Lots of climbing, but spectacular mountains as a reward.
13.09.2012 - 17.09.2012
13th September Rest day in Adahuaylas
What a noisy town. A hotel room with a balcony might also have a view, but it comes at a price. Noise. I was woken at 6:30 this morning with a truck going up and down the street honking it’s horn and ringing a loud bell. I thought, ‘What the?’ and stuck my head over the balcony to see what the commotion was all about. It was the rubbish truck letting people know it’s coming to collect the rubbish. Why not put it out the night before and sleep in peace? What about me? I don’t have any rubbish and I’m just trying to sleep! Unbelievable. Here's the view.
Mid-morning I set off wandering and before long, found the central plaza with the usual church on one side. From there I ended up at surprise, surprise – the markets. I bought a lovely mixed juice from a vendor there. 750ml of fresh juice for $1. I noticed on their menu – jugo con cervesa/juice with beer. On chatting to the juice ladies, they use a local stout and it’s popular. I told them that I like beer and I like juice, but I wish to keep them separate.
Here are the streets full of cockroach taxis near the markets.
More crazy mannequins.
Lunch was at little eatery near the hotel and it was full of locals. Soup, main and dessert – a banana – and sweet tea and all for $2.50. The soup was delicious and didn’t have chicken feet in it.
My chicken main course came with a red vegetable on the side. Large chilli or small capsicum? Wow! Was it hot. It was worse than a chilli and it burnt my mouth for an hour.
This afternoon we had cake and drinks on the hotel top floor to celebrate Graeme and Suzanna’s birthdays today. Two different cakes, so of course we had to try both. I love the polar bear on top.
It's Susanna's birthday
I had a different drink with dinner tonight. Chicha morada. It’s a sweet beverage made from the black corn you see in the markets. On a blind taste test, I’d have picked it as Ribena blackcurrant cordial. Nice though.
14th September Andahuaylas to bush camp – 83km / 1500m climbing
Today I stopped often, but it wasn’t for photos.
I began today normally, had breakfast and was looking forward to the ride. It began with a 1200m / 38km climb straight up from the 2900 we’d slept at in Andahuaylas to a pass at 4100m. Then a downhill, then another climb and another downhill to our camp in the eucalyptus forest at nearly 3600m. Should have been a tough day but a goodie. Should have been. Not long after starting, I felt sick and the more I rode, the worse it got. I’d have to stop and put my head on the handlebars until the nausea passed. Then I’d keep riding. By now I was the last person. There are half a dozen people usually slower than me, but they’d all baulked at the climb and jumped in the truck to lunch at the top. I wanted to do this ride, so persevered. I think it’s good training for life not to jump in the life raft at the first sign of trouble. I don’t expect my business or my marriage to be hassle-free, but I’m not going to bail out. At 26km, the second truck, which had stocked up on food for tonight, passed me. That was my chance to bail, but I stuck at it as I had to now. I was so late into lunch that they came back to see if I was okay, which was nice. I didn’t eat lunch, just continued. The downhill was fine as I didn’t have to pedal, but as soon as the second climb came, my nausea returned. I got through it and the last 15km, although unpaved, had spectacular views and was downhill. I didn’t take many photos as although the mountains were stunning for us being here, it was hazy and it meant that only the first range showed up – poorly – in a photo and the five behind it disappearing into the distance weren’t on the photo. I took this photo to show how the whole area is cropped.
I saw something different today. A horse with curly hair. As I passed, I wondered why the horse looked different. Curliness is a relatively common genetic mutation and we’ve captured it with certain varieties of domestic pets, I’ve just never seen a curly horse. How's this cute piglet?
Campsite tonight is lovely. It’s a small grassy clearing amongst small gum trees on all sides. The Aussie contingent of Bike Dreams feels right at home.
What a cold evening! As soon as the sun went down, the temperature plummeted. Still feeling unwell, I spent the time until dinner laying in my tent, wondering if I would have dinner. The fire engine’s siren indicated dinner time and I decided to give it a go. I’m glad I did. Although I only had a small portion, Kirstin’s mushroom risotto with tender beef and stir-fried vegetables was delicious. Bush camps are usually AFDs for me and even with the red wine on the tables for Wilbert, the owner’s birthday, I was happy not to drink. I was on dinner dishes roster and it was so cold that I think we set a new record time and then dived into our tents. I had a warm night and a good sleep.
15th September Eucalyptus forest bush camp to Abancay 60km / 716 climbing
I woke feeling much better. I have no idea what it was that made me feel crook. Today was a good profile, a day of two halves. How good are the mountain views?
One of our two fire trucks.
We’d slept at 3500m and the day began with a 1700m nearly 40km unsealed road downhill ride to 1800m in the bottom of the valley. What was incredible was that from the top of the hill, you could see your day laid out in front of you with the down hill switch-backing to the bottom and then the road climbing up the other side of the valley to Abancay.
From the bottom of the valley it was a 15km climb to Abancay. I stopped at a car wash and used it at a bike wash. It was nice to de-mud my bike, ready for a service this arvo. Today was a short day, so we didn’t have a lunch stop, just soup and salad waiting for us at the hotel. I’m happy that our room is at the back, not facing the street. At 3pm, I went to the basement to do three things to my bike – 1) Change the tyres from off-road to road tyres 2) Clean the chain and sprockets and 3) Fit a new bottle holder. All up the jobs should have taken no more than an hour. I was still there at 6pm in the dingy dungeon long after the last person had gone. Why? On pumping up the second tyre I could hear hissing air and sure enough, the tyre went flat. I took the tube out but could not find the hole, so put it back in the tyre, but it went flat again. I eventually found the hole, patched it but when I pumped up the tyre the patch leaked. Apparently the self-adhesive patches I was sold are a waste of time. I gave up and put a new tube in. Earlier, Richard our bike mechanic had shown me how to adjust my disk brakes, which was good as he was long gone when I had to adjust the rear ones. Grrr. It was meant to be an afternoon off.
Here's Harry and Lee.
Here is a statue it the park opposite the hotel.
I went for a walk before dinner and it began with a BBQ chicken heart kebab – anticucho – from a street vendor. It was so good that after walking around the block, I bought another one. Hey! They’re only 20 cents each.
Dinner was at a reputable-looking place with tablecloths and cloth napkins. My medium-cooked Fillet Mignon was not. It was in fact a blue-cooked Scotch steak with mushroom sauce. Someone else with me ordered something different and got the same. How to make your menu look longer than it is.
Tonight I slept well until 2:10am when I woke with our 4th floor room shaking with music from a party in the basement. Midnight maybe, but 2am? I went downstairs dressed in no more than boxer shorts and a t-shirt and asked them to turn it down. After speaking to a few staff, I got the dad, who was throwing the party for his daughter’s 15th birthday. I explained the time and that there was a hotel full of people above who couldn’t sleep for the noise. He instructed the DJ to turn it down and I went back to bed. I could still hear the music but it was no longer intrusive.
16th September Abancay to Limatambo 118km / 2459m climbing
I got the llama this morning for my efforts last night with the music. Unbeknownst to me, 2 Bike Dreams staff had tried unsuccessfully at 12:30 and 1:30 to get it turned down. My under-dressed efforts got me the llama.
Today was a tough day on the bike. 2459m of climbing? Before this trip I’d only done 800m and 90km in a day and that was at sea level in Perth. This was 1/3 further and 4 times the climbing and it was at altitude. Well, I signed up for a challenge, so today was my chance to rise to it.
Just outside of Abancay I saw this sign, Cusco 180 km. Not sure if that was a good thing or not. It’s a lot of kms when the topography is so extreme. On the good side, in just two days of riding, I’ll be in the amazing city of Cusco, the capital of the Inca empire.
People put these on the roof of their houses. Good luck charm?
How beautiful are these mountains?
I had a really good, but hard working day on the bike. It began straight out with a 1500m / 35km climb from 2400m up to 3900m. With a climb like this, our group spread out like butter on a hot day.
Here's me and Limpkin the llama at 3900m. We're both happy it's the top of the climbing for today.
It took me 3 hours and 20 minutes. Lunch was there on top. Church with an amazing view.
Didier relaxing at the lunch stop.
I could see a storm coming and hear the thunder, so took off down the mountain to out-run it. Those behind me copped a hailstorm, but I stayed dry. It was a 60km / 1800m descent to the bottom of the valley and I loved every minute of it. A real change from the mountain top, it got really hot down in the valley.
At the bottom, the road entered a narrow canyon. What a change from the massive views of the last two days.
After a few kilometres the road turned up a tributary of the river and I continued climbing towards Limatambo on my way to Cusco. The day had saved a 700m climb for the end when you’re most tired, but there were more challenges to come. I could see a storm up the valley in the direction I was heading and sure enough, I copped a downpour. I’d seen it coming and had my jacket on in time. Riding in the rain? Once you’re wet it’s okay. After 10 minutes or so, the rain stopped as quickly as it had started and the road was bone dry. If you lived here, your vegies had got nothing. The brewing grey clouds also brought wind and I had a headwind as I headed up the valley. I got dry again, but near to Limatambo it rained again. I rode 1 kilometre too far past where we were staying. Annoying at any time, doubly so when it’s raining. We’re camping in the grounds of a hostel, but for $4 I grabbed a warm dry bed instead of setting up my tent in the rain. Best $4 I've spent in awhile.
Cooked by the host with everything else by Kirstin, dinner tonight was guinea pig, or cuy as the locals call them. They’re not pets in South America, but just for food in the same way as we don’t keep pigs as pets. I’d had it when I was in SA in 2004, but we were all having it tonight, so I had it again. The verdict? Not a lot of meat for the amount of work. They’re all bone. A wise local said, ‘Never order cuy when you’re hungry.’ It takes so long to get bits and there really isn’t that much meat there. Contrary to what you might be thinking, they’re not a tourist novelty, but appear on many local menus throughout Ecuador, Peru and if I remember correctly, Bolivia too. They’re a good source of protein for the people here as they don’t take up much room and don’t have to be taken out to graze. The agricultural department have bred special fatter bigger ones for eating, apparently. Here are a few photos of our group dinner of cuy.
17th September Limatambo to Cusco - 80km / 1500m climbing
I had the llama to give away, but before I did so, I shared a poem. It was a good chance for some fun with the group. i can't put it here as it was a bit risque. Look on Facebook, or email me and I'll send it to you.
Another hard but good day in the saddle. It was 1/3 less distance and climbing, but tacked onto yesterday, it seemed the same! Big climb to start, then the middle of the day was an undulating meander and quite pleasant. How's this cuy farm we passed. How cute does it look? Tasty! The first photo is Harry and the second is Ghily.
A short steep climb had me on the cusp of Cusco. I could see grey clouds brewing, so raced the storm down the hill into Cusco proper. It arrived once I was safely at our hotel. It has a nice courtyard with the rooms on 4 sides around it. It seems really nice, clean, well-kept and has a woman’s touch.
How good is this snack? It’s corn chips, potato chips, Twisties and one other thing, all in the one packet. Seriously moreish.
We had farewell drinks tonight for 3 of our riders who are leaving. They joined us at the beach in Huancayo and have been with us for a month.
After my Skype with Erin, I wandered down to the Plaza Armas, in the centre of Cusco.
Even walking there was amazing. This is such an ancient city. I walked past carved stone doorways – imagine the stories if they could talk. The narrow cobbled streets have just enough room for a one-way car road and a narrow footpath on each side. Surrounding the plaza are flagstones worn smooth by 500 hundred years of foot traffic and the whole place just oozes history. The plaza itself is beautiful and is the beating heart of Cusco. It’s big enough to breathe and what’s nice is that the grassed parts are not fenced off, like many other towns. I really like it and with 500 year old churches on 2 sides, there’s a real sense of place. I walked all 4 sides and what a change this place is from the places we’ve been staying in. Usually if I see a ‘gringo’, it’s a case of ‘which Bike Dreams person is that?’ as we’re the only non-Peruvians in town. Here in Cusco it’s Gringo Central! I perused the menus of the plaza tourist restaurants and they had all the usual suspects, only at 4 times the price. I ducked up a side street and not 10 metres from the plaza, ate in a little place for Peruvians. No English menus, in fact no English anything, but I know my way around a menu now, had some Spanish banter with the staff, and got what I wanted, and a juice too and for a quarter of the price just a few metres away.
Tomorrow we have a tour of the Sacred Valley before catching the train to Machu Picchu in the afternoon. We’re staying overnight, but that, dear readers will be my next blog.