Andes Trail Stages 25-28, Sept 1-4, 2019

Stages 25-28 of 109 Huanuco to Huancayo via 2 hostals and a camp, Days 34-37 of 142

Photos are on Google

DescriptionDistance in kmDirt kmClimb in mEFI
South America2,65342534,181
Andes Trail2,37141630,571X

Missed distance: 100km, 1.5 stages.

After a relaxing rest day in Huanuco where we had to say good-bye to Dutch Karin on her way home for shoulder surgery, we set out on our biggest climbing day of the whole tour. It was over 8000′ up to a high mining town called Cerro de Pasco. This town is at about 4300m (over 14,000′), the highest we’ll sleep on the whole tour. The route started out gently climbing to lunch at 60km going up a river valley. After lunch we turned off on a side dirt road that followed a pretty stream up a nice valley, but it was quite a bit steeper and of course rougher. There were km markers counting down the distance to our goal, starting at 42. The first 10km were quite hard, then the middle section was easier, but I think just about everyone was reduced to very low speed on the final 10km. Those last 3 switchbacks up to the giant smelly garbage dump were particularly steep and tough. When I rolled into the hotel at about 5pm with Jan and Jens and Chris, I was really used up. It was hard to climb the stairs to get to the soup! Many of us had to stay in a different hostal, which had tricky showers – we gave up on ours after Andrew turned himself blue trying to get something other than ice water out. The restaurant choice was super limited so we went back to the original hostal and ate there. Things started looking up as we got giant beers and then delicious large dinners. I had trucha encebollada (trout with onions) which was great. Back at our place, I scored a hot shower in Martin’s room, then it was 8pm and time for a long sleep. Outside it was -3C and inside maybe warmer but the pipes did freeze. We slept under big piles of thick blankets. Some rooms had electric blankets but not ours. Martin said the altitude made him breathless when he turned over in bed because the blankets were so heavy. I slept super well as I seem to be fine with the altitude.

The truck came before 8 to get our baggage then we walked back to the other hostal for breakfast. The typical. Then time to ride. The sun was out partially but it was cold and the few of us going bare-legged had our sanity questioned. But it wasn’t that bad and after some climbing in town we were blasting down the highway. The trucks were a little scary but it was only 26km until we turned off on a dirt road that was relatively level, all the way to Junin. Rob was with us but when the pavement ended, I think he accelerated. He was gone in minutes – such an amazing cyclist. Lunch was at halfway, very nice in a little village. We were riding past Lago Chinchaycocha, a large lake at 4100m with flamingos and other birds. There was little traffic on the road, but everyone I talked to hated it by the end. Somehow the last 10km was just plain hard even though it was relatively flat. Jan and I finally made it together. Junin is a small town also at 4100m with a lively square. We found the hostal and again, had to go sleep at another one. A local guy with a funny tricycle carted our luggage over; we followed on bikes. The place was small and cramped but Jan, Andrew and I all scored single rooms. Mine had windows on two sides and a shower that worked! After cleaning up we rode back over for soup, then went out on the town. At a pasteleria we had cake (and brought in beers), then Martin, Andrew and I sat like bums in the central square/park drinking beers and people watching until 5pm, time for dinner. Since there weren’t restaurants, our Bike Dreams kitchen crew cooked us dinner and it was great. Also it was so nice and easy to just sit down and eat instead of searching for a decent place. After dinner we rode back at dark, and since the internet didn’t work in my room, I watched a couple of downloaded Netflix shows then went to sleep, again under a thick pile of heavy blankets. Like the previous night there was a sort of flannel bottom sheet but no top sheet, just the pile of wool blankets. Sleeping well was no problem.

September 3: we woke up and rode over to the other hostal, with the tricycle man busy bringing a mountain of luggage over. After breakfast, the weather was looking a little dicey and we each had a choice to make. There are two different routes for stage 27 and we had both gpx files so could ride either. The longer easier one would be supported with lunch so I chose that one – also it was nearly all paved – I was tired of those dirt roads. About 10 people including Mr Bike Dreams Rob took the harder route. It featured a 1500m descent on the crappiest of rocky dirt “roads” you could imagine. And beautiful scenery at up to 4500m. Our route was down the highway, easy out of town. After 15km we stopped to put on rain gear but the rain was just stopping and it wasn’t that bad. We had a 7km climb back up to 4200m and we removed shoe covers etc on top. Then the fun started. It was a 1200m perfect descent! You only had to brake on the few hairpins, we passed trucks in the left lane, it was scenic and getting warmer as we dropped. Lunch was halfway down, a perfect spot. Wijnand, our awesome lunch truck driver, was in a super good mood, giving cookies to local kids, cranking great music for us, and lunch was even better than usual. Avocados and yesterday’s quinoa salad added to the normal power burritos! He had picked a spot by a little church and it was perfect. The funniest thing was everyone screaming at Kees as he rocketed by – he loves descending so much he just blew by. I had ridden with a great group led by Wim and after lunch we continued together. The town below called Tarma was kind of a hell hole. Construction, terrible roads, the route impassable in several places – I don’t know why Rob said we would like to visit it. We got out as quick as possible and continued down the valley to a dirt road turnoff. A later group got to watch the sign blow over and nearly smash a car. The last 4km was up the dirt road to a fantastic Trout Farm Rob had found on the previous trip. Smooth level green grass for our tents, trout pools everywhere, little buildings and a swimming pool, nice shaded tables to sit, and cold beer. I had arrived first for once since all the fast guys were busy with the harder route. We had all afternoon to kill drinking beer and eating snacks and greeting everyone as they arrived. Niek was the first in from the harder route, an hour after us, with tales of the crazy descent. No one else from that route came in for quite a while. After a nap, we had one of the best dinners of any camp: fresh trout cooked by Maria, the local cook. Plus potatoes and beets and then a yummy sweet dessert with whipped cream. I was serving this time which was actually fun, rushing out of the kitchen with 3 plates of trout, then back, repeat until everyone is served. The rushing water of the trout ponds made me sleep really well.

Our 4th stage in a row was a big one. It started raining after breakfast so everyone was all rain geared but then it stopped while we were loading the trucks. No one knew what to wear and the temp kept changing so we just headed up the hill and made a few clothing stops. I rode with Tom and we had a great time although sometimes it was hard to keep talking on the steepest parts. The dirt road was mostly fine but the first 10km was steep.

Near the start of the 1300m climb, Jens and me cranking – video by Wytze

We stopped for a banana and sunscreen break at 24km then found the lunch truck was set up just 500m after that. It started raining again during lunch so the same clothing questions started again. We just rode and rode – the whole climb was 39km long and we climbed 1300m. After lunch I rode with Miranda and it really helps to have someone to talk to and ride with on climbs like this. At the top Jan joined us for about 20km of semi-steep dirt road, not too bad but you have to really pay attention on the corners. We stopped multiple times to take photos as the views were just amazing. The lighting was so cool, check out in the album. At the bottom Swiss Karin caught us – her front shock was frozen solid and her back one leaking air but she just doesn’t care and rides fast anyway. We had still a long way on dirt, with my chain making “I want lube now” noises but still shifting perfectly. Finally we hit pavement and it was great for a second until we turned into the wind. We had 45km of this left and it was after 3pm. We had also picked up Lambert and he took the lead into the wind, but then sometimes it was a side or tail wind so it really wasn’t so bad. Plus it was gently downhill. We took a food/Inca Kola break. Jan bought us everything and a big beer for himself. Then back at it. Around 90km we entered Huancayo, a big city of 450,000 people at 3250m. Traffic got crazier and crazier until around 100km it was almost silly. Taxis and cars going every way, with the five of us trying to stay together weaving in and out. At one point there was a big downhill with total gridlock so we rode the wrong side of the road – scary but fun. Our hotel was just off this main road, right in the center of town. It was SO nice to arrive, and before 5pm. No soup but we had cakes and other treats, then, the best shower in 2 months of travel in South America! The Hotel Turismo Huancayo is THE place to stay when you come here. Trust me. We’ve now completed the second of the nine Andes Trail sections, so we can lose and gain riders here. It turns out we don’t lose anyone but gain an Australian couple, Pip and John, who know some of our riders from previous Bike Dreams trips. 7 of us went out to a nice dinner at a regular Peruvian restaurant, telling all the fun stories of tour life to Pip and John. After dinner I had a great time in the hotel bar until about midnight with Wytze, Bastiaan, Wim, Andrew and Martin. Pisco Sours and Maracuya Sours, really expensive here (20 soles each, the cost of a dinner) but so tasty. Hanging out with these guys is worth so much more. We’ve been though 28 amazing stages together, and we’re like a big family. I never expected it to be so great. We’ve completed 25% of the riding stages now. I can’t believe this goes on and on and on until December!

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