La bonita ciuadad de Cusco y las ruinas de Machu Picchu

After 5 days in Cusco, including the trip to Machu Picchu, I spent my last hours hours in the vegan Restaurant „Green Point“ to write. The restaurant does not just provide healthy, ecological and vegan food, but offers an pleasant atmosphere. But the best is the lunch offer for just 12 Soles,  which does include a salad from a buffet, a soup, a main course, a dessert and a frech juice. For the main course there are two options, between you can choose. Currently I’m just having a coffee while listening to the music of Vintage Reggae Café.

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Cusco entered the charts of my top cities in Latino America on number one. Cuenca y Cartagena had a great atmosphere as well, but Cusco had its special charme with numerous culinary and culture offers. The nice market of San Pedro, the neighborhood of San Blas, the narrow streets and the colonial buildings. Additionally there are several treks around to walk in the mountains or to discover the ruins of the Inkas. Cusco in pictures:

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I spent a full day in Cusco, walked around a lot, visited the museum Coricancha, gave away my camera to let it clean, visited the market and bought a new gas cartridge as well as some care products. So I was prepared to go to Machu Picchu the next day. There are several options to visit the city of the Inkas. You can take the service of one of the hundreds tour offices, which is maybe the most expensive possibility. Then you can follow the Inka trail or other treks, which will take several days. Another economical way and that’s what I have done, is the public transport, which I will sum up shortly.

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The map shows how to get from Cusco to Machu Picchu. At first you can take a bus for 15 Soles into direction Qillabamba and leave the bus at Santa Maria. To get there, the bus needs around 6 hours. Arrived in Santa Maria further taxis and small buses will wait for you to go go to Santa Teresa (10 soles, 1 hour) or Hidroeléctrica  (15 Soles,  1 1/2 hour). From Hidroeléctrica there is the possibility to take the train (38 $, 15 minutes) or to walk along the rails (2 hours). In Aqua Calientes there are many hostels in all price categories, so no need to reserve in advance. Also restaurants are numerous. If you want to avoid the touristic prices, go to the small market, which is near the Plaza de armas. There you get a meal for 6 soles. Usually  you stay one night in Aqua Caliente after a one day journey to arrive there. In the next morning you can take the bus (12 $, starts from 5:30) or walk (bridge opens at 5:00) up to the entrance of Machu Picchu pueblo (opens at 6:00). It’s a steep walk, but if you hurry up, you will arrive before the first buses.
For the tickets for Machu Picchu you have three possibilities. Machu Picchu Pueblo (128 soles), Machu Picchu Pueblo + Machu Picchu Mountain  (148 soles) and Machu Picchu Pueblo + Wayna Picchu Mountain. The tickets can be purchased in Cusco or near the Plaza de Armas in Aqua Calientes.

So, back to my experiences: I got up early in Aqua Calientes to walk up and arrive for the big mass of tourists and indeed I did it and after I entered the entrance I got to see the ruins without people while the llamas were running over the green areas inside the village. It was an awesome experience when I catched the first glimpse. It’s impressive that human beings were able to construct these houses and walls during that time, considering that it’s high up in the mountain and the stones are quite big and heavy. After I walked to the Inka bridge and walked around a bit, I went up to the mountain of Machu Picchu. I was still exhausted from the first climb and didn’t expect that another 500 meters steep walk up to the top waited for me. The weather at that morning also wasn’t the best, foggy, cold and during my way up I even went into the clouds. On the top I was surrounded by a big white soup of clouds and it took over an hour before I could look down. But after the torture of the climb and the amazing view over the ruins, which finally appeared, it was totally worth to wait for a while.

Waiting for the bridge to open.

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The view, when I arrived on the top of Machu Picchu.

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A part of the ruins were visible.

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And finally the clouds were gone.

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The street from Aqua Calientes to the entrance of Machu Picchu pueblo.

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Machu Picchu on our way back to Hydroeléctrica

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I left Cusco to Quiquijana, a small village 70 kilometers in the south of the city. There it finally worked, what I tried from time to time during my travel. What it is will be found on my blog in the next few days.

From the Reservado National de Pacaras to Cusco

70 km trough the desert until Ica, road nearly not visible and instead of sand boarding I slided down the dunes until my bike was so deep in the sand, that I made a controlled somersault over my handlebar. The way along the coast was beautiful and I passed one nice beach after another. But the riding on my bike was very tough.The sand was most of the time very hard, so posible to ride in but it changed frkm time to time. On top some dunes were so steep, that I had tk push my bike. Before I went inland to reach Ica, I had a last view at the Pacific. I observed the flourishing life of the ocean, seal and birds were chasing after the fishes, pelicans and seagulls were gliding over the water. It was a harmonic view.

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The inland road was clearly visible but the waves on the ground made the riding very jumpy, so that I was proceeding very slow. And slowly I was running out of water under the burning sun without the possibility to have some shadow. For 2 hours not any car passed me, but finally two and what did they offered me, yes, water! As well my food was going to end, but at least I found some shadow next to a tall gate. I sat down, but finally I heard a voice and a stone crashing into the gate from the other side. The owner of that farm was afraid that I would rob him, but as he saw my bike he calm down and offered me food and something to drink. Finally it ended up with a foto with him and it’s crew!

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I arrived in the Oasis of Huacachina which is famous for its dunes where you can do sandboarding. I decided to have enough of sand and followed an invitation of Berly, a warmshower in Ica. He took me out for a free wine and Pisco tasting as well as a to short tour to the production process. Afterwards we visited another winery, which was over 200 years old, where we were offered more drinks.

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From Ica to Nasca a ride of two days were waiting for me, but as I took a picture of a burned car, a Land Rover with a german number plate stopped in front of me. Ecki, a 58 old guy from Waiblingen asked if he could give me a ride and since the part of the Panamericana was going through the boring desert, I followed the invitation and saved one day.

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After we found our accommodations in Nasca we met for dinner and had a good conversation.

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By accident I took the key of my room in Ica with me, so I had the chance for my first experience in sending a letter. As I arrived in the post office they wanted to have to copies of my passport and an envelope was also not available. Until now I don’t know why the asked me for these copies.
The way to Abancay included 8500 meters of going up on a distance of 400 kilometers without many possibilities to receive provisions.
So I decided spontaneously to take the night bus. The ticket was 60 soles including my bike, that what I was told when I puchased the ticket. They even had a look on my bike if it will fit into the bus and told me that it would be no problem. In the evening the situation changed and they wanted me to pay 20 soles more for my bike. But  after complaining I didn’t have to pay more. The bus was 1 1/2 hours late but finally we where on the way. During the night some people throw up due to the up and downs up to a height of over 4000 meters.
The next three days to Cusco included another 5000 meters of climbingwith some nice views frm the tol of the mountains. I enjoyed Mango ice cream, met parrots and dugs and spent one night in the garden of a family in the countryside of Limatambo.

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From Lima to the national park of Paracas

The desert and the beaches of Perus Coast, the Islands of Ballestas, the National Park of Pacaras, the Oasis of Huacachina, the Wine and Pisco of Ica, the archeological places of Nasca, the Colonial City of Cusco, the ruins of the Inkas at Machu Picchu and of course all the people along the way made my last weeks to an awesome adventure.
At the moment I’m sitting in the so called Green Point in the neighborhood of San Blas, enjoying my last day in this beautiful town of Cusco and looking back of what have happened since the day I left Lima.
Two weeks ago I left Lima and while I had a look on the fotos I realized again that there is a lot to write, so I guess this will be the first part. Here an overview of the places I stayed during last days (the whole mal can be found here):

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The coast in the south of Lima is full of little villages where the people of the Peruvian capital have houses for their holidays in summer. So while the houses were currently all empty, I camped on a green space next to the beach.

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On my way to Pisco I saw again a lot of little uninhabited houses. Also in the north of Lima there were hundreds of them, all basic, most of the time in a row. It seems like a support of the government to provide housing for poor people.

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Before the town Chincha big chicken farms dominate the landscape next to the sea. I guess thousands of chickens are produced here. „Produce“ cause they are caged in tiny boxes and don’t really have a lot of space.

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In Chincha itself the entrance was seamed by shops for wine and Pisco, the national drink of Peru. Still I had to go some more kilometers to reach Pisco, where the name of the drink comes from.

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Before the sunset I arrived Pisco.

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Paracas a small town, 15 kilometers from Pisco is a touristic place, where the main attraction is a boat trip to the so called „Islas Ballestas“. For 30 soles you can take a boat to the islands, where sea lions, penguins and a lot of birds can be seen. A very nice tour. But notice, on top of the price for the tour, you have to pay the entrance for the national park as well as a fee to enter the harbour.

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El candelabro de Pacaras  (the candlestick of Pacaras)

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The islas Ballestas

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The Panamericana provided the short and paved way to Ica, but I decided to go deeper into the national park of Pacaras, which is basically sand and water. Some formations of the dunes were amazing and a lagune with flamencos was a nice spot to have a break.

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I arrived at the „Laguna Grande“, where do exist two little fisher villages, where live the only people in that park.
I was very sad about the pollution of the beach in the middle of a protected zone. Plastic next to dead birds, penguins and fish along the coast. The reason for the death of the animals were obvious.

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Well, I didn’t waned to stay at that cemetery, so I found a place to stay a few kilometers further with a beautiful view to the sea. Sunset, sunrise.

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The last 70 kilometers to Ica were very lonesome, but more on that after lunch. 🙂

About the life in Lima and habits of travelling

Although there were a lot of intereting things in the north of Peru, I will skip to write about that part to be back in the present.
A week ago, I entered the metropolitan area of Perus capital. Already 50 kilometers before I reached my destination, the traffic got dense and the Panamericana grew from one to two and occasionally to four lines. It demanded a lot of concentration to cycle trough this traffic jungle and I especially had to watch the buses and so the so called Micros, which crossed my way all the time to let hop in and hop off the passengers. Like in most off the parts of South America there are no paths for cyclists. But at least in the towns its changing. Recently they started to build a lot of new ones in the suburb Miraflores, but seems as if the people still have to get used to it, cause cars are crossing the ciclovias without looking or pedestrians walk on them, but the first step to built up the awareness is done.
One third of Perus population live in Lima and their surroundings.  It seemed to be as if I’m in another world in comparison to the rest of the country. Especially in the Center, in Miraflores, Barranco, San Isidro or Surco, the quality of close to Europe. Various bars, restaurants, shops of brands, casinos, hotels and also malls give me the feeling of being in a western city. The average of the prices are much more expensive then in the countryside and according to well-built houses, the clothes and some more expensive cars it’s obvious that the people have much more money. In contrast to the well-being of the rich suburbs there are huge favelas in the suburban areas, where people live in small houses made out of loam and corrugated sheets. This areas become bigger and bigger cause more and more people settle down uncontrolled, which is leading to bigger and bigger problems. Especially the water suply is getting critical due to the massive growth of the city in combination of the global warming. In addition the high gradient of life quality rise the  potential of conflicts, but currently you don’t feel so much of it inside the good areas and I haven’t had any problem, but while passing the poorer districts I felt this rising tension.
Nevertheless I had a good time in Lima. I visited two art museums, was impressed by the colonial buildings and enjoyed the high culinary variety. Camu camu fruits from the market, picarones, empanadas, ceviche, pisco, causa rellena, tacu tacu and more typical local food show that Peru provide a lot of different tasty dishes. I took part in a birthday party and visisted some bars, where I hadn’t been for a while. The coast is full of surfers and paragliders hover through the air. They can be well observed from the cliff coast in Miraflores, where green parks give space to hang around or do some sports.
I regained the feeling of habit, driving along the same street several times, entering the elevator in the house of my friends, waking up in the same bed or meeting the same people over and over again. The totally unusual feeling of habit and other changes with come with it like getting a role in this context, showed me even more what it is to be in an always changing environment. So, do I have any daily habits during my travel? I would say barely. Maybe the construction of my tent or the packing of my bike became something like a habit or to order a vegetarian dish, but there is not much left to feel like in a daily grind. On top I got lost in time somehow and most of the time I don’t even know what day of the week it is. Eating doesn’t stick to a certain time and waking up is more related to the sun. It feels good not to have any deadlines, appointments or any points in time, where something or somebody determine my doing.
In a few minutes the journey goes on, pedaling south like most of the time. Pisco, Paracas and Ica are waiting to be explored.

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Ecuadors South

Descansar – Relax, nothing can be better at the end of a cycling day to calm down. Today I stay in the courtyard of a restaurant/beer garden and I hover in the sound of pleasant latin music. I wanted to feet my blog more often, but didn’t happen. So, let’s summarize the highlights.
Cuenca to Loya: Three days, three big mountains. It’s strange, cause back at home 1500 meters of going up with my bicycle would have been a hard day after what my muscles would be aching for some days. In the Andes of Ecuador it became normal. Sure, it is not a piece of cake, but I feel to get used to it. And the outlook into the valleys rewarded myself for the up and downs of the streets. On the last stage to Loja, I followed the suggestion of my navigation system komoot and took after the village San Lucas the road along the identically named river. Although it was dirt road, the shortcut was worth it.

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Loja: Cochsurfing or Warmshowers in Ecuador didn’t n seem to be an easy thing, 6 requests and one answer. The couchsurfer offered me to ask a friend, where I could spent the night. I called the friend, as agreed, waited in the park, wrote him again, but he never showed up or answered. On the day I left Loja, I demolished a door out of glas in the cheap hotel I stayed in. Furthermore my heavy bike lost its balance and crashed into the neighbour’s door. After that I felt a bit like a villain, cause they treated me like I did it on purpose. After visiting a nearby workshop I paid 3 times more than the actual stay! On top it rained while leaving Loja. So I guess I won’t come back to this place.

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Vilcabamba: So many travellers, I met on my way, told me to visit this little village in the south of Loja. After a short climb, it was going down until Malacatos to crest another hill. In the valley Vilcabamba appeared and surrounded by a beautiful scenery it was really worth to see it. But principally it were the people who make my stay, what it was. Some kilometers from the village I stayed in the garden of a American woman, who have chosen this quit place, to built up her new life. I was not the only guest, a columbian couple and an awesome guy from the states also spent some time at her place. The next day we went to a traditional sweat in the meditation center. Pouring water on glowing hot stones heated up the air and rose the humidity. The guide who leaded us trough the evening was singing songs and praying in a native language. This experience didn’t just feel good, with the procedure it was definitely a highlight of my stay.

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Vilcabamba to Macará: Instead of going back to my favourite town Loja and taking the Panamericana, I decided to ride my bike over Gonzanamá to the Peruvian border. 90% of the road is dirt road and before heading to the coast in Peru the Andes show again, that it miss the word „flat“ in their dictionary. And on top there doesn’t exist sufficient word to describe the landscape.

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Near the border to Peru, the Ecuadorians produce a lot of bricks of loam to built their houses. Therefor they put mud in mold, dry it and finally heat it up in an oven, which is also made out of loam bricks.

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Besides the bricks they crow corn, which they dry next to their houses.

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I nearly had a flat tyre in Ecuador and was looking forward to write „puncture – free Ecuador“, but on my two last days I had to patch my tube twice. However, it’s way better than at the beginning. 

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Over the low clouds I rode the last part and finally down to the border to Peru.

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To leave the country I had to fill out a sheet of paper with the usual information. A long cue but just one clerk let this procedure take a while. But finally I could cross the bridge to Peru, where the formalities of the entry took place.

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Detached with a new plate

Before I went to the national park El Cajas I had a look on my plate „un carro menos“, which I carry with me since I left San José. It was a present of Karol, where I spent my first few days on my travel. Since then I always heard the people reading out loud what is written on the back of my bicycle. It became part of my travel as the message I’m carrying with me. But through all the dust, mud and rain the plate was badly affected and began to disolve more and more. So it was time to get a new one. After I gave an outline of the new design, I went to a small shop, which makes numberplates. It took them a while and it delayed my departure, but finally it was done, made out of metal and therefor more stable than the one made out of plastic. Thanks again for this plate, Karol!

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Another change was the split of Tobias and my path. The interests were very different. While I’m interested to get to know people, culture, learn new things, visit amazing places or to improve my Spanish, Tobias was not interested at all about those things. Daily pedaling on his bike is his main focus and he reduced the contact to other persons as much possible it seemed to me, while I’m a connector and curious about the life of others. Furthermore Tobias already had booked his flight back home from Punta Arenas, which is far in the south. So he travel much faster now to reach his plane. My flight home, the where and when, is what I left open and it feels good. I don’t know if I will ever reach Ushuaia and although it would be great to see the south of Argentina, I don’t have to. The essence of my travel is to explore the continent by my bike and wherever it feels good to stay longer I stay longer. It can be the atmosphere of a place, it can be new inspirations, the chance to learn new things or overall the people I want to stay longer with, which could lead me to spent more time at that place. Nevertheless I wish that Tobias is enjoying his travel and will have a safe way south! It just didn’t fit that well.
For my part, I feel better now and started again to follow my own path. I directly got more into contact with other people, who are part of my travel. These people, I meet, work on my painting of life. Most of them are using the colours I like and they can add beautiful parts to my path. Especially if there is this good vibe between me and another person, I feel that there will flow a lot of meaningful things inbetween us. These exchanges I really enjoy and so I will give them more space on my painting, which as a consequence will be much more diversified by the influence of the people I meet.

La selva, Andes crossing, Cuenca and the Toreadora Hike

To adjust to the attention span of nowadays and to spent less time with writing, I intend to write shorter but more frequently blog entries. But here I will some up the the highlights of the last few days.

Ecuador can be split in three parts going from north to south related to the different climatic conditions: the warm and rather dry area at the coast, the mountains and the amazonian area with the jungle (la selva).
After we spent most of the time in the mountains of Ecuador, we went down to the amazonian area. After we passed heaps of nice waterfalls on the way down to Puyo, we had to deal with a lot of rain.

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Near Tena we stayed at a Couchsurfer, which we nearly haven’t seen. Instead we encountered around 15 volunteers on his eco farm, who ran the daily business. At the same time it was a spiritual place with vegetarian and most of the time vegan food. A certain time schedule including Yoga, some hours of work and a lesson to learn something from the others gave the community their certain framework. The food, usually made by someone else, was most of the time very delicious and on the day we arrived we enjoyed self made chocolate from the Cacao plants of the farm.

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Some musicians, some volunteers and the owner spontaneously organized a festival in town with artists from all over the continent, some of them travellers, who just dropped in on the stage.

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Due to an infection of Tobias, we stayed one more day in Puyo, so that he could recover, but the sickness returned again one week later and leaded to a visit to the doctor, who prescribed him Antibiotika. Consequently Tobias needed more days of recovering and took the bus to Cuenca while I crossed the Andes alone. Accompanied by rain and fog I started into the climb. After an hour I arrived at the junction to the street in the mountains, where I got warned of a landslide. „Senior, Derrumbe en la vía, no es possible de pasar!“ „Con bici tampoco?“ „Bla bla bla..bla.“ „Es possible de pasar con bici, Si o No?“ „Si“. Well, I think he got as much from me as I understood him. The street upwards seemed to be very calm. Hardly a car, which overtook me and not one car which came towards me. No car? Yes, but I first realized as I bumped into a traffic jam. With the bike no problem to pass by. The first landslide appeared to be possible to pass somehow and so I checked my possibilities under the eyes of around 30 Ecuadorians who left their vehicles to watch the clearing work. It started to rain again and before everybody escaped into their warm and dry places in the bus or car, I found two guys who helped me overcome this muddy obstacle. Just arrived on the other side, the road got totally muddy, followed by another queue of vehicles. A huge ongoing landslide seemed to make a getting through impossible. I collected myself an invitation to sit in the bus, while my bike had to endure the ongoing rain. But it didn’t take long, I was back outside to do what had to be done. Slowly and carefully I pushed my bike through the mud and the last few meters trough the sliding mass of the brown viscous water. Under the cheering of the waiting cars, trucks and buses a went on with my ride to come closer to the top. After a big portion of lunch, how can it be different the next landslide. My shoes already totally covered by mud I heaved my heavy bike to this rather small landslide. The weather didn’t become better, more dense Haze,  more rain and falling temperatures. The top still 600m above me, I passed a house, which seemed to be one of a few possibilities to check in to spent the night.

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In the next morning the weather conditions were still the same and my shoes as wet as the day before. No other suitable shoes for replacement I had to slip again into the lumps of wet mud. After a few kilometers the top was finally reached, but during the descent to Cuenca the airflow let my feet transform into ice cubes.
Arrived in the hostel, totally alive and so happy about a warm shower I knew that it was exactly the kind of experiences which is worth the travel.

Cuenca is probably the most beautiful city in Ecuador. With its pleasant atmosphere, beautiful architecture from colonial times,  vivid culture and a river which flows trough the town it offer a ice place to regain energy for further adventures.

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After one day of discovering the city, I took a bus to the nearby national park El Cajas to do the Toreadora hike on around 4000m of altitude. I didn’t checked the level of difficulty of the offered tracks and took by accident one of the most challenging ones. At the same time it was maybe also one of the most beautiful with a wonderful outlook from the top of Cerro San Luis. In the night I was the only guest in the refuge, a quite but also very cold place.

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