It doesn't happen often that I wake up much sooner than I should have. But today is definitely such a day. Not because I have woken up in the middle of the night. No. I simply woke up at the standard time, packed my things and prepared to leave. Except that the muchacho responsible for the restaurant (and thus indirectly also for my bike locked inside) was nowhere to be seen. In the end he shows up about an hour later with an explanation that he slept over. Damn you, I could have done the same!
After the breakfast I start spinning on what would be a long uphill. The road follows the valley and with nice surface it slowly climbs up. This is however poised to change as I get off the main road. The new road is less smooth and climbs noticably stronger. Just a few minutes into it and I am already sweating, having frequent brakes and here and there push a bit because I fail to resume cycling without falling off the bike.
The hard work is rewarded by good views though. First I have a chance to see Vichaycocha in the full. The village is much bigger than I thought because a big part of it lies above the road. But looks of Vichaycocha quickly give away place for a side-valley the road just climbed into. Steep rocky sides make for some decent vistas until a sudden boost in quality when a big mountain of vertical rock plates appears out of nowhere. The place is so stunning that I even decide to take lunch around it.
Full both of food and views I resume cycling on a few switchbacks to the pass. The scenery reveals a mix of rock and fancy-colored mountains which open bit by bit as I gain more elevation.
A bit before the pass I am semi-surprised when I spot somebody above me. It doesn't take that long and I can guess that it is my cycling friends Jeremy and Madeleine. It however takes me some time to finally catch up with them. Togerther we finish the pass and wonder about a colored-strip mountain. While this isn't the rainbow mountain it is still quite impressive.
The descent from the pass belongs to the "quite long" category. As we are rattling over the not-so-smooth road the scenery brings always something new. There are however two things that do not change -- golden grass and presence of mountains around. We finish the day in a small village of Paquin. Jeremy and Madeleine seem to be quite good at securing cheap accomodation -- we end up having a whole room for ourselves in an old man's house. The food selection seems to be more disappointing though -- people on Pike's web were informing about some almost contraband-like stuff, i.e., chocolates. Unfortunately, the shops seemed to run out of this black gold and instead provide only standard "would do if I didn't have anything" choices. There even isn't a restaurant. But a friendly shop owner agreed to cook for me which was all that I needed after a hard (1300+m of climb) day.
We start the day by warming up brakes on 500m of descent into Picoy -- a small but nice village. During the descent the temperature quickly rises and by the time we are ready to climb it is already quite warm.
From Picoy it is only about 4 kilometers to Huancahuasi. They aren't the nicest kilometers though. Don't be mistaken -- the road is quite scenic with one part going through a deep canyon. Unfortunately, the road is also quite busy with cars full of tourists going to a nearby baños termales. And for some reason, the drivers are even worse than the usual Peruvian kind, overtaking cyclists with barely any clearance and raising a damn big dust behind them. I guess we got a bit of a satisfaction though -- despite several attempts one of the cars just could not climb a particularly steep part of the road and the tourists were (probably) left to walk the few km to the destination.
Leaving the thermales behind we are finally left the road for ourselves. The climb continues in a relatively steep fashion. During this time we slowly ride up a valley with interesting vertical rocks.
We finally leave the bottom of the valley when the road turns back. A bit more climb and we find ourselves in Rapaz. My friends are voting to stay here (Madeleine is in a decently bad mood after the stupid car drivers) and so we search for a place to stay. Somewhat unexplicably the big municipal hospedaje seems to be full but we find a place in a big room just next to the main plaza. This turns out to be a real good spot because the evening conjures up a stall with lady selling hamburgers. After three of them I am more than full and totally satisfied :-)
Right from the morning the sky looks quite differently to yesterday -- it is very cloudy. As far as the weather goes this doesn't please me at all -- I really want to get to Oyon today which means a rather tough climb and subsequent descent.
With the moody sky the climb is a bit less scenic than expected. However, an unexpected distraction comes to save us -- there are workers from an electric company and they are setting up a new high-voltage power line. I am mesmerized by a long wire travelling through pulleys at the power towers.
A bit later and the weather produces the first drizzle of the day. In the meantime I am left waiting for French -- they seem to be quite slow today. Moreover, we have to do a detour against the original Pike's route beucase it seems that a mine extended its area and the road is fenced. The alternative isn't however on our maps and so it is hard to say exactly how much ascent we have to do.
A few switchbacks higher and we find ourselves in an intermediary pass. And we also get a company -- just next to the pass there is a lone booth and a mine entry guard. Asking if we can eat in a shelter just a bit off the road the answer is negative. Supposedly there is much earth and air pollution. Of course this is a total bullsh!t and probably just a clumsy explanation "I don't want you here" from the guard. Madeleine's bad mood from yesterday seems to continue and she is determined to have lunch here despite the guard. I decide to take a pragmatic approach to have my lunch just out of the guard's view and thus say goodbye to my friends. Which turns out to be just before the final climb.
Hidden from the guard's view I stop to refuel my energy. At the same time it also decides to hail a bit so I huddle under my raincoat while munching the food. Refreshed I set to finish off the last climb while the weather isn't looking. Apart from another small snowing/hail I manage to do this fine. While climbing I am wondering where Jeremy and Madeleine are. My lunch wasn't the shortest one and now that I am a good time into the climb they are still nowhere to be found. In fact, even when I finally reach the top I do not see them. I assume (rather correctly) that they aren't going to make it to Oyón today, cycle past a guard's booth and lunch head on into a descent.
On the downhill the weather clears a bit and reveals a beautiful scenery with a lagoon and further down second one as well. One of the reasons I dread biking after heavy rain in Peru is mud. And because it did not rain too much the road gets help from an unexpected ally -- road workers decided just today to fix what wasn't that bad of a road to start with. The "fun" starts with a rad plow followed by a rolling machine. But the real treat is the damn cistern car which is focused on making as much of the road as muddy as possible. Or at least this is my interpretation anyway.
Fortunately, after a while I pass the road workers and continue descent on the "pristine" road. By now I understand that fixing the surface might not be such a bad idea after all. Slowed down by the road the weather finally catches up with what was imminent from the morning -- it starts to rain heavily when I am not that far from Oyón. It however seems to a one of the "get you soaking wet and then focus elsewhere" kind of rains and so after a while, when I am entering Oyón, the Sun is already shining.
Despite being comparably big to all towns from the past days Oyón is smaller than I expected. An unfortunate consequence is that I can't find things I wanted to buy. For one, water purification tablets seem to be impossible to source. In the end this won't be a problem as the weather forecast doesn't seem to favor any hiking in Huayhuash as I originall planned. What surprises me more is that I cannot find granola -- a source of all my breakfasts. Normally, I wouldn't care as there are oats everywhere. Unfortunately, Peruvian oats are along the worst on the planet. They do not seem to understand the whole grain point -- everything is pre-cooked and sometimes even cut to smaller pieces. This basically means a rather ugly porridge texture instead of a something more appropriate. On the other hand I could buy jamonada & queso so not everything is looking that bad.
On the services front the things doesn't look much better. My attempts to send an international letter are foiled because apparently they can send only national. I mean, what? Next is the tourist information office. They guy there seems to know anything but details about this city as he basically goes asking my questions just next door at the municipality. So after some exchanges I figure out that there is no lavanderia. But he helps me to organize cleaning anyway. We meet with a cleaning lady who could was my clothes. Unfortunately, this turns out to be a half-disaster. First of all, she cleans it by hand. This means no drying at all. Moreover, the lady apparently doesn't understand the idea of fragile fabric. My scarf doesn't come up too well. But that is nothing compared to my cycling gloves which has gaping holes in them (the months on the Sun did rather serious damage to fabric strength). And to top up the things, the lady just asked an exuberant price. I mean, even the information-office guy agreed that this is just a total rip-off and told me that he will deal with it.
On the positive side of things the hostel I am staying has one of the better WiFi speeds I encountered in Peru. Take this with a bit of sweet wine and the world is instantly better.
Download simplified GPX of a route here
Stats by activity:
| Pedal rotations
|Sept. 9, 2017||38.0||1.38||17.9|
|Sept. 10, 2017||23.8||0.95||25.1|
|Sept. 11, 2017||41.5||1.00||8.5|
The next table is only for cycling activity.