Friday, 19 September 2014

Rest Day - Cusco

Whilst I'd like to say I'd spent today enjoying the sights of Cusco, in reality once I'd had enjoyed a rather sumptuous breakfast at a hotel (not the one in which I was staying, but rather something a little bit more upmarket) I devoted today to finalizing my purchase of Peruvian souvenirs and then sending them home to Australia having located the Post Office on Wednesday.

It's the first time I've come across a post office here in Peru and as a result I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to lighten my bags (as well as create a bit of space) for any souvenirs I might end up buying in Bolivia in the next couple of weeks or so.

Once that had been achieved (and it took an over or so in the Post Office, filling out various bits of paperwork and so on) the rest of the day was spent collecting my laundry, repacking my bags and otherwise attending to some of the more menial tasks one must do, in order to keep things ticking along!

Being such a touristy town, as Cusco is, the opportunity to enjoy a meal at an Irish pub, couldn't be overlooked, nor could the chance of knocking back a few ales. It was a lovely Sheperd's Pie which I have to say makes a big change from the pizzas, hamburgers and portions of chicken that we typically come across in the smaller less "Gringo" orientated towns and villages we normally frequent!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Rest Day - Chincheros

Another rest day in another boring, pointless being here town. Whilst from what I can gather there's a couple of Inca sites in the area, but they're some thirty plus kilometres away.

I think I'll give them a miss, for whilst they are probably do able by taxi, the weather is a bit inclement at the moment and it's not like they've been given rave reviews on the Lonely Planet website or what have you. 

No today I'm going to concentrate on trying to get a decent feed cause we're camping tomorrow night which means I need to eat well now in town whilst I can given that tomorrow night's grub probably won't be brilliant.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Ayacucho to a bush camp????

Although I enjoyed my time in Ayacucho and could have spent another day or so there, I was also pleased to be able to get back on my bike, even if the first forty kilometres or so was to be uphill. Unfortunately there was to be a delayed start, as once again we were called upon for some media activities, this time with a very distinct political bent and whilst sure the electoral candidate in question gave us each a free beanie and a T-Shirt with his political slogan and so on it, along with somewhat of an expectation that we’d wear it for the publicity photos if nothing else, I couldn't help but to think - No thanks, I don’t know or for that matter care what you stand for! Heck I wouldn’t endorse you at home in Australia even if I knew what your politics were and my desire to do so in a country such as yours with such a recent history of significant turmoil - No Way!

At the end of the day, whilst we rolled out of the hotel at around 8:15, it was another hour or thereabouts before we were able to put the hammer down and actually commence our ride to tonight’s camping site. What a waste of time that was….

At any rate, I commenced the ride out of town riding in a loosely based peleton (it makes the task of navigating your way out so much easier when you all do it in a group) and once on the outskirts, quickly found a comfortable cadence for the climb which was to follow. Essentially and you’ll have to forgive me if I have said it before, but you can only do steep climbs at your own pace and as a result the advantage of sitting on someone else’s wheel on such terrain isn’t typically as great as when you’re riding on the flat or on rolling hills.

Unfortunately I rode away from Carmen & Julia in the process, both of whom are still trying to get over the dreaded lurgy, which I must admit was a bit naughty of me and certainly not within the team spirit of things and left me with a bit of a quandary as to whether to sit up and wait for them somewhere, or to continue on till the lunch truck.

I ended up opting for the later, purely because I was on a roll as it were and I wanted to give myself every opportunity of doing the whole day’s ride something I felt may not necessarily occurred if I waited too long, then ended up getting to the lunch truck too late as to give myself time to do the remaining fifty odd kilometres before dark.

At end rate, I ended up rolling in to the lunch truck, at the top of the climb, a little the worse for wear but eager to go on. Fortunately, both Carmen & Jules rolled in 10-15 minutes later. 

As they both indicated a desire to continue onwards, I donned some additional layers to wear (it being somewhat cold, once you stopped working) and waited till they’d finished their lunches. We then headed on to the campsite, the hard part of the day having been finalised. Unfortunately and I didn’t twig it early enough, both the girls were having a bit of strife sitting on my wheel and as a result I unknowingly cycled off, leaving them to their own devices. 

Getting to the top of a smallish hill, I realised what had occurred and stopped for a photo opportunity, took a swig of water, donned yet another jacket (over the top of what I already had on) and yet still they didn’t come into view. Starting to get worried I contemplated riding back the way I had just come, when the lunch truck came into view at which point I noticed that both their bikes on top….

Feeling disappointed for them, but still eager to ride on, I made the snap decision to continue on even though I was now going to be alone and very much last. I’ve got to say, as I rode on, I did wonder as to whether I'd made the right decision, despite it only being thirty odd kilometres into camp. Partially because I didn’t know whether the camp site was going to be at the 78 or 92 kilometre mark. 

Fortunately though, I plugged my phone into my boom box and played the 2013 Triple J Top 100 Hits and used that and the wonderful scenery (not that I stopped and took any photos) to keep me going till finally the “Andes Trail” banner appeared on the horizon, wherein rolling into the campsite, I was pleasantly surprised to find, that despite feeling a less worse for wear, that the girls had erected my tent. What a truly magic discovery! 

All in all, I must say I am feeling pretty pleased with myself given today’s activites.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Tarma to Huancayo

Whilst the weather was a little nippy and there were some grey clouds sitting ominously overhead, today's ride still looked to be a promising one, being paved all of the way.

The only thing is that there was of course the 1000 metre climb, which had to be overcome, not exactly an exciting proposition particularly since it began virtually at the front door of the hotel. But what the heck, what doesn't kill you makes you stronger right????

Fortunately as I was to discover over the next hour or so, I'm no climber, the gradient wasn't particularly severe and hence it just meant grinding / spinning away on the pedals.

As I've probably alluded / said before, my ability to get up a mountain ain't particularly great and I'd probably need to lose 20 kilos or something in order to see any great improvement.

Whilst it was hard work, as I was to discover, stopping to take a bit of a breather (or photos) ain't necessarily a good thing to do either, cause when I stopped I did nothing but cough to the point that I half expected to see one of my lungs end up on the roadside!

Eventually I managed to remount my beloved stead and continue the ride uphill! 

Whilst normally one can get rather warm riding uphill, despite having ridden 10-15 kilometres, I still felt a little fresh, despite wearing a merino undershirt, a winter jersey and a gilet. When the rain started coming down, with 4-5 kilometres to go before reaching the summit, I started to shiver (it's hardly conducive to a smooth peddling action, to say nothing about being a waste of energy) I donned my water proof jacket as well in the hope of staving off the worst of the weather conditions and in the hope I'd also be able to warm up!.

It wasn't to be however and I reached the top a cold shivering mess and knowing that the situation would possibly only become worse during the descent. Essentially, descending means your speed increases and with it your exposure to chillingly cold wind.

As a consequence and as much as I LOVE riding at speed downhill, I was wrapt when the lunch truck came into view, cause it meant an opportunity to potentially warm up.

During lunch, I decided to call it quits for the day, despite the rest of the route into Huancayo being either flat or a gradual descent..... I needed to warm up and hopefully shake off the effects of the cold I have been suffering for what seems like forever.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Junin to Tarma

Given how difficult I'd found the last few kilometres of yesterday's ride, as soon as the route map / profile was handed out last night, I decided that instead I'd take the less scenic and more direct route to Tarma.

What surprised me this morning however was how many other people also opted to do the same thing, with about fifteen people joining me in sticking to the main (and paved) road between the two towns.

What was particularly nice is that we rode as a coordinated grupetto at a moderate pace, set to an extent by an elderly Dutch couple, the result being, no one seemed to struggle or be put under any pressure, an important concept given just how dammed hard it is riding at this altitude.

At around the 30KM stage a restaurant was found and a round of coffees (instant - less you think that a decent coffee had suddenly been found) was purchased for all, before we tackled the climb to today's mountain peak and the subsequent descent into Tarma.

At this point, I've gotta tell you it was a lovely not too technical descent of some fifteen odd on a wonderfully paved road. What could be better than arriving into town just on midday knowing that the day's work was done. Ah bliss! Decision vindicated.

Monday, 1 September 2014

Cerro De Pasco to Junin

Well I've got to say, last night was probably one of the hardest / worst nights to get sleep that I've ever endured. I mean, who in God's name builds a hotel in a city where the average temperature in the evening is minus two degrees centigrade but neglects to install a heating system ( centrally or individually)? Your typical Peruvian that's who!

I don't know whether it's the cost of installation / provision or the fact that it's something that isn't included in most homes here in Peru and therefore would be considered an unusual addition within the hotel scene or not.... Either way, it was a bloody cold night's accommodation and I wish we'd had access to our sleeping bags.....

Waking this morning, I nonetheless found the energy once breakfast had been consumed and our local media commitments completed, not too sure whether it was for the local television station or purely for the hotel, to get rolling with a greater degree of enthusiasm and energy than I'd been able to muster for some time. As a result once I'd taken a few photos of the township, being a open pit mining town (Lead, Silver and Zinc) and one of the highest cities in the world, I decided I'd try to ride with one of the faster group's than I'd normally ride with....

As a result I pushed the cadence and intensity somewhat (not an easy thing to do at altitude) until I caught up with first one group, then another, till ultimately there was no one whom I could see ahead. Whether it was people stopping for photos or that I'd unknowingly been given an EPO injection overnight during my sleep or not, I don't know, but either way I continued to push the pace, till the lunch truck came into sight.

Unfortunately the afternoon's pace wasn't nearly so fast and whilst the scenery was more enjoyable, I bonked! Whilst it may well be as a result of riding at altitude for several hours I suspect that as lunch hadn't been particularly nutritious (a bit of an ongoing saga) that a key reason for my lack of energy is that my body didn't have anything available to power it sufficiently. The fact I'd been cold all day (despite 3-4 layers of clothes) and had been coughing up a lung the whole time I rode probably didn't help.

Fortunately I managed to keep the legs turning, despite contemplating getting off my bike and walking the final 8 or 9 kilometres into town, I was feeling so stuffed! Ultimately I managed to make it into town and to the hostel for a very much needed lie down and cuppa tea. Hopefully tomorrow won't be such hard work.

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Huanuco to Cerro de Pasco

You've no idea how wrapt I was to be getting back on the bike this morning, having spent the last week or so in the truck. I mean sure I was trying to get over a rotten cold, but (and no offence to Conan or Mark) but I was worried I was beginning to turn from cyclist into a fireman, I was spending so much time in the back of the truck. 

Essentially they are former fire trucks from Germany, which have subsequently been reconfigured to carry a million bits and pieces of camping, cooking gear along with a few bikes, riders and of course all the luggage we've brought with us....

Whilst I obviously must have missed the starter's gun, the majority of the peleton not being in sight as, Carmen, Julia and myself headed out of town. Being tail-enders, though at times marginally faster than several of the back markers, no alarm bells were rung, as we anticipated catching up to several of them at least, before the obligatory coke / coffee stop. It wasn't to be however and so we did stop had some light refreshments at around the 30KM point and then continued on up the road, as the Three Musketeers. 

By the time we had ridden a further 30KM and what we believed to be some 7-8 past where we anticipated seeing the lunch truck, we'd begun to get more than a little hungry, given that by this stage we'd spent close to four and a half hours in the saddle, riding up a somewhat boring stretch of road. Fortunately the lunch truck had come out / found us, just as we were about to enter into a cafe / truckie restaurant for lunch.Being that it was getting close to 1.30PM we subsequently decided to call it quits for the day and to pop our bikes on the roof. With another 40KM ahead of us, and about 1000 metres of vertical climbing (at altitude) it would have taken a month of Sunday's to reach our final destination had we decided to continue on!

Jumping into the truck after we had eaten, didn't mean the fun and games had concluded for the day, given that we became somewhat bogged and on a rather precarious angle, when our driver - Walter - endeavored to give some oncoming traffic room to pass and had the front of the truck slide into a ditch given the soft growth on the verge of the road. 

Fortunately the spectators of a local football match put down their supporters banners and so on, and helped pull us out of our predicament something for which we were eternally grateful. I think in a way it made their day being able to help out some daft Gringos!

Rest Day - Huanuco

Being a rest day, both Julia and myself took a wander around town to see what if anything that it held in store as far as interesting architecture or tourist attractions and unfortunately I've got to say we didn't come across any particularly appealing sights.

That said, we did enjoy taking a stroll along the river, exploring a "Sunday" market where the locals were all trying to sell one another all sorts of useless memento's before finding a coffee shop where we enjoyed lunch and so on....  

The central part of Huanuco is an absolute mess rings with a cacophony of noise and activity at all times of the day (and night as we were later to discover) however some of the residential "suburbs" of the city, which are built up and into the sides of the mountain (they are mud brick homes, so there is very little wastage of materials, with the bricks being made from the soil which was removed in order to level the block / street) seemed a lot more peaceful!  

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Bush camp II to Bush camp III

Tonight is our third consecutive night of bush camping and I've got to say we've (Carmen, Julia and myself) became a fairly adept team when it comes to putting our tents up and so on. I just hope it won't rain as it did last night, cause i woke up this morning to find the end of my sleeping bag damp / wet where it had rubbed up against the tent material during the night. The only blessing I suppose is that I hadn't felt / noticed it during the night. That's one vote for Mont Adventure Equipment 

I gotta say whilst I'm looking forward to checking into a hotel tomorrow night, hopefully it will have a hot shower, cause your right I do smell a little, as do most (if not all) of my colleagues, there is something to be said about being able to retire to your own little oasis at the end of the day to chill out or what have you.

As for today's activities, well I trucked it once again, still not feeling too flash hot. The worst of my cold / flu seems to be behind me, not that I'd advocate camping in negative zero temperatures as a means of a cure but what the heck. No more headache, blood pressure feels like it's returned to a more normal level, heck if I could only stop barking up my lungs I'd feel so much better. 

I joined Walter in the lunch truck so as to be able to pay a visit to Huanuco Pampa, being an Inca site somewhat midway between Machu Pichu and Tomebamba (now referred to as Cuenca in Ecuador). It was an interesting site, is rarely visited, and not too greatly appreciated or understood primarily because the Incas left very little in the way of written text. I also suspect that it's a culture that hasn't had the interest or funding for archaeological research that many other historical cultures have enjoyed. Maybe one day it will happen.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Huaraz to Bush camp I

Wherever in the world you are reading this, all I can say is if I kept you awake last night with my coughing and spluttering I do apologize. Whilst I had a bit of a niggling cough all day yesterday which I initially put down to being nothing more than altitude and a dusty environment I woke up this morning having had very little sleep, with a fever, a thumping headache and a cough that just wouldn't stop. As a result I knew pretty much immediately any attempt to ride today, albeit only 65KM or so, would be suicidal.

Talking to several of those that did ride, whilst the scenery had been enjoyable, it was a bloody long / tough day in the saddle.

It's funny but that is one of the hardest things to comprehend / understand for those of who are here and riding it, even more so for those of you living closer to sea level, is just how much more energy sapping it is doing things above 3000 metres, let alone above 4000!