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HJ, who provided the majority of the best photos during our time riding together, continued off on the main road to Cusco while I decided to take an alternate way. I thought it might prove more interesting, and at the very least would include my highest altitude. The first 30km, on the way to Lampa, were paved and quite lovely, as the town of Lampa was too. That’s when the dirt began, and the gentle climb upwards along a river. The few Peruvians I went past were warm as other souther Peruvians seemed to be, with shouts of SeƱor Gringito. I was feeling a little tired, and so took a nap in the main square of one of only three towns that I went through, and was instantly surrounded by small children that were far too nervous to say anything, and instead just looked at me in awe.

The climb got a little steeper, but it seems that Peruvian road makers tend to like gentle climbs forever instead of paths straight up the side of a mountain, and so it wasn’t too hard to get to the town of Vilavila even at my relaxed rhythm before the sunset. At 4300m, it was the last community before the peak 10km later and 550m higher up. I stopped and got chatting to Juan, an engineer who was part of the group that were busy preparing the main road through town so it could be paved. They’d finished for the day, and Juan was full of questions. After about 30 minutes, we walked together to the main square to sit down and talk some more, where co-workers would often come past to ask more questions and give me a thumbs-up. There wasn’t a restaurant in town, well not an official one, but that was no problem. Juan and his team were fed at a local place, and after dropping my bike off at the area where they sleep, was taken out for dinner too which Juan put on his tab.

Back at the municipal building where they’d invited me to stay, there was talk of a party, it being a Friday, but with the climb the next day I retired early and slept straight through.

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