One last hill climb in Peru

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

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Flag of Peru  , Puno,
Friday, February 22, 2013

We were on the road fairly early and greeted with a cold, damp mist. It had rained quite a lot over night and was threatening to commence again. We wrapped up in our rain jackets and set off prepared for the worst. Within minutes of cycling up hill, the sun was out and we were roasting in our waterproof gear.

Throughout the morning the landscape continued to be rolling hills through the high mountain valley. Similarly to yesterday we were surrounded by farmed land and small villages. The river rushed through the middle of the valley, with added intensity from the rain from last night. The weather was fine all morning and we were able to maintain a good speed.

We arrived into the town of Sichuani at 10.30am, and as we knew we had a hill climb ahead of us, with no villages along the way, we thought it would be wise to stop for lunch. We cycled through the town, which was a large dot on our map (one smaller than a city), to find a small, bustling market area. There were countless rows of women selling bags of potatoes.  There was little else on offer but if you wanted a sack of knobbly, soil covered potatoes you were in luck. There were numerous small basic restaurants but they were all closed as it was mid-morning. We cycled around for a while and eventually found one place with a few options on their menu. It is normal in Peru to order your food and within a moment or two it is served up in front of you. Usually there is only a couple of items on the menu, so they have the meals all prepared and then heat up a portion or two as and when they are ordered. For a change we had to wait for a while today as they made our order fresh on request.

We set off again after a satisfactory lunch of Lomo Saltado, and a cup of Camomile tea. We joined the highway again and started to make our way up for the hill, to a pass at 4400m above sea level.  Each of the passes that we have cycled over at this elevation have certain similarities. Firstly, the air is cold and if there is a wind it is bitter. It cools your cheeks and face and you instantly have a drip from your nose. The land is usually fairly stark and not much more than grass and weeds seem to flourish here. The landscape has a barren feel, usually with huge mountains protruding from the land and raising to a peak of snow, which nestles in the clouds.  Surprisingly there is always a couple of houses dotted around and a few stoic locals milling about, looking like they haven't noticed the cold and rain. The women still wear their traditional dress, which is always a skirt, with tights and woollen shawls, which must be a nightmare to dry in this climate. There is always a desolate feel, but it makes me feel excited that we are getting off the beaten track, pleased to be able to see these strong people in their isolated existence and proud to have made it to the top of another climb.

We whizzed down the other side of the pass and maintained speeds of 50km per hour for quite a while. We then reached some more rolling hills and our speeds slowed, as we made the final effort to make it to town. We decided to stop at a small restaurant for a cup of tea to warm up again. We would have both happily devoured a hot soup or meal but the tiny place didn't look like it had catered for anyone in years, and we didn't want to trouble them or our bellies by eating something they had left over.

The final 15km into town was on further rolling hills, and as the wind was picking up against our direction we had to put in a bit of pedal power again. At one point, a local guy, who was probably cycling home from work, drafted behind us to enjoy cycling without the resistance of the wind against him.

We arrived to the town of Santa Rosa, and instantly thought that we may be in for a similar experience as yesterday. The town looked small and we presumed the accommodation options would be sub par to say the least. We were delightfully surprised to find that there were a number of hotels, and the first one we enquired at had comfortable beds, a hot shower and we could wheel our bikes straight into the first floor room. What a perfect present for the end of a long, cold day.
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