Zig-zagging up, zig-zagging down

From the pass to the bottom of the valley, sleep, repeat! The thorns made camping difficult but the nights of a thousand stars make it beautiful. Its about roads and villages under construction due to the rainy season, which leaves many spots full of clay tongues.

Peru country of contrasts

Sea, deserts, high mountain ranges, jungle, plateaus, rivers and gorges … The people of each place have their own dynamics and traditions, but we have felt comfortable everywhere and they have taken care of us. However, in Santa Fe this didn’t apply that much.

That day we were coming from a quiet road with a rather arid and clay landscape. We climbed a small pass and then descended until we reached the village. We needed to buy gasoline and, like in many villages, there was a house that would sell it. We were waiting for the man in the store for almost two hours, he was grazing llamas and this made us leave too late to fulfill what we had planned that day. We were even arguing if we were to sleep in the village but the response of the people when we asked for a shelter to help us made us decide to keep pedaling a little more. They didn’t offer the school or a community building (like many other towns do) and the tone of voice did not seem very enthusiastic about our stay there.

We left the village at 4pm and therefore we had two hours left to find a place to setup the tent and protect ourselves from the cold. We climbed 200m and found some fields where we decided to stop to camp.

What a pain in the ass

Au! Ariadna, hurry, take a look at what I got stuck in my ass!Gerard

Gerard’s bib shorts were filled with small spikes from a lichen-like plant that was everywhere. We were already changing clothes when we saw that the spikes had stuck to us everywhere. They were small but they struck a lot! They were nailed to the tires, to the foamy sleeping mattress and even to the sole of the boot. We were afraid of damaging the tent and the inflatable mattresses, so after a long time getting rid of spikes, we overcame the laziness of the moment and moved forward.

It was hard to find a spot because there was the same plant everywhere, but 100m above we saw a deck and a cabin where we could place the tent on the sandy ground. The sun had already started to set and the cold was coming in fast, so we hurried to set up a tent and started to prepare dinner. There was no one in the cabin and it seemed quite abandoned but when we had everything ready, the owner arrived. We had mounted a camp on his lock of flames but, fortunately, he found it funny and there was no problem with us staying overnight. He was only using the cover during the rainy season because it snows a lot in the area and needs to protect the llamas.

Estaba malhumorada, no encontrar lugar para dormir se me hizo psicológicamente difícil porque empezaba a oscurecer, venía el frío y no soporto montar el campamento apurando tanto. Gerard iba proponiendo ir cada vez más arriba y yo casi lo abandono a medio camino, suerte que supo cómo convencerme. Ariadna

The next morning there was not much water left for us. We did not eat breakfast and started pedaling up in the hope of finding some stream. It is a very humid area and with water flowing from the snowy mountains so it was not difficult to find.

We climbed to the Ritipata pass at 4950m, we did not have any air problems but it was quite hard due to the heat and height. We used a conscious and rapidly breathing technique that helped us a lot in maintaining the body oxygenated.

Puuuuura Bajada

Once up top we went down to Paras, one of the longest descents we had done so far, from close to 5,000m down to 3,600m . An infinite zigzag that led to a more jungle and warmer landscape.

At Paras we rested one day, we washed clothes, we showered and we could find wi-fi in the medical center. The lodging where we stayed was under construction, like the whole town. The rainy season was then over and had left the streets quite damaged. We did not have hot water but the outside temperature and the need made us shower ourselves anyways.
A curious detail was that the glass in our room was of those dyed ones act like a mirror from one side and let see from the other. The funny thing was that they were put reversed and therefore, from inside of the room we could not see the street but from the street they could see us, quite funny.
Some bread with avocado for breakfast and we put Chuschi on our sight. We had to lower the valley to the river side at 3.000m and return all the way up to a 4.500m pass. Another change in landscape and temperature.

Peru is brutal, from one day to the next you have climbed and lowered mountains going from the heat and mosquitoes to the cold and the herdsGerard

We stopped and ate a menu in Totos , with 5 soles we were full and we bought tomato and onion to make a sauce for the spaghetti that we managed to buy in bulk. We had a Michelin star dinner, under a sky of millions of stars and stayed very cozy inside the sleeping bags. That day we fell asleep day dreaming about shared projects, very happy.

We took off early, ready for a long day if we wanted to reach Chuschi, sooo long! We covered 60km with 1.300m gain and 1.970m down, we arrived when it was already dark and very tired.

When you say descent it seems to be something easy. In fact, Gerard always “cheers me up” saying that it’s just going down from a certain point but it’s still pretty hard for me. The roads are not smooth roads but paths full of stones, curves and holes. I have to stay alert and tense, I have no experience on the bike so I can’t enjoy it like Gerard does. I arrived to Chuschi with a pain in my back that reached my cervical! That night I slept like a babyAriadna

A well illuminated town

After changing the riding clothes for the sleeping/daily clothes and resting a bit we went for a typical menu: soup, a second with chicken and rice and a mate. For breakfast, we went back to the same place to get some coffee and we were talking a lot with the owner about news, politics and history. Then we understood some of the comments we had heard during the previous day such as “40 years ago everyone had their eyes put on this the place”, “Chuschi knows everything and sees everything”, “Here was the path of light “. Everything was referring to Sendero Luminoso, the Communist-Maoist party that changed the history of Peru. In the square where we were having coffee, which had church close to collapse and without any hint of popularity, in a night of the 1980s the first Sendero Luminoso’s guerrilla happened, created by Abimael Guzmán at the universities.

It was a long but very interesting breakfast that left us with a thousand open questions. In this link (in spanish) you will find more information about Sendero Luminoso