(112) The Great divide Pt1
Having spent time with Manu had been amazing and reminded me why I was doing this trip and to see the look on his face wanting to get back on his bike was just what i needed. Not sure he needed reminding what it was like on a bike now he was working 6 days a week but I saw by being there it put a sparkle back in his eyes. Not sure what I had done I knew I had to leave but i would miss my friends. Now they had all gone home I needed to focus on the road ahead and the many mountains I would need to climb.
Saturday 6th June
I got up around 8am luckily without a sore head and sorted my things into the appropriate bags. Being 11kg lighter I should have noticed the difference but still with a load of stuff including food my bike still felt a lump. I had breakfast at the hotel to make life easier and headed out around 10am. Leaving the city was pretty straight forward although I think I could have avoided a hill.
leaving the city I passed these houses and gardens that were on such steep ground
The road out of the city was good with a gentle down hill that followed the river. The sky was blue with only the odd cloud in the sky and having the breeze from descending was amazing but as the road levelled it soon started to get hot. After around 15 miles I turned left off the highway and started heading up river towards Lipaca. The colour of the rocks were stunning as I followed the road as it steadily climbed up through the valley. After a few miles the road reached a tributary and with half the road washed away and a diversion I found a good route through and crossed it riding on until i met the main bridge which from here the road climbed steeply out of the valley that was much steeper then I had before and it was hard.
In places I couldn’t believe how steep the road was I was just pleased it was tarmac
I would often drop into first gear to get up the hard bits and so very soon I had climbed a thousand metres. I stopped at a tiny shop to buy a couple cakes and a coke and sat in the shade chatting to the owner. He was a nice guy and I was pleased for the break. With it being 1pm and still having a long way to climb I rode on hoping for a cafe to have lunch.
With bends so tight it was hard for the trucks to get round
I reached the summit at 3,525mts and saw the town of Julcamarca nestled a little lower then the ridge. Finding it was a small town but with a cafe I stopped to have dinner. It was 3.45pm by now and knowing it gets dark at 5.38pm and I knew I couldn’t be long. When my dinner arrived it was such a big portion so I ate half and then asked to take the other half of it with me and headed off. At first I thought the road would drop into the deep gorge and climb out the other side but it climbed and fell steeply but steadily gaining height. The road went in to a deep combe dropping down slightly then climbed steeply out the other side.
With no guard rails and massive drops offs around a kilometre it made for nervous riding. Seeing the town of Secclla around the bend and a couple hundred metres lower I made my way in and out of the deep Combe and dropped into the town. Not wanting to stay I kept going hoping I would spot a good camp spot. I climbed steeply once again in the fading light but there was nothing. With a few houses on the hillside and no other flat spaces I was going to have to ask if I could stay in someone’s garden. After climbing a little more I waved to a couple on a bike who stopped outside a house. I asked if I could camp and they were very pleased to help. They showed me to a place in the garden and about ten of them stood and watched whilst filming me on their phones pitching my tent. They were fascinated by the stove and the flint but with sun now set and it now getting colder they left me to cook dinner and enjoy the rest of my evening. It had been a tough day with the road being so steep but I had made good progress and still had energy left.
Sunday 7th June
I knew it was early when I heard the first voices but I was so warm and comfy I wasn’t getting up just yet. It was how ever early when I did get up even after trying to stay in bed as long as possible but with the sound of everyone moving around I knew I couldn’t stay there long. Once I’d made breakfast, cleared up and packed I was ready to go around 8am. This was at least an hour before I would normally leave and so I waved goodbye still half asleep and started to turn the peddles slowly on the climb.
It was so nice to see such green and so many fields
The road was still steep and so I slowly wound my way up the single lane through the fir trees and the lush green fields that rose up the side of the mountain or dropped down to the stream and through tiny settlements with the odd cow or pig grazing on the thick grass on the road edges.
I wasn’t sure if I had reached the tiny village of Atuna so I checked the road signs and yep I was defiantly in Atuna
The road climbed to what I thought would be the summit only for it to level out into another valley that wound it’s way through the hills. It was annoying when the road got really steep only to level off or even go down slightly. A couple passed me waving on a motorbike and waited at the top to chat. Once I had ridden the last couple bends up past a small lake I reached the summit of Punta Pampamina at 4,550mts which was much more then I had expected but with the couple waiting it was nice to stop. On the way up
I gave them both a couple sweets and in return was handed an orange and chatted whilst taking in the scenery. With the summit being cold I said good bye knowing they would soon pass me and dropped into the next deep valley. I made my way back and forth not really dropping much but reached the last bend before it started to head north. Crossing the river it I felt like I was back home on the moors which I had spent so much time on.
The road clung to the steep hill side and was incredible to see the drops with no guard rails. After passing through a couple pretty villages I rounded a bend to see loads of switchbacks below me that dropped into a deep narrow gorge. Not only was it amazing to drop into the gorge but the scenery was stunning.
I just love sights like this
Once at the river the road followed it down stream through a gorge that wasn’t mush wider then 80 metres at the bottom. With the mountains rising up each side over a kilometre it was incredible. The landscape was so green with the river running down the middle and strips of green grass up to the banks. I imagined a pub with people playing on the lawns and a big beer garden where people would lay next to the river. I was not only hungry but the thought of sitting in a pub next to this river with a cold pint was very appealing.
The green valley was stunning and reminded me of home
Knowing that a pint wouldn’t do me any good here and still needing to climb out of lacay was more important so I rode on and soon reached the town. After looking around I saw a restaurant and was soon tucking into chicken and chips. With it being 2 pm by now I picked up some bread and left town. Turning off on to the right road I soon found the tarmac ended and the ripio started.
Leaving town and the start of the ripio
Although there was still massive drops with no protection the roads weren’t so steep and were in amazing condition. I slowly climbed out of town passing loads of eucalyptus trees that had been cut and smelt amazing. With the town at around 3,300mts I knew I could be in for another 1000 metres ascent.
Climbing high above the town
With it being Sunday afternoon the roads were quite and the views became more incredible. It’s not often I feel vertigo on a bike but to ride up to the edge of the road and look down a mile to the valley floor was incredible. As the sun started to wain I climbed as high as I could and try and find I nice spot facing east to catch first light.
It was amazing to see these rock formations on the way up
I reached a junction where I found a diversion sign as the road was being worked on. With it being Sunday and no work traffic I continued to climb so leaving as little to climb the next day. Hoping I wasn’t far from the summit I spotted a good place near some antennas hoping they would distract from my position and set up camp.I was facing east which would give me first light and warmth and also an incredible view of the the valley below.
With the reds disappearing from the horizon and the stars coming out it was incredible to sit and just gaze at this stunning landscape. It had been another good day feeling tired at times but still managed 46 miles and 1800 metres of ascent. Tomorrow should be an easy day with a short climb to the pass then a descent to Huancavelica but then the fun will begin and the start of the off road and the Great Divide.
Monday 8th June
After not such a great nights sleep because I had pitched the tent on a slope then needing to rearrange my bags so to sleep at an angle I did manage to get some. With the sun warming the tent nicely I got up and didn’t feel great. Thinking about the sausages seemed to be the answer although the water I had got wasn’t great even after I had boiled it for ages. I made a cupper with the good water I had left and joined the road that was now filled with trucks working on the road. Once I had passed them I reached the summit but knew it wouldn’t be as easy as that. Still being 30 miles away from Huancavelica and being quite high there would be a lot of ups and downs.
In behind these hills are some huge mines
The discoloured waters coming from the mines
As I rode on I dropped around the bend towards a very discoloured dam and a mining town. Judging by the colour of the water it wasn’t for drinking but more to stop it entering the water system. I stopped at a shop to get a drink and refresh my water bottles with proper drinking water and set off again to the next climb and the next valley through a couple villages. The scenery was amazing but I was tired. I reached what looked like the next summit to find some truck drivers having a break along with a policemen. They were so great to chat to and the police man even gave me two oranges. They said I had another couple hundred metres to climb and when I set off I reached the summit which was just around the corner. Thinking he must have got it wrong I started to descend only to come around a corner to see the road drop down a few hundred metres only to climb above me across the valley. Not having had any dinner I was hungry but wanted to get to town to rest. The next couple weeks were going to be really tough and not feeling well wasn’t helping. After dropping a little I reached a traffic control dire to the heavy works on the road so took this opportunity to grab a snack. A dog looked interested when I went through my food bag so I gave him the last of the sausages. Once I’d finished my chocolate bar I rode off with the dog chasing me and growling. I didn’t blame him really knowing what the sausages had done to me. I finally reached the top of the last climb and started the descent down in to Huancavalica.
Looking down to the town as the machines work on making the road wider
The town of Huancavalica nestled in the valley
It looked amazing sat in amongst the rock formations and the trucks working on the road down below looked like toys in comparison. I reached town around 4pm found a hostel and washed my clothes before I went for food. I was so hungry and felt rubbish but the last 3 days had been good. I was fit, strong and knew I could take on the great divide I just needed to get myself well and fast.
Tuesday 9th June
After another restless night I got up feeling ok and just wanted to start the ride. I had breakfast and headed out around 9.30am. Not needing anything I pulled up the route I had put in the GPS and started to follow it.
This water fall was creating this shape from the minerals it brought out of the ground
It lead me westwards out of town and on to a dirt road next to the river. After a couple miles the road turned north away from the river and straight up over the mountain between two high ridges.
On the climb
Abre Llamaorgo 4,700 metres
I reached the summit of Abra Llamaorgo 4,700 metres at 2 pm but with it being cold and only covering 15 miles even though I had climbed over 1,100 metres I wanted to get more done before I stopped. The summit wasn’t that impressive but once I dropped into the next it became a whole different view.
This was the view on the other side
The red mountain just glowed
At first I saw a lake, then the huge red mountain, then as I dropped down the cliff faces became bigger. I descended a few hairpin bends and shot down a wide valley with mountains rising up on each side. As I got closer to the river the road dropped into a massive gorge with vertical rock faces on each side. It was incredible and however I tried to get the sheer scale of this gorge and the height of the rock cliffs in to a picture it was almost impossible. It wasn’t just the size and scale but also the different and vibrant colours.
Dropping into the gorge
I was so pleased I had come this way and couldn’t wait to see the rest. Feeling hungry reached the end of the gorge and sat by the river to have lunch, with it now being almost 4pm I had a good chance of gaining some height before dark and as I would have 800 metres to climb to the next summit meant the more I did now the easier it would be tomorrow.
I crossed the river and started the climb which was steep at first with sheer drops off to the river below. After a few miles I passed through a couple of villages and was surprised at how fast I was gaining height. Looking at the route I would have a load of hairpin bends before the summit so once I reached 4,100m I stopped and picked a good spot off the road out of sight. It had been a good day with 1,700 metres of climbing and I was half way up the next climb. If tomorrow is as stunning as today I’ll be very happy.
Wednesday 10th June
It felt good waking up and being so high up. With an incredible view down over the valley and the sun warming the tent and knowing I only having 400 metres to climb to the summit. Once I had breakfast I pushed my bike up to the ridge and then went back for my front panniers. Looking like it was going to be a nice day I got my bike back on the road and continued to climb the rest of the pass reaching the top of Abra Vinàs 4,550m just after 10am and started the descent. After dropping a couple hundred metres the ground dropped away in front of me. It was incredible the size of this dark green gorge and the sheer drop into as if the earth had opened up, it was hard to comprehend. The road went South and although it dropped a lot it didn’t drop into the canyon.
The rock colours were incredible
After dropping to 3,600m I had to climb slightly before reaching the small village of Acobambilla. It was a quiet village nestled in the valley with a crystal clear river that passed through the middle with blue flowers lining the hillside.
Not needing anything I climbed up through the village and onto the road north continuing to climb out on the other side of the gorge. It was steep from the outset and thought I would traverse on the other facing side of the gorge but the road took me away and in behind the mountain. I couldn’t believe how steep it was and pretty much stayed in first gear all the way up.
It was hot, hard and draining but sticking at it I reached 4,600m around 2pm. With just 200 metres to the summit I thought it might be easy but the road climbed a little before dropping down to the next short climb then dropping again. By this point I was pretty much out of water and the streams that I could find didn’t look great. I pushed on with storm clouds brewing to my left and I was starting to get really cold. Hearing the sound of thunder however tired I was I needed to reach the pass and get down the other side where I could get warm. With a couple more climbs I descended to a tiny steam that looked clear. By this point I was so hungry and low on energy I had to stop because if I didn’t I would slow even more and in the end take longer. Once I’d made a cupper and a couple sandwiches I set off again with the clouds pretty much on top of me, moving in bigger blacker and badder looking. It didn’t look far to the summit on the GPS but with the climbs being so steep I wasn’t going to get there any time soon. With about 2 miles to go I felt the first hailstone then the next and then there was a down pour.
I was so cold and was amazing how fast the temperature dropped
I was in shorts and shirt with a rain coat on but with the climbs so steep I was staying just warm enough. Before long everything was white and my hands were starting to freeze. With the last big effort on the last really steep bit I turned the corner to see the summit 800 metres away. With a few more short climbs I finally reached the summit of Abre Turpo 4,800 metres.
Abre Turpo 4,800 metres.
It was just stunning
Looking north to another storm
At this point the hailstorm had stopped but with it hailing back across the valley with the sun out to the west the view was spectacular. After a few pics and taking in the view I spotted a tiny settlement way off down the valley. With it now being 5pm I had 45 minutes to get there before dark.
Although it was beautiful descending it was freezing and after pushing on past a dam I reached a junction and headed towards the settlement. By the time I reached the blue building I was frozen and was worried there would be no one there. After looking around a guy appeared, his name was Andy and was looking after the dam. I asked if there was somewhere warm I could sleep as it was now below freezing, he nodded and said I could stay inside and cook in the kitchen. It was perfect and more then I could hope for. He didn’t say much and with my limited Spanish it was hard to make conversation. I did however get to wash in hot water, cook on a stove and sleep on a mattress under blankets out of the cold. It was all I needed after what was a really tough but stunning day.
Thursday 11th June
Thinking two blankets was enough was a bad idea. I could just about get borderline warm to then turn over and feel cold again. I just couldn’t get warm and it wasn’t til 3 am when It dawned in me I should just put my down jacket on. It’s such a simple solution but when cold and tired it can take a lot to kick yourself up the backside and do something about it. It wasn’t long before I was nice and toasty and drifted off into a deep sleep. I woke to clear blue sky’s and a frozen world. I was up at 4,450 metres where every night there is a frost and the world outside turns white until the sun warms the ground to turn it back to greens and browns. I made my way to the kitchen and lit the gas burner to myself a coffee and warm myself from the inside. With Andy not really chatty I decided to have breakfast on the road so I could leave him in peace. The road continued down the valley a short way before turning left to start the climb.
Apart from the odd steep bit the going was good as it gently weaved its way up the next green valley to the turn off to the mines. Looking at the map I was on a main highway even though it was dirt but once I reached the top and turned for the last bit to the summit the road got worse. With small lakes and ponds everywhere it was nice to watch the birds while I had breakfast. I knew it wouldn’t be long before I was at the top and descending down to the mine and the start of the next climb which would take me higher then I had ever cycled.
Paso Don Mario 4,760m
Once at the summit of Paso Don Mario 4,760m the road remained good as it dropped down to the turn off for the mine but once I had turned off the road became tough. With big rocks and deep gravel and the odd large rock sticking up it was really hard to keep my line but at least I was descending as I wouldn’t want to climb up on a bike.
I reached the mine where there were a few people working and continued through to the other entrance then from here any steep climb consisted of deep gravel and large loose stones.
I always found it harder to push then ride but slipping on the stones was so hard making me have to get off for the worst bits. As the road started to climb a large grey mountain appeared in front of me with glaciers sat in the middle.
At some point I had to get over this but it was stunning
It looked amazing but somewhere along it’s flanks there was a pass and I had to get over it. The road gradually climbed heading straight for the mountain before turning right to the pass towards the grey rock tower and passed right under its sheer face and off to the left. I saw a zigzag road climb sharply and disappear between some rocks.
Here we go and yes that is the road
I sat at its base and had a snack to give me enough energy to reach the pass. As I started to climb to the first bend then the second I knew there had to be more as I was still quite a way from the summit.
The road continued to climb out of sight
The zigzag bit wasn’t as bad as I had thought and then came the steep slopes and deep gravel. After having to push a hundred metres through the gap it levelled off for me to ride again and then it got steep.
Its hard to see but all this was deep loose round stone
With the sky’s filling rapidly once again I hoped I could reach the summit but before long I was pushing my bike again through gravel on a steep slope at 4,800 metres in a blizzard with no sign of the top and In my shorts and shirt. The last km turned out to be fairly gradual and so I summited at 4,990 metres in a blizzard.
Punta Pumacocha 4,990m
looking back through the blizzard
I knew at this point I needed to get down as fast as I could but the road on the downward side wasn’t much better. Making my way down the switch backs feeling ok one way then being battered by the snow and wind the other was hard and cold. By the time I had dropped the main descent I was frozen. Once in the valley I climbed a little before following it ever down. I left the snow storm behind me and continued to drop.
I reached a river crossing at 5.15pm and looking at the GPS I didn’t have far to go but the road kept dropping. I could still see quite well at what was around me but also the huge drop that disappeared into the gorge to my left. I couldn’t believe how much I was descending and how much I had to brake due to the poor road condition.
It was such slow going on a fully laden bike on such a bad road
With the sun below the horizon it was only a matter of time before it was pitch black
Seeing lights off in the distance way off in the valley and even more switchbacks I knew it would be well past dark before I even got close. I reached the town around 7pm and in the pitch black and arrived at a junction. There were a couple guys who I asked where there was a hotel to which they pointed to the building right in front of them. It was perfect and once my bike was in the room and I was showered it was just a case of getting food and sleep. It had been another really tough day, 2 passes, another snow storm and 50 miles covered. I knew I had a climb out but I had done one massive pass and I was happy.
Friday 12th June
Waking up so warm and cosy under the blankets I didn’t want to get up so I left it a bit as I had put in a big day yesterday and packed away what I had got out. Once I was packed I cleaned off the worst of the dust from my bike and tightened the chain. I couldn’t believe how much of an affect the dust and snow had caused.
An interesting centre stage in the main square
The colourful town of Laraos
Once all checked I said my thanks to the owner and rode up onto the main road which from here was Tarmac and felt amazing riding on such a smooth surface as I dropped deeper into the canyon. After descending so much yesterday I couldn’t believe how much further down I was dropping.
The road dropped right down into the valley where I would turn right
It was amazing to see how the road zigzagged up this mountain
With the mountains rising up in front of me all with there roads zig zagging up what looked like an impossible place to build a road and yet they seemed to cover most of the hills around. I reached the river at just under 3,000 metres and started to head up stream. The water was so clear it looked blue in colour. It was nice climbing on a Tarmac road and I wondered how long it would last. Following the river I came to a point where two canyons met and my Tarmac road finished. I turned off and continued to slowly climb on the dirt road. It was ok going apart from the large stones and really steep sections.
This lake was so clear and stunning
The road up to Vitas as it climbs passing all the terracing for crops
The tiny deserted village of Vitas
I climbed up to the small village of Vitas where there wasn’t anyone around and rode on to Huancaya which although was roughly the same height as Vitas involved dropping down about 100 metres then climbing a steep slope into the town. With some sort of festival on I stopped for food and had quick look. I got chatting to 3 lovely young locals before heading off wanting to get to Vilca before dark.
I Found a duck
It was amazing looking so far down after climbing but annoying to see the road drop back down to the river a few miles up stream. With the light fading I could have been anywhere, in the highlands of Scotland or high in the Lake District it all looked so familiar and yet I was so far from home.
I left my bike and walked up the street but it was like a ghost town. I spotted one vehicle and heard some knocking so I went in search of the noise to find an elderly couple with two guys working on a house. I asked where is everyone and they reply gone to another village. After trying to work out what they meant either everyone had left or they had gone to Huancaya for the concert but for everyone to go was mad. They gave me some water and I made my way back to the river where I had seen a good spot to camp. It felt good to have made it this far and knew I needed to rest. Tomorrow was going to be a tough day with a lot of pushing and I needed my strength. Stopping here was as good as any and with the sound of the river to send me off to sleep it was nice.
Saturday 13th June
After hearing a truck pull up at the end of the bridge I knew it must be the first of the villagers arriving back from Huancaya. It was funny listening to them cross the bridge chatting away. Not really sure if they knew I was there and not wanting to make myself present I rolled over and tried to get back to sleep. It was so cold and surprised me how cold it was. I wasn’t sure if it was the river running down from the glacier that dropped the temperature but it was freezing. I woke to bright sunny day but it would take much longer for the sun to reach me down her in the depths of the valley. As the village woke the music started in the houses and wasn’t sure if they were playing it to wake me or just normal life. I got up anyway and put the kettle on and made a cupper as I watched the sun slowly drop into the valley and reaching the first house then the next. It was pointless laying out the fly sheet just yet as the sun hadn’t even reached my camp but I did however take it off and noticed the amount of ice that had formed on the inside. I shock off what I could and waited for the sun to reach me dry the rest.
My freezing camp for the night
Looking back down to the town
Today was a day of pushing my bike and how far It was I had yet to find out. With my bike packed I pushed it up through the village and on to the track. With it being steep I didn’t even bother to ride it until the road levelled out. I reached a gateway and after putting my front panniers the other side of a gate I heaved my bike onto a wall with rear panniers and tent on and over she went. I reloaded the front and started to ride north. This lasted around 100 metres before I knew I would have to take one of the front pannier off. This gave me enough room on the track to get my bike past most obstacles and back down to the river.
As I went on the track got worse
And a bit more
well a little bit worse
Ok and a bit more
There were a few deep muddy bits that I made rock bridges for anyone else bringing a bike and continued on. I was eventually caught by a lady and a donkey who showed me a better route at which point it seemed better to remove my shoes and socks.
And then I find this, well would you be tempted? I was
It was hot with the sun on me so once the lady and her donkey were out of sight I stripped off and jumped in. It was freezing but so nice feeling my body being reinvigorated. I was in for about 10 minutes before the cold was to much and I had to get out. This route was described as to hard for bikes with full panniers and yet It was amazing. I wouldn’t have come this way if I hadn’t have got the route first and yet however hard it was made it more worth while. I knew it would be and prepared myself. There were no cars just a lady and a donkey that were now way ahead and surrounding nature and being in it felt incredible. I will admit it was hard and there were sections I was on the edge of a sheer drop but where else would you bring a fully ladened touring bike and end up in a place like this.
The start of the road and looking back to where the track ends
With a climb up to the road it was this section that was the worst. With what looked like the start of a road that finished into mere goat tracks on a 45degree slope of sandy soil I had a couple moments where I had to put everything into not losing me and my bike down the hill.
It was a little way down
After reaching the road which was at least as wide as a vehicle but no better then a back road in a quarry I rode/pushed on and made it to a river crossing where I cleaned the worst of the mud off my bike. The slope out would have taken the best four wheel drive to get out off but with a bit of a struggle heaved my bike up and headed on with the road getting a little better.
It did get better really
After a few more miles I met another road where it was totally rideable and continued to follow the river up to Banos del Inca where I took a look at the ruined pool. Getting excited at a hot pool which was still bubbling away I stuck my finger in to find it was cold. I stopped anyway dangling my legs in while I had a snack then rode on to Tanta.
As the road climbed and the wind picking up it seemed to take ages to get to. After following dam I finally reached the small village where I found a nice place to stay. I had only covered 19 miles and climbed just under 900 metres but I was pleased. In 7.5 hours I had reached Tanta and enjoyed every minute of it.
With views of the mountains tomorrow was going to be a good day and mount Apu Pariqaqa
With two passes to get over tomorrow I should make it to Chicla and the end of the first part of the great divide. After dreaming of a cold beer in a pub and feeling hungry I found a restaurant that sold fish and chips and enjoyed a couple beers.
Sunday 14th June
The mountain village of Tanta at 3,680m
As I left the small village I could see I was in for a good but hard day. With huge snow capped mountains as a back drop I knew I was going to be entertained. I had two passes to cross, one at 4,700m and the other 4,930m. Once I was over the biggest pass it should be all down hill to Chicla.
I felt good riding along the flat and out of town around the dam towards the first climb but as soon as my legs hit the climb they soon told me they were tired. It was steep and stony which made it worse and after a bit of pushing past the worst of it the road continued to rise and fall slowly getting a little higher.
The ridge on each side would have been created by a massive glacier just as high
I could see the road turn north up a long slope which was once part of the side walls to a massive glacier. With all the ice receded back to the mountain these two mountains that had been created by ice looked huge. With a lake at the base being the last remanence of what was once a giant with a snow capped mountain in the back ground was incredible.
I reached the summit of Abre Suijo 4,700 around midday which was an hour or so later then I hoped and started my descent. The road on the north west side of the pass was in bad shape with lots of lose stones, gravel and deep washed out gullies.
The road down was terrible
It suddenly dawned in me if the road up to the high pass was like this it could take me a lot longer then I had thought leaving me on a high place where it would be very cold and exposed. It took a while to descend but reached the turn off and around 800 metres of height gain to the summit. The road wasn’t great to start with but soon evened out to a gradient I could cope with.
The road up to the final pass was much better
I was climbing at around 100 metres an hour as the road climbed and then dropped again. The scenery here was incredible but I knew I had to keep going. As I started a series of switchbacks I met some climbers who had tried to summit the mountain. I was told a few made it but the girl had got sick and had to turn back. It was lovely chatting to them but with them looking shattered and a car waiting I pushed on. By this point my climbing average had gone up and I was nearing the top.
The incredible Punta Ushuayca 4,930m
The descent on the north side
This sounds easy and would be on good roads but again with deep ruts, washed out gullies and stones I was down to about 6-8mph. Added to that the odd climb which was annoying I knew it would be a long descent.
It was amazing seeing the hillside covered in purple flowers and the odd cow but as the sun set the temperature dropped. I reached what I thought was Chicla just before dark and tried to find a place to stay. After about an hour of looking I decided to go on and I checked the GPS to see I wasn’t even in Chicla and needed to ride on. After another hour in complete darkness I finally reached the highway and a lot of trucks and traffic. According to my map and GPS I had to join the highway and head north east for about 3.5 miles. I turned on all the lights I got out my down jacket as it was so cold and put it on and joined the road. I felt like I was flying along the smooth Tarmac but with no hard shoulder and a deep gully to the right I was going to have to be very careful. As I climbed with no one behind me I saw a tunnel ahead and up hill. I looked behind and went for it. By the time I was half way I was out of breath and shattered. I gave it everything and I made the end of the tunnel with no one coming but I didn’t enjoy it. The 3.5 miles seemed to take forever especially as it was on a climb. When ever I saw traffic behind I would stop and balance myself on the thin line and the gully. The trucks were great but with cars overtaking on blind bends and having nowhere to go I didn’t want to be on this road at this time. After about half an hour I reached Chicla and found a restaurant. The lady was lovely and was more then happy to cook up a feast. I chatted to her for a while asking where there was a hostel when she said I could sleep there. It wasn’t the best but I was shattered and it was late. Once I’d had tea she said I wasn’t to sleep in the floor but in a bed she had got ready. This had just gone from good to amazing and was perfect. Once I’d had a wash I made myself comfy and headed to bed. I had finished the first part of this route and had hoped to have a day off in a nice place but it wasn’t a place to rest and knew I needed to keep going. Tomorrow I would start the next stage of the route but I was tired and needed to rest I just hoped the route was kind.
There is always something out there reminding me who I am and how amazing our country is and how proud I am to be british, but something told me it might rain in the UK today 🙂
The last 9 days had been really tough and yet stunning but I was tired and needed to stop. I would find a nice place but I needed to continue over more passes to do so. With the rest of the great divide to go I still had some hard work ahead and hoped I had the strength to do it. Peru was hard and it has a lot of mountains but for every pass I climbed I was rewarded ten fold and loved it, even in a blizzard.
Thanks for reading xx