Thursday, December 24, 2015

Riding Through Peru!!!

Leaving Ayacucho was not quite as smooth as we had hoped. As soon as we were all packed, Kai realized his debit card was missing which meant he suddenly had a to do list of canceling and ordering a new one. Really not the end of the world, but when you've sat on a bus for 36 hours and the time finally comes to get leaving again, sitting in the hotel room is not an ideal way to spend the morning.

Putting the struggle behind and after 13 hours of sleep for my personal health recovery, we were back on the trolls and passed through what I can only describe as a stereotypical canyon in a western movie. The slopes were rocky and deserted of much living anything, and our road frequently had cliff faces on both sides to pass through. The most fun part of all was that it was a single lane for two directions of traffic. The narrowness of it was incredible so we dubbed it simply an extension of the Trout Run Trail in Decorah.

Oddly enough, the higher we climbed the more vegetation showed up. After a full day's ride, we stumbled on a beautiful camp spot with the softest grass we had seen in a long time overlooking a small valley. Happy to walk around barefoot for a while, our campsite was filled with relaxing, reading, a bit of napping, and simply happiness to be out of a bus and back on the trail.

A funny thing happens when you get back on the bike after a break. The first day you feel pretty good until about lunch where your body hits a wall. The second day you wake up sore and trudge through it. The third day, most of the muscle memory is back but full body exhaustion hits. I went through my phase on the solo ride after thanksgiving, Jon had his at the back side of Ecuador, but Kai hadn't had his three days of riding yet. Lucky for him, the next morning all we did was climb. Between the reminding of legs what a bike is and the fact that we didn't stop going up until we maxed out at 13,600 feet, it's safe to say Kai had a nice welcome back. Not that I was having a much better day with the worst stomach pains I've ever felt drifting in and out, but at least my legs were mountain ready.

That night, I decided to risk the rain to sleep under the stars. It paid off, keeping me thoroughly entertained to follow a few bright constellations throughout the night as they slowly passed overhead. It's absolutely amazing what some high elevation and low light pollution can do to really make the night sky come alive.

The next morning, we started with a huge downhill, bringing us back to a river at 6,500 feet. Deciding to get a cheap hotel for a night in a bed and some recovery, we found a little city with not much of anything going on and cozied up to a full rest. That is until a car with a megaphone on top pulled up by the hotel a 6 in the morning and played the most annoying song on repeat imaginable for nearly an hour. Or at least it felt like it.

Now fully awake, we decided to attack the uphill waiting for us. One of the fun things about our map app is when you click on a place, it goes you the distance as the crow flies. However, to get the real distance you have to route the road. Our path has so many switchbacks that even though the city should be about a straight line away, the routed distance is almost always double the first one. This day ended up being especially, well, special. Hours later of straight climbing, we finally maxed out the mountain by hitting 14,100 feet on the bike. People spend intentional peaking efforts in Colorado to get that high. Our road just brought us there. Thanks Peru. The craziest thing about it was with our steady pace, we were able to hold conversations the entire way. When we got off for a steep climb to get some water we were breathing harder than I'd like to admit, but for some reason our bike muscles were relatively unaffected by the insane elevation.

Besides learning to be extra prepared, Peru has also made us dog paranoid and dangerous. Every time we pass through a town, all three of us pull out the stones from our back bike jersey pocket. 2 is too few and 5 is too many, but 3 or 4 seems about right. We've found that skipping them across the pavement has the highest rate of success since it stays in line better and the dog has a higher chance of realizing it is under an equal amount of attack as we are. To be as efficient as possible and to avoid hitting each other, we have even created attack formations depending on the dog's location. My personal favorite is "barricade" where we put our bikes in a triangle and make a stand against a pack of dogs surrounding us. Luckily we haven't had to use it yet though. For someone who had always loved dogs, it's pretty amazing how little sympathy you can feel when you peg a snarling beast that is on a beeline run straight for your legs. If there will be any PTSD back home after the trip, I can almost guarantee it will be dog related.

Camping just below the peak that night, we had on just about every layer we owned for dinner. It never froze, but the following morning we rode out in the low to mid 40s which isn't terrible, except when you add a speedy downhill and rain. We had eaten a bit of oats and some apples for breakfast, but to escape the now more steady rain we tucked into a restaurant for a solid second breakfast (and a number of hobbit related jokes). Continuing the descent, we were glad to be back down at 9,400 feet where it happened to be over 20 degrees warmer.

Rolling into a city, we wanted to boost up the day a bit. With both pizza and/or a movie on the mind, we were sad to entirely strike out on both. Leaving town, we also got the opportunity to learn a Peruvian lesson: take what you can while you can and expect nothing. In other countries we've toured through, we could always count on towns to have at least basic food. In Peru, you can pass through 5 "towns" and see nothing more than an old farm house all afternoon. As a result (of some very late and even skipped lunches) we started carrying extra provisions, just in case.

Not finding lunch on that day, we were still optimistic to turn the mood around with a trip up to a lake we saw both on a road sign and our map. Opting to put our bikes in the back of a tuk tuk with a trailer and just enough horse power to pull us over the gravel road, we pulled into a nearly abandoned lake town. We were thrilled to see their mermaid fountain and fine that one restaurant was still open, but a little disappointed nothing else was going on. We were all exhausted from the ride so after our trout meal, a beer or two, and a chat by the lake, we proceeded to pass out to a steady rain that lasted all night.

The fun thing about rain is it turns dirt into mud. Backtracking on the road into the lake, our bikes got filthy as we tried to make it back to pavement. Realizing that we hadn't had a rest day in over 5 days of riding, when we made it back to the main road we decided to hitch to the next town and take a full day recovering. The truck that finally picked us up was a bit smaller than what was ideal, but with enough tires pulled of and handlebars loosened we managed to cram everything in the back and sit through the ride of our lives. The mountain road drastically curved on every big feature, and I'm convinced we spent an equal amount of time in both lanes as we whipped around corners and sped both up and down some serious hills. Poor Kai was sitting between Jon and me without a handhold and was forced to launch himself into both of us with every turn.

Happy to arrive in Abancay in one piece and without contributing to any sort of road kill, we found a cozy hotel, a pizza restaurant to finally satisfy our cravings, as ended up getting a few snacks to accompany our watching of the Simpsons movie in Spanish on our hotel tv.

With a full day of recovery behind us, we took it to the mountain the next morning. After 20 miles of steady climbing and the largest switchbacks we've ever encountered (we didn't lose our valley view until the top) we had enough energy left to drop a ways down the backside. The only problem with having a big day is it put us a bit ahead of schedule for Cusco. Luckily, we had just the remedy: laziness. Taking a slow morning, a couple extra long breaks, and an early campsite after lunch, we finally got to feel what a leisurely ride is like. Crossing a crazy swinging bridge to our campsite, we set up hammocks until the rain moved us into the tents and indulged in some prime time relaxation by the river.

The next couple days was simply a push to Cusco. We had set our sights on Christmas and not much was going to get in our way of actually taking some time off and treating ourselves to a few extra luxuries. Mainly food. Our final day of riding gave us a strange feeling that both our bikes and legs hadn´t been accustomed to for nearly a month. I like to call it flat ground. For some reason, the area outside of Cusco is a beautiful flat plane of farm fields that you can actually pedal in and get somewhere, rather than a crawl up a mountain or flying down. Before long we were in town and actually spent a decent amount of time selecting a hostal since we would be spending the holidays and multiple days there. We settled on a small little place, with a room that had three beds all in a row and a balcony. Happy to just have a relaxing atmosphere, we treated ourselves to the first gift of Christmas and saw Star Wars. Even though Kai was a bit disappointed with the unoriginal plotline of the move, we were thrilled to escape for a few hours and eat a sickening amount of snacks while listening to English.

Our Christmas Eve day has been us running around town and through markets to get each other a few gifts, but I think we´re all ready to have a fun couple nights thinking of home and making Christmas down sotuh as special as possible. For a little taste, here is a poem I put together for the guys. Especially this time of year, we are all so thankful that you continue to follow along and support our adventures. Know that we are thinking of all of you and the love felt all the way down here really makes being further south than normal a lot easier. Hope you enjoy and Merry Christmas!!!

´Twas the night before Christmas (Peruvian Style)

´Twas the night before Christmas, and all through Peru,
3 wanderers were alone, with not much to do.
They´d biked and they´d traveled, through blood sweat and tears,
Turning moments to memories, to last through the years.

From Huasteca to pyramids, fighting fires near coasts of gold,
Down switchbacks to lakes, and Antiguan cities of old.
They paused on beaches, for Greensurf setting suns,
Found volcanoes and turtles, and learned Spanish for fun.

Separated only a bit, after the turkey was fried,
They reunited back south, to continue the ride.
As a likely group with an unlikely quest,
(Discovering where in the world they like best),
They finally found themselves, on this very day,
Thinking of places, quite far away.

One thought of bars, cheeses, and green,
Mixed in with yellow to make "America´s Team."
Another smelled his gun, smoking away,
After a deer had been shot in the land where hogs play.
The last of the three, dreamt of a cold, snowy night,
With hot cocoa for warmth, around Christmas tree lights.

No matter the dream or where their thoughts might roam,
Sll could be satisfied with a true taste of home.
Neither the land, the weather, nor the company´s the same,
But the togetherness felt, is what always remains.
A friendship this strong makes an entire life gleam,
Providing comfort, support, the feel from a team.

So they put up the stockings and let music play,
In search of shorter Santas (it´s the Peruvian way).
Bringing Christmas down south, to where they might rest,
Being tonto and bruto, to make Christmas the best.

While home would be nice, with traditions to heed,
To make a day special, a trio´s all you really need.
So to the travelers abroad and loved ones out of sight,
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

1 comment:

  1. Merry Christmas Oh Mighty Bikers!
    We have thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog postings and feel like we're right along on the journey with you...well, while on our comfy couch, within our warm & cozy house, cup o' jo in hand, Christmas cookies at our fingertips...but otherwise, we share in your triumphs and discoveries! You're on an amazing adventure and should feel so proud! Really, nothing exciting is happening here (you guys are so lucky!), so continue to ride forth into the new year with a renewed zest and vigor. We'll be seeing you soon! Lots of love, The Forslines