after a nice food break in La Paz and a rather crappy $40 bottom bracket job from Gravity Bolivia (but more on that in the next few posts) I was back in Achacachi. I put the bike together and Milton who has the pool/hostel/casa de ciclistas wanted to join me up to the pass. I told him that I’d really like to leave today so we agreed on camping somewhere on the way up.
Milton had quite the machine and by any means he was way lighter than me. I had about 10-12 days worth of food on me
we barely squeezed between that giant storm and the sunshine but remained unwet for the remainder of the day.
amidst concerns and possible “tolls” I am entering the Cordillera Real traverse from here, doing only a little part of the more popular Illampu circuit. A group I spoke to via instagram had been attacked with llama whips when refusing to pay a fee to somebody on the trail.
the sun down the altiplano was amazing but there wont be too many sunsets in the rainy season further into the mountains
when we started setting up, a guy on a moto coming down pulled over and chatted to us. He didn’t seem that interested but he hung around, watching me and Milton set up the tents. A god 30-40minutes and then left, Milton told him he paid him $3 for both of us because apparently we were on his land.
we spotted this magnificent creature in the morning
and milton was all ready for more climbing
after lunch he headed back to one of the few real hot showers in the altiplano and I headed up toward the pass and to more showers but likely cold… although today was surprisingly good weather
I kept looking to the right and back. it did not seem like a trail at all. I will somehow have to go up that, according to a dotted red line on open street maps. Eventually a bridge took me across the now bigger stream. Few kids ran from one of the houses and hid behind a rock, watching me push my bike up. Ha, what were they thinking? who is that crazy gringo with a motorcycle pushing it up the hill???
the other inhabitants of this valley were equally curious to see me.
a man walking down from the pastures did a big half circle around me to avoid me, odd but probably better. It’s a little sad that people here are not as friendly - compare that to any Colombian trail where you are waved over and not asked but given a plate of food and sometimes asked to stay the night. The trail was there and well defined but not of the bring your bike kind of trail. I almost set up camp few times but decided to push as far as I can in order to have less of this for tomorrow.
eventually setting up behind a big rock, a shelter of some sorts, tired and wondering if I can even making across that pass?
little did i know of the beasts lurking the high mountains at night, these two were maybe upset that i took their spot and tried biting my tent and bike
the trail got steeper, rockier and narrower but oddly passable and there was an interesting calm to moving this slow, taking breaks every few steps and holding the brakes so the bike does not slide back down
you could notice the little things going slowly like this, like the plants and rocks and the small splinters on your fiberglass planks on your suspension
and of course, the not so little things too…
trail got much better, it was still walking but just not lifting your bike over rocks every step of the way. The distant pass marker grew closer and it seemed that I can actually make it over.
across the pass, it seemed that the llamas were expecting me and they all gathered as if they wanted something, was i supposed to guide them to a better valley?
so back in Bolivia again after a day and a half in Peru and along the foothills of Cordillera Apolobamba. The Tres Cordilleras bikepackinig route does just that, rolls smoothly (by the Andean standards) along the big range but I knew I wont be able to resist riding right up to these peaks and trying to find a nice lake to camp on.
somehow an alpacka has mingled in with the wild Vicunas but all in all they are all pretty chill with it and more worried about the guy talking to them in English from not too far away
I grabbed some surprisingly fresh tomatoes in town, a lucky pick I feel for where we are. The whole place just seemed rather odd, people here would really walk up to you and just ask you “how much?”, while its obvious that they mean the bike, my answer 1 (or 2) horses’s worth doesn’t spark a conversation but rather they resume talking between themselves in their native language.
a tour of the 3 little stores and none had a lighter, i got two packs of matches just in case.
With the rare sunny evening and the idea that I should acclimatize, I set up along the empty foothills at only 3pm, enough time to watch sunset and the big mountains from behind the ridges
and of course, have plenty of time and energy to cook my meal. I can’t describe to you the feeling that you may need to eat cold, uncooked soup for dinner. the $230 Optimus - Polaris stove continues to be the biggest disappointment of my bikepacking career and in desperate efforts to get it going I try to start a mini fire ontop, any disturbance (EVEN TURNING THE POT ON TOP!) would extinguish the flame. I can’t even simmer and to get pasta/quinoa done, i have to boil rather violently with top open or again, if i lower the dial it would turn off and it could be another 10 minutes to start it.
mornings were cold but cold oatmeal is okay…. no coffee or anything though, i just cant find the energy to do it…
white rainbow, white double rainbow?
There were few houses at the base of a lake and what seemed to be a school under construction. Since i went a little bit hard on the candy yesterday and had a sizeable garbage bag, i decided to see if they burn their garbage so i can leave mine. An older man immediately started inquiring where I was going and seemed very upset that I was leaving my garbage with their garbage. Eventhough I assured him that I can take it to the next town if needed. Then he began to say how the miners rob people and then the blame goes to him and the other locals. ”This is my land and you can’t go up, why do you want to go up?” talking to him was like talking to one of the stone fences, he was on the verge of bursting into tears and obviously very upset. Although I didnt understand him, I have absolute respect for locals/natives and while I wont think twice hopping a miner’s fence, I was ready to turn back.
The teacher was listening to us in the meanwhile and he spoke to the man, interestingly how quick he calmed and I offered to take down my passport info if needed. The teacher copied that down and just like that, the old man said it’s okay and that I can continue up the road.
the local people werent the only ones giving me weird looks!
the road went inward and inward toward the big peaks but it did not lead to the lake. A quick on foot scout mission made me decide that it will not happen, i can’t get to the lake, with the bike.
but… the road continued the other way. Might as well keep going
a little ridge gave me both a view of the mountain and the valley below (sunset!) at 4900 it was a good place to stop and wonder about where that road leads tomorrow.
and what can i tell you about the food situation… I broke 1 of my 2 lighters and used up both mathboxes, using the boxes to try and get the stove going. The last straw was when I dug through my bags and used both my passport copies to try and get this friggin thing going… to no avail.
pasta felt like cooked enough and i did get the onions fried a little….
as for the morning coffee… well i figured the trick as long as I don’t set myself on fire. I stuck one of my last few matches into the gas canister, spraying thoroughly the stove, then screw it back on and turn it on. Light it all up. although worryingly big it catches on and now i can boil water, if i remove the pot it turns off but i dont remove it.
ok, where were we, oh that road.!
well the road ended about 100m up (vertical) but i had to look around and see if i can make it across.
i tested multiple ways on foot, they all ended somewhere on a cliff…
but eventually I found trails leading over along the ridge toward a lower hump, a pass perhaps at around 5200m according to the topographic map. The catch was though that I had to make it up the Vicuna trails which honestly bring a new perspective on grade and what is actually possible to do with a bicycle.
these guys are some really tough creatures!
I stood for a good 20 minutes at the pass, zooming in on different parts of the downhill as a storm was brewing and heading toward me. It did not look good. There was a road in the next valley but the way the rocks cut across the downhill, there was a high chance that there may not be a safe way down.
but then a stone cairn caught my eye, this must be something!
Laraos and its donkey mating lake was wonderful but I had to leave the bed and a roof behind in favor of a couple more high passes.
The climb was gloomy and sometimes rainy. I wondered about venturing in one of the abandoned mines and while wondering about the safety of it, an ankle deep surprise section of mud made the decision for me!
I wasn't too excited about sleeping near the pass so I settled for a 4500m roadside gem with decent views.
It was one of these days where you look at the topo map, at the mountain ahead and wonder... "how???"
Then you remember that its about the mines. Hearing the blasting from far away and feeling the tremors when nearby. A mining pickup pulled over and invited me for lunch and wifi! They even scooped another portion of decent miners food for dinner! Miners are friendly people and although i missed an odd looking mining excavator by bare minutes, i am sure they would have scooped me and the bike and carried me up the hill!
a little mining poodle, maybe he can sniff out rare minerals!!
lunch was actually up to Peruvian standards (although low on veggies), mining towns serve really bad food.
and if you are wondering... yes! there was internet!!!
A grumpy pampa dog watched me as I took a break before the rain began. Huffing and puffing under the rain gear, the rest of the day was a cold and gloomy experience, easily forgotten the next time a little sun shines.
Somehow I had thought the climbs would be less frequent and easier but not really. The air is thin, roads sometimes rough and it goes up and down like the bitcoin.
I had a disappointing lunch at a dirty mining town and went up again under the warm sun and under friendly lady burros.
under the sun and under the burros
There was just something about the rocks and textures in the afternoon sun but a gust of wind can just take all the warmth away.
i bet you there is some poor shepherd behind that mountain that will get hailed on!
I hadnt intended to make it over this pass but going down to camp at 3500m was a good idea. A rock wall gave wind protection and cover from the nearby road. It rained as usual at night.
The morning promised a sunny day but it just rained all the way up to 4700m and waaay down to 3000m. I closely resembled the random wet dog that wanted to fistbump me at the pass.
wet dog bros!
Rain kept going as I finally made it to Huancavelica and immidiately found a rather nice chicken grill restaurant that had... chicken pizza... sadly taking photos was not really on my mind at the time. It has been a long, long time on the miner´s diet....
By now the impending visa time limit was rather a problem and I wasnt sure what to do. Consulting Scott Pauker's journal who rode from here to cusco, I did not find riding on main roads with similarly if not bigger climbs all that interesting and took a bus to near cusco, where I left the bike and went to reset my visa time.
En route I found a surprisingly good gaming cafe which made for a quick editing stop and a welcome break for See The World 24. It was really a game changing experience as I was able to preview footage in the timeline, speeded up or timelapese too. (normally i need to render each timelapse seperately to preview it, same goes for the 4k timelapse videos). The smell and sometimes the yelling of 10-20+ peruvians playing league of legends can be overwhelming but well worth it!! Here is the result:
SEE THE WORLD 24 PERU: Cordillera Blanca and Huayhuash - YouTube
in the meanwhile, the blog posts will get shorter as anything over 30 images per post just slows down and makes browser crashes. It took less time to make the STW episode 24 than to write ALL the journal entries :)
So, somewhere along the way while wasting HOURS on single pre-written blog posts (with images pre-selected) I decided to try switching to wordpress. Squarespace is pretty but working on it with a slow computer is just very bad. No auto save options and at 3 seperate clicks and waiting to add a single image its tedious and slow. Previous engines of Squarespace worked great though... So not quite sure, as moving would involve significant amount of work AND likely I will love a lot of the past blog/page content when I opt for the free version for Squarespace. So for now, new posts will continue to appear here. More likely done in bulk when I am able to find a decent computer.
Some stuff you may have missed, that is on the wordpress website (all opens in new window):