Making friends with some park rangers
Trip Start Oct 16, 2012
136Trip End Apr 20, 2013
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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
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 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.