Thursday, 24 November 2011

We are one seriously sickly group

Hello from Puno again.  Today is a rest day, but for most of the group today is far from a day to enjoy the sights and sounds of Puno.  About three quarters or more of the group is now sick and we are divided into two camps.  The first camp is the common cold camp and that has quite a few members, and then the second camp is the diarrhea and vomiting camp, and that has its fair share of members too.  At the moment I only belong to the first camp and don't feel too bad, so consider myself fortunate.

For the second camp there does seem to be a common link, which applies to all except 2 people (myself and Marieke).  Everyone except myself and Marieke who went to a juice bar in Juli is now in the second camp.  There are a few people in the second camp who didn't go to the juice bar however, and so it is not certain that the juice bar is to blame.  It could be though that the sick people who did go to the juice bar infected the others who didn't go to the juice bar.  Hand sanitiser is now indispensable and worth more than its weight in gold.

The people who are or who were so sick that I think they deserve a special mention are

1) Chris P who yesterday was so sick that he didn't go out clubbing till 4am like he usually does on rest days
2) Jason who after the trip to the floating islands this morning was walking up the stairs like a man of twice his age
3) Dennis who has been in bed for one day solid and who still looks like crap
4) Marc who this morning (newly infected) was shivering like a wreck and looked as weak as a newborn
5) Erik (newly infected) who despite winning "The Silent Dutchman" award was even more silent than normal

Hats off to Jason and Erik who despite feeling and looking like death warmed up managed to get themselves on a boat to go and visit the floating islands this morning with the rest of the sickly group that we are.  They didn't want to miss the once in a lifetime opportunity to see the floating islands that they thought it would be.  In retrospect though, the islands are completely ruined by tourism and as commercial as you can possibly get.  It felt like being in Disneyland with puppets putting on a little show for you.  I guess that the people living on the islands have found that tourism is an easy source of money and so overplayed the opportunity to extract money from them.  A little girl comes round and hugs everyone and then sings a song for the group, and the next second her little brother is coming round with a hat.  If you want to see authentic floating islands where the people are not just acting like puppets then you need to go a bit further afield the guide told us.  But on those islands the flocks of tourists are not welcome.  Maybe it woud be possible to get there independently and charm the locals into allowing you to visit them, but we just didn't have the time to do that.  Despite the rampant overcommericalisation of the islands it is interesting to go and have a quick look just to see how they are constructed and how the people live on them.  You don't need more than ten minutes on the islands to do that though, and then the puppetry begins.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Fourth and final country of the Vuelta Sudamericana tour, Peru

Well the end of the Vuelta Sudamericana tour is getting closer for me at least (boohoo).  I am leaving the tour in Cusco to join with Anny (yippeee) so we can explore her homeland together.  I only have 4 more cycling days left.  This morning we crossed the border from Bolivia into Peru and now we are staying the night in a town called Juli on the edge of lake Titicaca.

The last few days of cycling since leaving La Paz have not been that hard for me at least.  Most days have been around 70km in distance, and I can only assume this section is rated as 5 star difficulty on the TDA website because of the altitude.  Yesterday we passed over 4,200m and most of us were a little short of breath.  Erik said he could feel pins and needles in his arm because of the lack of oxygen.  It isn't as though we aren't acclimatised though.  We have been staying at over 3,500 metres above sea level for 2 weeks or so now, and tonight we are staying at just over 3,800 metres above sea level.

There wasn't an immediate change upon crossing the Peruvian border.  The people seemed to be dressed similar to how they are in Bolivia and in fact they are also Aymarans.  The main difference I noticed is that there are more animals in general, and especially dogs.  Marieke had a dog jump at her front wheel today and she had to get off the bike and use it as a shield between her and the dog.  Erik also had a rather nasty looking dog running alongside him for a while baring its teeth at him.

Today was the first day where we had to cycle in the rain.  I am very lucky in that I have full waterproofs and overshoes with me, but a lot of people only have waterproof tops with them and they were shivering like hell.  Around half the group ended up getting in the truck or hopping on a bus, but I was all well and snug in my rain gear.  The only problem for me was that I was I couldn't wear my sunglasses because they kept misting up and as I was following behind Erik for some of the way, water and mud was flying up in my face from his back tire.  Quite a few of us have a little bit of a cold and I hope today doesn't make us sicker.

I am really strong on the hills now.  Today Erik, Marieke and I were cyling together upfront and we all reached the bottom of the climb before Juli together.  After a few minutes of cycling uphill I turned round and they were nowhere to be seen.  I am down to 75kg and that is really light for me.  When I did La Marmotte I was around 80kg.  If I had of been as light then as I am now, then I am sure I would have done better.  It is not as though I have lost any strength by losing weight.  My legs are definitely stronger now and the weight loss is purely due to all the fat being stripped from my body.  Some of the group even call me skinny, and that is not something I am used to being called, and is not a description that would have been appropriate at the beginning of the tour.

Anyway folks that is enough rambling from me for now, as I have to get up ready for breakfast at 5.15am tomorrow, now that the clock has gone back one hour when we entered Peru.  Tomorrow is only around 80km or so, and anything below 100km seems short now after what we have become accustomed too.  I will sign in again from Puno hopefully, as that is where we will be tomorrow, and where we also have a rest day the day after.  Goodnight my friends.