Even having descended 25km the night before, there was still another 20km to go. 40-60km climbs, followed by equally ridiculously long descents, the story of the mountains north of Cusco having left the Altiplano. The climbs have to be long, because they go from 2000m to 4000m, but the length is augmented by the relatively gentle gradients of the climbs as the road switchbacks it’s way up the side of a mountain. Peru is famous with cyclists for it’s long climbs, but also that you can actually get up them as they average out around 4%. It’s not like back in Guatemala where you’d have climbs that average 10-12% and make your legs fall off. They exist, but are much rarer in Peru than in other countries, or at least for long stretches on the main roads. Even though I was on a main road, the traffic was pretty minimal. It was helped by road works, that I could go through on my bike that closed the roads for stretches of 3 hours, followed by being open for an hour.
It was as I was descending into the valley that I came across a line of traffic waiting for the 9-10am window. I spoke to a truck driver who, like most Peruvians, responded to me saying my name is Domingo (Sunday) by telling me his is Lunes (Monday). He told me about the long climb ahead, 57km, and said that he’d see me further along. I said my farewells and went through the bouncy stretch of road works and started on the climb. About an hour later, the truck came past, pulled to the side of the road and told me to jump in the back. I don’t need to be told twice, and was gladly sat in the bed of his truck glad to be not having to spend the next 8 hours climbing. At about 3500m, I lost my breakfast out the side of a moving vehicle for the first time in a long time, and was once again incredibly happy to be not riding. We dropped 30km of the climb on the other side, into the town of Abancay, where I was dropped off and found a bench to try to recover on. My goal had been to make it to the town, but it was still early, and I figured I could make it to a town further along. There was the small matter of another 17km drop, with a ridiculous headwind, and I was riding along the river at the bottom of the valley.
I could have turned left, for Nazca and the Pacific, but no. I’d heard that the plane ride over Nazca is not only expensive, but also great for making passengers vomit, and as I was doing that just sitting in the back of a truck, I didn’t need to pay $100 for the experience. The blogs I’d read of people who went there, said that most of the lines are a bit difficult to recognise, and you get a much better idea of them from the $2 museum. So, onwards in the mountains. I was sat around waiting for my stomach to hopefully settle, when a pickup came and stopped. Time for my second lift of the day, another 50km, but this time my bike was in the back but I got a seat inside so I could share my stories as they took me to the town of Huancarama. They’d had to go to Abancay to pick up a delivery, and taking me along provided some entertainment. Glad to help.
In Huancarma I stopped for a late lunch, and my stomach had improved a bit, so it was onwards more. 15km later, my 3rd lift! I was taking a break from riding when a small ambulance stopped next to me and asked if they could give me a ride. Of course they could! And so that’s how I made it to Andahuaylas, 268km for the day with almost 6000m of vertical climbing and 5500m of descent. I hung out in the main square, to use the Wi-Fi, and saw a big group of people marching around and shouting with their flags. I’d been planning on asking at the church, but there was a service on, and by the time I stopped watching the parade the service was over and everyone had left. I found the bomberos, and after a long wait, they came back from their dinner and I was allowed in. My first bomberos since Paraguay. Lovely people, who had no problem with the idea of me staying a couple of days, but no, even though I was now ahead of schedule I wanted to keep pushing north, scared of the rain that was coming and would make the north miserable to ride, if I got there too late.