We had one final pass between the Lago Titicaca watershed and the Cusco region. We spent a couple of days from where we left the lake till we crested the 4300m pass which had been a paved and easy gradient affair from the eastern side. Needless to say we were both pleased to get to the top as we are pretty knackered from not having a proper rest day in weeks – we have been on a tight schedule in order to reach Cusco and make the pilgrimage to Machuu Pichu before our flights home. Flying down the steeper descent I noticed an irregular but periodic sound coming from my bike. On closer inspection we found a massive nail firmly embedded in my rear tyre. For the Inca people 3 is their significant number so as this was my third puncture I guess it meant I was blessed .. maybe..
We fixed it a lot faster than last time as the rear tyre now had more stretch and came off without breaking tools. A short distance further on we pulled in at Aguas Caliente (Hot Waters) and for 3 Soles ($1.50 each) we were able to wheel our bikes into the complex, set up our tent and enjoy hot water pools to our hearts content. After dark we had the pools to ourselves, the afternoon storm had passed and the stars were out – very cool but very hot. To get the most our of our $1.50 we soaked after breakfast as well and found out from the girl measuring temps of the water that our pool was 45 degrees. It was the cleanest we had been in the last 3 months and for those interested in trip statistics – the longest time we had been between hot water washing was 8 days and now the shortest was 14 hours!
We enjoyed the next couple of days following the river down thru lower fertile lands between steeper hillsides. We were finally off the higher arid altiplano country and touching on the edge of the Peruvian highlands where the hills were steep and the valleys confined. We hit the 4000km mark on our second to last day cycling and our last day was a hairy day of much increased traffic climbing up through the much bigger than expected city of Cusco – it seemed to go one for ever. The hecticness and fumes of the final 20km left us a bit overwhelmed as did the intense touristiness of the town so the fact that we had reached our destination took a bit of time to sink in. We had been told that there was a Casa de Cyclistas hostel and after an internet search we found the location. It was a wee oasis, close to the central plaza but pretty relaxed and popular with like minded cyclists.