From sea level to 3000m in 4 spectacular days.
23.08.2012 - 26.08.2012
23rd August Huanchaco to random ‘bushcamp’ 115km / 911m climbing
We’ve been a bit like a fish out of water. It’s time now to leave the coast and head back into the hills before we lose all our altitude acclimatising.
If I had to describe today in a word it would be ‘smells’. Nice cooking ones as we left Huanchaco, then a putrid dead animal, smelly seafood by the sea, then people burning off and much more.
What’s with naming your petrol station ‘Divine Baby Jesus’? Would this work in Australia? Caltex for Christians or Ampol for atheists. Maybe not?
I had a great day on the bike today. I was part of a big group up until lunch and most people took turns up the front. After lunch it was a group of 7 of us and we all did.
The scenery early was not much, but the end of the day as we left the bitumen and rode on an unsealed road was much nicer. No longer a tight group of 7, we spread out like Vegemite as we wove around and rode amongst rocky hills. It was a rocky and bumpy road but not with loose stones. After averaging 20-25kph all day, the 10-15kph on the rough road made the last 15km drag a bit, but as I said, it was nice to look around and there were very few vehicles or dust. A nice end to a good day.
Our bush camp tonight might be my most level tent site ever. It’s on a concrete foundation! Kirstin’s dinner tonight was a tasty surprise. Fish and prawns. I thought I’d seen the last of seafood for awhile!
24th August Bushcamp to bushcamp 85km / 1047m climbing
What a spectacularly beautiful day. Sure, it was almost all rough road, not sealed, but that’s because we snaked our way up the Canyon Del Pato/Duck Canyon. It started wide enough, with the Cordillero Negra on the left and the Cordillero Blanca on the right side of us and fertile flat farmland by the river. I noticed and stopped to photograph fields of marigold orange. I had no idea what they were, so asked a passing local, hoping it would be an answer I would understand. It was – marigolds.
As the mountains narrowed, farmland disappeared and the now-cascading river became my constant companion.
We climbed steadily all day.
I know this not just from the profile on our page of directions, but from the fact that we followed the cascading river upstream. With almost no vegetation, bar the odd cactus, the mountains are so ruggedly beautiful and unscarred by man. I enjoyed the ever-changing palette of colours as mountainsides varied from the extremes of coal black to dusty white and every shade of brown, orange and ochre in between. At times it reminded me of one of those glass things with the sand and water in them and the different colours would cascade differently. Massive walls of unblemished scree soaring at over 45 degrees. Here are some men mining coal with shovels and wheelbarrows.
The road was chunky and dusty, but there wasn’t too much traffic and I met none of it during any of the 10 tunnels I went through. My bike has been fairly rattled and the only thing that broke was a water bottle holder, so I fitted a new one tonight. It’s the third that’s broken, so I now carry spares.
There were two pleasant and unexpected surprises at camp tonight and I don’t mean the lovely location. First was a cold beer at the shop just before camp. It’s just over the river and I could see our camp on the other side. I just had to cross a bridge and double back. I bought the only beer he had and it was deliciously cold. He wouldn’t let me take the bottle, so I drank it there. I told him to put more in the fridge for others, but it was the only one he had. A bar with one beer.
Second surprise was the chance to wash off today’s mud and dust in the river by our campsite. There’s no rain here, so I figured the stream must be snow melt. Cold water never felt so refreshing.
It might have only been 85km today but you could only average 15kph with the road like it was, so it was still more than 5 hours on the bike. I think I’ll sleep well tonight, even with a dead mattress. Waste of money that one was when the prickles from the first camp have rendered it useless already. It was an uncomfortable night last night. I guess tonight will be the same.
25th August Bushcamp – Haraz 85km / 1600m climbing
I thought I might have got the llama this morning. Yesterday at lunch, I’d been looking for my sunnies. They weren’t in the usual spot of my bar bag and as I had a hat on, they weren’t on my head. I found them in front of my eyes! Just then Monique walked up and I told her and I had a laugh at myself. I forgot she had the llama to give away and was looking for stories. When I heard her repeating my sunglass silliness to someone else I realised she had taken note. I didn’t get the llama at brekkie today.
Our second and final day riding the length of Canyon Del Pato. WOW! Another spectacular day surrounded by beautiful mountains with a happy ending. Yes, it was another uncomfortable night. Sure the ground appeared flat, but with a dead mattress, by this morning, I knew every little bump!
More chunky roads and more riding slowly and being careful not to destroy your tyres on sharp rocks. 85km might not sound like much, but when it’s gnarly roads and lots of climbing, I was happy to finish it in 5 hours.
There were 28 tunnels today varying between 10 metres long and several hundred, all single lane, unlit, with unsealed road. It’s very hard to ride when you can’t see what you’re riding on. Sure, I had my light, but it doesn’t pick out depth of shadows of corrugations and potholes. I was fortunate not to have many issues with vehicles trying to share the tunnel with me which is good, because the best ‘line’ was usually riding the pile of dirt between the two tyre lines. The tunnels were all single lane, which led to an incident I arrived upon. One car heading in my direction was engaged in a Peruvian standoff with 6 vehicles coming the other way, refusing to reverse the 20 metres back to the passing lane just outside the tunnel. I just rode past them and laughed.
The surrounding canyon today is just as spectacular as yesterday. It’s two mountain ranges converging from as far as 16km apart to as little as 9 metres, which is why we needed tunnels if we’re going to ride along the bottom. Again the colours on the mountain sides were nature’s palette showing off. Cacti were the main vegetation in this harsh environment, poking their green stems upward in an ‘up yours’ finger gesture to the weather gods that make it not rain here.
The happy ending? Bitumen for the last 15 km. It was such a welcome sight at the end of the day. There was still some climbing to Harez, but having sealed road made it so much easier. Harez seems like a nice little town and we’re staying overlooking the main plaza.
(It has lovely grassed areas, but all with ‘keep off’ signs. What’s the point in that? I’m sure some secretary eating her sandwich on it over lunch is not going to wear it out.) I went for a lap of the square, exploring all the shops on the perimeter and stopping for an Inca Cola. It tastes like red creaming soda, but it’s yellow and ubiquitous throughout Peru. It’s all part of the experience, but I wouldn’t drink it at home. They have it in great little 237 ml bottles which are perfect for a refreshment stop.
I also went to the Ferreteria/hardware store and bought 10 BFO nails to use as tent pegs. The ones that came with my tent look great but bent at even the sight of a hammer! Hungry from that shopping, I bought a sweet quinoa ball snack thing. Tasty! With all this eating, I probably won’t lose weight at this rate.
Dinner tonight had 4 choices on the menu, but it’s not as hard as it sounds. The 4 choices were - whole roast chicken, ½ Roast chicken, ¼ Roast chicken or 1/8 Roast chicken, all served with chips and salad. I guess I’ll have the chicken. There were 7 of us, including Wilbert, the owner and his partner Susanna, our trip interpreter/Spanish teacher. Apple pie at a nearby pastry shop for desserts and I’m ready for bed.
26th August Caraz – Huaraz 70km / 1223m climbing
The only way is up!
Another lovely day on the bike. It was all sealed roads with undulating terrain so I didn’t notice the climbing and many small villages on the way added interest. It is so nice to take in a place at the speed of a bicycle. Many things that I see and stop to appreciate would be missed if you flew by in a car or bus. People working their fields, or just sitting by the road waiting for a bus, there’s much to see.
All day there were snow-capped mountains to my left soaring up to 6000m and I’m at about 2500, heading up to 3000m in Huaraz tonight.
Two examples today really highlight my ability to stop and enjoy the moment. The first was the weekly Sunday markets in some random town. WOW! So much fresh fruit and vegies and everyone was dressed up, or do they always dress like this? Ladies in their colourful skirts and a hat, of course. I could have just kept riding, as many did, but for me it was a chance to stop, wander and experience the random part of rural Peru that I happen to be in. I got some great sneaky photos too. I could have picked those cyclists who’d stop and those who’d not and I was right. It’s the same ones in the group who don’t care about time and always stop for lots of photos. Here are some from the Sunday markets.
The second example of random participation was a 25 piece brass band that I rode past. I stopped, of course, and listened, then got off my bike and started dancing. What the heck! Why not? I was still wearing my helmet as this wasn’t a planned stop. It seemed like a party and it turns out it was a house-warming. Christine and Graeme weren’t far behind me on the bike and they too were soon dancing. The hosts invited us not only to join us for lunch, but to stay for a couple of nights if we needed to! We declined, but such hospitality is lovely. The band played some more and we too danced some more, but alas, if we don’t keep riding, we won’t reach Huaraz. The hosts made sure they had us on their video and still photos on the day before we were allowed to leave. SO RANDOM, but so special too.
I’ve passed all sorts of interesting things on my rides so far and often in the evening it’s only the ‘slow-coaches’ that noticed it. The speed demons might ride the same route as me, but they don’t experience it the same. One thing I’m sure they have too is idiot drivers who squeeze past when they shouldn’t. It happens all the time. If there’s room on the other side, then they pass with room, but if it means slowing down until the car coming the other way has past, forget it. People here will sit and watch their cow eat grass, but get behind the wheel and time suddenly matters. The minivan busses are the worst and they all have God slogans on the back of the van. Today I nearly got cleaned up by one sporting, ‘By the grace of God.’ Really? God’s got nothing to do with it and you nearly sent me to hospital, or worse. I believe that atheists make much better drivers. Why? If you’re an atheist, then safety is your responsibility and no one else’s. God believers say a prayer before driving, then it’s up to God to make it all safe, so they drive like idiots thinking God is in control, not them. Even if they die, they believe heaven’s waiting for them. As a cyclist, I’d like to see less God slogans and more safe driving.
We’re still between the two mountain ranges, but they’ve spread apart again and no longer form a canyon. Instead there were fields of corn, fruit trees and some flowers too. I watched a man cutting clover by hand using only a sickle on a long stick. If ever someone needed a whipper-snipper it was him. He was quite friendly and let me take his photo. Unfortunately Travellerspoint website has been playing up and picks and chooses which photos it lets me upload. The one of the man just gets an error message.
Arriving in Huaraz early in the arvo allowed me to (cold, but who cares?) shower chill out and then check out the town proper. There’s a nice plaza with grass to only look at but not touch, but most shops were closed, this being Sunday. I found a nice bar with outdoor seats and was enjoying a strawberry juice and then a beer when I was joined by first two, then a third person from Bike Dreams. We will come back here for dinner as the menu looks good. Here are some pics of the plaza in Huarez.
Erin Skype, YAY! Then to dinner where I’d been this arvo. I shared my Caesar salad story with you earlier, where not one of the ingredients of a real Caesar Salad was present. With this in mind I ordered Fillet Mignon but had no idea what I’d get. It was the real deal and better than many meals I’ve had at restaurants at home. Rest day here in Huaraz tomorrow then up higher and camping at over 4000m.