(August 25 – written by Dave)
We were all up early at the hostel and enjoyed our last brekkie buffet. The brekkie at Hostel Qolqampata was not amazing but it was good and all you can eat and they would make you eggs anyway you wanted them. It was a big step up from most hotel brekkies that we’ve seen in South America. Anyway, we were reluctant to leave this morning.
I mapped a route out of town that had us crossing the Plaza de Armas where bikes are not strictly allowed but it was the most direct route and it was still pretty quiet there at 8AM on Saturday AM. They set up massive marquees overnight and are having a book sale for the next few days. Given that we have no space for books in our panniers, we just rolled through. The first 30k or so were city streets but my mapping worked out well and in no time, we managed to find our way to Highway 3S and our route south. There was a bit of a head wind but we were also riding downhill so it was balanced. All of us enjoyed being back on the bikes and not having to climb up the side of a mountain to start the day – as the roads had been on the way to Cusco.
We had two potential stops for the night planned today, but the first one in Urcos was only 50k from Cusco and we reached it at 11:30. No one was ready to stop yet so we pulled over at a nice Lake Urcos overlook and had lunch. The route from Urcos was more uphill than the route out of Cusco but by now the morning winds had switched from headwinds to tailwinds so we made really good time. There were a couple road construction diversions but we seemed to hit all of them when the green/go sign was in our favour. This served to keep our speed up, while also killing the traffic behind us for a while after we reached the other side. Traffic was actually not too bad on the 3S. It was fairly busy back in Cusco but you have to expect that for such a big city.
We saw some new corn drying techniques today. A while back we noticed that they bunched the corn up and hung it from the eaves. Today we started seeing big chicken wire bins full of drying corn. All of the bins had roofs so I think it’s probably a better way to go if there is any rain. We are still not sure people eat the corn or if it is for animals.
Phillip spotted a couple bikepacker bikes leaning against a cafe wall in the last town before our planned stop. He pulled over to go in the cafe and find out what their story was. The rest of us stood outside and waited – I think we were all kind of feeling tired with today being the first day of riding since our 10 day break. When Phillip emerged from the cafe he was not sure where the two bike owners were from so we think he actually may have been in the cafe sneaking an empanada or some other tasty treat.
Just before we reached our stop, we ran into three more cyclists. This time all of us spoke with them. We didn’t get their names but did find out that two of them were from Luxembourg and the other was from South Korea. The Luxembourgers started in Cusco and are riding to Ushuaia. The Korean had ridden in Asia, Australia, Africa and now was heading north to New York. It was funny to see how new and clean the Luxembourg couple looked. They were two days into an impressive trip, and they looked it – everything was shiny and new. We didn’t get their names but hope to see them on the road heading south.
Eventually we pulled off the road at our final planned stop of Camp Chuquicahuana and Hospedaje. Nancy found this place on iOverlander and it looked nice. We were greeted by a barking dog but very nice owners. You can camp here or get a room. We opted for a room because the wind was really howling now and it was starting to get cold outside. Phillip and Tine also got a room but they had to sit out in the cool breeze for a bit longer than we did before reaching their decision.
Camp Chuquicahuana is a funny place as I think we are the only guests and it really is out in the middle of nowhere. But they agreed to fix us all dinner, if we eat the same thing, and the shower was hot so we are not going to complain. We have a toilet seat, but it is not connected to the toilet. Phillip and Tine negotiated a lower-priced room that has no toilet seat so we are not going to complain about our movable version.
We’ll be in bed early tonight because tomorrow we are being picked up at 5:30 to be driven to Rainbow Mountain. We are taking a car up to the mountain, walking to the top and then taking the car back down. We have seen photos of Rainbow Mountain and heard from many other travellers that it is not to be missed. We hope to be back at the hostel around noon so that we can ride 48k up the road to the next town. If we get delayed, it wouldn’t be the end of the world to have to spend another night here at Camp Chuquicahuana. So we’ll see how the day develops.