The Rest of the Story


Finally, we think, we can tell the whole story. We don’t like to alarm family when we are (seldom) ill on these trips, and so we don’t post the gory details. Well, one of both of us has had a respiratory illness for the complete five weeks plus of this trip. I have just begun a course of antibiotics for a lung infection, after more than a week of unpleasantness. We think we’ll be whole in a few days when we plan to catch a cargo boat to Iquitos on Rio Amazonas.

Claire’s first bout was just a bad chest cold, which I caught just as we started up the Andes. I managed the first two days of climbing, but in Cajacay I simply couldn’t breathe deeply enough to go on. We stayed two days, and fortunately there was a fiesta of the mountain people to entertain Claire. I didn’t get better, so we took a bus to Huaraz for another three days of recovery. We continued north in the Cordillera Blanca, through Canyon del Pato and down Rio Santa. We attempted a direct crossing of the high Andes, and turned back after an exhausting day to a small village where we were assured the road was not passable by bicycle. We knew two cyclists who had descended the road, but no one who’d gone up. That we were so easily talked out of the attempt proved to us that we were not recovered.

After Cajamarca we succeeded in topping out the Andes’ first high ridge on a rocky, dusty road at 3765 meters. Claire began coughing at the most excellent bicycle resort, (an earlier post) and I at first thought it was the thick fine dust we’d been subjected to over the pass. It wasn’t dust. By the time we reached Celendin, Claire was as ill as I’ve ever seen her, coughing violently and choking. I was very concerned, and mentally planning how to store or abandon Zippy and get us back to Lima. She did improve over the next two days, but certainly not enough to consider cycling. We took a bus to Chachapoyas, and stayed for a week, where I got my current lung infection. Bummer.

From Chachapoyas, we rode a series of passes over the second ridge of the Andes, into the Amazon Basin proper, both of us hacking and spitting all the way. Neither of have felt fully fit since Lima, but are slowly feeling better daily. Adventure is much more interesting than illness, but in this way of travel, it is what it is. We just keep on keeping on. The adventure part will come.

The Andes are behind us. We expect better from the Amazon.


We’ve had an eventful week and feel like we’re finally hitting our stride. Though Chachapoyas was a good place to recuperate from our respective colds, after a week we were ready to get moving. And move we did; it’s all downhill through a beautiful canyon to Pedro Ruiz, where we expected to find a “dusty little crossroads”, as described in LP. It was actually a very friendly, welcoming place, and we enjoyed a clean, quiet room at Hotel Amazonense, where Marina had us sign her guest book and took our photo. The next day was a difficult climb, so we kept it short and at Pomacochas, we were invited home with Jannes. He and his mother cleared space in a room we would long ago have called a parlor and laid out a mattress.  The family is opening a posada/guest house/restaurant in October to accommodate birdwatchers who come to the area.

Though we’re now on paved roads, gravity takes its toll and we have to stop frequently for road work. We knew we had a few more serious climbs before dropping well into the Amazon Basin, so when construction workers cheered and clapped for us at one pass, we guessed we must be close. We did still have one more big hill that day, but we again had the benefit of construction workers to tell us we’d crossed into the department of San Martin. Having the Andes at your back feels as good as it sounds. The new landscape is extremely energizing as well. We’re in a place now where we race iridescent blue butterflies and listen to the liquid lilt of lorikeets. With just a few tough climbs we’ve come into a place with a new style of architecture, new foods and drinks and people (and less agressive dogs, thankfully) with a laid back attitude.

We’re adjusting to the heat and humidity, and sleeping with all the windows open also means adjusting to street noise, which on Saturday night, will run at least until the roosters start crowing on Sunday morning (ear plugs work great). We’ve found a blissfully quiet and cool room at the Hotel San Antonio in Tarapoto, and amazingly, it also has a door knob, a toilet seat, a faucet that doesn’t rotate with the knob, first floor rooms, enough space for Zippy in the room and a double bed (we can and do crowd into a single often here in Peru). Yowsa.

Most fun of all, while waiting for a room to come available here in Tarapoto, we were interviewed by a reporter from Diario Ahora ( and were profiled in today’s Tarapoto edition. Some people on the street recognized us from the front page photo.

If there are no photos with this post it is because I can’t get them to upload. I’ll keep trying…


The Rest of the Story — 3 Comments

  1. Too bad about the illness both of you have experienced; but you sound like us … just keep going & not let it spoil the “adventure”. Besides, you don’t have a lot of other choices, do you? (Unless of course it gets dire.) Have fun & we are enjoying reading about your trip.

  2. Wow, Bob, I just got on here and hope you and Claire are all better now. I do pray for you and the trip, but generally it is prayer for your safety on the bikes, from the dogs, from skidding over into a valley, that kind of stuff. Never thought about sickness…come home safe!!
    Bonnie \o/

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