Another great day on the bike!

Trip Start Oct 16, 2012
Trip End Apr 20, 2013

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

We got packed up and carried our bags and bikes back down the stairs from our coal pit camp.  The air was still, so the heat from the sun was already building at 8am.  The road was dirt path for the first 50km, over which we would climb about 2000m, which is slightly daunting when your bike is laden with the usual belongings and also extra litres of water and camping supplies.  The incentive for making it to Caraz was to be able to have a shower (probably a cold one though), which was a luxury we hadn't had for three days. 

The first part of the day was through a valley with rock face on both sides, leading up to huge mountains, which would peak out far above.  The road followed the river and in parts where there wasn't room for the road they had blasted tunnels through the rock.  We saw a coal mine that was still in operation and about 10 miners waved as we passed and told us to take their photo.  They were absolutely covered in black coal dust, with only their eyes and big toothy smiles gleaming against the black background. 

We had read on all of the cycle blogs that there was a waterfall along this stretch of road, which sounded perfect in the heat of the day.  We cycled on always looking out for it, but never saw it, so had to remain hot and sweaty all day.  We were slowly making some elevation as the road gradually climbed up the valley but we could see that we had a big climb ahead of us.  The climb into the town of Yuramarca, was fairly steep, and again dirt, pebble road, so took some gritted teeth and determination to climb.  The knowledge that lunch was waiting for me at the top, was enough to pull me up the rest of the way.  The views at this point were magnificent, as we could see along the valley behind us and ahead.  We also had the sweet smell of mango permeating the air, as we cycled passed field after field of the delicious fruit.  We also saw many workers collecting them into small wooden crates, to stack in a pick up truck to take to the market or the city.  The workers took them off the trees with a piece of netting attached to a long piece of bamboo, which looked like a long fishing net.

We arrived into town and had a simple lunch, which was un-remarkable but the fact that we saw a dozen or so guinea pigs running around our feet was unusual.  The kids made nothing of them, as they clearly weren't pets, they were destined for the cooking pot!

After a couple of hundred meter descent back to the river, we met a motorbike tourist who was going the other way.  He stopped immediately but rather than the usual conversation of which way are you going, what is the weather like there, what is the road like kind of questions he launched into a lecture about the western world abusing the countries in South America and how his country, Colombia, is the best one in the world.  He was pleasant about it but clearly felt strongly about the oppression of South American countries and wanted to give us a 5 minute lecture on it.

We continued along the dirt track for another hour or so before arriving into another small town, which was based near a large energy plant.  It had a rustic feel, with only a couple of guys enjoying a few Saturday afternoon beers, in the dusty one street town, but there was a separate, fenced off community, for the energy plant workers, with a swimming pool and tennis courts.  I wondered how the two sides of the town co-existed.

The dirt track wound its way up the steep hill, with a series of switchbacks to quickly gain some more elevation.  As we plodded on, 8 motorcyclists whizzed passed us, all tooting their horns and giving us a thumbs up or wave.  It looked like such a better idea at that point, as we plodded up at a snails pace. 

The road then winded its way through the outstanding Can del Pato.  It is where two of the largest mountain ranges in the area almost meet, with some areas being only 15m across, the road becomes thin and there is apparently a 1000m drop to the river valley below.  The road snaked its way along a path blasted out of sheer rock, over a precipitous gorge and passed through 35 tunnels, hand-cut through solid stone. As we cycled through some of the best riding we have done, huge rock walls towered above us on all sides.  Obviously we stopped regularly to take photos and to take in the breathtaking landscape.  The tunnels varied in length and difficulty.  Most of them would only be short but occasionally we would be plunged into absolutely darkness, with only our head-torches to guide the way over the loose rock.  All in all, it was outstanding cycling and at this point we were grateful to be on bikes to be able to leisurely enjoy the views and to be able to stop regularly to take photos.

Almost immediately after being released from the clutches of the canon, we hit paved road again, which was a relief as it was getting late in the day and we still had another 30km to pedal.  Thankfully the wind was working with us and we were able to make some good time on the paved road.  As we approached the town of Caraz, we still had a couple of hundred meters to climb, and I was exhausted.  My legs turned at a ridiculously slow pace, as we inched up the hill, at which point an older local guy, who looked about 80 years old, but may have only been 50 (they don't age well here, with long, hard days working in the sun) passed me!  He was on a rickety, rusty old bike but still managed to whizz up the hill to overtake me.  Then he carried on putting in lots of energy to pass Kory too, to say that he was pleased with himself is an understatement.  I think it made his day as he turned around to give us both a huge, cheeky grin!!!  I was exhausted, after being on the bike for close to 8 hours but it still made me laugh out loud that he was so happy with himself.

We arrived in to town and found a nice hotel, which had a camping area, with a hammock and outdoor seating that suited us perfectly. We set the tent up and I dived into a steaming hot shower to wash away the cares of the day.  It felt amazing.  Kory then somehow managed to put away half a roasted chicken, two big portions of chips, a salad and four beers, but I was like a child on a long car journey and couldn't keep my eyes open long enough to eat anything.  What a fantastic day!
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Karen on

YES! gorgeous views! Glad it was a GREAT day for you! I was holding my breath to read from the day before! Write MORE!

Natalie on

I am happy to hear that you got a hot shower not just the cold one you were anticipating!

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