It’s already past two o’clock when I’m finally done with updating my last blog entry in Huancayo. At that time I’ve already consumed two days of my five days buffer to reach Ushuaia at latest by the 13th of December. Even though there is not much daylight left to cycle today, I still want to leave. After longer breaks it’s always difficult to get back onto the bike and therefore one of my rules is, it doesn’t matter if you start late, as long as you actually start. But this day I definitely waited too long. Just in the moment that I want to push my bike through the gate of the hostel the first big drops fall from the grey sky over Huancayo. In the distance I can hear the rumbling thunders and the longer I wait, the closer they seem to get. I check the situation for roughly one and half hours before I decide to spend another night in the hostel and start a new attempt the next morning. I’ve consumed another day from my buffer.
The next morning the sun is shining and even though I have almost everything ready – since I packed already the evening before – it’s almost 11:00 am when I now finally leave the hostel. Ahead of me lies the most probably heaviest part of my journey. It’s still more than 800km till Cusco – my next big destination – and I plan to reach it within 9 days in total without any rest days. And as I’m in the Andes it’s not the distance which actually bothers me, but the daily up and down with an elevation gain of 1500m or more mean a lot of stress. Luckily the road is almost entirely paved on this section. Even though I enjoyed a lot riding off-road in Ecuador and Peru it was also super exhausting, both physically and mentally. A few days before I reached Huancayo it had actually resulted in a little crash on a sandy part of the road. It damaged my USB charger on the bike and I my right elbow got some scrapes. Luckily nothing really serious.
After three days of riding I reach the city of Ayacucho. A beautiful colonial city which is also popular amongst backpackers. Hotel prices here are almost double of what they are in the rest of the country. I find a reasonable option just outside the city centre for 45 Soles. Since my plan doesn’t allow a full rest day to explore the city I do an evening walking tour. The historical centre is full with people which makes it difficult for me to shoot any nice pictures. Instead I decide to give it a try early the next morning, when I leave the town. While I’m pushing my bike through the narrow streets I get a lot attention. A German couple approaches me and we chat for almost 30 minutes until I unfortunately have to remind myself of the tough ride I have ahead and I continue my ride ride south.
The next four days on my way to Abancay I have to cross a pass of more than 4000hm every day. Two times I get surprised by hailstorms while I’m high up. Luckily the weather in the Andes changes rather quickly and so I only have to suffer for a few km until the clouds disappear and the sun breaks through again. Next to the risk of bad weather the road between Ayacucho and Abancay is also infamous for robberies during the night on tourist busses as a police officer explains me. He advises me to stay in hotels overnight, but since the distances between towns in the mountains can be pretty far I end up camping every night. I chose my campsites carefully however to not be visible from the street and get up early in the mornings before sunrise. In Abancay I stay at Octavio’s place. He is a warm showers host and has a tree house in the middle of the town. Silja – a backpacker I met in Huancayo is also there when I arrive and both are giving me a warm welcome. After three nights of camping I enjoy the shower and have a perfect sleep in the tree house that night.
It’s less than 200km from here to Cusco now but more than 4500hm of climbing. Getting out of Abancay is pretty tough. It’s constantly going up with only a few flatter parts in between. It’s a few minutes past 11:00 am when I pass a restaurant. I check on the different apps I habe on my phone and as it seems this is the only option for the next hours where I can get something to eat and drink so I decide to stop here. From the restaurant and can look down on the road I just cycled up and I discover what seems to be two cyclists coming up. When the reach the restaurant I reach out to welcome them. Since one of them is wearing a Bayern Munich jersey I contact them in German but as they get closer I realize that it’s Camilo and Julian from Bogota whom I’ve already met before in Tumbaco (Ecuador) and Huaraz. So we continue our conversation in Spanish. While they are parking their bikes it slowly starts to rain and the clouds further up the mountain are not very promising. While they join me for lunch it starts to rain even more and so we end up almost for two hours in this restaurant before we agree that it secure enough to continue.
They both also want to reach Cusco by tomorrow and so it’s an easy decision that we cycle the next two days together. They are both very strong cyclists but other than me they carry less stuff. So I am actually the weakest link of the chain. But it doesn’t seem to bother them to ride a little slower. Most of the time I’m riding next to Camilo who is talking a lot. And all of the time in Spanish of course. Even though it’s stressing me a little bit to talk in Spanish the whole time I really enjoy their company and have some conversations during the day. It’s almost two months now, that I was riding with someone else for the last time and being on your own all the time can become a bit annoying at times. Since we lost quite some time waiting in the restaurant for better weather we “only” manage to get till Curahuasi that day. Luckily this town lies a bit lower, so it’s not so freaking cold during the night. We stop at the Bomberos (firestation) and they let us sleep inside one of their rooms.
On the final day to Cusco we still have more than 120km to manage. We start early the next morning and we quickly add some km to the clock since it’s going downhill for the first 25km or so. We pass a valley of 1850hm before we start a more than 40km long climb up till more than 3700hm. Camilo and Julian are amazing this day. Again they are faster than me, but lower their tempo to my pace. When we pass by little villages they stop at the little kiosks and organize food and drinks and provide it to me while I’m riding. And “organizing” means, that they simply ask whether they can get some support for their journey. With this approach they basically manage to get all their necessary supplies from breakfast, over snacks, drinks and fruits during day till lunch and dinner and I gladly benefit from that. However I still prefer to pay for food in the restaurants to support the local businesses. As we only do little stops during this day we actually make till Cusco by 19:00. When we reach at my hostel I’m super exhausted but also happy and thrilled at the same time. Having the support from these two guys really helped me to keep pushing myself up that mountain. At the hostel, Christine, a fellow backpacker I met in Hancayo is already awaiting me with a big portion of pasta. I need it this day more than ever.