DAY EIGHTY TWO
Rest day in Cusco
Much deserved relaxing day in Cusco watching the Tottenham Man City game in an Irish pub in the hugely impressive Cusco main Plaza.
We had decided not to go to Machu Picchu as it would take the whole day, from an early start to a late finish and we rally just needed some R&R. Plus we didn’t fancy the huge number of tourists and the £200 everything would have cost. Another trip hopefully!
Instead an enjoyable day and afternoon just sitting and doing nothing!
DAY EIGHTY THREE
Rest day in Cusco
Our second day we planned on sending some postcards and spending half an hour or so in a bike shop changing our tires, before leaving.
As always jobs like this are not as simple. Sending postcards ended up taking most of the morning. Mainly due to post offices being shut and many ice cream shops being open. The trip to the bike shop also took much longer. Deciding that we still have such a long way to go it would be wise to give the bikes some lovin and pay for them to get a service.
Before we knew it 5 o’clock came around which meant it was getting dark. We checked into a cheap hostel near the centre of town which meant another night in a bed and another night pasta free!
DAY EIGHTY FOUR
Cusco to Carmen river campspot
Average speed: 12.8mph
Moving time: 4h47
Door to door: 8h28
We certainly felt ready to take on the next challenge of our trip. Spending the night in a cycling hostel we heard from many people just how amazing but also difficult the next couple of weeks will be. A little nervous but both very excited we hit the road, the very steep road out of Cusco. Our bikes also rearing to go after their service (new tires and a new chain!!).
Luckily after the climb out of the city we then had a huge decent which seemed endless! Half way through the 50km downhill stretch we met two English lads who are on their gap year cycling from Bogota to Bariloche. Always nice to hear a English voice again! We exchanged numbers and tips about both of our upcoming journeys.
After such a long downhill stretch we ended up at 1,800m. We forgot what it was like to be under 2,000m. Setting up camp was hot, clammy work and we were surrounded by some horrible insects who loved the tastes of our legs and we are now completely covered in bites. These were not the only intruders of the night. At midnight we both awoke to some people near the tent with a light. After investigating a little more the unwanted guests seemed to hide under a nearby tree. Thinking that our bikes were being eyed up by some robbers made it very difficult to go back to sleep. Luckily, the two robbers turned out to be two fisherman who were simply strolling down the river.
DAY EIGHTY FIVE
Cartmen river camp to lay-by on PE-3S just on from Waraccoña
Distance: 45 miles
Av speed: 7 mph
Moving time: 6 hours 8
Door to door: 11 hours
Our first taste of how hard the next few weeks are going to be, as we spent nearly the whole day cycling uphill.
A slower start than we had hoped for as we rewed greatly our decision not to put the canopy over us, getting woken by a huge downpour at 1 in the morning. The insect attack from yesterday also resumed, and we are now covered from head to toe in bites (perhaps throwing out the insect repellent in Cusco because we weren’t using it was a really bad idea).
We found out from a lady that around 2000m altitude the bugs are everywhere. We asked her if only at night time but she said no all day and all year, what a crap place to live we both thought.
Itching all over we set out on what would be one of our hardest days yet. After cycling down hill for 50 kms yesterday we now had to do the reverse, 50km from 1800m to 4300m.
Whilst Lance Armstrong would definitely have enjoyed being at lower altitude after three weeks of producing red blood cells at over 4000m we found the going tough as it was humid and the first time we’d got a proper sweat on since Argentina. The road, although in awesome condition, just kept going up and up, with never ending walls of hairpins snaking high up the valley. On top of this the constant beeping of horns, streams of sweat and relentless barking dogs made life pretty miserable for much of the morning.
Deciding we’d had enough of the main road we took a shortcut, which was 10km shorter and promised far less bad Peruvian drivers given that it was all ripio. At the same time however we would be rejoining the main road 1000m higher, meaning the road would be twice as steep in order to cover the altitude gained in half the distance. Reassured by an elderly man that the ripio road was the better option we set off, although soon realised we’d just made our job much much harder as the road was extremely unforgiving. Three hours later we emerged back on to the main road. Whilst we hadn’t seen a car for nearly all of this time our energy was spent and the final climb up to 4300m seemed to take forever.
After a whole day of cycling uphill we finally made it to the top of the pass as it was getting dark. We flew downhill in the dark, stopping in the nearest village to fill up our water before setting up the tent by the side of the road. Both exhausted but a very memorable first day of big climbing in Peru!
DAY EIGHTY SIX
Lay-by to Tintayhua
Average speed: 11.1mph
Moving time: 5h03
Door to door: 10h06
A beautiful and well deserved 15 miles of downhill into Abancay for breakfast and one thing on both of our minds - find some Easter eggs. After a delicious breakfast consisting of rice with a side of an egg and a banana we managed to find two Easter bunnies!
As we continued to drop down into the valley after Abancay we joined up with the river which we ended up following for a further 30 miles which put a big smile on our faces as it meant some flat roads for a while.
We finally reached the turning off the PE-30A road which we thought was meant to be tarmac but in fact was ripio. On the maps we spotted a 5k shortcut which we decided to take after asking a Peruvian man if it was doable by bike. As he smiled and confirmed it is ok to bike up we quickly found out that he was some kind of sick prankster. Having to push our bikes up the vertically non existent road we decided from now on not to trust Peruvians and don’t try be smart and take shortcuts.
Setting up the tent just in time thankfully as we were suddenly hit by the loudest thunderstorm both of us had ever heard. Feeling safe in our tent we felt sorry for the bikes outside taking on the horrendous storm.
DAY EIGHTY SEVEN
Tintayhua to mountain camp spot 5kms south of Huancabamba
Distance: 30 miles
Av speed: very slow!
Door to door: 9 hours (moving for most of it)
(Our chargers both broke so we couldn’t record the ride like we normally do)
Today was probably the hardest day of the trip so far. Despite only cycling 30 miles we climbed from 2000m right up to 4,378m, all on a extremely steep and bumpy gravel track which made the going very slow.
At the same time it was just awesome, as we saw far more cows than cars and were able to enjoy looking behind us and seeing how far up the valley we had come.
Upon leaving Tintayhua the road soon jumped up quickly, as we soon lost count of the amount of hairpin bends we had taken. To make things a bit harder it seemed the further away from the main road we went the worse the road condition became, with big rocks and stones making the steep gradients even more impenetrable.
Perhaps things were made harder by constant reassurances from locals that we were almost at the top but in actual fact we still had miles to go. The higher we went the more breathtaking the views became and so upon finally arriving at the top, with a huge lake and waterfall to one side it was a bit of a surprise to see a huge mine to the other, nestled miles away from anything. The miners were equally surprised to see us and rushed after us up the road, as were the schoolchildren in the small villages as we were definitely off the beaten track. Sadly it was getting dark when we reached the top so we had to wave goodbye to the friendly miners, supposedly mining for gold, and take on the freezing cold but awesome descent.
Very happily it wasn’t long till we were back in the haven that is our tent, reflecting on a day that never seemed to end and which our legs were burning for the whole thing.
Huancabamba to just South of Uripa
Average speed: 8.8mph
Moving time: 5h30
Door to door: 10h06
Happy to start the day with an amazing 5 miles of off road downhill. This is where the bikes and us are at our happiest. Cruising down the mountain even over taking motorbikes which are taking it slower due to the dodgy roads but our bikes simply in their element!
Once we reached the beginning of the pathed climb we stopped off for a refuel where we met two lovely, motherly women who wanted us to take some photos with them. They kindly gave us some avocados and cooked potatoes. Feeling full and ready we plugged in our audio books and started to truck up the mountain. Being back on pathed roads made today feel so much easier after yesterdays seriously challenging day, we seemed to glide up the hills rather than scramble. As always the views got more and more amazing as we heading up into the clouds (literally).
Again we reached the top as it was getting dark and after 5 miles of freezing cold descent decided to set up the tent and enjoy the rest in the daylight.
DAY EIGHTY NINE
4000m camp spot near Uripa to river camp 10kms south of Jesus Nazareno de Chontaca
Distance: 82 miles
Av speed: 10.1 mph
Moving time: 7 hours 47
Door to door: 12 hours
Our biggest climbing day yet as we sped from our amazing camp spot via endless hairpins and rapidly changing scenery right down to 1800m to the bottom of the valley, before spending the rest of the day to regain the height we had lost in two hours.
The climb itself would take us up to 4200m over 50km of cycling uphill that again much like the past few days never seemed to end. Only stopping for lunch for half an hour we spent literally the whole day peddling, from 7am and not stopping until 7pm, cycling for nearly two hours in the dark.
Tough day and both extremely exhausted but worth it as we could have a short day the next day and have a shower!!