Andes Trail Stages 35-36, Sept 14-15, 2019

Stages 35-36 of 109 Andahuayles to Abancay via 3600m bushcamp, Days 47-48 of 142

  • Stage 35: 68.3km, 1830m climbing, 5:16, 58km dirt
  • Stage 36: 73.2km, 1170m climbing, 3:32, 10km dirt, very hot!

We had an early breakfast in Andahuayles and it seemed like no one was super motivated about the ride, I know I wasn’t. Quite a few people had medical issues: Kees took a taxi to Cusco to get his heart checked. Kirsten was sick as a dog so she and Gareth also headed for Cusco, skipping the next 4 stages. Marc rode 35 and 36, then headed to Cusco for dental work before our Machu Picchu trip. Yvonne had a great attitude but was doomed to ride in the van to Cusco due to her knee stitches.

After breakfast, it was a familiar feeling, starting out all uphill, all the time. Andrew and I cranked out of town and up and up, to a dirt road turnoff at 9km around 3300m. Rob had given us the alternative of taking the paved road but most people had decided on the dirt route – with GPS track but no lunch truck. Many people changed their tune at the intersection and continued on the pavement but we turned off, braved a construction zone and soon were at the first summit. About a dozen ended up on the dirt option. Then down the muddy road to Lake Pacucha which was pretty, but we had to take a diversion due to construction and fooled around a bit along the lake. The lake is such a pretty natural resource you would think the roads would be paved to attract more visitors. Most stuff in Peru is not designed around tourism though. Eventually we were back on track and climb #2 started – back up to 3400m, with some steep dirt up to 13%. The view from the summit though was worth it – pretty amazing.

View from our second summit – our switchbacking route visible

After snacks, we headed down a fun descent. The dirt road switched back and forth for a long way, dropping us down over 700m to a little town called Quillabamba where most of us regrouped and ate whatever food we had for lunch. California Chris had a dog-induced crash but sustained just a scratch on her knee. It was fun to catch up with everyone, then we had a short easy descent, and finally a long long climb to camp. Climb #3 was 900m, steep and steady with slowly improving views the whole way. We rode through a village and then finally made it to the paved road, then did the last kilometer to camp, high on a pass, by some Inca ruins, at 3600m.

Camp at 3600m

It was around 3pm when we rolled in, a group of 4. It was already kind of cold and windy, but on the plus side, no sandflies. I set up my tent then spied some snowy gorgeous high mountains and climbed up to a little point by camp to see better. From there I could see down to the Inca ruins where Henk had wanted to camp so walked down there with several others. It was another amazing place – the Incas certainly had style when it came to picking locations. You could see great mountain views in all directions.

Inca ruins
Gorgeous in any direction!

Many photos were taken, then it was time to head back for an early (due to cold) dinner. It was tasty with chocolate mousse for dessert. The wine for once was not tasty, but the beer fairy (Martin) had visited my tent earlier so I was supplied.

After dinner, many people were pretty cold and retreated to tents although the cook crew and others cranked loud music for a couple of hours and had a fun (but cold) time. I was wearing two jackets, thick wool gloves, warm hat etc and was not warm by any stretch. In my tent, I didn’t bother to take off any clothes and got in my sleeping bag, watched a Netflix show, then went out to pee and went to sleep at 8:30. I woke up at 1am and peed again – it was all mysterious looking with mist and bright moon light.

After sunset
Camp at 1:07am

In the morning we had a super-relaxed time due to an 8:30 breakfast. The sun was partially out, sometimes drying the very wet tent flies. The dew was thick for the first time. During breakfast the sun came out harder and my whole tent was soon dry for packing. We took off at 9:30 and immediately were cruising down at 60, down a gorgeous smooth road. But it didn’t last too long – we got down to 3000m then had to crank back up 450m. On the plus side I got to visit California and Los Angeles.

Then the real descent Rob had talked up started. This one went from 3450m to 1800m with lunch near the bottom at the 45 km mark. It was so different down there, warm (hot almost) and unfortunately with quite a few sandflies. A couple of guys skipped lunch but I stayed and ate when it was ready. Jan, Andrew and I took off and finished the descent, crossing a beautiful river (rare in Peru) at the bottom. Then we had a classic “Rob Climb” (according to Andrew). You sucker everyone in with a killer long descent, then pick a super steep rocky dirt road to climb for at least 10km. This one had the bonus feature of the air temperature being like a furnace. It was sort of a grind but at least there wasn’t any traffic to speak of. Others who took the paved option complained of lots of traffic. We went up and up, Andrew had two flats, and finally we came to Abancay. The last few km were so ugly it was kind of depressing. Do not move here. If you live here, find a way to move away.

It was quite a climb even in the town but finally we got to the “Saywa Hotel”, which is surprisingly nice. We got a nice double room, pounded my remaining beer which had stayed cold in my bag, then had hot showers. Cold would’ve been ok here but hot is a bonus. We had a couple of rounds of delicious soup, then I pounded a couple of ice creams from across the street and relaxed until dinner. The stats don’t really tell it all for today – 1170m climbing – sounds easy, right? Then we noticed this posted in the dining room. Rob pretty much never says anything is “Very hard”.

Scary tomorrow…about 8000′ climb

It was Sunday again, the worst night for going out to dinner. The first dozen restaurants I looked at on Google were closed but Antony’s Pizzeria was open and served up some yummy pizzas and beers. Andrew, Wim and I had a nice dinner, topped off by ice cream bars in the square, watching the kids drive around in battery powered cars. By 7:30, we were back in the room ready for sleep. The last thing I did is have a video chat with Grace who had just finished the famous San Francisco Unicycle tour (70km, 1000m climb, an all-day fun fest of unicycling or biking to all the famous spots in SF). I got to see and talk to Gary who is now the only person to have done it every year since 2003, plus many others. You really have to love the technology that allows connecting like this! Congratulations to everyone who did the SF Uni Tour this year!

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