Up, up, up to camp in the clouds

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

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Flag of Peru  , Ayacucho,
Monday, February 4, 2013

We got everything ready, had a quick trip to the market to re-stock on fresh fruit and were ready to set off into what we think will be the hardest stint on our trip.  We have researched and read other cyclist's blogs and noticed numerous times that they have referred to it as the hardest part of their cycle tour, even when they have cycled the whole Alaska down to the southern tip of Argentina.  So, with slight trepidation we set off.

The most difficult part is usually trying to find our way out of the city, as there is never any road signs and the "main road" never stands out from any of the others.  Thankfully we had looked at Google Maps and were able to navigate fairly easily.  We instantly began to climb a hill to leave the city, and made our way up a couple of hundred meters.  We stopped for fuel on the way out of town, as we knew that we may have to camp the night and would need petrol to cook with the camp stove.  We stopped a couple of times for water breaks and remarked that we were pleased that the road was still paved, as our information suggested it should be a dirt road.  It made the climbing a lot easier, as our tyres were able to grip the road and we weren't skidding around on the rocks. 

There weren't any villages or shops along the road at all, so we stopped for some oatmeal, which seemed like the quickest solution to fill us up for lunch.  Then we stopped by a small stream and filtered some more water for our drinking bottles.  It was around this time that I realised that we had actually taken a different route out of town than our information had recommended.  We knew that one way had less climbing and lots of villages along the way and the other way had a pass of 4300m and no villages at all along the way.  We had unwittingly opted for the pass that was a few hundred meters higher than the other choice.  Both roads joined up by the second day, so it wasn't a big deal but it didn't feel good to be climbing up high into the clouds, when there was a lower alternative. 

The road was really quiet and paved, and took us up passed agricultural land and green fields, with numerous crops in them.  There was an occasional collection of a few houses here and there, but no facilities as such, and we were pleased that we already had everything that we needed to camp for the night.  In fact, we had everything we needed for about three days, just in case, we didn't come across any shops or restaurants along the way.

We continued to climb up the hill, and ascended about 1500m over the day.  At the top, we were surrounded by the clouds, and cycling through a complete white out, which thankfully cleared shortly afterwards.  The views from the other side of the ridge were spectacular and we could see for miles.  There were blue/purple lupins growing by the sides of the road, which reminded me of New Zealand. 

We presumed that the road would snake down the other side of the pass, but it actually maintained the same elevation and continued along the ridge of the mountains.  We had hoped to descend down to find somewhere to camp but as the last light was fading we found somewhere to camp along the ridge.  As the clouds lingered at that level, we knew that we may be in for a cold, wet night but we had little other choice.  We found a flat(ish) camp spot that was hidden from the road and set up camp for the night.  We were both quite exhausted and it was only day one.
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