(July 31 – written by Dave)
First up a quick thank you out to everyone who wished me happy birthday today (or yesterday as the Aussies got the day right but are always a day ahead when you are in this side of the world!). I’m getting older everyday but as my father used to say, “it’s better than the alternative” – hear hear. And I’ve had a pretty good birthday – what more could one want than a birthday cycle with my lovely wife. Her gift was/is doing this trip with me and sleeping in the many dodgy hotels that I’ve forced her into. And the day was made even more special by Philipp and Kathrin as when we met up with them this morning, they sang a wonderful rendition of happy birthday to you in both English and German and gifted me a Snickers bar – always a welcome treat on a bike ride like this.
The ride today was not overly scenic but it was nice all the same. We had about 10k of riding to escape the traffic influence of Huancayo but traffic was not too bad, outside a dreadful section near the Huancayo market that we had to ride past to meet up with Philipp and Kathrin. We didn’t leave town until 9:30 as we knew that we had a shorter day planned – no one was overly rushed.
Once we broke out of the city, the countryside opened up but it was mostly just rolling hills with few trees. We had about an 18k climb that started as we left the city, all along the ever exciting 3S. As I noted the other day, until the middle of Peru, the highways are numbered XN or XS. Being on 3S means that we are over half way through Peru – woohoo.
It was nice and sunny today but not overly hot. In fact, we stopped at the top of the climb to put on warmer clothes. I didn’t put on my warm gloves but everyone else did. We had a nice chat with a police officer at the top who was stopping random cars for some kind of inspection. We see a lot of these random stops and are always waved through – we have no idea what they are checking but there were several checkpoints on the road today.
The downhill was nice and smooth, one where we didn’t have to ride the brakes the entire way. We stopped for lunch in a little un-named town once we got a little ways off the pass and out of the wind. After lunch the highway plunged down the side of the mountain for the next 10k or so, until we reached a very brown river. Kathrin said that she would call it cappuccino colour, which was nicer than what I was thinking. I’m pretty sure that the colour came from mine runoff but calling it cappuccino at least made it a little less distasteful.
We reached the town of Izcuchaca about 2PM. There is a wonderful old stone bridge that crosses the river here but traffic no longer uses it. Instead we got to ride across a modern army surplus looking thing – progress perhaps. The far side of the bridge pops right out into the middle of a very small town. It would seem that the only purpose of the town is a stopping point for interstate collectivos and a daily tourist train. The ramshackle main square was lined with folks selling to anything that stopped. You better be prepared to have a horde of locals swarm your car if you pull in here. Many of those stopping buy things so it’s definitely a win-win situation all around.
The gals did the hotel search today (after all, it is my birthday) and we’ve landed at the Vista Allegra Hostal. It’s not fancy but it has most things we need (except WiFi) and we only needed to carry our bags up one flight of stairs. There are only two hotels in town so Philipp and I only had to guard the bikes in the main square for about 15 minutes.
Once we settled into our rooms and had showers, Philipp and Kathrin made me a birthday coffee. I think that they like travelling with us because of Nancy’s kettle and our Areopress. They borrow it most mornings if we are staying in the same place and everyone likes an afternoon brew as a treat as well. Today they made us coffee and we had a lovely afternoon tea, complete with pan de queso from the main square and Oreo cookies – a perfect way to end a great birthday.
There are three restaurants in town and we are about ready to head out and see what’s on offer. Our hopes are not high but we need to get some food in us because we have a harder day planned tomorrow. It’s only a little longer than today but there is more than twice the climbing. Nancy is napping now, just thinking about more climbing makes everyone a little tired. We should sleep well tonight however as we are only at 2,830 metres (less than 9,000 feet). Tomorrow we are back over 3,000 metres and then some. These Andes never really let up…