(July 24 – written by Dave)
Today turned out much different than we thought it would. We had 14k of uphill to start, followed by 60k of downhill. We rode again with Philipp and Kathrin. All four of us enjoyed the uphill much more than the downhill. Yup, you read that right. It’s all about road surface. The uphill was mostly smooth asphalt. The downhill was mostly bumpy rough, potholed and dusty. You’d normally think that a 60k downhill would be fun but today it was quite tiring. We were all ready to be done riding by the end.
We were on-time leaving this morning and not just because we are all “orderly, don’t want to make the others wait” people. More because no one wanted to linger in our hotel any longer than we had to. We survived the night but you can imagine how much we enjoyed our facilities – a shared bathroom with no toilet seat with a full hotel – and lots of construction guys – well, you get the picture.
The uphill was mostly gentle so that made riding nice. We left in the sunshine but it clouded over soon after we left and it was pretty cool. Everyone but me had on long fingered gloves. The entire 14k was lined with small, rough looking houses, sheds and out buildings. Everyone still smiled and said “hola” but you could tell that their life is not an easy one, scratching out a living on the side of an Andean mountain. The homes are coloured adobe brick or political white – selling the side of your house is one way to stretch the monthly budget. Cars on the road are all rough looking with cracked windscreens and duct tape being common. You don’t want to think about the last safety inspection they’ve had.
We reached the top of the pass about 10AM, put on heavy coats and headed down. The rough road I mentioned above started right from the top. There was no gracefully sailing down a quiet mountain lane for us. Aside from slowing for the bumps and washouts, we had to stop once for a marching band. Yup, you read that right, a marching band. In one small village (really just several buildings, not really a village) there were two bands. One sitting at what looked like the town hall, the other marching down the highway to meet them. The marching blocked us and all the cars. We are not sure why a parade was taking place, other then it being 10:10 on Tuesday morning, but the extra large beer bottles being shared around made it clear that everyone was going to have a fun day. We were happy to be moving through.
The downhill went on for what seemed like forever. We had to stop a couple times to take layers off, let the brakes cool and to generally give the hands a rest. We also stopped to visit with a nice chap holding a baby owl – not something you see every day. Philipp spotted this guy walking down the road holding something. This something turned out to be a one week old owl. We think the guy wanted us to buy it but that was clearly not going to happen so we just enjoyed the owl and a nice conversation with its owner. Really not sure what the rest of that story was…
Eventually we made it out of the steep stuff but the road seemed to get worse the lower we got. And the traffic picked up. It was one lane the entire way off the pass and all the dirt meant a good deal of dust. And we had to slow down many times to allow safe passage of other vehicles – going both up and down. All in all, we preferred the relative quiet of our morning uphill ride to the bumpy downhill.
WARNING: I looked up to find my senior editor sleep editing with her finger stuck on the “d” key. I’m leaving her efforts here in the text to show how hard she is working at riding and editing on this trip. You can just page down around the extra “d’s” and know that any typos in this post are not her fault.
We wandered town a bit this arvo and had a coffee – it is much warmer down here at 6,500 feet. Later we had dinner with Philipp and Kathrin at a traditional Peruvian BBQ restaurant that turned out to be fantastic. We split a bottle of Peruvian wine that turned out “ok” but we’ll be glad to move onto Chilean or Argentina wines sooner than later. The Peruvian varieties seem to always be too sweet.
We are taking a rest day here tomorrow. We have to re-clean the bikes, check all the bike and bag bolts. The last four days riding have been pretty hard on us and our equipment. We had dirt and/on rough roads for much more than we thought we would. I guess that’s how it goes in Peru – you get fantastic scenery but you have to stop riding in order to look at it.
As noted, Huánaco is a busy city. We didn’t really expect more than a small country town. Between chores tomorrow, we’ll try having a bit of a look around to get a better feel for it. There are at least a dozen bakeries and at least one good coffee shop within a block of our hotel, so there is plenty to explore without having to walk too far.