River camp to Ayacucho
Av speed: 9.6 mph
Moving time: 3 hours 45
Trip time: 5 hours
Up early to arrive in Ayacucho for 1pm for a much needed afternoon of rest and recuperation after seven tough and sweaty days.
We decided to treat ourselves to a nicish hotel with huge comfy beds and breakfast included!
A very enjoyable beer in the evening looking back on all that we had achieved over the past few days.
DAY NINETY ONE
Ayacucho to Huanta
Distance: 37 miles
Av speed: 8.7
Moving time: 4 hours 5
Trip time: 5 hours 40
A frustrating day as our departure from Ayacucho was delayed by the laundry lady who returned our clothes still wet and still smelly. This meant we couldn’t leave until 3pm so we spent the morning doing what hungry cyclists do and ate our weight in ice cream.
Ayacucho was actually really nice in the centre and so we weren’t complaining and it very much appreciated a bit more resting time.
Back on the road we foolishly followed our mapping app that said the road was a shortcut but instead had to battle for two hours with some of the worst road conditions we have experienced on the trip. This meant a long cycle in the dark again as we tried to get some miles in.
Ended up eating in the busy town of Huanta. Each time it amazes us that you can get a two course meal all for £1. Ended up camping by the side of the road just outside the town, in ear shot of what felt like every dog in Peru!
DAY NINETY TWO
Huanta to Quichuas
Average speed: 9.6mph
Moving time: 7h04
Door to door: 11h13
An early start to make up for the delays we had yesterday meaning the tent was packed up and we were on the bikes at 6.45. A unexpected but extremely welcomed 15 miles of downhill to start the day was pretty awesome before we joined up with the River Mantaro.
Even though for the whole day we spent drifting through the beautiful valley following the river the day as a whole felt pretty exhausting. Both of us were feeling tired all day even though we didn’t have a big climb. Today was spent half on tarmac and half on ripio, meaning that we ended up swallowing a lot of dust throughout the day as the massive lorry’s past.
Relieved to make it to Quinchas and finally get the tent up so we could pass out after our bucket of pasta.
DAY NINETY THREE
Quichas to Huancayo
Distance: 70 miles
Av speed: 10 mph
Moving time: 6 hours 37
Door to door: 10 hours 54
Much more enjoyable day after yesterday as the road condition improved and after three bags of pasta we seemed to have all the energy in the world.
Despite having to endure more biting insects, (we are now covered again after the ones from a week ago had just left) and more angry dogs the ride up the river valley was stunning with so much green, before the road turned northwards and rose sharply out of the valley.
Tired and aching legs once again struggled as we climbed 1500m in 25km up to 4100m, this time into a fierce headwind. After playing with 7 adorable puppies at the top and a rapid descent we were soon in Huancayo, nice to arrive at our destination in the light for a change.
Expecting a nice town similar to Ayacucho we were a little bit disappointed, as drivers used their horns indiscriminately and every other shop was a fried chicken shop. BUT nice to have a warmish shower in a hostel and recharge the batteries for our final few days tackling the Peruvian Andes.
We are just about on track to reach Cartagena for the end of May, hopefully finishing in around 125 days. Three more days in the Andes then we drop down to the coast. To give ourselves more time to enjoy Ecuador and Colombia, we will once again be taking on a big week long challenge, cycling over 100 miles a day up the coast north from Lima! Looking forward to lots of miles in the dark and hopefully some good motorway petrol stations!
DAY NINETY FOUR
Huancayo to Wood outside Jauja
Distance: 30 miles
Av speed: 15 mph
Moving time: 2 hours 42
Door to door: 4 hours 13
Frustrating day as we were forced to spend far more time in Huancayo than we would ever want to. Both battling effects of last night’s chicken feet soup we got some early morning admin jobs done before waiting for the bike shop to open, both needing to replace our disc pads after so many kms spent zooming downhill over the last few days.
Annoyingly the bike shop didn’t open on time so we spent three very frustrating hours waiting outside it on a noisy road constantly calling the owner who each time said he would be 20 mins. In the end an employee turned up and replaced them on the street as he didn’t have the keys to open the shop!
Finally, we were able to leave Huancayo. There have not been many places that we wouldn’t want to return to but Huancayo would be close to topping the list, alongside Villa O’Higgins in Chile. We have grown used to beautiful historic centers throughout Peru and for a change we were greeted by dusty and hastily put together high rise buildings and some of the worst traffic of our trip, surrounded by endless busses and taxis beeping their horns and coughing up black exhaust fumes. Mild food poisoning, two awful haircuts and a never-ending wait for the bike shop to open didn’t help either!
It was good then to finally be back on the road, even if it was packed with more terrible Peruvian drivers. With little time to get the miles in, it ended up being a short day before a big final push in the Peruvian Andes tomorrow. A special mention needs to go to the mother and daughter shop keeper's we met in Jauja, a grandmother and great grandmother who made us feel like their own sons and completely changed the whole complexion of our day. They had pretty much every type of snack covered, and once we had been chatting to them for an hour or so even got a BBQ going cooking some of the best kebabs we have ever tasted. As it was getting dark we managed to find a camp spot in a wood that ran along the train track, making it into the tent just as the heavens opened.
DAY NINETY FIVE
Jauja to lake side just on from Pucara
Distance: 71 miles
Av speed: 10.7 mph
Moving time: 6 hours 20
Door to door: 11 hours
Chicken soup for breakfast, 50 miles cycling uphill, several dog attacks, endless overtakes by terrible drivers, and one biblical storm meant today will definitely go down as one of our grittier days on the bike.
Nearly all of the day was spent on a gradual incline, and the closer we became to Lima the busier the road became making life pretty unbearable as huge lorries billowed out smoke as they overtook us. One of the main highlights for today was our lunch stop in La Oroya, probably the saddest places we have been to on the trip with a huge smelting factory standing in the centre of the town. Doing some research, we discovered that it is one of the 10 most contaminated places in the world. An American company set up the factory 100 years ago and since then has ravaged the surrounding fauna with Acid rain being common. According to an article on Orange Smile (http://www.orangesmile.com/extreme/en/polluted-cities/la-oroya.htm) only 5 percent of the 35,000 strong population do not suffer from serious health problems. An extremely sad case and a real reminder of the damage mining and industrial development has done to some parts of Peru.
The road became even busier after Oroya which acts as a major crossroads and with the climb now increasing in gradient, became wall to wall with lorries travelling just a bit faster than us. We were then caught out in a huge hail storm with nowhere to shelter, meaning by the time we set up the tent at 4000m in the freezing cold and in the dark spirits were extremely low. To make matters worse our gas ran out half way through cooking dinner meaning half-cooked pasta for supper – at least it was warm!
DAY NINETY SIX
Pucara to Lima
Distance: 103 miles
Av speed: 14.8 mph
Moving time: 6 hours 45
Door to door: 10 hours 30
Today marked our final day in the Peruvian Andes after an exhausting three weeks, as well as the first day of our new challenge to cycle 112 miles a day for the next seven days with 784 miles standing in between us and the Ecuadorian border. Although this was a decision we were both extremely reluctant to make, the aim is to get off the main road as soon as we can so that we can enjoy going off the beaten track in Ecuador and Colombia. On top of that maybe today we were slightly cheating as we had a huge descent out of the Andes right down to sea level to help us.
Before we could enjoy the descent that we have dreamt about for the past few weeks, we first had to ride the final 17kms of the Ticlio pass. The first challenge of the day was just getting out of the sleeping bags, which was proving far harder than normal as our 4000m camp spot was bitterly cold and our bodies were perhaps missing the usual fix of a whole bag of pasta. Fully layered up we ventured out onto the final stretch of the climb. Awaiting us was a strange landscape that we both said looked like what Mars might look like if we were ever to colonize it with huge mines either side of the road much for most of the way up. Trucks ran back and forth up mountainsides that had been carved open, with some mountains nearly completely missing and the mining camps resembling something from a villain’s lair in a Bond film. Our last stint in the Peruvian Andes became rather surreal as we were surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful landscapes we had never experienced before due to the high altitude, but also mining on a scale we never had imagined could exist! It was extremely sad also to see the effects of the pollution on the streams and lakes that we cycled past.
When we finally made it to the top it was another extremely exhilarating feeling, similar to the day tackling the Cristo Redentor Pass. To be so high up, with the wind howling through and having just cycled up to 4,818 m under our own steam would always be such an amazing feeling, though this was made even more special by the small fact we had 80 miles of downhill awaiting us!!! After an unsurprisingly unenjoyable chicken soup at the refuge in the top (with a pigs’ head on the adjacent table for company), we began the huge descent, finding it impossible to take the smiles off our faces as we cycled down snaking roads to the valley floor. Although Jim did almost film Roo being run over by a lorry on the wrong side of the road the rest of the descent is up there with the most epic parts of the trip, as we enjoyed pristine tarmac, rapidly changing landscapes and cycled below the second highest railway in the world!
We eventually arrived in Lima at around 6, meaning we had to navigate the 6-lane motorway during rush hour and in near dark! The only reason we had come to Lima was because we had to buy gas and so we were extremely lucky to find a shop that was open, before finding an awesome hotel to spend the night in in Miraflores. Annoyingly the distance wasn’t 112 miles, so we will have to make it up on another of the days J.