The five passes: To the Asphalt

15 10 2007

The section from Ayacucho to Cusco contains five main passes (as well as a few other minor bits of climbing).

Continuing in the same vein as the last post – the dirt road from Andahualas to Abancay was pretty dreadful. There was only one pass in here. We took two days to complete this section, although I just got very confused – it feels like much much longer.

The first day was reasonably good. My bike started making a reasonably dreadful noise (as distinct from the other horrible noises of bashing over rocks all day). Later I found out that one of the panniers retaining hooks had broken and it was flapping around a fair bit. Looks like another job for Cusco.

We had a bit of a mixed day with the locals. Some were very friendly, one stopped to ask if we needed directions to whereever we were going (there was only one road and it was pretty obvious where were going, but the offer was appreciated). Others were indifferent, and a few were downright hostile (rotten potatoes were launched at me and Joerg from a truck full of kids). When it became clear that we weren’t going to clear the pass in one day, and we needed to find a place to camp, the locals appeared friendly enough. We camped in a slightly sheltered spot, off the road, but in sight of several people bringing home the livestock for the night (they take it all out every day to graze). Two horses were cobbled (not unusual), but it was distressing to see them hop all the way up the road. It looks like they don’t remove the cobbles to allow the animals to walk freely back to the corral. Surely that isn’t necessary.

The sunset was spectacular. Mountains to the north east caught the setting sun nicely – turning the snow all sorts of pink, orange and reds.

Due to the altitude (hence cold night), I accepted Joerg and Rahel’s offer to share their tent. Early in the night (about 10pm), three men appeared at the tent, roughly opened the zip and shone torches in. I was closest to the opening, so responded by sticking my head out of the tent. When my head torch and head got grabbed by one of the men, and I spotted the knife, it became clear that they were after more than a chat. I went to reach for the Bear Spray (pepper spray, similar to mace) – Rahel always keeps it handy in case ladrones (thieves) show up. But the Bear Spray was gone! The men then asked for our money, and almost immediately fled – Joerg had preempted there request and gave them a good dose of Bear Spray. I copped a bit of a whiff, and I’m glad I wasn’t the target!

The only damage was five substantial rips in the tent. As the men fled, one tripped over the tent and ripped it, and another lashed out with a stick and ripped the tent fly, inner tent and hit Rahel on the arm (she wasn’t hurt – but it scared the hell out of here – as you might expect).

We were pretty lucky really, and thieves are part of such a poor area, but it still got me really angry. And a little scared that they might come back, so I stayed awake for the rest of the night and kept a lookout. I got a good view of the lightning from a storm to the north, and froze (half of me was hanging out of the sleeping bag so I could sit up and keep watch!). Joerg and Rahel didn’t sleep well. The thieves didn’t come back. Hopefully they got a good smell of that pepper spray!

Needless to say, the next day we started early (up at first light – we were awake anyway!). And rode down. And down. 55km took about 4.5 hours. The road started reasonably pleasant and deteriated as we descended. By the end we were again hanging on. Not helped by having no sleep!

I broke two spokes, but didn’t notice until the next day when we tried to get the majority of the dirt out of the chain and casette. I hope this back wheel makes it!

A short (20km) climb up the asphalt (oh, the bliss of smooth road!) to Abancay to finish the day. My body let go about 5km from the end. I think I punished it just a bit too much, thankfully Joerg and Rahel found a hostel and helped me in. I had only been awake for 40 hours (with 2.5 hours sleep in there), but there had been a bit of stress. Not sure whether that is being soft or not.

We took a rest day in Abancay. I needed a sleep in 🙂 And finally some good news! One of the cracked CDs worked, so I copied it and posted it home. Perhaps I will get some of my photos back after all!

Hopefully it gets easier from here. At least the road surface will be consistent.


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