Trip Start Oct 16, 2012
136Trip End Apr 20, 2013
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The morning was spent slowly climbing a steady hill, which took us beside beautiful alpine lakes, surrounded by cattle grazing. As we climbed higher the vegetation became more sparse and cactus sprouted through the red sand and rock. As we reached alpine meadows at 4300m above sea level, we were surrounded by hundreds of alpaca. They were being carefully watched over by a shepherd/peasant woman, who was invariably sat high up on the hillside watching over her flock and the crazy cyclists who were plodding across her landscape. The alpaca were clearly used to the minimal traffic and felt safe to lie on the hot tarmac road, soaking up the sun. Each time I thought it had been run-over but as we approached they would open their eyes and give us a curious glance before continuing to sun bathe.
The weather was amazing, we were treated to a whole day of sunny, clear, warm weather again. This is a big surprise to us, as we were warned so many times about the dreadful weather, gale force winds and cold climate on the high plains. We have been so lucky with the weather so far and just hope that it holds out for us, just a bit longer. As the sky was so clear we could see between the mountains around us, and see towering 6000m snow capped mountains in the distance.
The high altitude meadows, with stone walls, tiny villages, mud huts and hundreds of alpaca was an amazing sight. I wonder if it is because I had such low expectations of this ride, as we were warned so many times of the harsh weather and poor road, but I was overjoyed with the spectacular scenery. It was a beautiful ride and probably one of my favourite parts of the whole trip so far. We felt strong, even though we were so heavily laden, the weather and the scenery was spectacular and we were in the middle of nowhere, ready to camp for the night. It felt great!!
We stopped numerous times throughout the day to snack on our saltinas and tomato rolls, and to enjoy the scenery. Although it was largely up hill and peaked at 4400m above sea level, we still managed to cycle a respectable 120km. As the sun began to get low in the sky we started to look for a place to camp. The difficulty was that with the flat landscape, it was impossible to find somewhere hidden from the farmers and the road. We asked a couple of people if we could camp in their village, but were met with confused looks, and told that hotels weren't much further away. They may be close in a car but Potasi was still 90km away, and would take us a whole day to cycle. Thankfully we saw a little spot, just off the road, in a gravel pit, which was hidden from the road. We tucked in behind the gravel pile, set up our tent and enjoyed a big plate of pasta with tomato and onion sauce. I think we will sleep well tonight after another long day.