Making friends with some park rangers

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

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Flag of Peru  , Ancash,
Friday, January 18, 2013

We said a fond farewell to the hostel owner in the morning and set off towards the National Park. The sun was up, the air was crisp and there was barely a cloud in the sky. The weather was the best that it had been since we arrived into the central highlands area, so we hoped that it would hold up for the rest of the day to allow us to get a glimpse of some of the highest mountains in the world.

We made our way through the town and were instantly greeted with a slow, gradual ascent. We cycled along by the river, but unfortunately the valley sides were steep, so limited our view of the mountains. The road was fairly quiet and paved but it continued to climb slowly, so our progress was fairly slow. Once we arrived at the top of the valley, the climb levelled out slightly and we could enjoy views of the mountains in the distance again. We cycled through a couple of small villages, that had women in indigenous dress walking along the road, with children with red cheeks and snotty noses running along behind them. The children here remind us both of Nepal, as you can see instantly that they are living up at high altitude, with red cheeks, darkened skin from being outside so much and being all bundled up with ten layers on.

We stopped at a small restaurant for lunch and were greeted by a friendly girl, who said she had some lunches available. We presumed it would be the usual chicken and rice dish but were pleasantly surprised when she produced a chunk of lamb instead of the chicken, which made a nice change.  As we finished the meal a group of workers pulled over to have a look at the bikes and delighted in pointing out the brands that they can also buy in Peru.

We set off towards the entrance of the National Park, not really knowing what to expect it to look like, but knowing that it was about 7-10km away.  I think I expected there to be a sign or something to point the way, but instead there was just a gravel road connected to the road.  We asked a guy who was sat by the side of the road (I presume he was waiting for a bus but he may have just been bored) and he confirmed that it led to the National Park.  He didn't bat an eyelid about us heading into the mountains, on a gravel path, with heavily laden bikes, to cross a 5000m pass.  He acted like he saw it everyday.

The gravel road was the worst that we have ever been on.  It was like trying to cycle across a pebble beach, with heavy bikes, uphill!  I was utterly frustrated and couldn't believe that the other blogs hadn't said that it was practically impossible.  It was the first time in both of our trips that we have had to get off the bikes to push them up the hills.  Even though the hills weren't steep the rocks would knock us off our bikes often and we didn't have any traction on the road to get started again.  It was worse than trying to cycle through sand.  We managed to plod along at about 4km per hour and hoped that we would make it the 13km down the road to our destination.  Suddenly it dawned on us, as we saw trucks passing us filled with small rocks, they were applying a fresh layer of rocks to the road, which would be great for the cars in bad weather but a nightmare for bikes.  That explained why the other blogs didn't mention it, because they probably were cycling along a compacted, fairly smooth dirt road.

Finally we crested a little hill and saw the ranger station that we had been aiming to spend the night.  We intended to ask them if we could camp but they offered before we even opened our mouths.  They said they were happy for us to camp in the grounds, and to use their kitchen for the evening.  It was a perfect set-up, to be camping in the mountains, but to be able to keep warm in the cold evening around their large kitchen table.  We chatted all evening with the rangers, about their role and the difficulties with hunters in the area.  They told us that hunters had killed their colleague a couple of years ago and the selling of Vicuna (like llama) fur was a big problem on the black market.  They only had a slingshot for protection, which seemed futile against the hunters.  They also told us that they had asked us to camp at the ranger hut because if we camped in the park the peasant farmers would be worried that we were planning to steal their animals.  I couldn't help but find this funny, the image of Kory and I cycling along herding a couple of cows in front of us, with a llama or two tied up to our handle bars.  I'm pretty sure that they would find us before we got very far!  The ranger also whispered to me "In Peru, the women do the cooking and the men sit around chatting!" as he stared at Kory doing the difficult culinary task of putting pasta into some boiling water.  I just laughed and said "shhhh, don't tell him".

It was a difficult day, with probably the worst road that we had been on, but the views had been amazing and the mountains had looked spectacular.  We could see two huge, snow capped mountains from our camping spot and the night sky was clear.  The views of the stars were amazing during the night and we were excited to camp at 4150m for the first time.   
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Gramma on

Beautiful scenery, but lots of hard work on your bikes.....I love the pictures of the mountains, really scenic...

Natalie on

I have been meaning to ask when I read about different conversations you are having with others now...are they speaking english or are you guys getting really good at Spanish?

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