(July 9 – written by Dave)
First an update on dinner last night. We bought a pile of shredded veggies and a chicken flavour package at the market and made soup. It turned out to be quite tasty. It is hard to beat the price at .80 Soles or about .25 US cents. We used our stove in the courtyard of the hostel which the hostel manager and her daughter thought was quite funny.
The manager may have been willing to laugh at anything as about the time we started cooking, the pump that supplies water to the hostel died. She was working hard to get that fixed as she had a good 10 guests staying for the night. She managed to get it going about 7PM but it stopped again at 9PM. The 9PM stoppage was difficult for us as we had not washed our dinner dishes yet. Nancy inquired when we would have water again and the manager replied about 4AM. Oh well, we can wash up in the morning and not flush the toilet during the night. Oh yeah, the internet didn’t work either – oh well, for $12USD, I guess you can’t complain.
As for today’s ride, we continued our climb back to higher parts of the Andes. Tonight we are staying in Huamachuco at 3,270 meters or close to 11,700 feet. We rode over a small pass today that was at 3,450 meters. We’ve gone over higher passes but I think that we are sleeping about as high as we have so far on the trip. We are both doing pretty well with the altitude – no issues really. It is cool up here and at night it gets almost chilly. It’s good to be in a hotel.
Today’s ride was a little shorter than yesterday and about the same elevation gain but we were quite a bit slower in total time. That could be down to the altitude or just as likely, the poorer road surface. As we ride further into the mountains, the road has gotten narrower and rougher. The biggest issue today was probably the creek crossings. Each crossing has a metal girder army-surplus-like bridge that is preceded and followed by a barely rideable speed bump and lots of dirt, rocks and sand. We have to slow down for these crossing quite a bit.
The other possible cause for spending more time riding is the speed bumps. Every town in Peru uses speed bumps to slow traffic – speed limit signs are generally ignored. The bumps in these parts are basically mini walls. There is no transition or smoothness to them – we have to almost come to a complete stop to get over them without breaking something on our bikes. And as if the official speed bumps are not enough, there a stack of wildcat speed bumps – that is houses or businesses that think traffic should slow down as they pass pile up “fake” speed bumps of gravel, concrete, whatever. All these road hazards mean slow progress, even on the down hills.
And finally, the moment that I know you’ve been waiting for – today we passed the Shitabamba city limits sign. And yes we got photos. I’m sure that the locals all roll their eyes at the gringos who stop at the sign. The name is not funny at all in Spanish. Many of the towns in these parts have names that end with bamba, there doesn’t appear to be a translation of “shita”. Anyway, it was a fun place for an early morning tea stop.
We had to climb for about the first 35k today. It was an easy climb with lots of short flat or downhill bits to give us a break. The last 20k was mostly downhill except a few really steep pitches right before town. The last climb into town had us really grunting. Once we reached the top, we had a couple K of dirt/rock mess where clearly the town roads department had taken over from the state/federal roads department. The approaches to towns are some of the roughest roads we’ve seen in Peru, today was just more of the same.
Once in town we quickly located the Huamachuco Hotel right on the main square. It’s an ok hotel with good hot water and slow WiFi. We had a quick meal at the restaurant next to the hotel, showers and wandered the plaza. There are some great topiary plants in the plaza, plus there was a guy there giving some of them a spring trim. What a job that would be, low stress, fresh air and a fun end product to show off when you are done. Only trouble is that I think that the plants were growing faster than he could trim – several of them were quite shaggy.
The Germans found a different hotel in town but came by this afternoon for a visit and to discuss plans for the next couple of days. Tomorrow we are planning a short-cut route that involves some dirt and more importantly, some navigational challenges. We’ve compared notes and will leave a little before them in the morning – if we are really confused at any of the junctions, we’ll wait for them to catch up – haha. More hills tomorrow with another 4,000+ feet to climb – alls in a day’s work I guess…