The Ten

The Ten

Monday, 28 September 2015

Two miles high and climbing.

From Trujillo, it was a blast down the coast before cutting inland to start the climb back up in to the Andes. The coastal road was quite dull, but as soon as I turned off the Pan-Am towards the mountains, the traffic disappeared and the scenery returned. The destination was Huaraz, perched high in the Peruvian Andes, surrounded by some of the highest peaks in South America. From sea level to Huaraz was to be a climb of almost 2 vertical miles in the space of just a few hours. It was great riding, the road snaking its way up the valleys through little villages, with the occasional angry dog taking up the chase.

The road continued to rise and rise; a check on the GPS altimeter read 2 miles high. It must crest soon and drop me down into Huaraz? Right? The mist began to close in and spots of rain began to pepper my visor; nearly 2 and a 1/2 miles up in the sky now, I stopped to put on my rain gear. This simple act at this altitude had me slumped on the bike gasping for breath. Onwards and upwards and finally, I rounded a corner and what little breath I had left was robbed by the view. There was Huaraz, over 1/2 a vertical mile below me, with towering snow covered mountains standing sentinel above and around the town.

Finally I started to descend and could breath again, although at almost 2 miles high, the air in Huaraz is thin. This is a town where people come to go trekking in the mountains, or mountain biking or other such healthy outdoor pursuits. Not for me; after only a couple of nights it was time to ride again.


The road out of Huaraz followed a high valley which opened out onto a high plain, again climbing to around 2 and a 1/2 miles high, giving more amazing views of the brooding mountains. It then turns towards the coast and plunges down steep valleys. More blissful riding. The mood broken (temporarily) when I was pulled over by 2 policemen on a quiet stretch of road. I pulled onto the gravel shoulder by the roadside where the bike slipped from under me; first time I've dropped the bike on this trip. One of the cops helped me lift it up before pointing out that my front headlight didn't work (caused by the drop??). Fair enough. He then gets out his little book, saying "billete, billete" (ticket); buying time, I politely ignored him and set about replacing the bulb. The mutual language barrier is useful in these situations as it is easy to feign ignorance. OK, my light works now. To my surprise, he then shakes my hand and off I go; he's given up on his tea money from this stupid gringo.

Finally, the coast arrives and its back on the Pan-Am. Again running on fumes, no petrol stations in sight on this new stretch of road. A quick detour down a dirt road to a small village and the guy won't fill the tank, but enough to get me to Lima. Maybe.
A fast run along dual carriageway until about 20 miles short of my destination and the worst traffic yet. The Peruvians take no prisoners on these roads. A slow crawl into the city proper, where the traffic actually improves. I get on to the city centre motorway where a man in a flash car yells at me, gesticulating wildly. Hmm, I don't think bikes are allowed on this road. Off at the next exit before the police see me and I eventually wash up in Miraflores district, Lima, for a well earned pint or two.

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