(111) Melting up Mountains and Meeting Manu
Having headed back to Abancay and working for a few days had helped get me back into what I was meant to be doing. having had Amanda join me had been such amazing fun and reminded me how much better it was sharing this experience with people. Writing the blog is hard to convey how it feels to spend 8 hours climbing one hill in roasting temperatures at the bottom and freezing at the top then descending 2 hours down the other side with incredible views around each bend but to see someone grinning from ear to ear is priceless. I hope I describe it well enough or if not I hope the pictures help my lack of words but I will always be so grateful to all who have gone out their way to join me.
Thursday 28th May
Waking up feeling dreadful again wasn’t a great start. I lay in bed and watched another movie to give myself chance to recover then headed out to get some food inside me. The food was just normal soup and chicken and rice which I needed but I still wasn’t great. Having taken my tent inner with me I found a machinist who would sew a couple panels onto the inner to help kept the condensation from dripping on me. Once I had explained what I wanted I headed back to the hotel to do some work. Although Abancay wasn’t a great place to be it was a place with little to distract me and a place to get the jobs done. After a few hour sat in front of the computer and starting to feel a little better I headed out for some tea at a restaurant that was closed when we went past and looked nice. Within ten minutes in the place and another dodgy meal I headed back hoping I hadn’t been poisoned again. I picked up some water on the way and decided to have an early night. I knew I had some huge climbs to come and not being 100%, still being behind on the blog and my tent wouldn’t be ready it was obvious I needed another day. I knew I needed to get going but while I had the chance it was good.
Friday 29th May
It was nice having a lay in and getting a bit more work done. I headed out around lunchtime to coincide paying a visit to the machinist to see how she had got on with the tent. With the shop closed I had lunch and went back to the hotel to do some more work. It felt good to get some more done and to catch up at least a little. I returned to the shop to see the lady had done an amazing job, I just hoped it worked. With the tent sorted I went back to sort out my kit, check my bike and have another early night. It had been a productive day and looked forward to getting back on the road. It felt strange not having Amanda with me anymore but I knew I would see Manu in a few days to keep me focused.
Saturday 30th May
I could have stayed in bed feeling as tired as I did but I knew I would soon shake it off. I packed the bits and pieces I had in the room and took it downstairs ready to load on my bike. It felt heavy but knew a lot of it was food. Once I had run the food low I knew it would make a big difference. I wanted to leave by 9am but not having activated the spot I had to wait another 20 minutes.
Ready to go
Once the signal had been sent I made my way out of Abancay and rather then following the big highway I followed the GPS which lead me to the bottom of the city on to dirt roads with no way out. I couldn’t believe it and especially being in a city on a steep mountain side.
Not quite the highway my GPS had me believe it was
After pushing my bike up the steep streets for about 40 minutes I finally reached a road that would lead me to the highway. I was hot and annoyed I had descended so far, then had to climb when I didn’t need to knowing I would have to drop again to the river before the start of the first pass to Ayacucho.
The scar in the mountainside that I would climb once I had dropped to the river
Once on the right road I started to descend and descend and descend and couldn’t believe how far. I ended up dropping over 600 metres to 1,780mts and with a pass at 4,000 I knew I was in for a long day. The road followed the river for a few kilometres before I reached the bridge and started the climb which was nice at first then got steeper. I was gaining height quite fast but it was also harder work.
With steeper bends the gradient only let up from time to time only to revert back to a slog. I reached a small village around 2pm and stopped for a drink. I chatted to the owners for a while when she asked if I needed to eat. It was perfect timing so I went in and was given rice and cabbage. At this point I had climbed to just over 2,600metres which felt good but my left knee had started to hurt. When it came to pay she wouldn’t accept anything other then the cost of the drink i’d had. It was so kind of her and was the second person to give me things in Peru. I set off again wanting to get as high as I could making my way through village after village but as I climbed I was losing light and was starting to cool. Being on the east side of the mountain I was now climbing in the shade which when its hot is amazing. I reached the main traverse where the road crossed the mountain and went around to the west side to find I was descending. I hoped it wouldn’t be for long as I still had 700 metres to climb but it kept going down. With it now pretty much dark it was now cold and really hard to find a good spot to camp. Spotting a town in the valley I couldn’t work out weather my map was marked wrong or I would have another climb tomorrow. With cleared landslides everywhere there was nowhere to camp out of sight and so I finally reached the town of Huancarama at 3,000 metres after dropping 420 metres. With the descent to the town the air temperature had risen but having dropped so far I felt cold and just wanted to camp. Being so close to the town I needed to keep going to find a suitable camp spot. It took a while to get past the worst of the houses and try and find a flat space out of sight on such a steep hill side especially as every time I would see a nice space it had a house and either one or several dogs guarding it. The saving grace was there was almost a full moon making my searching a little easier. After a few more bends I came across a wide track that must have been made when the road was cleared. Although it wasn’t totality out of sight no one would notice me and so I pitched the tent and sat over looking the valley and the town below. With the mist covering the mountain above I could only guess what it was like but from time to time the mist would clear leaving a silvery grey zig zag scar on th mountainside as if Zorro had created it himself. With some ready meals left over from when Amanda was with me it left me to relax and enjoy the pre-prepared food and it was amazing. Being back on the road was good but not having anyone with me felt strange. Tomorrow would’ve been our 7th wedding anniversary and I wasn’t looking forward to the reminder of what I had lost.
Sunday 31st May
Waking up hearing rain on the tent on our wedding anniversary was as if the heavens were saying something. I looked at my watch and saw it was still early. Hoping the sun would come out I lay in my cosy sleeping bag waiting. I felt tired from yesterday’s climb anyway and knew the extra rest would do me good. Each time I thought the rain had stopped it would start up again delaying my departure even more. When it did stop for more the 10 minutes, I got up and packed away anything that were dry.
With the kettle on and not doing very well at drying the tent I packed it semi wet and sat in the new rain shower eating the last bread roll. It wasn’t long before everything was loaded and I pushed my bike back to the road. I put some music on to cheer me up and started to climb. I couldn’t have been climbing for more then ten minutes when I saw loads of people in the road and a policemen climbing the steep hill on the side of the road towards a man. At first I thought he was after him until he continued to climb past. I looked up to see a car wedged on the cliff above, then a lady in the road hold a child had started to cry uncontrollably. Unsure if the driver and passengers were ok I knew the women’s life stood still, everything would become a blur for those moments while people moved around her to help and all the thoughts racing through her mind and yet there was nothing she could do. With so many people there I could nothing but I felt for her more then she’ll ever know. I rode on to the bend where I would ride past where the car went over but with the fog being so thick I never did see where it had happened. I couldn’t believe it had to happen today and I just wished they were ok.
As I neared the summit the fog cleared but small buses still passed me at speed not knowing what had just happened ahead of them
With sirens disappearing off in the distance I used this as a sign there could be a chance and that’s all I could hope for. I reached the summit with clouds lifting up out of each valley and meeting in the middle which was mesmerising to watch. Once at the top I descended around 60 metres and started to climb again. Once around the next small summit I rounded a corner to see the valley drop way down away in front of me. It was incredible to see and to look down so far.
It’s hard to show how deep these valleys really are
Against the scree field the blue truck looks almost invisible
With the valley so deep I started to look to see what route I would take. From what I could see the road clung to the steep cliff edge and slowly climbed around the edge of the mountain range like a giants hand with the road following in and out of the fingered Combes coming out and back in and around the next finger then the next. With it getting close to 1,30pm I saw a small town where I hoped to get food. With the road dropping down to a river then a really steep climb up to the the town I was defiantly ready for food. At first the lady told me she wasn’t doing food but after looking at me she said rice and eggs ok and with a definite yes I sat down to rest.
Dolly resting while I had lunch
With in a few minutes dinner was served and I was happy. I spent about five minutes afterwards drying the worst of the water off the tent before setting off again for the last 300 metres of climbing to the summit. Although I was so close to the summit it would still be a few miles until I reached it. Once I was within 50 metres the views opened up to expose the deep valleys in front of me over a mile deep and a snow capped mountain range in the background with clouds hoovering around them.
Dolly enjoying the view
It was like looking out of an airplane window, it was incredible and had to pinch myself at the view. As I rode on climbing the last few metres to the summit of Abra Huayllaccasa at 4,100 metres the view just got better and better. With the sun now low the light made it even more stunning but I also knew it would get cold really fast. From the river out of Abancay I had covered 50 miles and climbed just over 3,000 metres but it was worth it. I put my jacket on for the descent and tried to drop as much as I could to give me a comfy nights sleep.
With a storm brewing to the west I didn’t know if it was heading my way
As I descended road didn’t drop that fast and with the sun really low it was freezing. After trying to race a tuk tuk but having to concede due to the dogs I rode on until I had cleared the mountain villages and back in the country side. The land opened up into farmland with hardly any houses so I looked for a good place to camp. Spotting a ridge which although was still just over 3,600 the views were incredible. Knowing Sharon and I had camped on our wedding night on a spur over looking the Devon countryside this spot was perfect it just would have been amazing if she was here to see it.
My camp for the night on the ridge
Monday 1st June
Once again I found myself in a stunning camp spot and once again I thought the sun would light the tent warming it up enough to encourage me outside but it didn’t happen. It was 7.30am and the sun had been out for a while. I poked my head out to see a grey thick cloudy sky. It wasn’t raining and the view was still great. With the stove on for a cupper I sat and watched as farm workers would make there way up the mountain in red open back motorbike taxis often with around ten in the back. It was quite amusing watching them while I sat on my thermarest supping my coffee.
There were fields everywhere full of colour with made it amazing to look at on the descent
I had no bread rolls this morning and dug around in my bag for something that would get me going not that I needed it as it was all down hill to the town of Andahuaylas. Digging out a chocolate bar and a small pack of cookies I packed my things and remembered to check my rear brake blokes. With one totally warn out I changed the one and set off down the hill. It was great descending and looking at the map I wouldn’t descend much more after the town. I stopped to pick up a couple snacks and rode on out of the town to cross the river. Being at 2,723mts I would have around 1,500 metres to climb. Still being quite early I started the climb which this time felt a nice gradient. I reached the last town on my map before the summit and with it being 1 pm I stopped for lunch in a cafe. This couldn’t have come at a better time as heavens opened I sat in the dry watching my bike getting a wash.
waiting out the rain
The worst of the rain lasted around an hour at which time I left the cafe and found a shelter to let it ease some more. I waited around 20 minutes before it had stopped enough to get going and so set off in a fine mist until the clouds cleared leaving a clear warm day surrounded by lush green fields.
It was amazing how green and lush everything looked after a heavy rain storm
As I climbed warmth disappeared in to a cool day that was now getting colder. Dark clouds moved along in front of me and with a few lagging behind I stopped at a bend to take in the view. It was stunning but the longer I stood watching it change the colder I got. I set off to find my left knee was really sore. I had felt great up to this point and so found a place off the road and stretched. This seemed to do the trick and as I neared the summit I could see the road continue to climb. It seemed to go on forever and with it going right into a long Combe only to see it come out not far off to the left I knew I just had to push on and just get over it. Once I was round the final bend and on the summit I didn’t waste anytime to wrap up warm.
Summit of Abra Saracchocha 4,256mts
Descending 2 days in a row and freezing wasn’t great and so I was soon ready and starting to descend. The road stayed high for a while not loosing any height and undulating with any climb being hard work. With a full moon now rising I wanted to get down to a village where I could get water.
Looking out across the mountains was incredible but cold
With my gps starting to play up again I had to keep stopping to remove the battery’s so it would work again. With it now almost dark I managed to catch a tuk tuk and follow it down through the streets. With no shops and now being in the middle of a built up area I rode on until I found somewhere to get water. I never liked arriving in the dark in a town and so I rode on until I was out of the worst of the town only to find I descended into the next. Once I was out of the centre I kept going and looking and finally saw a good spot down by the river. I was just about to put the tent up when the heavens opened and I was being soaked. With everything getting wet I put the ground sheet up then the fly and put all my bags under and took shelter. Everything was soaked but luckily they were in dry bags so the things inside were ok. The air felt damp and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to dry everything. I lit the stove and within a few minutes the gas ran out which was typical and could have done with it lasting a few more minutes but with petrol it would be ok. I managed to dry the air in the tent enough to make it comfy and cooked a nice pasta, tomato sauce and sardines for tea washed down with a mint hot chocolate from the rations . I couldn’t believe how tasty it was and that I had been carrying them for that last few days. I’d had a good day covering the miles but annoyed I was wet at the end of it and my second new Garmin GPS was playing up. The hot chocolate helped and set me up for a good nights sleep.
Tuesday 2nd June
It was another cloudy day and I was surrounded by my things which were still damp but extra material on the inner seemed to be working well which I was pleased with and made it so worth doing. Although it wasn’t raining I wasn’t in the mood for getting up, I felt tired after a long day yesterday and the thought of tackling another climb of over 2,500 metres wasn’t the most motivating. I got up around 8am and cleared the tent to give it chance to dry but with everything around dripping I wasn’t holding out much hope.
By the time my bike was loaded and pushed up into the road the sun was just starting to push it’s way through the clouds. I started the descent into Chincheros but not needing anything continued on down to the river.
With the amount of rain there had been huge sections of road were literally sliding down the mountain
I knew I had a long descent having camped at over 3,000 metres but I didn’t want to drop to far as the next climb would summit at around 4,500. As I dropped the temperature rose and so did the number of biting midges. Managing to keep a fast enough speed so they couldn’t catch me I was ok until I hit a few short climbs.
Following the river down stream to the bridge
Once at the river the road turned north following the river down stream for about five miles where I dropped to the bridge which was at 1,975 and started the climb. As soon as I started I knew it would be a tough one at the gradient.
It felt so hot in the sun with little shade to protect me
The climb the day before was perfect and allowed me to ride at a nice pace but this one was steep and hard. After climbing about 400 metres I stopped and used the rest as a way of drying my tent on the road. With little traffic it was all I needed before setting off again. The sun felt hot and the salt from my sweat made my eyes sore and so kept needing to stop to keep washing my face. I knew this was nothing as I was at around 2,500m what would it be like at sea level which as I headed north would find out.
The higher I got the more the scenery opened out and the temperature got more bearable.
As I neared 2,800m I reached a small town with lots of restaurants and with it being after 2pm I stopped and ordered what I thought was beef. Oh and it was beef, lots of it and with rice and chips. There was so much I decided to eat two thirds and save the rest for tea. After being totally full I set off again to climb up above the town.
looking down on the town I just eaten in
The views as ever were amazing but leaving just after 3pm only left me with two and a half hours of light. Wanting to get as high as possible so I cleared the pass tomorrow I set off only stopping to get a coke for later. The road twisted and turned from one mountain to the next and forever climbing.
Wanting to do at least half I continued on and past the height needed. With a little light left I pushed on until it was almost dark. As I grew closer to a tiny village a police car came the other way and stopped me. Telling me it was to dangerous to continue I must stop at one of the houses close by. After explaining there were robbers I didn’t want to argue and after 1km spotted a big shed below the road with a few houses. I put my bike under the shed and went to look for someone but the place was deserted. I saw there were enclosed rooms with doors. Checking out what said office I found a clear clean room with a door I could wedge shut. I set up camp and went to get water from the stream. I could hear voices up on the hill but non around. It was perfect and saved me drying the tent and loading the bike.
My room for the night
As I made my tea of chopped beef rice and Bolognese sauce I could hear the wind picking up. I hadn’t had to deal with the wind to much but it sounded like it was turning into quite a breeze. Deciding not to worry about the wind tonight I treated myself to a orange hot chocolate and a slice of ginger cake from the rations and thought I will miss these packets when they’ve gone.
Wednesday 3rd June
Finding it hard to settle because of the thought of robbers I woke unable to figure out what time it was. With it being so dark in the room with the little light that did come in through the tiny window that I had filled with another earth block wasn’t enough to light the room. I checked my watch to find it was already 8.45am. I got up and packed away the little stuff that I had out. I listened for voices but apart from watching a lady in local dress try and herd a cow down the hill side it was silent. The wind from the night before had dropped and the only noise I could here was the stream running down in front of the sheds and my camp stove ready to make me a cup of coffee to get me going. I sat in silence and watched tiny birds fly between the trees only to notice they were humming birds. It felt crazy that here I was the night before having being told the road was dangerous at night and worrying then to find myself drinking a nice cup of coffee with the sun on my face watching humming birds collect pollen.
With the rest if my things loaded on the bike I set off to climb what should be another 1,000 metres. With each bend the view down the mountain became better exposing each bend that came up the mountain. After stopping to chat to a guy who had stopped with his wife I climbed to 4,200 metres where the ground levelled and became more like moorland with Vacunia grazing which I hadn’t seen since Bolivia. The road gently climbed and fell slowly gaining height then losing it again. The hills became less jagged and more shallower smother glacial cut gullys.
This view reminded me of the stone circles on Dartmoor NT at home but these are very much used today
It was cold up at this height but having the chance to ride at a nice average speed and look around at the view with out being bitten was amazing. I would pass many women from the small settlements selling cheese and I so wanted to buy some but with another pass on the map I wanted to keep my weight as low as possible. Although I was riding through a landscape more like Wales it seemed to take ages to reach the high pass and with lots of short climbs going up to 4,250 them down 30 metres over a couple miles then up to 4,300 and then down it was hard to know where the real pass really was.
Shallow valleys up at 4,000 metres
Having not once gone up to 4,500 like the map said I soon realised once the road turned west that I had in fact reached the summit at 4,300 and was now descending with a short climb to the next summit on the map. After coming around a bend into the next valley I saw a radar station up on the hill and knew I was close and with huge black clouds developing I knew I wasn’t a moment to soon. Turning the corner in front of the radar station that was perched on the hill the landscape opened out in front of me with Ayacucho nestled in the valley way off in the distance. I stopped at the side of the road gazing down the valley at the mountains surrounded by clouds and the city nestled way off deep in the valley and the black clouds building behind.
Stopping for a break before the storm broke
With the sound of thunder which I hadn’t heard since la Paz rumbling behind and watching as the clouds slowly moved north was incredible and felt so powerful. Knowing I had around 1,500 metres to drop over 25 miles I knew it would be close getting to the town before the storm hit. The one thing that was against me was I was hungry. I hadn’t eaten anything other then 4 bread rolls and jam, some boiled sweets and a small chocolate bar but with the storm now on my back there wasn’t time. I set off down the mountain which was amazing.
I stopped to take a picture of the flowers and the views as the storm advanced
Here it comes
Apart from a small climb I pushed on hard knowing I needed to and reached the edge of town but with the wind now battering me it became more of a challenge. I had a couple dogs run out but stopping instantly they ran off and so I joined the traffic into town. It was an easy city to ride into mainly because it was all down hill until I reached the main roundabout where I then pushed my bike up 2 blocks of a one way street to a hostel Manu had recommended. I pushed my bike in and checked out the rooms that were amazing and as soon as I was checked in I heard a clap of thunder followed by the heavens opening. To watch heavy rain from a hotel room felt amazing especially as I had covered so many miles over a pass. Being so hungry I headed out for dinner and ordered pizza to the be presented with one slice that I had waited an hour. annoyed at the misleading description I left for another place and ordered a family pizza which was amazing and just what I needed. After being told the ride from Abancay would take 7-10 days and then to ride it in 6 felt amazing and gave me confidence I would be ok. I was however tired and ready for a day off and was keen to meet up with Manu.
Thursday 4th June
It felt amazing just to wake and not have to get up but as usual on a day off I grabbed my computer and did some work before heading out into town. I had been in contact with Yoann who had ridden the great divide and insisted I did it but insisted I needed to shed some weight from my bike by posting the things I didn’t need on to the next big town.
Ayacucho’s Plaza del Armas
With a little research and trying to get the gpx files onto my gps and trying to catch up the day soon passed. Having managed to get hold of Manu we arranged to meet for breakfast and so got my head down for the rest of the day in my work and get some food inside me.
Friday 5th June
With the alarm going off I got up and headed downstairs to wait for Manu. I had been looking forward to seeing him for a while and catching up. He arrived shortly after 8.30 and we headed out to have breakfast. It was so good to see home and hear that he was living and working in Ayacucho with his Peruvian girlfriend. After talking for a while I could tell he missed his bike and the life of travelling from place to place. We talked about being on the road and he said he only ever felt lonely in the city’s and never in the nature. I could understand that and had heard it before. There is something about being in the middle of nowhere without a person in sight and feeling happy and content.
Good to spent time with a good friend
After breakfast we headed to a pool bar which was an experience in itself. It’s almost impossible to pot a ball with the pockets being so small I wondered at times weather the balls were bigger then the pockets. After being beaten 2-0 we headed to the indoor market to have a juice.
It was great hanging out and getting advice about what to do and where to go. I mentioned to Manu I had been in contact with Yoann and that he advised me to use the encomiendas which is a postal system used by the bus companies. We tracked down the bus company got a price and with Manu needing to head off to work we said our goodbyes and I headed back to try and get ride of anything I could do with out for the next 2 weeks. With a large plastic bag I loaded it along with my rack sack and took it to the bus company. It weighed in at 11.5 kg and made me think why I was carrying things that I might never need. At the cost of £5 my things were being sent on about 550 miles that would take me around 3 weeks to cover. Not knowing if I would ever see my things again I nervously went back and sorted through the rest of my things hoping I hadn’t sent something I would need. With a little work on the blog and watching an episode of All creature great and small I checked the route uploading the gps files on to my GPS and just hoped it worked. I had a copy on my phone of the route description which was from north to south so I wasn’t sure how useful it would be but should give a some indication of direction. The thought of riding this route on my own made me nervous. It was meant to be hard very hard and knowing what my sense of directions like it would be a challenge. If I made it through here it would give me a lot more confidence to do it again and I knew it should be worth it.
The colourful streets of Ayacucho
Feeling hungry and knowing it could be my last proper meal for a while I headed out in search of food. After returning from the restaurant i received a note from Manu that he was free for the evening and would I like a beer. Within ten minutes we met up and looking for a bar, the next few days would be hard and to have a beer with Manu before I left was amazing. I knew I would be on the main highway for a few days but then the fun would begin.
Having had the last few days on my own had been good for me to start getting used to getting my head down and getting over some mountains, then having Manu to break up the ride north was amazing and a good person to be around. I knew from here on it was going to be hard, really hard with a lot of mountains to get over. I knew though that both tough and easy things come at a price and often the toughest have the greatest rewarded. we’ll just have to find out 🙂
Thanks for reading xx