With a few days rest we were once again ready to take whatever the Peru divide could throw at us. What we didn’t expect was to find a paved route so tough! Well, more mentally taxing than tough but still, it hit us hard. This is probably the only section of tarmac we have ridden in well over 600km and although our pace was higher than our usual hill climbing snail like tempo, mentally we all struggled, whether we just needed one more rest day or not I’m not sure, but this climb was mentally taxing, so much so that with the now customary grey angry clouds we took refuge early in a small town, camping by a health centre. This one will not go down as one of our best camp sites!
The following morning it was back to normal, after only a few kilometres of the black smooth stuff we took a side turn that brought us back to the good stuff. Dusty and bumpy yet comfortingly familiar we were back on the dirt.
The road continued up with the vistas constantly opening up before us reminding us why we enjoy these dirt roads so much. Before we knew it we rounded one last corner and were greeted with a huge sign marking the summit. 5059m we were told, amazing, this was the first time we had broken the 5000m mark by bike… Ok, so our GPS said we were somewhat lower but who were we to argue with this giant sign?!
With the customary photos taken we wrapped up and began the descent, we were given the option of a 5km shortcut but the road was steep and loose and Jess’ brakes are not performing as optimally as she would like so we carried on the mellow descent that took us round into the next valley and back again were we could meet up with Ryan and the bike-packers.
From just below our meeting spot the road took a somewhat smaller trail, so much so that Johnny and Dang overshot, luckily Dean had his beady eye on the GPS and without too much hollering, and luckily without having to chase down the hill, we aroused the eager beavers attention and got them to ride back up.
This narrow trail that didn’t feature on any of our maps really kicked up gradient wise, and deteriorated in surface quality so much so that after a only a km we were feeling the increased gradient and our now overly layered bodies began to overheat. Ryan, fearing the ominous black clouds pushed on from here before the consensus was out on what to do; we opted to eat before carrying on with the rest of the climb leaving Ryan to forge ahead and find camp.
The black clouds were constantly threatening but never fully unleashed their pent up anger, a dusting of snow and hail made the sometimes un-rideable climb even more atmospheric and as we topped out the cloud had blown by to intimidate some other high altitude pass leaving us with unspoilt views down the valley in search of Ryan and a good spot to camp.
The descent was long and fun but before we knew it we caught sight of Ryan’s tent tucked away down at the bottom of the valley, we rolled in just in time to get set up as the dark clouds we thought we had left behind made a re-appearance.
We awoke the next day to some more friendly Llamas and the knowledge that we had our last climb on the Peru Divide. We rolled out with mixed feelings, excitement to make it to a descent town for a hot shower and reluctance to finish this epic route we started so long ago.
As always the climb was long and as always the weather was constantly threatening to drown us in a sudden downpour. We once again opted to take lunch before the climb really kicked up and once again lost Ryan as he did his best to get ahead of the darkening skies. This climb saw more traffic than the whole of the route previously put together, we were using a road that lead to an active mine however the endless train of loaded trucks all too happy to pull over and wait as 5 pathetically slow cyclists meandered their way up the winding dirt trail.
As we neared the top we had a small amount of route finding to perform, the miners seemed to be taking the rock straight from the road but with a little adlibbing and some not so helpful guidance from to workers at the top we managed to make our way back to the road on the other side. From here it was all-downhill, just as the weather let rip with some more snow and hail, no complaints from us though, we would take this over rain any day!
Another super fun downhill and a reunion with Ryan in a small village were we were hoping to get served some hot sugary liquid, no luck however and with a long way to go we pushed on.
The route led us into Licapa, a run down little town with nothing to offer 6 hungry, dirty cyclists. The town, if you can call it that, offered a rather anticlimactic end to our ride and before long we were all eyeing up the trucks racing up the main road that would take us to civilisation. This main road would be our route if we choose to ride it, infact we met two other cyclist in this town who made it very clear to us that they were hoping to make it to Ushuaia without the aid of a bus, we made it very clear that after riding the Peru Divide an aimless slog up a highway dodging trucks did not entice us one little bit and we would be taking a lift of any form if we could just find one.
With Dean doing the talking in his best Spanish we managed to arrange a lift to Ayacucho in the back of a vegetable truck, not bad going to say there were 6 fully loaded bicycles as well as 6 very tired dirty cyclists. What we didn’t realise was that we would have to unload said vegetable truck of all its wholesome goods, this didn’t even warrant a discount which we tried to bargain for later on.
With a two hour uncomfortable ride sat in the back of a truck having no idea if our bargaining skills had indeed got us a ride to Ayacucho or, instead, to a dead end road in the middle of nowhere where we would then be robbed of our precious belongings, luckily the doors were thrown open in a petrol station just 4km from where we wanted to be, a sketchy night ride and we had made it.
Ayacucho is a small version of Cusco I had been told, (I can now confirm this after visiting both) it has a huge plaza with old colonial buildings and more importantly, good food. It was also from here we would be saying goodbye to our two bikepacking friends. Dean and Dang were going to carry on with the Peru Divide after already having been to Cusco. The rest of us, the original 4, were hoping to find a bus to take us to Cusco for yet more good food and the must see Machu Picchu.
Our hopes of walking into one of the many bus stations, paying for a ticket and then relaxing were soon dashed when we were constantly told that a direct bus to Cusco was not an option. We were also told of protests that were making the less than ideal option of a collectivo into a nightmare option that would involve over 24hours of travel. We were stumped. Something we thought was going to be easy was proving rather difficult. Our last option was a company located in the out of town bus terminal; we had been told they offered a direct bus the only problem was the four bicycles we would be carting with us. A taxi ride and a nervous conversation regarding the protests and we were on, all be it a day later than we hoped.
Danny and Jessica living the nomadic dream.