(August 4 – written by Nancy)
We had a quiet night in the theatre of the Municipalidad building, save for the rustling of sleeping pads echoing in the big space as people turned over in their sleep. I had to jab Dave a few times with my elbow when he started to snore – in that big space without the ambient outdoor noise that you have with regular camping his snoring really seemed like it echoed. And Tine did say this morning that she heard some snoring, so perhaps my jabs weren’t frequent enough!
The workers at the Municipalidad asked us to be out by 7am this morning (not quite sure why, as it was Saturday and no one was coming into work) so that meant we were up at 5:30 to get things packed up and breakfast eaten before 7AM. We made our deadline though, and were on the road just after 7 with a short 2k hill to warm us up. Then we had an 18k twisty roller coaster downhill – into fabulous red rock canyon. The Quillón River flowed through the bottom of the canyon, and farms lined the banks. These looked like pretty decent farms, with what looked like vegetable crops growing pretty well in neat, orderly rows.
We rode through several small villages and when Tine spotted a lady selling cake in one of the villages she pulled over to investigate. We got 2 slices of very delicious cake for one sole ($0.30) per slice, which we ate along the roadside to the amusement of the village folks hanging out in the sun. It looks like the political activities are increasing as the elections get closer (we think they are in October) and as we ate our cake we watched 5 tuk-tuks with flags of a candidate flying make laps of the central plaza area. This one was a new one, which we immediately dubbed ‘The Tractor Party’ (for reasons that should be evident from the pictures).
After watching the tuk-tuck jamboree for a bit we continued riding along the river, with mostly relatively flat terrain. Then, surprise surprise, we came upon a spot where the road crosses the river and – no bridge! We could see where the old bridge had washed out, and instead now there was just a muddy river crossing. The river wasn’t too wide but wide enough that you couldn’t get across it without getting your feet wet and you certainly couldn’t ride through it. To make matters more interesting, there was a van stuck in the middle of one side of the crossing. It looked like it had gotten high-centered or simply stuck in the mud. There were several guys digging around the back tires and a crowd of people waiting on the bank, obviously from the van.
We watched several vehicles come down the road and stop for a minute to allow the driver to get out and throw a rock in the river. This seemed to be the way they tested to see if they could get across and not have end up with the same fate as the van stuck in the mud. The rock throwing exercise was a bit of a farce though, as the river was so brown you could not see anything once the rock hit the water. All they would know is that the water was deep enough to cover the rock! But, each one simply returned to the vehicle, backed up a bit and gunned it to get across. And they did, the wheels slipping and sliding as the vehicle got to the bank on the other side.
Tine was first to get to the water, and with Philipp’s help and a local who was sitting watching the excitement, they got her bike across the river and her safely across, walking on some big rocks that had helpfully been placed in the river. The local then went back to sit down and didn’t seem interested in helping us get the rest of the bikes across, so we were on our own. We removed the front bags from Dave’s and my bike and Philipp, ever the hero, took off his shoes stood in the middle of the river and helped guide the bikes across while one of us stood on one side of the river pushing and the other on the other side of the river pulling to get the bikes up the bank. It all worked out pretty good, and other than some muddy bikes and shoes we didn’t have too much damage. It was quite a show and it looked like it had been going on for some time, as the downed bridge didn’t look like it had been up for quite some time.
We washed off our shoes as much as possible once we got to some clearer water – neither Dave nor I could get our cleats clipped in for a bit as the bottoms of our shoes were pretty caked with mud. Finally back on the road we continued along the river, riding in the sunshine and enjoying the views of the mountains around us. We rode past two young boys with bicycles coming down a hill and they quickly jumped in behind us, pedalling furiously to keep up. We stopped at a small store for morning tea and the boys stopped with us, waiting patiently off to the side while we had our snacks. Philipp gave them a packet of cookies, which they seemed to enjoy, though they weren’t too talkative. They then rode with us for another 5k until we reached the intersection with the main Hwy 3S before finally pulling over and waving goodbye to us. Their bikes were rough – “shoe on tire for brakes” and “get off and move chain with hand to shift” – but they rode hard.
The last 10k into town was not nearly as nice as the earlier part of the ride, with much more traffic to accompany us up the climb into the city of Ayacucho. The road was quite dirty, with the shoulders full of dirt and lots of garbage. It was getting hot and I was starting to think that maybe this was not going to be such a nice town after all. But, once we made our way into the city proper and to the central park area it was much nicer, though the ride there was not! It’s always difficult making the transition from riding in the sparsely populated countryside into a big city with the traffic, noise and general busyness that you find in bigger places.
There are tons of hotels, hostels and hospedajes in this city so we did a bit of divide and conquer to go look at some places to stay. We ended up at a nice place, the Hotel Sevilla, which is a couple of blocks from the main square. Hopefully it will be nice and quiet so that we can get some rest – we both need a few good nights’ sleep. Philipp and Tine ended up at another hostel a few blocks away, where Andi, the bikepacker we rode with a few weeks ago, is staying.
We got settled in our room, had some lunch at the restaurant below the hotel and then headed into the square for ice cream, a coffee and then met Philipp, Tine and Andi for pisco sours (Peruvian drink) and dinner. The others continued on in search of more pisco sours but us old folks are now ready for sleep. We have planned two days off here as there are many things to see (and much food to eat!) so I am sure Dave will update later with all the info about this city. For now, goodnight…