The city that I am relaxing in today, has a long history of habitation. At a site just 25K north of here, human settlements dating back 15,000 years have been unearthed. Indigenous people have occupied this area for thousands of years. The modern establishment of what is now Ayacucho was established by Spanish conqueror Pizarro in 1540 during the constant rebellion of Manco Inca. Pizarro called it Huamanga. When Simon Bolivar liberated the region in 1825 he restored the original name of Ayacucho. The final battle of the Peruvian independence movement was fought and won against the Spaniards here in 1824. The region itself is one of the poorest in Peru despite the establishment of the beautiful infrastructure of the city. In the 1960’s the Shining Path movement was founded by Guzman, who was a philosophy teacher at University in Ayacucho. It was begun as a socialist/communist movement of the people but devolved into a terrorist type of organization in its struggle against what it saw as a corrupt and unpopular government. In the end, the Shining Path’s movement was known mostly for its bloody and brutal treatment of the indigenous peoples of the Ayacucho area. The movement now is mostly involved in narcotics and hasn’t been effective since the capture of its leader, Guzman.
All we see of this today as we lounge and saunter through its Central Plaza and historic buildings is the beauty left in the wake of all these important times here in Peruvian history. The city has 33 churches – one for each of Jesus Christ’s years alive. The oldest one I came across was labeled 1568. I saw a group of people lined up this morning to enter an old church as soon as the door opened. Without the benefit of a short span of time off my feet and into my Wikipedia book, I would have assumed a happy and long history behind the city of Ayacucho.
I thought I would spend a little time introducing you to another of my cyclist friends here, Jurg, our only representative from Switzerland. Jurg is a lanky handsome man perhaps a little younger than I am. who is a true gentleman. He is curious about everything and as he wanders here and about, Terry, Barry and I might assume he’s just a little absentminded but the simple truth is that he is investigating details only he has observed with his keen eye. Jurg has traveled extensively and biked in places as challenging as Afghanistan, Iran, and several of the other -stans as well as trips throughout Europe and the Canadian Rockies. He has many stories to tell and I enjoy him immensely. His patience is only matched by his ever patient wife since Jurg is on this trip for 4 1/2 months and has many others under his belt. Jurg is an accomplished cyclist as well. A number of bikers here are racing – Jurg was quite conscious of his daily times as well but a couple of weeks ago he announced that he is no longer wanting to be involved in the timing. His statement was that he thought no matter what he did he would end up 6th,7th or 8th. What would be the purpose of that. Now he is stopping for photos, enjoying coffee breaks and taking the time to satisfy his curiosity along the way. All I can say is “Good on ya, Jurg.”
I now have 2 bush camp days in a row and really not that much time till we arrive in Cusco on the 16th. From there we will travel by train, bus and foot power to Machu Pichu (I should learn how to spell it!) where we will spend two days at the site then back to Cusco for 2 more. Really something to look forward to. My old friend JR from Anchorage will be joining us there for the balance of the trip.
I’ll try to add a couple of photos to this short post. After all, this is a rest day for me.
I added a video of our Bike Dreams truck being pulled out by hand by a group of villagers who also engineered the feat. I couldn’t figure out how to get it to these pages so you will find it on my Facebook page. It’s worth a look. See my previous blog for a description.