The Highest City in the World and the Worst Hotel Rooms in Existence

Due to bus schedules I ended up spending an afternoon in Lima picking up some bike stuff, watching Cars 3 in Spanish, and eating my first ever Cinnabon. Very exciting.

Cerro de Pasco is a fascinating place. It lays claim to be the highest city in the world at 4310 metres  (although this is highly disputed), is the poorest city in Peru and has a bloody great polymetal mine slap bang in the middle of it that’s as deep as the Empire State Building is tall. Apparently the mining company even has the rights to destroy the historical centre in order to expand. It is also very cold. When the bus pulled in at 6.00am all the Peruvians were layering up in preparation for an Arctic expedition and there was me in just a shirt. Not fun.

Cerro de Pasco: a farce of a town
As fascinating as it was I got the hell out ASAP.

Having fled Cerro de Pasco the rest of the day was spent cycling the dirt road that skirts the edge of Lago Junin. As I rounded the placid waters, passing flamingos and herds of skittish llamas, I felt I was starting a new chapter of the trip, crossing the threshold from northern to southern Peru and entering a land of higher altitudes, where alpacas and goats roam instead of cows and pigs, and (hopefully) I’m free of stomach pains and punctures.

stone forest
In the distance I spied Huayalla’s famous Bosque de Piedras (stone forest)
And before long I was skirting Lago Junin.
me n bike
Not a bad place for a lunch break.
Junin town square was filled with military statues. Turns out Junin marks Bolivar’s first victory in Peru over the Spanish.

The next day was another corker. After a steady start riding through the plains I veered off the main highway, favouring the scenic route to Tarma over the bustling road to La Oroja (a town ranked above Chernobyl as the 5th the most polluted place in the world). The road was a dream and rolling down into town was the most fun I’d had on the bike in ages.

Quiet roads on the way to Tarma.
Tarma seemed like a nice town but after a quick lunch of bread and jam I was back on my way…
…rising back up to 4000m metres then back down again to Jauja, the original capital of Peru.
Now its most notable for having a Korean shop.

“Cycling through South America” could also be known as “A Grand Tour of The Worst Hotel Rooms in Existence”. As such I now have lower standards than a dwarf army. Cold showers, dubious stains, windowless rooms and mud floors no longer elicit even a raised eyebrow. If there’s a bed and a door I’m sold. Things reached a new low in Jauja when, in my lime-green hovel that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Turkish prison, I discovered a used condom on the floor. The worst thing was, a brief shudder aside, I didn’t even care. If anything it was encouraging to know that someone had felt an emotion other than crushing grief within those 4 walls.

From there it was a quick, flat ride to Huancayo.
Fresh roadside carrot juice.
Har de har. I also passed a town called Yurajhuanca.
From Huancayo it was down into another valley…
…past the pretty colonial bridge in Izcuchaca…
…and a dam that apparently accounts for 70% of the hydroelectric power in Peru…
…along wobbly roads…
…and colourful cliffsides.
My salt stained shirt/Rorschach test after a long day in the saddle. 
No matter how remote you are, you’ll find makeshift football pitches all over South America.
Out of the valley I was back in the desert.
Cactus central.
A questionable mural in Mayocc.
While taking this photo to show how tiny my room was in Huanta I spotted something up on the shelf.
2 this time. Goddammit Peru.
After racking up over 500km in 6 days (I only got 1 puncture all week!) I arrived at Ayacucho where I’m taking a rest and doing a bit of couchsurfing. 

Tunes: Elvis Costello – My Aim Is True, This Year’s Model, Sorority Noise – You’re Not as ________ As You Think You Are, Pinegrove – Meridian

Reads: Unfaithful Music and Disappearing Ink – Elvis Costello, Politics: Between The Extremes – Nick Clegg, The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood




One thought on “The Highest City in the World and the Worst Hotel Rooms in Existence

  1. Miguel June 26, 2017 / 10:36 pm

    You were lucky to reach the tetem despite the flood 😂😂


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