Riding downhill at 30mph on a fully loaded bicycle and a pack of dogs lunge out of nowhere at your front tire, when they barely miss throwing you from the bike they run next to you (now that you slowed down to keep from falling) and snap at your leg with fangs at the ready. Rabies, anyone?
This last week and a half has been one scenic and wild ride! We heard rumors of the hill climbs that awaited us in Peru, but hearing about them and then climbing them on fully loaded bicycles is a whole different thing. Unlike Colombia and Ecuador that built insanely graded roads straight up mountains, Peru has very gradual roads littered with switchbacks making the climbs much easier than the last two countries. We spend entire days climbing, but also hours of winding descents in some of the biggest mountains we have been in since the Himalayas in Nepal. And our trust steeds, Blue Bullet (K.G.'s bike) and Rufio (Ville's bike) are still plugging along.
From Jaen (a dump of a town) to Huamachuco, it has taken us ten straight days of riding, with a half a days rest in Celendin. We had multiple days of camping in yards, porches, a school yard, soccer field and even the most scenic cow pasture where I hope when I die I come back as a cow to hang out in. On our first night out of Jaen, we asked an incredibly kind couple to camp who had a very modest home and tire repair shop on the side of the road next to a big river. After setting up our tent in the tire shop with the chickens, the mom invited us right in and cooked us fish and rice for dinner. In the morning, she made us heaping plates of rice and eggs before we pushed off. I have carried with me a bag of We Lost The Map Necklaces, handing them out to those that have gone out of their way to help us and who would not accept any money. The look on her face when I gave her the necklace was priceless and just the fact this couple had SO little, but made sure we were fed brought tears to my eyes as we rode on.
A few days later, we rode up a gravel road three and a half miles off the main road to Cocachimba. There we booked a room and hiked up to the 3rd or 5th (depending who you ask) largest falling waterfall, Gocta Falls, at 771 meters/ 2,530 ft. In the photo below, this is only one of two tiers of the falls you can see. Being drunken Sunday, we watched a local football/soccer game that we agreed must be played by Andean Rules because they had a very interesting style of play, rules, and even stray dogs and kids that just randomly wandered through the field. The next day we arrived at the y-in-the-road where we could climb up to the large city of Chachapoyas, but having no interest in stopping, but needing an ATM, I stayed with the bikes and Ville hitched a ride up the hill with a guy driving a dump truck. Right about that time it began pouring rain and after I was soaked, some nice cops let me inside their hut to get out of the rain. They were super kind, but were trying to talk me into joining them at the next town to drink. When I declined, they asked if they could get the Facebook names of my American single girlfriends. I gave them tons of names of fake girls that I promised loved drinking and Peruvian cops. When Ville arrived back and we continued on, he updated me on his adventure chewing coca for the first time with the trucker and finally finding the very last ATM in town that worked. Guess he had a stressful, buzz, of a good time as well.
After passing Leimebamba, we had a spectacular climb up the mountain, summitted at about 3,650 meters/12,000 ft for one of the most epic 38 miles of single lane winding gradual downhills of all time! We stopped on our way down to camp in a school yard, not wanting to ride in dark on this guardrail-less road or camp at 1,000 ft at the bottom in scorching heat. After crossing the river at the bottom of the gorge, eating a bunch of cheap mangos, we began the 28 mile creeping, switchback road in the blistering heat up the mountainside. By the afternoon, my migraine was in full pounding mode (I just can't seem to stay hidrated enough in heat) and by evening Ville found us a nice cow pasture near the top of the climb to camp in. When we woke up, the sun rays were just peeking through the clouds down into the valley below and the farmer was slowly making his way down the hill with his cows from above. It was a spectacular spot, with epic views, no barking dogs OR crowing roosters! Heaven!
The next morning we completed the 11,000 ft climb, and dropped into Celedin where we got a hotel room to wash the sweat off, crash in a bed, and I even splurged and payed to get my clothes washed instead of handwashing them in the sink and hanging them all over the room as we always do. The next day was a breeze after the climbing we had been doing, and we made 65 miles fairly easy. Of course, the following day was an entire day of slowly climbing up, up, and up where we made it just before dark to Huamachuco, where we currently are. Yesterday being drunken Sunday, we had a handful of drunks yelling at us and even had a guy throw oranges at us, but for the most part, everyone has been very nice in Peru. I would say far more reserved than the countries before, but when we make the effort to say, "Buenos Dias" they respond. Kids yell "Gringo" everywhere, but we hear it is a term of endearment, so we keep telling ourselves that. We do get lots of kids waving as we pass which is awesome!
As for the dogs and roosters, they are pure evil. I wish I were exaggerating, but everyone, and I mean even in the big cities and nice hotels they have roosters. And unless we camp in a cow pasture no where near anyone, we will inevitably be woken up throughout the night by crowing roosters. And the dogs are horrific. I like dogs, even had a dog and dogs when I was growing up, but the dogs in Southern Ecuador and Peru are vicious. They are not treated super well (PETA would have a field day in Latin America), but they think their job is to protect the person who throws them scraps, and their farm, which includes the road in which we are riding on. For a month now, I carry a big stick and Ville carries rocks in his pockets to throw at them. Sadly, we lost our pepper spray on the flight to Colombia where we have now needed it most!
Before you go and judge, let me paint you a picture. Riding downhill at 30mph on a fully loaded bicycle and a pack of dogs lunge out of nowhere at your front tire, when they barely miss throwing you from the bike they run next to you (now that you slowed down to keep from falling) and snap at your leg with fangs at the ready. Rabies, anyone? Owner? They usually don't give a %uck, and if they do, they are throwing rocks at the dogs themselves. Unless, you throw a rock and make contact enough to get a YELP, they will keep charging until we are far down the road. On multiple occasions I have stopped the bike, thrown it down and took off running after the dogs I am so pissed to have them nearly throw me from my bike. Bastards.
Food and hotels are cheap. That has been very helpful with our budget, but the food has been getting very old (first world problems). Vegetable soup, rice and chicken/pork for every. Single. Meal. For months. Ville is tolerating fine, but I am beyond over it. I have lost about all the weight I can lose, my boobs are nearly gone, I have a solid 6-pack and Ville said if my butt dissappears any more he is gone too. So you ladies out there looking for a good diet plan, Ecuador and Peru are for you! After my bitchfest, we truely have been enjoying Peru. Spectacular views with some cool sights to see along the way. Tomorrow we continue south, with about a week to Huaraz, where we will take off a few days to hike. Thanks all for following along! PLEASE write us, comment, let us know your out there still reading so we know its still worth our while tracking down an internet cafe and struggling through crappy WiFi to keep these updates coming. Until then, keep on keepin' on, yo.
For those interested, here was our stops:
Jaen - Jamalca District - Pedro Ruiz Gallo - Cocachimba - Yerbabuena - Collonce - Cow Pasture - Celendin - Cajamarca - La Grama
K.G. & Ville
Crossing into Argentina! The final frontier.
“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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