The man opened a padlocked door on the side of the building and we were presented our room for the night; it was the storage room and it smelled like gasoline and mildew. Just like any good storage room that I know, this one too was missing floor boards and the roof was caving in. While pitching our tent inside the room to protect us from the multiple different spiders sharing the room with us I could hear K.G mumbling “So you had to marry a cheapskate Eurotrash…”
HOLA good people, Ville here giving you the scoop of the last week in review...
Leaving Huanuco we knew we had to climb from about 7,000ft to 14,000ft in 70 miles. We made a plan to do it in 2 days since it would be nothing but uphill to get to Cerro De Pasco, the city on top of the climb. The whole day K.G was pumping up on the continuous uphill like it was flat as a pancake, her and her bike “Blue Bullet” were a small dot in front me that I was trying to chase until it was finally late enough that she started asking if we should make a plan to where to spent the night. We looked at the map and it looked like there would be a small town in a couple of miles that might have a motel or two. When we made it to the town K.G looked at her bike computer and said “ Wow, we did 55 miles today!.” “No kidding! I said while huffing and puffing, she must of started using steroids…again.
I walked into the first hospedaje and knocked on the closed door. A middle aged lady shows up and I asked her if they had any rooms available, she looks at me like I asked if she could sell me any depleted uranium. She replied with a smile of pity “ No we don’t have any rooms, this is not a hotel”. I asked her about the illuminated HOTEL sign attached to her house. She said it was an old sign and closed the door. This is INCREDIBLY common in Peru and happens at almost every single restaurant we stop at as well. Never assume because they have a “restaurant” sign and a sandwich board outside that they have either A. food or B. any or all food items listed on the sandwich board or menu.
Okay then, next one. This place was a restaurant that also promoted rooms for the night. The owner said they indeed did have a room for us, off to a good start here. I climbed upstairs with her to check the room, it had 2 small beds and a table and the shared bathroom was down the hall. The price was around 9 dollars, which is quite a bit here in Peru for a room like this. I tried to dicker down on the price telling her that we’ve been to Peru now for a month and we are very aware of what things cost here. Dare to say we’re so knowledgeable that we would be great contenders in Peru’s “ Price is Right” game show. She wouldn’t come down in price so I said sayonara slumlord.
K.G wasn’t too understanding when I tried to explain that 9 bucks was a rip off for sleeping in a bed and getting a warm shower, we had managed to climb up to 12,000 ft that day and when the sun started to set it was getting colder. I promised her that we would find a better deal if we just rode through the rest of the town and asked around. In 2 minutes we made it through the rest of the town and realized that those two places were the only lodgings around. Schaisse! Just then I saw a friendly looking older guy coming out of his house with his wife, I proceeded to ask them if they knew a safe place for us to camp. After thinking about it for a while the husband had an idea. We followed him to a 2-story apartment building that they owned. The courtyard was full of kids and chickens. Four different families lived in the building. It seemed that most of the women did knitting and quilting that they sold in town and the men worked at an American owned mine up the road.
The man opened a padlocked door on the side of the building and we were presented our room for the night; it was the storage room and it smelled like gasoline and mildew. Just like any good storage room that I know, this one too was missing floor boards and the roof was caving in. While pitching our tent inside the room to protect us from the multiple different spiders sharing the room with us I could hear K.G mumbling “So you had to marry a cheapskate Eurotrash…” Just as we were about to lay down to read our Kindle’s before bed time there was a knock on the door. It was one of the quilting ladies, they had prepared us a dinner with coffee. We sat down to chat with them at the courtyard while eating our dinners. One of the chickens jumped into my lap and started pecking on my sandwich. Since I didn’t know if the chicken was considered part of the family I kind of softly tried to push the feathered friend off my lap. One of the ladies saw what was happening and ordered her 5-year old daughter to help the timid gringo. She ran to my help and kicked the chicken that had leaped to the ground as soon as the girl bee lined towards it. We had a fun time chatting with them about life and what they did to survive up in the mountains. We bonded on our mutual hate towards roosters, they had just eaten their last one a couple of days ago. They mentioned that the neighbor had one of those bastards and it woke them up every morning at around 5 am, they got a big laugh when I offered to go kill it. Both of us slept pretty bad that night, it wasn’t the coffee that we had with the dinner that caused it but according to my bitter wife it was the mildew that made us cough like a coal miner all night.
In the morning after the neighbor's rooster woke us up we said our goodbyes to the ladies and the kids and they took a hundred pictures of us and gave us big hugs. These moments are pretty special and make you humbly realize how many good people there are in the world, a lot more than we think. The last 15 miles of the climb we had left, took us over 4 hours due to the fact that we were pretty high up in elevation. After an hour, there were no more trees around and it was getting cold even though it was almost noon. After reaching the intersection to Cerro De Pasco we decided to keep going instead of going to see the world’s highest city (more than 50,000 habitants) even though it was just a 4 mile detour. We had heard that it is quite the dump that exists only because of the rampant mining in the area. Now that the climb was done, we were on the Peruvian altiplano (high plains) at around 14,000 ft. Even though it was mainly slight downhill or flat both of us had a hard time cycling and even the slightest headwind slowed us down significantly. We got to see our first alpacas and stopped to take some pictures and to let our lungs catch up with the elevation. By 4 pm were done for the day and excited to see a town in the horizon, none of the towns in the high plains are anything pretty and this one was no exception. Maybe it’s the lack of the trees combined with the sandstorms. We got a room in Hotel El Cheap-O. The owner was very industrious, in the garage he bought and sold alpaca hides. Our dear bikes were stored leaning on a pile of bloody hides that left them smelling like a butcher’s shop for the next few days. After sleeping like crap due to the high elevation and the fact that the shower didn’t work I got one of those looks from K.G that I’ve been getting a lot lately. At our wedding I promised to take her to beautiful places around the world, I forgot to mention it would have to be on a bike and we’d be staying in trucker motels due to the fact that I actually wasn’t part of one of the many European royal families that I had, I guess, mentioned when we met in Vietnam. Must be the language barrier…
Half of the next day we kept riding on the high plains until finally we got to the small town of Junin. The town marked the start of the long 100 mile downhill towards our next big city, Huancayo. K.G was suffering from a pretty bad headache that we’re not sure if it was because the high elevation or what. She was fine a week earlier at 16,000 ft. I asked a couple of locals how far the next town of La Oroya would be, we knew it would be around 25-30 miles. The answers from 3 different sources varied from 100 to 200 miles! We and quite a few other cyclists, have noticed that most Peruvians have no idea of distances. They know distances by time it takes to drive it, and if they don’t know the distance, they make it up. And when you say, “that’s impossible, it can’t be that far,” they stick by their answer to the grave. Most of them said it takes about half an hour to reach La Oroya, it didn’t help trying to explain to them that according to their calculations they drive to La Oroya with an average speed of 300 miles per hour. When I’m riding, I think I am hearing dynamite explosions from the many mines, but it turns out to be a 1995 Toyota Corolla station wagon with flame stickers and a trunk full of alpaca hides breaking the sound barrier.
It was 25 miles to La Oroya and we reached it only after an hour and a half of riding, thanks to the nice downhill that we were now enjoying. K.G’s headache was now getting better and we decided to get the hell out of La Oroya since it is the 5th most polluted city in the world depending on the day and wind directions and how hard the local coal processing plant is working to meet the quotas. We made 20 more miles before we got a room above a restaurant for 5 buckaroos, again the shower was not working… I’m on thin ice. The town was called San Francisco, no Google or Facebook here though.
The next day we finished our long downhill to the city of Huanuco, where we had planned to take a day off. Our first impression of the city, was the same as what you get when you visit the port-a-potty at the last day of the sold out festival. This impression stayed through until we left that city. We did take a day off just because we needed it. On our way out of the city, K.G got cut off rudely on the main drag by a lady in a hurry, we caught up to her at the next traffic light and all that pent up anger my sweet wife feels towards me was now unleashed on this lady in a silver Honda. When the light turned green that Honda took off with tires peeling and we were left in a cloud of burning rubber. Through the rear view mirror I could see the horror on her face that my little sunshine had caused her.
Outside the city we started our 10 mile climb, we were surrounded with fields and friendly farmers waving and hollering to us. After the climb, we had a fun downhill on a good 2 lane paved highway that by the time it reached the river turned into “one lane, pot holed, say your prayers fool” road that was missing guard rails, that would prevent you from dropping down 200 ft to the river. What this road was lacking in safety features it sadly made up for with plenty of crosses lining up on the side of the road. Sometimes there was one cross, sometimes there were 12 all in one spot, making us realize that taking a bus in Peru is probably a bigger adventure than what we’re on. To make the story more sad, some of the crosses had Teddybears next to them and by counting the years marked on the cross you could tell it was a school bus that went down. Maybe you’re wondering if these crosses work as a reminder to the drivers to slow down and make them get there late but alive… Hell No! Peruvians are one of the nicest people we’ve encountered on this ride, but I can’t say their great drivers. We see so many racing stickers plastered all over the backs of the cars and buses, and the driver is often a happy looking Peruvian fella chewing coka leaves while waving and honking to us from his car that he’s beating like it owes him money. That’s what we usually see before the dust cloud reaches us or before we have to turn our heads away from the flying rocks.
That night we spent in a nice little town and I scored us a nice room for $7, it even had a working shower with hot water and a cable TV! After washing clothes in the sink I ventured to the food stalls outside our lodging to get us some dinner, after the locals realized I spoke Spanish I was surrounded by 30 curious Peruvians that had seen us roll into town earlier. They were very curious what we were doing and I was bombarded with questions and by the time I was answering them the food was cold. We finished the day eating dinner in bed and watching Jimmy Fallon from one of the many channels on the TV, it’s one of the rare times we’ve found a non dubbed TV channel in Peru, in English!
The next day started with a rooster soup and slight rain. The road remained shitty, and it didn’t make the day any better that K.G took another hard fall when she hit a slippery curve where they had put a slab of concrete to prevent the road from eroding down to the river due to the stream of water running down from the hillside. She fell sideways and hit both of her knees pretty bad on the hard ground, I ran to help her and a local guy who was working on filling the pot holes also came to help her get up. After few minutes we were back on bikes, K.G still hurting but highly motivated to be done with this road that she cursed so bad that even a pirate would blush. We had high hopes to get far that day but this accident reminded us that when you do things in a hurry bad things can happen. We made it to a quaint little town that was celebrating it’s founding anniversary. Half of the town was hammered, even the old ladies were weaving all over the main street. I mistakenly asked one of the guys sitting on the curb next to the empty beer bottles about a cheap hotel, I couldn’t understand anything he said. He did though wave towards a yellow house on the corner. Sure enough the lady was willing to let us sleep in one of her rooms for $12 US, I thought that the price was way too steep and so we proceeded to venture down the street. We came to the local police station and after chatting a bit with them, they said we could pitch our tent behind the station on a field where the pigs and the dogs were. “Sounds good,” I said and when I looked at K.G…well I’m sure you can guess the look on her face. That night it rained pretty hard, our tent’s rain cover is getting so old and worn out that it won’t hold the rain out that much anymore. Some of our stuff inside got soaked as the heavy wind made the rain fly sideways, making us feel like we were inside a washing machine. We’re writing to MSR and going to see if they’re kind enough to send us a new rain fly to keep us dry for the rest of the trip, keep your fingers crossed for us. In the morning we realized that the field had turned into a mud/clay pit, as the rain continued making it really hard to disassemble our camp.
After cleaning up a bit, we went to eat breakfast in town and I also wanted to patch my flat front tire under an awning instead of in the rain. In the restaurant, we met a nice older couple from the capital, Lima. They wanted to treat us for a breakfast and chat about our trip, this event turned our gloomy minds back to positive. ‘Peru takes, but it also gives,’ is something that we experience every day. After the breakfast, we said goodbye to our new friends and lo and behold the rain ended as soon as we hopped on the bikes. We had a pretty easy ride to Ayacucho, where we are currently. Ayacucho has tumultuous history with it being the headquarters of the Sendero Luminoso (The Shining Path) movement/revolution in the 90’s. This political party turned into a guerrilla group that had many bloody and violent conflicts with the government around this region. They’re still around but a lot smaller now in numbers.
K.G. and I are going to take a couple of days off here to rest and recuperate. We’ve decide to slow down and not rush since we have the time to make it to Cusco at a lot slower pace, allowing for both of us to heal from our various falls. The next 350 mile stretch to Cusco, will be an insane amount of climbs, but we are planning around 10 days to do it. We’re meeting K.G’s parents in Cusco for 2 weeks to visit Machu Picchu and to get to spend some time with family. We are both very ready to take a longer break. Boys & girls, believe me when I say that Peru might be stunning when it comes to views, but it is not an easy place to ride your bicycle! Until the next time, keep on keepin’ on!
Because of the rain, my feet slipped off the pedals, and all in slow motion, I landed hard on my bike seat, breaking my tailbone, and was thrown over the handlebars like a rag doll and my 90-pound bike landed on top of me.
Huaraz was everything we had hoped for, a hotel room to rest in. The city itself was nice, nothing to write home about, but we heard it is more a jump-off point for long and short hikes into the Huascaran National Park. After our rough stretch and Ville's bad fall on the way to Huaraz, we wanted nothing more than to sit in a hotel room, rest, and eat. And that's just what we did for 3 whole, glorious days. On our ride out of the city, we pedaled 30 miles south on pavement climbing upwards and south and then took the Pastoruri Road through the National Park heading east. We heard great things and the scenery did not let us down! The photo from above is taken in the park climbing up to the 16,000 ft/4,880m pass.
Our first night we camped in a beautiful spot along a creek, near a meadow, and looking up at these giant peaks reaching for the skies. It was already at 14,000ft/4,270m and quite chilly, but we put on all our layers and managed just fine. The next morning, after a giant breakfast of bacon, eggs, french toast, hot coffee and...Ha ha ha! Man, just daydreaming a bit here. I meant, after our hot breakfast of oatmeal with mashed bananas (had trouble getting the gasoline powered stove going at that elevation), we packed up and continued the slow climb on a very bumpy gravel road meandering up into the big mountains. As we climbed, we occasionally passed small families of indigenous sheep herders living in stacked-rock and grass huts with large braying sheep scattered over the grass lands (not much of anything grows up at these elevations). Friendly people with protective dogs, lots smiled and waved at us as we passed. We only saw a handful of collectivos (shared taxi/bus) that passed us and, for the most part, we were all alone on a single-lane dirt road in the misting/downpour rain.
As we reached the 16,000ft/4,880m pass, the rain had turned to snow and as we slowly jostled down the bumpy one mile stretch of downhill, before the road began a climb again to 16,000ft, I had a terrible and scary fall. My first really bad fall so far on this bike trip. Because of the rain, my feet slipped off the pedals, and all in slow motion, I landed hard on my bike seat, breaking my tailbone, and was thrown over the handlebars like a rag doll and my 90-pound bike landed on top of me. All I saw was stars and Ville rushed to help pick me up. I laid there for a few minutes, and managed to pick myself back up with no known damage other than a broken pannier (I guess I was super jealous deep down that Ville got to break one of his and all that attention it has gotten him), a tear in my jacket, bruises and a broken ass. Knowing personally, many friends who have been hurt doing a hell of a lot less, I know all your prayers, thoughts, and love out there is why I am still alive and biking to tell the story. I think Ville and I have an army of guardian angels out there looking after these two circus freaks, so thanks guardian angels, you all deserve medals. And maybe a raise.
After my scary fall, I climbed back in the saddle and we climbed back up to 16,000ft where the snow/sleet turned into an insane hail storm that blew through us. Not having a single car pass us the entire day, my mind was plagued with thoughts of "what if I had broken my arm, leg, or neck, how the hell would we get to a hospital?" AND I would lay there in the rain, snow and hail with no one to help us. I guess Ville would have had to ride back towards Huaraz to get help, leaving me laying on the road in the snow? Shit. Bad thoughts to be having while moving forwards on a bike tour. Ever so grateful the outcome of my fall was not worse. And also riding in the raging hailstorm wondering why someone does this for fun? After the final 16,000ft climb, we dropped down to the highway, onto real pavement and began our hairpin decent into Huallanca. Our fingers were completely numb even with gloves and riding in all our clothes and we had to brake the entire way down for fear of our fingers not braking and flying off the road. Once in Huallanca, we got a room at a hotel with a promise of a hot shower, and I almost cried when I stood there naked in the shower shivering and the water was cold.
It took most the night wrapped in all my clothes, puffy jacket included and sleeping under 3 wool blankets to get my core body temp back to normal. We had a quick tasteless breakfast and agreed to head north on the 3N "Highway", instead of the direct route, because it was "pavement" and I couldn't take any more shitty, gravel, potholed, washboarded roads. Oh, Peru, you and your sick sense of humor. The decent out of Huallanca was incredibly beautiful along a river with giant, steep rocks engulfing us. As we rolled through La Union, the town was a giant mud pit mess after two straight days of rain and it continued to come down. The "pavement" disappeared and we climbed up out of the gorge in the pouring rain covered in mud. We discovered Ville's squealing front break was because his break pad had disintegrated, changed it on the side of the road for over an hour (discovering now that the bike shop in Orange County had, along with putting all the wrong parts on our bikes and having to change them twice, had put the wrong rotors on and now our brake pads didn't fit and had to be doctored with the Leatherman to make fit), and continued the climb shooting for Chavinillo but decided to ask to camp in a small village 6 miles short.
The nicest people were all gathered around, enjoying Drunken Sunday, and let us sleep in a small room at the school/football (soccer) field. When we pulled out our stove to cook some pasta, a bunch of the locals came to watch us like it was a circus performance. I guess we are circus freaks so it's fitting. A bunch of the kids showed up with footballs (soccer) balls and game on! Only a few of the locals spoke Spanish, most spoke Ketchuan (spoken by indigenous Incan people) and it was so hilarious how the ladies huddled around Ville giggling like school girls with googlie eyes at him. Not sure they see many blonde-haired blue-eyed x-semi-pro football players come strut the schoolyard. Think there may be some inquiries on my position :)
The next morning, we packed up and decided to wait to Chavinillo for breakfast. On the way up, we passed a super cute 9-year-old boy, Eduard, walking to school and I asked him if he wanted a ride. He said, "sure" and hopped on my back rack and off we went. A ways up the road, he pointed to his mom walking on the side of the road and I dropped him off, she thanked us, and as we chugged away, Edu came running after us asking if we wanted to eat some picante de cuy (guinea pig in spicy sauce with white rice). We had been wanting to try it, but just hadn't ordered it yet and agreed. Edu's mom unwrapped a giant colorful blanket tied to her back, pulling out multiple Tupperware containers full of food she was taking to sell at the school. Edu's mom was dressed in very colorful indigenous Incan dress and is one of the majority of people we pass here in Peru climbing in the mountains. They are very "poor" in global standards, growing and eating what they need to survive; pigs, chickens, sheep, burrows, herbs, veggies, turkeys, grains, corn, and guinea pigs. They live in very modest mud huts, with tin, grass, or clay roofs, toilets are a shed separate from the home usually, laundry is washed in buckets, rivers, or a sink outside. Some of the crop is gathered in the morning, tied into brightly colored blankets tied to the ladies backs, sometimes a burrow carries it, and they walk miles to the nearest village to sell their wares. We pass most people all day walking to and from villages on the roads we are riding, or kids walking miles to school and back (what the helicopter parents of America would think of that!), and we are always smiling, waving and saying, "buenos dias." Having only the basic necessities allows for lots of time and happiness, it seems, in the people we pass. Traveling in this manner, by bicycle being a part of the communities of people we pass, quells even the smallest desire to yearn for more material things in life.
We paid Edu's mom $2 for two breakfasts including a giant pitcher of hot tea she poured into our Vargo Titanium Cups (thanks sponsor Vargo!) and the cuy was delicious! Looks like chicken with a tiny arm poking out and tastes like pork. Fed the bones to some dogs (let's get that sweet dog karma back up) and inhaled the food to get Edu to school on time. About a half mile up the road, we dropped Edu off at school and I gave him a package of cookies as a treat. Such a sweet kid! (If your wondering why I am always giving treats to kids, it's because I have willpower to save them for these instances with kids that arise and Ville eats all his treats before we even leave town)
The day was beautiful, had full bellies, the sun was shining, and we met some incredibly kind people. Yes, THIS is why we do this for fun. The experiences and the kind people. If every day was sunshine and we didn't fall off our bikes, what a boring time it would be. Like watching a golf tournament. The remainder of the climb wasn't too bad to Corona Del Inca (The Crown of the Inca) and as we began the 35+ mile decent, the patches of pavement in the mud disappeared completely and the road turned into the worst road we have seen so far on the bike trip. It actually made Honduras's patchwork of bumpy pavement look like a dream! And to top it off, there was a decent amount of traffic flying by us on the single-lane road in their crappy white Toyota Corolla Station-wagons. The Vin Diesel wanna-be's in Peru are basically a cross on the side of the road waiting to happen. In Latin America, when someone dies, usually going off a cliff driving too fast, they put crosses up next to the road. Sometimes with a picture, candles, sodas, memorabilia to honor them. These are all over Baja California and also Peru. Actually, I wonder what the requirements for getting a driver's license even are in Peru? And if most drivers have one. Well, we had to wear our Buffs (thanks sponsor Buff for saving us from 10lbs of dirt in the lungs) over our faces and sunglasses the whole way down which made us look like cranky dog-chased ninjas bouncing down the road. We did have a great stop at a couple's small house/restaurant mid-decent which pulled us out of our funk and they had the cutest little puppy to play with! Awwwwww.
As we neared the bottom of the canyon where it emptied into the valley of sprawling Huanuco, we hit REAL pavement a mile from town and we both yelled shrill screams of joy we were so happy to get off that road and onto flat pavement again. We found a decent hotel, with the little "Peruvian twist" Ville likes to call it when we get a room and the toilet floods water all over the floor, sink doesn't work, shower pressure is a trickle, you know, the usual. And the solution to the flooding toilet is, the nice lady hands Ville a mop. Ha hahhhahah! Not "Oh, gee, the toilet is flooding buckets of water all over the floor, let me call someone to fix it," nope. Here's a mop cutie. Well, it's got working WiFi and we are taking a day off because we both need it! Tomorrow we climb. Word on the street is, it's on pavement. I'll believe it when I ride on it. Until then good people praying for our butts to stay in the saddle, keep on keepin' on!!!
Near Fatal Blow to the Bike Tour: Dog Attacks Ville and Threw Him From the Bike. Huamachuco to Yungay, Peru
Just as I yelled, "DOGS!", Ville rounded the corner and smack into this pack of vicious barking dogs. One of the medium sized dogs lunged at his front tire as he tried to brake, slamming straight into the dog and threw Ville from the bike as he skidded down on the pavement on his knee, side and elbow. I heard the crash, threw my bike down and ran back up the hill to chase off the two remaining barking dogs throwing rocks and screaming. Got Ville up off the road, he was bleeding everywhere, and said he wasn't sure how hurt he was.
The last section was beautiful, had some great experiences with the local Peruvians, some amazing kids, but we also despised the last stretch and you couldn't pay me to bike it again. I would drive it in our old Landcruiser, MAYBE bike it on a mountain bike with fat tires if I was paid, but not bike it again on our heavy, narrow tired tour bikes. Not ever.
After leaving Huamachuco, we had a decent 10 miles of patchy, potholed pavement before we took the only road south keeping us in the mountains and not dropping us west to the coast, unpaved and a total mess of sand and boulders. First, our bikes are heavy. Like around 80-90 lbs. loaded and we have 1.5" tires. These are wider than the standard Tour De France bike tire, but not a mountain bike tire and the tread we have is for road riding. Not a sandy beach. So we had about 65 miles over the next couple days to push through major climbs and descents on these crappy roads. We also lack shocks, so all the boulder riding chatters out your teeth and eyeballs. We made it to Cachicadan by 3, ate at a bar, and decided to push on because the locals said the road to Angasmarca was only a little up hill and the rest down. Not quite. It took us three hours to climb up over the pass and drop into Angasmarca, just at complete darkness and the full moon rising. We got a $10 basic room (this is actually pricey for Peru in the middle of nowhere town), but had a scalding hot shower and I have never loved a shower so much because my hands were frozen and I was SO sore from the road. The next morning we pushed south and up, heading towards Pallasca (only 38-ish miles away) but was even tougher than the day before.
We met a giant group of school kids in a one-building town and they were asking heaps of questions and taking lots of pictures. The landscape was beautiful, giant grassland rolling hills, lots of small villages of sheep and cattle farms. All with only a dirt road and hardly any cars passing through. The cars that did pass were 4-wheel-drive and tore up the roads pretty bad leaving us peeling out and pushing through deep sand on some extremely hard hills and descents. We agreed that it was likely worse than the Dalton Highway and maybe even the southern Ecuador stretch because of the climbs and distance we had of sand our tires were not equipped for. In a small town just before a giant descent and climb into Pallasca, we hit glorious pavement again and squealed like school girls we were so happy! We made it to Pallasca again right at dark on a steep climb up into town and got a shitty room at a Hospedaje, too tired to shower and just crashed. The next morning we rode out early PUMPED for the day's extreme downhill descent along the canyon for 50 or so miles! Sadly, didn't end up so great.
On the steep decent, all trees, brush, signs of life, fell away and it looked like the surface of Mars. Hot, wide-open desert. The side of the road was littered here and there with vacant houses crumbling and looking abandoned. The road was a single lane, dropping off with no guardrail in many places way down to the river cutting the gorge below. As I rounded a corner passing an abandoned looking shack, I heard a pack of dogs, I had just alerted in my passing, begin barking and charging behind me. Just as I yelled, "DOGS!", Ville rounded the corner and smack into this pack of vicious barking dogs. One of the medium sized dogs lunged at his front tire as he tried to brake, slamming straight into the dog and threw Ville from the bike as he skidded down on the pavement on his knee, side and elbow. I heard the crash, threw my bike down and ran back up the hill to chase off the two remaining barking dogs throwing rocks and screaming. Got Ville up off the road, he was bleeding everywhere, and said he wasn't sure how hurt he was.
LUCKILY, he was able to limp over to a well and we washed off his wounds, picked out a bunch of gravel, and a lady from a couple houses up the hill walked down to help. She was nice enough to offer to have us come to her house and clean Ville up, but being that he could barely move and the bike was in a heap, I just pulled out the medical stuff we carry and covered everything with Antibacterial Hand Cleanser (Ville screamed like a big baby) and then coated everything in Antibiotic Ointment. His knee was really swollen, but nothing appeared to be broken, and the dogs (because Ville had hit the dog square in the side coming down the hill, it died pretty quick), the others continued to bark at us from the porch. After a bit more rock throwing and yelling, the owner, a young girl probably scared to death at how pissed I was, came out, laughed, and took the remaining dogs inside. The bike had to be tinkered with to get it riding straight again, and one of the pannier's clips is broken, so we roped it on and Ville was able to get back on and we continued down the hill. As we came to the bottom of the canyon, we hit an insane headwind that was rushing up the canyon and made for some pretty rough "downhill" riding. When we came to the intersection at Chuquicara, we ate at a super dumpy town and decided camping was better than staying there, and started biking east and southeast up the canyon towards Huaraz. We made it 10 miles before dark and stopped at a house along the road with an orchard (an oasis in a sea of sand) and a group of incredibly sweet kids came out to greet us and help us find a place to camp in the yard.
Ana and Sammy were sisters, and Paul and Maricielo were neighbors. They were SO excited to help set up the tent and were really worried for Ville after seeing all his gaping wounds. I pulled out more gauze, bandages, tape and ointment and they went to work doctoring Ville up. They helped set up the tent, blow up our mattresses and then asked if they could sleep with us. Our 2-person tent would not accommodate 4 extra kids, so they sadly went in the house to sleep, but were right there peeking into the tent first thing in the morning (after the roosters woke us at 4 am). We gave them cookies, stickers (they held these like they were the most special thing they had been given ever), I wrote them papers of Spanish-English words to practice, clipped their nails with my nail clippers (they asked me to), oiled them with some peppermint oil I carry for headaches, and gifted them with some red tail hawk feathers I prized from my collection (I collect feathers on the road and tape them to my bike) and they couldn't believe they came all the way from the United States! Ana and Sammy were so cute, they collected some chicken and duck feathers from the yard and gifted them to me for my bike. I will cherish those poopy feathers forever :)
As we waved goodbye to our new friends, heading south up the canyon, we struggled through around 30 miles to the first town to eat some lunch and made it only 8 more miles to Huallanca where I begged Ville to get a room as the temps hit nearly 100 in the afternoon heat and we were desperate for a shower, to clean up Ville's wounds, and rest! We were both so worked after the last few days. We found another crappy, overpriced dump to stay and got cold showers and a bed to rest. Heading out early, we were able to climb in the coolness of the morning and passed through Canon Del Pato, the tunnel section, which was spectacular! Tunnel after tunnel (35 tunnels in all) cut into the rock with the road winding up the steep rock gorge and the river raging below. The route had numerous waterfalls cascading down over the road or across the gorge, and by the time the sun reached up high in the sky, we had climbed a decent amount in elevation, to about 8,000 ft, so it was much cooler. We stopped in Caraz for lunch, a jump-off point for tourists doing hikes up into the snow-capped wilderness above, and decided to continue to Yungay where it may be a bit cheaper.
As we rode into Caraz and beyond, the steep rock canyon has opened up to a lush valley green with farms and fields. We saw a woman on the side of the road roasting quinoa, and she asked us for some water for her kid who was baking there in the sun while she worked. Giving her a bottle, we felt bad for how hard so many of the people we pass work in the fields, bent over, back-breaking labor for barely any money. Almost all of them women. The men are the awful bus, taxi, collectivo and moto-taxi drivers. We have had the few super nice drivers who give us room and wait for a passing truck to go around, but for the most part, as the road is getting more busy (tourist areas), the drivers have gotten worse and worse. Yungay is a small nice town, haven't seen any tourists yet, and a nice place to relax a bit. Tomorrow we will ride the 35 miles south to Huaraz and take another day or two off there depending how the town is. Word on the street is it's nice.
Thanks all for the outpouring of concern for Ville. It was really scary and we are both thrilled he is ok, with minor scrapes, a bum knee, and a cracked rib. It so easily could have ended our ride. And possibly him. So happy to walk away from it, and although we had some great suggestions of pepper spray, bug spray, bear spray, guns, etc. we are in a third-world country still where it is challenging to find a toothbrush let alone sprays for animals. We had a pepper spray we had to ditch on the flight to Colombia and we really could use it now, but we will just ride slower, and are getting better at rock throwing. This is where fences in the U.S. are much appreciated. Dogs can bark all they want, chase up and down a fence, but they can't get at you. We haven't had this bad of dogs AT ALL in any other Latin American countries. Only southern Ecuador and Peru. Hoping the problem gets better as we go south, but talking soothingly to a pissed, vicious, protective dog is like trying to do that to a mother bear with cubs in Canada. Good luck with that! The bears were actually nicer, and so are all the people luckily. People in Peru don't mean to have vicious, attack dogs, they just want protective animals in a country lacking alarm systems and enough police protection in rural areas. So many people offered to help. So thanks everyone for checking in on us. I just told Ville, "Suck it up you big, fat baby!" and he said, "who you calling fat?" So we will keep on keepin' on and those dogs better back off! This traveling circus needs to make it to Ushuaia, Argentina in one piece!!!
K.G. & Ville
On a cruise ship, heading north up the west coast to Los Angeles.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson
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