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a long road

PERÚ: JUNIN –SAN PEDRO DE CAJAS — ACOBAMBA — PALCA — JAUJA — SAN AGUSTIN — HUANCAYO — PAMPAS — MAYOCC — HUANTA

Peru is a big country and it’s a long long haul between Huaraz and Cusco.

I’ve been utterly spoilt for beauty recently but somewhere in Peru’s central highlands it starts to take a little more effort to discern… but it’s still there, of course.

Dropping down from Junin, towards Acobamba and Palca, I rediscover agriculture in the comparatively lush and surprisingly warm valleys...

... but with a couple of hundred metre gain in altitude the predominance of mining reasserts itself and is reflected in the civic architecture of this village.

Cows (and other livestock) are adorned with colourful neck ornaments for some obscure (to me, at least) Saint Day.

In Jauja, I find accommodation at a rare fire station - Peru's poverty is reflected in a lack of this kind of community resource. The fire stations that do exist are staffed by volunteers and the equipment is basic. I hope for a shower here but I am thwarted yet again by the state of the plumbing.

On the other side of Huancayo, I pass through a village in the throes of elaborate festivities...

... the meaning of which also remains obscure to me.

The musicians always strike me as very Blues Brothersesque.

...

...

After Huancayo, I enter 'el silencio' again where food and a decent campsite are something of a challenge to find.

A village school provides me with accommodation for the night. I ask to pitch my tent on the grounds but the headmaster generously provides me with a room, bare apart from a rickety bed frame covered with a few flattened cardboard boxes, but it seems luxurious to me with its electric light and a power point to recharge my electronics.

Maria, the English teacher is enlisted to converse with me. This exchange ends up taking place in Spanish as soon the headmaster leaves the premises. It proves to be rewarding encounter for both of us. Maria is 38, happily unmarried and childless - a great rarity in these parts.

Maria only half jokingly suggests that she might like to accompany me on my travels and we discuss where she might find a suitable bike at some length.

Finally the long haul over the highlands ends and the road drops down and down as the temperature rises sharply to somewhere above 30 degrees.

This appealing 'cuy*' is welcoming me to Mayocc, "a warm and cosy land" where people, I am assured, await me with open arms. All the assertions turn out to be correct.

* I am somewhat haunted by guinea pigs. Peruvians, themselves, appear to have an ambivalent attitude to them – they revel in the cute factor without hesitating to slaughter them and devour their bony little carcasses with great relish.

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