(August 13 – written by Dave)
Today we completed pass number 4 from Ayacucho to Cusco and I’m happy to report that everyone rode the entire way. We started the day with a 35k climb and finished the day with a 35k descent. We voted this afternoon and everyone prefers going up first better than having to finish with an uphill. Today, everyone was happy.
It was pretty warm this morning again and everyone was riding in shorts and short-sleeves within a few k of the hotel. We figured that it would take us more than four hours to complete the climb so we just put it in low gears and made forward progress. We had nice views of Abancay on some of the corners and nice views of mountains above us on other corners. We took a break at about 11AM, about 2/3s of the way up – everyone was feeling good, with no issues with the altitude. The top of the pass was just below 4,000 metres and same story there. I think we are becoming creatures of the mountains. For sure we still have some benefit from the equatorial bulge but 4,000 metres (13,123 feet) is nothing to sneeze at.
We had a quick snack at the top of the pass as we rugged up for the downhill. While we were stopped, a truck containing 4 communications installation workers pulled up and asked if they could take our photos. They were nice guys – apparently they strung some of the cable along the road that we were riding.
The scenery on the way up the climb was nice. In fact, near the top, we could look down on yesterday’s pass number 3. The scenery on today’s side of the pass was at least ten times nice. On reaching the top a whole range of Andes peaks to the west opened up in front of us. Wow. As we were riding west and it was past noon, we were kind of looking right into the sun but honestly, a blind dog could probably take a nice picture or two of what unfolded in front of us. A lot of the photos look the same but most are of a different peak or range. Photo overload follows…
The downhill off the pass was super fast and fun. There was a strong wind blowing down our canyon and this created an interesting headwind when our switchbacks turned that direction and a ripper tailwind when the switchbacks took us the other direction. We made fantastic time and enjoyed the ever warmer air of lower elevation.
Near the bottom we pulled up to greet a fellow cycle tourist who had started in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He was a super guy with a great, happy spirit. He was from Thailand but somehow Nancy and I both clutched on his name. So you will just have to live with a photo of the gang and him for now. He was probably 30k from the top of the pass, riding in flimsy flip-flops but had a big grin and couldn’t have been more cheerful.
We eventually made it to Curahuasi at about 3PM and found our planned hotel for the night, the Hotel Panamericano. It is not overly fancy but it has hot water (for Dave, not Nancy – hmmm, how’s that work), good WiFi and a toilet seat. And for the grand sum total of $10.50 USD, it is probably the best hotel in town. It was not hard to find as it has a shocking “modern art” black, red and white tile front facade.
Today, rather than rushing to the showers, we decided to visit a nice looking cafe across the highway from our hotel for a snack that was recommended by Manja and Martin, cyclists ahead of us. Wow, what a treat it turned out to be. They had great cakes, empanadas and cookies. We spent about an hour sitting in a sunny window booth and now also know where we are headed for brekkie tomorrow. We are now, only 2 hours later, heading downstairs for dinner. The hotel has a good looking restaurant and they reported offer a blue plate special for all of $2 USD. Hard to go wrong there, it will probably be chicken.
We have a short day tomorrow, then one more day to Cusco. Wow, we might just make it. Cusco has seemed so far off for so long to have it in our sights now is a good feeling. We’ll be off the bikes for a week or so there, rest, sightseeing and planning for the rest of the trip. We’ll of course join the hordes heading to Machu Picchu as well but all of that is for another day. Got to go checkout that blue plate special…
(update: the blue plate was good. Just the right amount of food. Nancy won the chicken foot special, getting three feet in her single serving of soup. Most of the rest of us had one or fewer. Soup was followed by warm rice w/ an egg or beef/potato – nothing fancy but for $2 USD each, well, bargain)
PS: Happy 90th AP – thanks for reading everyday and being along for the ride.