wari Empire prior Inca period. I learned that Quechua, Aymara and Puguina languages were spoken in this region. I realized an interesting issue about this Quechua language. This is a local language spoken especially in Peru and Bolivia but also somehow related to the Turks (hahaha I’m just kidding). After the collapse of Inca Empire, the Spanish occupied this region and the city in 1538. After occupation they built their own church here. Due to fertile land the conflicts had never ended in this region. In between, large earthquakes had happened in this region. The Spanish aristocrats settled in this region and helped to the development of this region. But, due to earthquakes and civil wars almost nothing is left to this day. Even, one of the biggest revolts against the Spanish was raised in this region. A quite normal situation, because this region possesses the most fertile land of the country. The city was under the domination of Chile during 19th century, and then with the Pacific War in 20th century has become independent from Chile. This is a region where wars for the sake of civilization had never ended.
One of the wars was between Wari and Inca empires. But before mentioning about this war, let me talk about another occasion. Gustave Eiffel (the French engineer who built Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty in New York) who built several structures between 1880-1900 in South America, also designed the main square of Moquegua in Peru. As I mentioned before, this region was ruined due to wars and earthquakes and not much was left up today. But the rest made me curious, “Dude, this city looks different!”, to research about its history.
There was a place seen both from the entrance and the exit of the city which even didn’t get out of sight for the next 2 days I was riding. Entering the city, it didn’t catch my attention, but after I started to climb on my bike and came closer, I said: “wow, what an interesting rock formation dude?” I decided to stop along the road for lunch at this spot. Baul Mountain (Cerro Baul) is a place where many ruins are found belonging to a period prior and after Inca. This place was used for rituals for a long time by Wari Empire. I found such a note among the memories of 16th century Spanish explorers.
Inca Empire moved towards south, occupied all the settlements of Wari Empire one by one. A huge army was sent out to occupy also the fertile land in the region. The army surrounded the Wari soldiers and its folk on top of this mountain. The folk prayed to their gods for help but got no response. The people fighting against hunger, sent their children to the Inca soldiers to save them from famine. The Inca soldiers fed them and then sent them back to their parents. The folk seeing their children back surrendered to Inca Empire.
That is, before Spanish had arrived at this continent, there were power struggles in this region. Nevertheless, the Spanish either killed or enslaved the inhabitants no matter men, women or children. Spanish didn’t have pity on the Incas the way they had on their enemies.
After this point, I continued till Puno at Titicaca lake. The climb starting at sea level continued till 4592 m altitude. I guess, after this point you can descend directly to seaside freewheel.
I took 3 days to arrive on the top starting to climb from the town Tacna. It would be nice to descend as much as climbed but anyway at the end I’ll descend to seaside. At the end of the day I was dog tired arriving a large Altiplano at 4200 m altitude with hundreds of alpacas on the left side.
I saw alpacas for the first time. Dude, they are really cute animals. They ramble around on the field. There was just one building around and I decided to ask whether I could camp on their land. At the same time the dogs started to run towards me. Without changing my pace, I continued to ride towards them. The dogs kept their distance just barking at me. Everybody in the building came out to see what happened. While approaching them I got off the bike and the dogs silenced. Well, I asked for permission to camp but they invited me inside. First, I accepted that but recognizing there were 6 people staying in a small room, I preferred to overnight in my tent. You may see it as an adventure staying with locals at that house and thanks to them they invited me but there was no place inside this tiny room. My visit shouldn’t disturb people in anyway, I’m not just talking about accommodation. I never put up my tent or record videos, shoot photos if people get disturbed, for years.
The cold in the night was what I’m already used to. At this point my thermometer showed minus 18°C at night. In the morning unzipping my tent door I saw the alpacas standing in front of me. It is like a miracle how these animals stand this cold and wind without any shelter. I wondered to what temperature their body can tolerate. I did a small search and got astonished about the information. In 2003, half of the alpaca population perished when the temperature dropped down to minus 38°C. Wow, that means they can tolerate minus 30°C. Alpacas are the animals I liked most so far. By the way, Peru exports alpaca wool with an income of 300 million USD per year. The wool of this animal is the second most expensive wool in the world. The first is the wool of Vicuna found in abundance in this region. Both animals don’t look alike. It is hard to domesticate Vicunas, therefore it is possible to see these animals ramble around in the mountainous regions in South America. And their wool?? Let me say that a pair of technical alpaca wool socks cost 60 USD in Peru with no discount. I use merino wool socks and would like to test a pair of these socks. But 60 USD was to much for me. The wool fabric is much thinner than that of merino wool with higher capacity to keep warm in winter and cool in summer. You may find alpaca wool socks in Peru but technical ones are rare to find.
Descending the hill, I stopped at a small village for lunch. I asked for a meat meal. They said, they have alpaca. Well, what was I expecting at minus 18°C and 5000 m? Let’s try. “Wowww it is delicious”. It was one of the best meats I have eaten. Later, I tried this meat in several other places, but this meat should be eaten at villages, the meals in the towns were not as good. Either the villagers season the meat differently or due to the grass grown in the mountains.
The the road I was climbing on for days ended at Titicaca lake. Many of my friends say that this lake possesses a different energy, a chakra. The situation of the lake, its hugeness, the small islands on the lake astonish the visitors. You understand that this lake doesn’t mean much to the Peruvians looking at the town Puno. I guess the Bolivian side is better since the country doesn’t have access to the ocean. Frankly speaking, when I saw the lake and city from above, I said: “What the hell is this? What chakra, maybe for others but not for me. No need to stop here, just continue. I’ll be arriving in Juliaca in the afternoon and there is a Casa de Ciclista, a bicycle house.”
I would say that you’ll find bicycle houses in almost every country in South America, at least this was so in all the countries I’ve traveled so far. This is the common name for the houses shared with the travelers by people who like to ride bicycle or had done long distance cycling tours. The cyclist can stay in the empty rooms of the house or can camp on the backyards of these houses. They are allowed use the kitchen, the bathroom and the washing machine all for free. But after that, it is a must to clean up everything before you leave. There is also a money-box, if you wish you may feed a few coins. I think the second most popular house in South America is Juliaca Casa Ciclista. The name of the owner is Giovanny. He and his marvelous dog Maylo have opened their house to the cyclists from all around the world. All the cyclists riding from north to south or vice versa stop over at this house. Me too. Inside, there were two cyclists riding from Columbia to Argentina, two others riding towards the southern tip of the continent, a couple riding from Chile to Columbia. After greetings, you have a great conversation during dinner. Everyone is cyclist, everyone is master of long distance, nobody is better than the other. During day the bicycles and the equipment had been inspected, and at night the talk is about the equipment. People talk about their problems and about practical solutions. Information about the roads is shared. The relationships in the country you are traveling and sometimes its economic situation is discussed.
In this group, Annie and Will were riding towards north, the same direction as I was going. I offered to ride together for some time and they accepted. We rode together till Cusco. They have a nice story.
They had studied at the same university and at the same department in south UK. But they had only started to date via Tinder. At the first year of their relationship Annie gave a book to Will on his birthday. A book of my friend Alastair Humphrey who traveled around the world on bike. After reading this book,
- Annie let’s travel the World on bike.
- We need enough budget and preparations for such a journey.
- Then, we do it after we graduate from the university and save money until that time.
Annie agreed and they started to save money for 4 years for this journey. After graduation, they decided to start from Patagonia to Columbia. We met in Peru.
While they are telling about their story I smile. Formerly I got upset when listening to such stories, because I was 31 years old when I started to travel abroad to explore the world. There were times when I said I wish I would have started earlier. But after years have passed, I realized that the prior experiences and what I’ve read till that time made me to understand and interpret my journey which resulted the continuity of my tour and that I’m still continuing. But over the years, the experience I have gained in a certain area until the age of 31 has led me to blend this journey. This led to the continuity of the tour, and was still instrumental in being on the road right now. On top of it, just as I wanted to be. That is, as time passed I understood that my journey started exactly at the right age.
I tried to adapt to Annie’s speed along the road. And they left me to decide the route. I didn’t want to take the main road to Cusco, rather to visit the lakes region on the south of Cusco.
The common main road steadily climbs with a mild slope till Cusco. On the righthand side there is a 4500 m high pass and on the left side the region with lakes. While we were riding together, the zipper of Will’s sleeping bag broke. They were telling that they were feeling cold at nights anyway.
They were sleeping in the tent with their warm clothes on. Indeed, this is a good method: To take a thin sleeping bag and to sleep with winter clothes on. A good down jacket and a pair of down slippers is a must, because even you wear socks in a thin sleeping bag, your feet might freeze. The only think which will keep your feet warm when you sleep is a pair of down slippers. By this way you’ll both save space on your bike and won’t feel the cold that much (the bicycles of the young couple were the heaviest loaded ones I’ve seen so far). Then, Will’s tent’s zipper broke and the option camping at high altitude become impossible.
Though we climbed up to 4500 m altitude during day, we always descended down to 3000 m to overnight. The “Rainbow Mountain” was not on my route. I asked the young couple whether they intended to go there but they were not interested in it. Destination; lakes.
While heading towards Cusco from Bolivia, if you turn left from Combapata, you’ll see the lakes Pampamarca, Asnacocha and Pomacanchi and from there taking the mountain and village road to Acomaya, Kunotambo and Mayumba till Cusco. This route is nice for almost all types of vehicles. The altitude changes between 3000 and 4500 m, an enjoyable route with villages and mountain roads.
It is possible to put up tents in the center in almost all villages near municipality buildings, onschool yards. I saw some ruins at the top of the surrounding hills of most of the villages. The municipality employees told me that those were Inca ruins. Since they were far on top of hills I could only photograph them.
We rode till Cusco with nice experiences and good road accompany. At the entrance of Cusco we said: “Good that we had chosen this route to Cusco”
It was hard but beautiful at the same time.