Before heading into the Peruvian mountains I allowed myself another day without cycling in Cusco. The Hotel Estrellita was full with cyclists and I even meet up again with my old cycling-buddies Ludo & Emilie (http://les-andes-ouilles.blogspot.com), with whom I shared the adventure of carrying the bikes around the Lago Desierto in Patagonia (Entrada en Carretera Austral).
I also met up with Nedo from Switzerland (www.findingnedo.dk) with whom I’ve been already in contact before the trip. Together with Nedo and Ruben from Spain (www.sudamericabtt.blogspot.com) I left Cusco. Unfortunately after a few hundred meters we lost Nedo, his frame broke and he couldn’t continue with us.
The 1st day after Cusco was not yet a “Hors catégorie”, after a short climb of 5km Ruben and me, we cycled easily through the green fields and small villages. For lunch we stopped at a small cheese fabric which was called “queseria suissa andina”, only because the owner has been a few weeks in Switzerland…the cheese was extraordinary good (first good cheese since northern Argentina).
Our map showed at about 90-100km from Cusco natural hot water springs (thermas) and we thought this might be a good place to stay overnight. Despite the information from people it wasn’t 2km or 5km away from the last village, but more than 15km. With the sunset we arrived at the thermas and took a bath. At this point we were only at 1.900m altitude (Cusco 3.400m), which meant the climat was warm and tropical, very nice after long time in high altitude.
Now the first day of the “Week Hors catégorie” started, our map showed on the way to Abancay a pass with 4.100m altitude. We started climbing right away from the Thermas and got to the top after 5:40h and 53km. On our way we passed many small villages and around noon we had again a lot of kids following us by bike or running.
From the top of the pass we could see already the town Abancay down in the valley and we went into one of the most amazing downhill I ever had, paved road and more than 40km of downhill with nice curves.
In Abancay we met up with Emilie & Ludo, who have been taking the bus from Cusco to Abancay so that we could cycle another time together…awesome!
In a group of 4 cyclists we left Abancay and got after another downhill to 2.000m to the turn-off to Ayacucho. From there we had 400km of rippio (unpaved road) and lots of up and down in front of us. Once again “Hors catégorie” we climbed all day in serpentines up the hill. With the dawn and after more than 35km of climbing on rippio we got to little a village. The drunken truck-drivers invited us to have a few beers and then we pitched our tents next to the church. While pitching the tent, cooking and eating we were surrounded by all kids from village (about 20). It is always a great scene when we are standing in the middle of a crowd of curious kids or adults, but unfortunately as soon as one of us takes out his camera they’re running away.
The next day we continued our climb, up to 4.200m. The view from up there was absolutely stunning!
Peru is doing a lot right now to get his major roads paved and so we cycled long time on roads under construction but also a few kilometers of brand-new asphalt. From the top of the pass we wanted to get to the next town, Andayulas, down in the valley. Due to the bad roads it took us way longer to get down than expected. Still not arrived, the night fall and we had to cycle the last part in the dark.
On our search for breakfast in Andayulas on Sunday morning, we bumped into the local market. Here you can get everything, but we decided to have bread and fresh juice instead of entire grilled pigs. With full stomachs we once again started to climb – the top of the pass more than 40km ahead. In some village we stopped to buy water and the owner of the shop invited us to see his hamster farm, which is a local speciality. There we made our mind that we wanted try this speciality tonight. First we had to reach the top of the pass and once again we went into a downhill the next village. Arriving in Uripa in the dark, we were rewarded for our efforts with a Hamster for dinner…it was pretty good!
On day #6 since Cusco we once again went down to 2.000m. At this altitude it was very hot and small stinging flies literally ate us. I was glad to move on and of course we had to climb the next pass. After arriving 2 times in a row in the dark, we decided at 4pm to stop for today. We were in the small village of Chumbes and pitched our tents in the central plaza. Of course the news that “4 Gringos con la Bici” are staying at the plaza made the round in the village very quickly and we were surrounded by lots of children very soon. Ludo and me we played the animator for the kids, playing football with 50kids and running around the plaza…that was great fun!
From Chumbes we continued climbing and came after 35kms to highplans on about 4.000m altitude. As there are no villages, we had to camp in the highplans. After we pitched our tents (it was already getting cold) 2 cyclists come along the road, it was Julian & Julian, my french cycling-buddies from La Paz to Cusco. So we were a group of 6 cyclists in Peru, cyclists in South America are like big family!
On the last day we had to climb only a little bit until we got to the last downhill to Ayacucho.
The “peleton” cycled into Ayacucho and at some traffic light a guy on a bike stop next to us. It was the architect Enrique who is doing a lot of cycling as well. He invited us right away into his brothers italian restaurant and arranged for us that we can stay in the fancy Hotel of a friend. In the evening Ekike took us out to the restaurant of one his cycling-buddies and we had big night out in Ayacucho.
Tonight I’ll leave by bus together with Emilie and Ludo towards the north. I’ve to skip some parts here in the mountains, if not I would not make it to Quito in time…