We left Los Banos del Incas via a back road and made our way to Jesus; from here our true Peruvian dirt road experience would begin. We had found a few blogs that highly recommend the route we planned to take and with excitement we attacked the first 28k climb. This excitement quickly faded as we realised what we had got ourselves into. I’m not sure if our bikes were just too heavy or if we were of the wrong set up, i.e. this route was more suited to bike-packers rather than fully loaded toures, but the fun factor diminished quickly.
The road to start with was steep and loose but just about manageable, Jess would disagree, she found the loose fist sized rocks, that had a habit of hanging out on the switch backs where the road really kicked up a few degrees, were far from rideable and before long our snail like pace was rather embarrassing. Jess, not confident to ride the loose stuff opted to walk whenever she caught sight of a nasty rock, and I must admit on more than one occasion I was forced to join her.
Although our progress was minimal, we were making progress, we were still able to ride some stretches between the bends, this was until we left the “main road” to follow the GPS track we had loaded. Here we followed a much smaller trail that had our hope rising that maybe now we would start riding some of the good stuff, and for a very brief spell we were able to average at least 7kph. This did not last long however. Before we knew it this trail, which we thought was the old road, became even worse. With no regular traffic the loose rocks had migrated form the switchbacks and now covered the whole trail. Pushing became a challenge in itself and our cycle trip started to run the risk of becoming a walking holiday.
The silver lining of this no longer used trail was the abundance of camping spots and after maybe 5km of back breaking pushing we decided to give it up as a bad day and get some much needed sleep, hoping that in a new light we would have some divine inspiration and figure out how we were supposed to ride this terrain, that or somebody would take pity on us and leave us some shiny fat-bikes to play on.
The next day we had no such luck, no new bikes fully equipped to deal with baby’s heads (I think this is what the cool kids call this kind of terrain) and no divine inspiration. In fact, Jess, suffering from the lack of oxygen available to us at our lofty altitude, she blamed me for using it all in the tent, had had a terrible nights sleep and on top of that she now had chest pains to add to her list of ailments, never a good sign, especially when so far from any means of transport or help.
Not one to give in easily she was determined to see the end of this climb and with only 7km left she was confident she could at least push that far without collapsing on me. So with slightly less gusto we returned to the trail and rode a whole 200m before we hit an obstacle, well an obstacle bigger than the damn rocks we were trying to ride over. The old road it now turned out was no longer a through trail, a nice new barbed wire fence had been strung up to really make this point clear to anyone thinking of getting past.
Knowing how far we had come we weren’t about to be beaten all that easily though, we found a loose section and with some slight repacking we were able to slide the bikes under the fence, haha, fully loaded touring bikes 1 – nasty horrible rocky road…well, we stopped counting how many points this route had already won over us, but this was definitely a small moral boost for us.
For another short spell we were able to ride, and in sections we found ourselves enjoying what we were on, again this was always interrupted by the loose rocks that would bounce and spit your bike any which way but the way you wanted. I found myself picking my bike, and myself up many a times after a stray rock would kick me left, letting me think I had just about rescued it before another would spit my right or stop me dead altogether. My woes were nothing compared to Jess though who with any deep intake of breath would be in pain, not ideal when the trail was so physically demanding and the fact that oxygen was not in great supply.
After another moral sapping length of time we encountered another section of fence blocking our way luckily this section was easier to shimmy our bikes under and from here we hoped the road would improve, which luckily it did, a further 2km, at probably our fastest pace and we were at the top. We now had a downhill to reward us for our efforts. We had also decided that a hospadaje was in order to let Jess rest up.
The downhill wasn’t all that easy, nor all that much of a downhill, and hospadajes didn’t exist in this section, apparently they don’t get many tourists to generate a need for them. Before we knew it we had past the last hamlet and had begun to climb once again, with no option for a night in a bed, and Jess being to stubborn/proud to try and hitch, “I’ll be better in the morning,” was her response to this suggestion, “I just need to sleep it off!”
Knowing better than to argue we found a tucked away spot, set up camp, cooked and got an early night. A tough two days behind us but hopefully a better day to come.
As we have become accustomed to in Peru we were awoken to blue skies and the sun beating down on the tent, Jess had managed to get a good night sleep and was practically a new woman. With 7km of dirt road climbing ahead of us she was positively chipper as we saddled up. Still far from easy we managed to ride most of the road and made good time to the top. All we could see now was downhill. Not that this would be fast, the road was still horrible and anything more than 13kph felt like I was going to be shaken of the mountain, but at least it took a whole lot less effort to generate these speeds.
With achy fingers from the effort of braking we rolled into the largest town we have seen on this route, this was the town we were directed to when we asked for accommodation in the previous villages; today however we were only stopping for lunch. Jess had her eyes set on Cajabamba, our intended destination before bad roads and ailments slowed us down. Before I knew it we had completed another long, slow, twitchy decent and we were a mere 25km from the town. The deal was we would stop at the first hotel or accommodation we saw, as long as it wasn’t a 5 star luxury resort, sorry Jess I don’t care how ill you are we cant afford it!
Luckily for me I didn’t need to have that conversation, there wasn’t a single place to stay until we got all the way into the town. I’m not sure how Jess managed it, by the end I was hurting and desperate for a room and I had been fit and well the whole way, Jess just kept on going though and as we rolled in to town it was her setting the pace while I tried to hold on to her wheel
After finding a hotel and refuelling with some coke and biscuits neither of us cold muster the energy to set up the stove, a quick trip out the hotel and we were rewarded with fried rice and an early night.
Danny and Jessica living the nomadic dream.