(July 4 – written by Nancy)
Happy 4th of July to our friends and family in the US! Have an extra hot dog, some macaroni salad and a piece of pie for us. Instead of hanging out with family and eating the time-honored foods of the holiday we instead had another longish day today, over another mountain into the big-ish city of Cajamarca. We knew we had about 47k to climb straight out of Celendín so we were on the road by 6:30. It was cold, 4C (38F) – we started out in our coats though we knew they would come off once the climbing warmed us up.
First up was a stop at the ‘Giant Sombrero’, just at the edge of the city. It is a massive white hat in the Celendín style that forms a kind of gazebo, with benches around it and under it so you can sit and have time to take it all in. There weren’t too many people around as we went by other than schoolkids waiting for a ride to school. We had a long day to ride so didn’t have time to sit under the hat and contemplate life, unfortunately.
The good news for today is that the climb was much, much easier than the last couple of days. While it was almost 47k, the gradient was mostly very gentle and there were even spots of flat and a little bit of downhill. The terrain was completely different as well – green rolling hills rather than the stark mountains of the other day. So we didn’t really seem to notice the time passing and it didn’t take too long to reach the top. The top was in fact a new record high for us on this trip – 3750m (12,300ft).
The sunshine that we had as we set off slowly disappeared as clouds rolled in. As we neared the top we rode into the clouds and fog and by the time we reached the top our bike computers were reading 5C. With the wind it was pretty cold. It’s amazing to see people living up there in rammed earth houses with no electricity and no heat. The houses don’t have chimneys and you don’t see any smoke coming from them so we assume there are no wood stoves inside to ward off the chill. Brrr!
We’ve been meaning to mention Peruvian country house paint as well. So today Dave took a bunch of photos to make it easier to explain. Out in the county, houses are mostly rammed earth or adobe bricks. These walls are blank unless there is an election coming up. We think that pending elections mean that the people living in the houses “sell” their wall space for political ads as you can see below. We don’t know how much money they make but I’m sure that the plaster and subsequent paint make the walls last longer, and maybe even help keep the houses warmer on cold days like today.
We bundled up for the 30k downhill but it was still very cold with the fog hanging about. We could see lighter skies up ahead of us but just couldn’t seem to reach them. The Peruvian dogs were active enough to keep us on our toes, with several chases. They seem to be getting bigger and meaner-looking – we saw several today that looked like Rottweilers. I do generally like dogs but not these that come out of nowhere, straight at you. The road had lots of switchbacks today and I swear some of the dogs run at you from the bottom and then head up to where the road switches back to have a second go at you. Of course barking all the way, alerting any other dog nearby to get ready for its own charge.
We stopped in the small town of Encanada at about 65k for a coffee to warm up before continuing downhill. We only had a small uphill toward the end of the ride to get us into the suburbs of Cajamarca and then it was just a matter of navigating city traffic to get to the Plaza de Armas, the main square in the city. We had a couple of hotels picked out to check out and have ended up in the Hotel Sol de Belén, a nice place a couple of blocks off the square. It is a bit over our budget but we wanted someplace nice as we will stay here for 3 nights. We are using some gift money that Dave’s mom gave us for our anniversary – thanks Alice!
This is the last city of any decent size we will see until we reach Huaraz, about 10 days ride from here. So we plan to enjoy some good food and relax a bit, get some chores done and maybe do some more planning, if I can get Dave to focus on it.