Peru’s altiplano


The day’s track
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The elevation profile
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First, we have to reverse course and get through Juliaca again before heading west. Not any noticeably poorer than anywhere else, just completely hyper and lawless. I had a bit of difficulty finding a way through for a few minutes, due to GPS map shortcomings. Which brings me to a point that’s well illustrated here.

Garmin is the world’s largest provider of consumer GPS systems and supplier to virtually 100% of the long distance riding community. Not only is the hardware not sufficiently stable but the maps are a problem. For instance, their South America map ($99) is incomplete. You have to dig down beyond the sales pitch to find this out. But it’s there

You can see that when you cross from Colombia to Ecuador, the Garmin goes dark. From Ecuador into Peru you get ‘partial’, then into Bolivia dark again. So what everyone does is download open source maps. This isn’t difficult but neither is it easy. And open source maps are far from perfect. So going into Juliaca here’s Garmin’s ‘partial’ coverage (I’m the light green line getting tangled up). Three versions of the same area
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OK, we know that there’s poor Garmin coverage. So we’ve been using an open source map, and the newest version available. That was just for illustrative purposes. The open source map:
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You can see as I came up from the bottom right I couldn’t find a way through if I followed the recommended route. Which brings me to my main point. Here’s the same area on Google maps. You can see there’s a road just south that could have taken me through, but I couldn’t see on my device.
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Complete, sexy, up to date. But you can’t run it on a GPS device, such as a Garmin. You can run it on a smart phone but that doesn’t help. Of course these things never stay unresolved. Someone will give us Google maps on a travel device, hopefully Google themselves, and Garmin can escape consumer product and concentrate on probably higher margin Marine and Avionics. At least that’s my prediction. Lucinda agrees. In the interim it’s a curious situation.

However, earlier long distance riders would laugh at all this. They remind us that in their day they only had a compass with a broken needle, a pencil stub, the stars and hand-signals from cannibal tribes to go on. In fact my friend Helge’s book Ten Years on Two Wheels might have been titled Three Weeks on Two Wheels if he had the tools we do.

Anyway, through Juliaca again. Everyone’s in the process of stealing somethingDSC02924

At one point we went along an affluent road, so here’s the flip

We get stopped at a roadblock for the first time in Peru. But they just want to talk about Lucinda. She doesn’t mind

The gradual climb from 12 to 14,000 feet




A virtually empty town

Next to the park a very nice armoured vehicle with a machine gun platform. No one around it

A few villagers sit unmovingly in the sun

This is extraordinarily beautiful and we struggle for description. But it’s the most perfect place

This is Laguna Lagunillas at 13,600 feet, 1000 feet above Lake Titicaca (which gets all the press because it’s navigable by ship)




And at last. The most amazing thing

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An Andean goose flies across the flats

After the laguna we climb further to around 14,500 feet and all hell breaks loose. There’s a crosswind of at least 50 mph and we’re having difficulty staying on the road. Hard work for over an hour

A rapid descent into Arequipa. The city is built on a volcanic rock called sillar that rapidly erodes into various grades of rock, sand and dust

If you live in Arequipa you’re subject to the highest levels of solar radiation in South America

Into the beautiful city. Volcan Misti dominates

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