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la selva


While negotiating tourism’s travails in Huayhaush, I had made a firm decision NOT to go Machu Picchu, or even Cusco, but somewhere on the long lonely roads between here and there that decision has gradually been rescinded. The prospect of catching up with some cycling friends in Cusco, coupled with the fact that my bike – yet again! – needs a new drive train, makes a visit there almost obligatory, and with Machu Picchu… well,… I decide that I will act on the old adage that you regret the things you don’t do more than those you do.

One of the priests in Huanta suggests that the quickest way to approach Machu Picchu from Huanta is on a new road that traverses the jungle from San Francisco to Quillabamba. From there I can approach Machu Picchu from the north via Santa Maria and Santa Teresa. The road travels through the province of Brae, an area that is known principally for terrorism and cocaine trafficking, but the prospect of being warm for while is quite appealing.

So, jungle it is – and I do enjoy the insect buzz, the bright prolific birds, the toucans conversing in the trees, the easy warmth. People – utterly innocent of tourism and any associated cynicism – are friendly and generous. When I pass through the regional town of San Francisco I leave so burdened by spontaneous gifts – coconuts, bananas, a bottle of water, a baseball cap, half a litre of fuel for my stove – that I can barely cycle out of town.

internet is in short supply in these parts and its hard to wrest a computer away from the hordes of boys playing violent games.

The view from a room in a tiny village...

...where I find an unexpected bed provided courtesy of this girl.

La selva: my romantic notions of jungle are subjected to the reality of slash and burn. But, for all of that, the insect buzz, the birds, the easy warmth, are still here.

Coca leaves - this is the local crop. Coca leaves are legal and on sale in supermarkets throughout Peru and there is no inherent evil in that but this area is famous for organisd drug trafficking and associated terror. The army are a conspicuous presence and there are regular road blocks and security checks. I camp one night in an abandoned house by the side of the road to escape a sudden downpour. The following day when I report this fact to a local woman she nods knowingly and sighs. "Yes, yes, many people have abandoned their homes because of the terrorism," she says.

La selva -- the jungle.

A beautiful mackerel sky.

A road closure caused by a rock fall provides me with a welcome day of traffic free riding but for a moment it is touch and go whether or not the work team will let me pass.

Eventually, when a bus load of school children are ushered across, I join them in a quick scramble over the rubble, skirting past the gigantic machine, and then I'm on my way again.

And so it goes.

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