Pass one – Uripa to Andahuaylas (76k/18,890k, +4,600ft)

(August 10 – written by Dave)

Today was the first of 4 days in a row with passes reaching close to 14,000 feet.  Not the most idea conditions for Nancy and I to be less than 100% but you do what you have to do.  The ride from Ayacucho to Cusco actually has five of these passes but I kind of missed one the other day when I was in the taxi.  I’m sure it will be some time before I live that down.

We left the hotel just before 8AM and headed out to finish the last 24k of the 49k climb that we did half of yesterday.  There was snow on top of the mountains near town, and I’m certain that we rode much higher than those mountains by the top of the pass.  The climb was not too bad with steep bits mostly at the start and gradual easing of the grade all the way to the top.  The only person in our four person possie who was not feeling slightly ill was Tine but she rode our pace all the way to the top.

Looking back at Uripa

Looking back down at Uripa and the snow over town

For my dad 3

This one is for my father.  He loved a good wood pile and the mountains.  He would have liked this shot.


Unfortunately, Philipp has a bit of a head cold and runny nose.  He had to stop multiple times to blow his nose into a tissue.  This all kind of strange for Nancy and I as we just hack out our noses on the ground like a middle linebacker coming off the field after a tough defensive stand (centre forward for our Aussie friends).  This probably doesn’t sound very polite for people who know us and our normally proper dispositions.  Well, you can only carry so many tissues and stopping to get one out is time consuming.  Early on in our cycling days we figured out that hacking really was the most efficient way to deal with a runny nose.  In fact, they first time Nancy did it riding in front of me, we were not yet married but I knew that I had my dream girl (Senior editor’s comment – okay, a bit too much information…).

Other than runny nose mussing thoughts, we all just put our heads down and ground our way up the pass.  When we reached what we thought was the top, we had a couple downhills, followed by false flats and little uphills, just to make sure that we earned the summit properly.  As we neared the 14,000 summit, we started to see snowmen – right about where Alee from Melbourne said that we would have snow.  The snowmen were clearly built a few days ago when there was a lot more snow, now they were looking a bit sad and dishevelled.  It was surprising how many of them we saw – it would appear that either they don’t get snow often here or Peruvians are keen snowman builders.


Snow on the road, perhaps a snowman at one time


Nice snowman – what’s with the arms?

At the top we stopped just out of the wind and put on most of our warm clothes.  We shared our chocolate panatone cake that Nancy and I picked up the day before in Uripa.  It would have been nice to have a coffee as well but we were all getting just a wee bit chilled so we headed down the mountain.  We had roughly 50k of downhill on a fairly smooth roads – if not for the chill in the air, it would have been fantastic.  There was a headwind that slowed us but if anything, this just saved the brakes a little bit.  At one point we had to pass a slow moving van – it’s always fun passing a car on the downhill.

Quick stop at the top

Everyone looking a bit cold at this point and…

Quick stop at top with snowman photo bombing us

yes, that is a snowman photo bombing the shot

When we reached the bottom we stopped to strip off all the warm layers and to do a map check.  We only had an additional 4k to ride from there.  At the servo where we stopped, I found the ultimate bike-packing bicycle for me that I think even Hanna and Mark (our bike-packing friends) would approve of.  It was super light and even had mostly working brakes.  Unfortunately the chap (6 year old Juan) didn’t seem overly interested in talking to me or trading bikes, so onward I trudged with heavy bike for the last 4k.

Mountains near Andahuaylas 5

Andes on the descent

Mountains near Andahuaylas 2

More Andes

View coming into Andahuaylas

The city of Andahuaylas below

Dave taking the bike packing idea serious - finally 1

Dave and his bike packing ride

We eventually found the Plaza de Armas and our intended hotel stop.  Nearly every town in South America has a Plaza de Armas – or “Weapons Square” in direct translation, “Parade Square” in a more meaningful translation.  We try picking hotels near the plaza as there are often restaurants and the main town market nearby.  In small towns, everything is nearby.  In cities, sometimes there are malls out of town but there is still a buzz at the main plaza.

Rooftop view of the Plaza de Armas

Plaza de Armas from our hotel

Anyway, today we quickly located the Hotel El Eden and decided to take a room.  All of their reviews said that they had great hot water and ok WiFi.  The water was stunning (once I helped Nancy get the knob turned the right way – she was tired).  The WiFi is what I call a matador WiFi – that is, sometimes you see it, sometimes you don’t.  So for the later, we are tethering our phone.  Oh well, the bed is nice and there is a fancy toilet (with seat).  Overall, it’s about 10 times better than the last couple nights.

Laundry at the hotel - they bucket wash every sheet and towell

We dried our clothes on the roof where they do laundry.  They wash sheets and towels at this hotel in a giant bucket – 40+ rooms.  In fact, this is very common in South America – machines would help but probably put people out of work as well.

We have a really long day tomorrow that starts with a breezy 37k climb back up to 14,000 feet.  We’ll be up early and have the bikes packed so that we can have the 7AM brekkie that the hotel provides and hit the road.  We’ve already changed our booking in Cusco by moving it out a few days – this section of Peru is hard – but at least most of the grades are gentler than we found in Ecuador and Colombia.  Onward and upwards.

10 thoughts on “Pass one – Uripa to Andahuaylas (76k/18,890k, +4,600ft)

  1. This gave me a chuckle “In fact, they first time Nancy did it riding in front of me, we were not yet married but I knew that I had my dream girl (Senior editor’s comment – okay, a bit too much information…).” I have in the past been accused of doing just that. The pictures of the Andes looks great, not sure I would be able to ride at high these altitudes.

  2. What can be more satisfying than launching a nice-sized snot rocket – while cycling, running, hiking, walking… you get the idea.

  3. Too much information for a non-bicycler! Can that be my little girl? It does sound like you are all a bit better, but tough riding! Just remember Cusco will be there whenever you get there! Don’t push too hard! Great pictures!

  4. What a wonderful post today. Great pictures and snowmen! I love the wood pile pic, I come from a woodcutting/ tree business family and my dad also would have loved that pic! I’m with you on nose blowing, why stop just for a runny nose? Good luck with all the altitude busting days ahead!😁

  5. Well in my defense, with my running nose it would not end up starting a rocket but more like a bungee jump. Nancy can confirm my trials. So in order to keep everyone from such an ordeal, I prefer a proper tissue.

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