(August 2 – written by Dave)
It was cold overnight in Huancavelica, so cold that the surrounding hills had a dusting of snow on them this morning. The snow make for nice photos so long as it stays up there! It’s not much fun to ride in. There were some clouds about in the morning but mostly it was sunny. It never got overly warm all day forcing us wear several layers and really rug up for the downhills.
Today was unofficially “Llama Day” as we saw so many llamas that they started to become ordinary. By the end of the day we weren’t even stopping to take photos of them. Most of them have ear ribbons so they are obviously part of a managed herd of some sort. Some were fenced in but mostly they were free range all over the Andean highlands where we rode today. While today we stopped stopping for them, I’m not sure I’ll ever tire of seeing herds of llamas roaming the hillsides – heck, outside the odd llama farm in the States or Oz we’ve never seen this many llamas in one place.
There aren’t any trees to speak of out in this part of the Andes, mostly just high mountain grasslands and rocks. Perfect for llamas I guess. There is a little farming but it has to be very difficult work. By the time you’d get the rocks out of your field, more would come to the surface from the loss of top soil. What to do with all the rocks other than make walls, or corrals, perhaps for your prized llama.
We saw some nice new road signs today as well. The first one below basically says “conserve the beauty of this place” and it mostly seemed to be working. There was far less trash on the side of the road than we’d been seeing. It probably helped that we were riding the fancy new Highway 26B with its smooth pavement and nice wide shoulders. And it also helped that there was little traffic. The second new sign of the day was the “Zona De Bofedales” sign. We saw several of these but never got the timing right to get Philipp to block out the “Bofe” part of the sign – sorry Dale. For what it’s worth, the sign means “Area of Wetlands”. For the confused Spanish speakers out there, we had to dig to find that bofedales means wetlands – it seems to be used mostly in Peru.
Today we had a big climb out of town, followed by several more climbs that got shorter as the day wore on. The highest point of the day was at 4,400 metres or just over 14,000 feet. Everyone made it over the pass without too much difficulty. Slow and steady. We stopped at the last hilltop to put on warm clothes and have some lunch. It was a bit windy but the sun was out and once we had on our raingear we warmed up. There was no threat of rain, rather we were rugging up for the last 25k downhill into Lircay.
We made it to Lircay about 2PM but didn’t really know where we were going to stay. The town sounded a bit rough from other people’s blogs. Well, as it turns out, it’s a nice little town with several options for spending the night and a nice open air market – you can’t always believe what others write. We’ve ended up in the Hotel Hacienda and what a treat it is. It’s fairly new, the rooms are big and clean, the shower’s great and there is a toilet seat – all this for an amazing 50 Sole or about $15 USD.
The hotel is so nice that we may end up staying here another night. There is a fairly high chance of rain in the forecast for tomorrow and we have a 38k climb right out of the gate. If it does rain, up at 4,500 metres the rain will likely be snow. We’ve decided to get up the normal time and have a look outside, making a game day decision. None of us are overly keen to ride in the snow. And in case you were wondering, for the record, we are still in the tropics. Even though we are only 12 degree south of the equator, the altitude makes all the difference.