The Ten

The Ten

Sunday, 11 October 2015

The ride South to Colca Canyon.

The distance between Cusco and Colca Canyon was much the same as Nasca to Abancay. Once I found my way out of the city (surprisingly difficult), it was good fast tarmac towards Juliaca and Lake Titicaca. But that is for later; I turned south on quiet roads past some beautiful small lakes. This road soon became a dirt track (despite being a major tarmacked road according to my map). This was OK, but I was low on fuel and there was none to be had on this “road”, nor was there any other traffic; but I was on the right road according to the GPS.

As is the norm in the Peruvian Andes, the views were fantastic; but I was pre-occupied by the dirt road and low fuel, so I didn’t appreciate as much as I perhaps should have. Finally, the road joined a ribbon of tarmac and a small town. “Gasolina?” I enquired of a local in a hi-viz jacket. He pointed down the road and suggested “1 hour”. Doubting very much I would last that long, I’d no option but to push on, despite the fuel gauge flashing angrily at me (as it had been for some time). Just out of town, there was a petrol station; but the pumps didn’t work. The friendly guy sold me 2 gallons of dubious fuel from a drum out the back. Needs must. I got maybe 5 miles down the road, when the fuel gauge again flashed insistently that it wanted petrol. Must be enough to get me to good fuel an hour away? The tarmac was good and I made it to the town and brimmed the tank with the good stuff.

There were several roads out of this town, at least 3 of them going in the general direction I needed. I think I picked the wrong one. More dirt roads; I flagged down a passing motorbike carrying 3 people asking “Arequipa?” and pointing, “si, si, (and then something unintelligible)” came the reply. OK then, carry on. This was a bad dirt road, with washouts, big rocks and corrugations; which took a long detour around some sort of open cast mine. Progress was very slow. It eventually joined a more major looking route; still dirt, but mostly good fast dirt. Passing over a high plateau; my only companions on this road were convoys of trucks transporting stuff to and from the mine.
This continued for hours and time was marching on. Amazing as the scenery was, I needed to get to a town, any town, before dark. Then tarmac reappeared and I raced towards Chivay, 35 miles short of my planned destination of Cabanaconde. Chivay looked alright; plenty places to stay and eat; but I had about 45 minutes of daylight left and only 35 miles to go. Go for it! Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Ignoring the lessons of the day that tarmac can become dirt at any time, I pushed on into the fading light. Of course the dirt returned: rocky, corrugated dirt at that. My speed dropped and the daylight disappeared. 25 miles to go with only the Tens notoriously crap headlight trying to pick a line through this mess. Dumb. My progress slowed and slowed as I became more and more tired and anxious. Running on fear and adrenalin (hadn’t eaten since breakfast); then miraculously about 5 miles out, the tarmac returned. Thanking the road gods, I pulled into the sleepy village, 10 hours in the saddle and not a little frazzled and wired. Dumb.

I was going to have a dry day; but I medically needed a beer. 2 for 15 Soles, how could I say no? That and a very welcome meal of a hearty soup followed by alpaca with rice. Feeling human again I slept the sleep of the dead.
Next day, I needed to stretch my limbs, so I took the long hike down into Colca canyon to the “oasis” far below. It was a good walk down with spectacular vistas all around. The walk back up was another matter. 6 hours of walking up and down, gasping for breath in the increasingly thin atmosphere. But, I needed the exercise.


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