Another day, another climb. This time a mere 40km up, and the same down the other side, and after being offered 3 lifts the day before, I did it all by myself! The rain is coming, and I saw plenty of clouds, but thanks to dumb luck I managed to avoid them all. At the top of the climb, around 4000m, I did however see the results of an earlier hailstorm that I’m definitely glad to have avoided. Hail is one of the times when I really wish I wore a helmet on my bike, because otherwise it’s just incredibly painful as they pound down – especially when they get big and chunky.
The highlight of the day was definitely the town of Chincheros, where I ended the day. Having only dropped 40km, it wasn’t the bottom of the descent, but I got there as the sun was going down and with strong winds hitting me from the storm clouds ahead. It’s a town built on the side of a hill, and you really don’t want to have to go back to the other side of town, as it’s 1km up hill and a good chunk of elevation. I found my way to the main square, and there was a nice covered area that I was planning on being lazy and staying in. Within 5 minutes of arriving, I was swarmed by a group of 2 brothers and 2 sisters who spent the best part of an hour hanging out with me and asking me questions. When they finally had to leave, to go to church (having told me that their mum rented a room out for $2 that I could stay in), I went in search of water for my bottles. I entered a local shop, and before I could ask about the possibility of filling my bottle, was immediately offered beer by a group of three men in there 60s.
Edgar, Cesar and Esteban are friends from school. Edgar lives in Lima, Cesar in the jungle up in Pucallpa, and Esteban in Chincheros. They were back because it was their high school reunion that weekend. It was Wednesday night, and with the reunion on Saturday, would be in town until the Sunday. They were all incredibly nice, and a little drunk. It was around 8pm, and they’d been there since 2pm. Cesar was eager for me to learn some words in Quechua, the local language, and so would whisper an answer to me, and then ask me a question. This mainly involved me being asked how the beer was, and replying Mishki! (delicious/sweet in Quechua). This question came out every 15-20 minutes, and resulted in raucous laughter every time I replied. His other question, that was even more common, but no Quechua, was to ask me what graduating class I was from, which I was meant to reply 71 (1971), which would always lead to the ecstatic reply of ME TOO!!!!! This got repeated so frequently (5 minutes?) that I’m amazed there was time for any other conversation, or for us to eat the cheese and potatoes that were brought out.
At the end of the night, we finally got kicked out, about an hour after the lady wanted to close up. I was planning on putting my tent up, but Cesar would hear no such thing, and invited me over to stay at the same hotel he was in, which of course he would be paying for. Someone from his graduation couldn’t be sleeping on the streets!