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I woke up a couple of times during the night needing to go to the loo, and then again at 4am. I’d been told to put my mat on the floor of the room that the caretaker slept in, and given the pile of flags that normally fly from the municipal building to use as a pillow. Well, at 4am, the caretaker decided to start chatting away, I responded a little before rolling over and back to sleep, but at just past 5:30am he did the same. He had been excited to have a foreigner sleeping in the same room as him, I guess he gets lonely normally, and so even though he’d been quiet during the chat the night before he wasn’t in the early hours of the morning.

There was still 50km to El Descanso, the next town along, and even though it was relatively flat and half of it was paved, it still took me almost 5 hours to arrive. The stomach issue that I’d got the night before had sapped my energy and while some parts were pretty, it just seemed to drag on and on. In El Descanso, I found some food, hoping it’d give me more energy and then collapsed as usual on a park bench for an hour.

When I awoke, the sky had darkened and it was pretty obvious that rain was coming. If I had been smart, I’d have either stayed there for the night, hoping to recover, or taken the paved road that led to the main road to Cusco. Unfortunately, good decision-making isn’t always a strength of mine and so it was up to the mountains. It was about 50km of unpaved and short of keeping an average that I’d failed to keep up on the pavement earlier, I was never going to get to a town that night. I started going, and before long had to push. It wasn’t steep, but the small amount of energy I’d recovered in my nap wasn’t enough to keep me going. About 5km in, I saw a small community and with over two hours to go before the sunset, figured it was too early to stay there. They told me there was nothing until the town I’d seen on my map, lots of kilometres further along. There were lightning strikes in the clouds ahead, but still I kept going.

The modicum of luck I had, considering my awful decisions and complete lack of energy, was that I somehow managed to avoid nearly all the rain as I pushed on and upwards. I would push and ride for about 20-30 minutes, and then have to lie on the floor for a similar amount to keep going on. As I went further and further up, there were some small houses, but they were mainly down in the valley below. I only went past two possible places to stop, and the first one had very noisy dogs and the owners just seemed to stare.

The second place came about 15 minutes before the sun went down, as I saw a herd of cows, goats, llamas and alpacas being tended by two people. I left my bike on the road, and walked down a path to the field. The man came over, and I had to sit down on a rock to talk to him as there was nothing but emptiness in my legs. I gestured towards his farmhouse and asked if it’d be possible to put my tent up there for the night. He pointed at the reasonably flat place where we were standing and suggested it. I didn’t have the energy to disagree, and nodded. It took about 5 minutes for me to stand up, get my bike and bring it down, even though it was only about 150m away. Another 5-minute rest on the rock was followed by having to put the tent up, as the dark clouds above meant rain was definitely coming soon. The farmer excused himself and said he’d come back up in a bit, but never came back. I pegged my tent down, knowing that it was important with the rain coming soon, and just hoped my tent would hold up for the night. If it didn’t, I’d decided to crawl down the hill and find a place in the farmhouse for the night.

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