(August 1 – written by Dave)
Well, we made it to Huancavelica in once piece even with all the climbing. We figured that of the 77k we rode today, more than 50k of them were uphill. We had a couple 20k climbs, one right out of Izcuchaca first thing this morning. Actually the climbing was not that bad – we’d heard that grades were easier in Peru than they were Ecuador – well, today it seemed that they might have been. We are both less tired today than we were yesterday – go figure.
We started early this morning but made it only about 500 metres before taking a break. In the main square of Izcuchaca they were having their weekly market. It fills the square but it’s not that big of square. As we made our way around the market we spotted two other touring cyclists and started a conversation with them. They turned out to be two super nice guys from Spain that are on extended world tours – both rode through Ushuaia (sorry, we didn’t get their names – duh). We traded notes on a few topics and would have liked to spend the morning picking their brains but we had those hills to get stuck into.
The first 20k climb was the steepest of the day but it was not overly taxing. We had nice views back down to the river and Izcuchaca. Up near the top we had another one of those rockstar moments when we passed a crew of folks (mostly women) working on large piles of rocks. One of the women called out for photos and Tine was happy to oblige. Several women lined up for one-on-one photos with her. Tine is tall, these women are short – it made for quite the spectacle. We eventually extracted ourselves and finished off the climb. We had morning tea at the top.
There was a short 7k downhill from the top and the start of our second 20k climb. The second climb was steep at first but quickly mellowed. By the top we had a nice tailwind and gentle grades. It was almost pleasant riding, certainly warm enough in the sun. We stopped at the top of this pass for lunch at a little tienda where an 11 month old and his mom entertained us. The 11 month old was just about walking on his own and keen to explore these strange aliens that landed in front of his mom’s shop.
There was a little downhill after the pass, followed by the climb to the high point of the day. We topped out at 4,130 or 4,190 metres – depending on which mapping tool you believe. Whatever the real height, that’s over 13,500 metres but we had no issues breathing – cool.
The downhill following this point was the longest of the day. Near the top we spotted some nice rock formations and a herd of llamas (maybe alpacas). We stopped for photos of both. There was a woman tending the llamas and she offered that we should give her money to take the photos. We all got a chuckle out of her request and politely declined to pay. No one asked us for fees of photos the rocks.
On the downhill, the clouds started to darken. All of us were keeping a keen eye out but no one got more that 10 drops. By the time we reached the bottom of the descent, it seemed that like we’d ridden out from under the clouds. We reached Huancavelica and made out way to the main square to start the hotel search. We settled into the Ccori Hostal eventually. It’s an ok place but there was some concern over the shower situation. Our room had a disconnected electric shower head and the woman running the place said that they now had solar hot water. We were all a bit sceptical as it hadn’t been that hot all day but we got hot showers and everyone was happy.
I ducked out for drinks and snacks after getting cleaned up and nearly got soaked. Those clouds that we thought we outran were now hanging out over Huancavelica – luckily I cut my shopping short and the skies opened just as I returned. We’re now hanging out in our room waiting for a break so that we can go out and get dinner. And guess what, Nancy found CNN on the TV. We haven’t seen CNN for what seems like months – it’s nice to catch up a little on what’s happening in the world.
Tomorrow we head for Lircay, down Highway 26B. The map looks very squiggly but the profile is not too up and down. There is less climbing but we’ll have to check the forecast after the rain we got this afternoon. Today’s rain was the first since 6 weeks ago when we entered Peru.