Andes Trail Stages 21-24, Aug 27-30, 2019

Stages 21-24 of 109 Huaraz to Huanuco via 3 bushcamps, Days 29-32 of 142

Photos are on Google.

DescriptionDistance in kmDirt kmClimb in mEFI
South America2,26926829,240
Andes Trail1,98725925,630X

Missed distance: 100km, 1.5 stages.

Whew, what an intense few days of cycling and living! I was really happy to wake up on Aug 27 in Huaraz feeling pretty much full strength. After missing a day and a half of riding, it was SO good to get back on the bike. The route was pretty easy on paper, a quick 40km up the valley on a nicely paved road, then lunch and 13km of dirt climbing to camp. It turned out it was easy to lunch, but the rough, steep road and headwind made riding to our camp at 4200m (13,780′) tough. We did make it though and camp was nice: flush toilets in the bathroom, a nice meadow for our tents, friendly alpacas and a 10+ view. Dinner was at 4:30 due to cold and I was in bed before dark, soon after 6pm. This is the highest camp of the whole Andes Trail Tour.

I slept long and hard and felt a little stronger and better in the morning. Breakfast was at 8am and we didn’t start riding until 9:30. All night and all through breakfast the wind did not let up. It even snowed (frozen rain actually) for a while around 6am. The sun was out when we headed up the rough dirt road, straight into the wind, steep for a long time. The first pass was 4820m about 18k in, and now there was frozen rain coming down instead of sunshine and it was very cold. I had on all four layers on top plus thick wool gloves. Didn’t stop for much there. Andrew and Jens get the iron man award for doing it bare-legged. Then down a ways and back up. Lunch was on the second climb, at one point we had 10 of us in the truck cab with a giant blanket over all of us. There was an accident with our large sunshades blowing over the top of the truck, then we ate very fast, then the next 10km or so of climbing to the high point of the whole Andes Trail Tour – 4883m, a bit over 16,000′. It wasn’t as cold here so we regrouped and took photos – the view in all directions was stunning. Peaks everywhere. We were IN the Andes for sure now. Although this is not a high altitude compared to those peaks. After a few rough km of descent, we hit the paved road and cruised 40km to camp. It was so nice to be back in the warm thick air at 3300m (just under 11,000′). We camped by a loud river and had a great dinner. A sheep herder herded right through our camp and there were a few spectators but all in all a good place. Bed right after dinner, maybe 7pm.

On the 29th, we had another 8am breakfast/9am start which was nice. Still to this point we hadn’t had to pack up the tents wet. The sun turns on like a light around 7am. We had a short ride down the same dirt road to a village, then turned up on a … paved road! It had been paved since the previous Andes Tour in 2016. It was a nice 350m climb up to a plateau. We had some flat cruising (first in a long time), passed the truck set up for lunch at 13km, then rode to some Inca ruins. It didn’t look very great but we paid and walked in anyway and it turned out to be quite good. The old no-mortar style of building with quite large stones, all cut at non-square angles. Then back for lunch and the fun started. We headed up a dirt road, climbing climbing climbing back up to 4000m, then down and down and down, the last part very rough – Simon was loving the full suspension bike he’s been dragging around. We ended at a gorgeous camp on the river. It was private and comfortable and after setting up tents, many of us went in for a swim – a wash really since we had just done 3 full dirty days with no washing to speak of. It was super cold of course and I couldn’t get deeper than about waist deep. My hands would freeze when I tried to put them in. Wytze solved it for me by starting a massive splash war against me. So I dove in and got clean. I didn’t shampoo like everyone else, but getting all the dust out was great. Dinner was at 6:30 and then I watched Netflix until 9 something and went to sleep listening to the river.

The 24th stage didn’t look too bad on paper: bit of an 800m climb, but spread out over 40km. Then a 60km descent which was paved in 2012 or 2014. Rob said it might be a little not so good though. The king of understatement. Breakfast at 7, wet tents, depart at 8:15. The climb back to 4000m again was beautiful with steep parts but generally ok since we are acclimated well now, and some of it was paved. I saw the cutest piglets ever and rode once with sheep touching both legs at the same time. But the whole 60km long 2100m (almost 7,000′) descent was a non-stop construction zone, crazy rough dirt, sometimes that deep powder stuff that is really crappy to ride. I didn’t find out until later but they closed the road soon after Andrew and I started down and others had to take an even worse route with 200m of extra bonus climbing. Our route was pretty horrendous but Andrew kept the pace perfect and we had done close to 1/3 of it when Miranda/Martin/Karin came cruising by, going faster on their wide tires. I made the mistake of following them and crashed a few km later – slippery, tricky, deep powder over rocks. Karin helped me and I was super happy it was just some scratches and no bike damage at all. I love my bike now so much. I rode down with Andrew and we caught them later having drinks at a little shop. I sat down and soon a gorgeous young woman noticed my knee. She brought water, cotton swabs, alcohol and hydrogen peroxide and started doctoring me. Her mother (I think) was watching closely. She was so competent and perfect – it was really amazing. Miranda donated a bandage and soon I was fixed up. They wouldn’t take any money and when I asked for a photo, it took several minutes for her to fix her already absolutely perfect hair. It’s just amazing where they live, basically halfway up a truly hellish road, very far from town. I can’t imagine it. And they are SUCH friendly, helpful and wonderful people. Andrew said it was going to extremes but it was almost worth crashing.

Me and my favorite doctor ever

From there we still had over 30km to go and it was a ride from hell. First we came upon Karin, down. She had fallen and broken or dislocated her shoulder. She was in massive pain. We worked with a highway guy and got a taxi to take her with Miranda to the hospital. She will have to return to Holland for surgery – I am so so sorry for her – she’s been a fantastic part of our tour family. Wim and Martin did the hero’s job of waiting for the van – very long time – to get their bikes loaded. We continued down and soon were in long lines of trucks and cars trying to get by landslides and construction areas. It was a total zoo. We even found and passed our first van and told them about the accident. Then we met big Chris fixing a flat with Jens. And David caught us so we all continued together to Huanuco. After forever, we finally hit pavement and that was a fantastic moment. Then Chris pumped up to I don’t know how fast but he held it even on the short uphills. The last part was a blur, and we got through town and finally spotted the Hotel Real, right on a big square. It was just past 4pm. But how does Wytze do it? He was sitting on a chaise lounge by the pool, sipping a beer, seemingly not dirty or anything. There were no bags or rooms yet so he couldn’t’ve showered. He and Niek had taken the longer way and they took 5:35 elapsed (5:05 riding) arriving before 2pm. We took 7:50 and others finished hours after us, in the dark. Anyway, we had our beers, got rooms and luggage, barely lukewarm showers, then bought beers for more riders arriving. We heard more sad news: Marc had crashed hard on his face and was also at the hospital. Three or four others besides me had non-serious crashes – best one was Joan who fell over at 0 kph and skinned her knee. Later, we took Martin out for a pizza dinner with a bottle of Peruvian wine, then Pisco Sours (Maracuya for me) at a bar. What an epic day! We thought the big day riding to 4883m was epic, but the scale got reset today. I hope it doesn’t reset again although I think it might…Stage 25 on paper looks harder than anything we’ve done yet…

5 thoughts on “Andes Trail Stages 21-24, Aug 27-30, 2019

  1. Beautiful riding and amazing to find high-altitude doctors and piglets above 3000 meters. Very much enjoying your writing and the photos. Seems like there is Good Life south of the border after all. LDS/LCS. πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚


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