Huancavelio – Luancay – Mollepata – Ayacucho. 220km. (205km dirt).
2 gringitos, 2 bikes, 150 000 Peruanos: we’re arrived in the relatively heaving metropolis of Ayacucho, after another 200kms of blissfully empty dirt roads, minuscule pueblecitos, and a hearty platter of lomo saltado.
Ok. This last round hasn’t had quite boasted the magnificence and solitude of the Peru we’ve become accustomed to of late. But really, I can’t complain… Traffic has been low, locals have been as welcoming as ever… and we’ve even been blessed with a couple of full days of sunshine to top up tans and re-scald noses.
As usual, we’re roller coasted up and down, between 2500m and 4500m in elevation. Except that somewhat surprisingly, the climbs have been bizarrely gentle in grade – at least compared to the fierce mining roads which we’ve been riding of late. It’s almost felt… easy, dare I say that word in the Peruvian Andes. From the high, barren plateaux of El Silencio, we’ve now descended to warmer, dustier, sub 3000m climes: baking hot in the daytime and pleasantly balmy in the evening. It could just be a blip in the weather, but the pack of hungry grey wolves (rain/sleet/snow) that have been chasing us seem a long way away… While Cuzco is feeling, finally, like it’s in striking distance…
(Sadly, my Canon 5d Mk2 is giving up the ghost, and I’m regularly losing a bunch of shots. If anyone has any fixes for random corrupted images – pink or white – that require the battery to be removed to reset the camera, please let me know!)
I can assure you that Huancavelico is a truly delightful colonial town, with a distinctly laid back vibe (between rambunctious fiestas). But for all its pretty architecture, I seem to have only managed to take photos of cakes…
Who’s it gonna be…
Beware the hungry cyclist.
Cake(s) in the belly, we take to the (muddy) road once more. A late departure from Huancavelico results in an inevitable soaking in the afternoon rainy season deluge.
Thankfully, Victor comes to our rescue…
… offering us dry sanctuary on his floor for the night… (briefly, we are three, joined by Andy from Scotland)
My new favourite mural. I ❤ my bike. And llamas.
Two babies. One is just two days old.
The next day, we pull into Lircay, a bustling, riverside town.
It’s complete with all the necessities of life. Like a particularly fine rendition of Peru’s scrumptious Lomo Saltado: stir fried beef, chips, gravy, onions, peppers and rice.
96% Alcohol Pura (to be used for my stove, unlike the Peruvians, for whom it’s cheap booze).
2 hip flasks full costs 2 Sol (70c) – should keep me going for at least a week. Cooking, that is.
Bountiful bags of coca leaves, if that’s your preference.
Some fizzy, homemade Chicha – sold in recycled oil bottles.
Resupply. Limes, tomatoes, peas… and 500g of honey.
Unfortunately, while digesting our delicious lomo saltado, Andy finds a rather worrying hole in his rear wheel…
In the absence of a spoke that’s long enough, ever resourceful Kurt uses a ‘trucker’s hitch’ to bind two together…
… and a washer to hold the spoke nipple in place in the outer wall of the rim.
A little janky, but… Pleased with his work, Kurt brings the wheel back up to true. Will it hold?
That afternoon, we roll out of town to camp by the river, somehow loosing Andy in the process…
Morning sun. Can’t beat it.
Aha! Andy’s tracks!
And here he is. Somehow, he slipped past the campspot, riding long into the night… while looking for us…
We all work out way up the gentle grade…
… to a lofty 4500m.
Peru, land of mineral-pocked mountains. One of the many rickety mines tunnelling into the hillside.
Then… Kurt and I receive a note, hand delivered by a passing motorbike. Disaster has struck. Andy’s wheel has broken again, and he’s hitching to Ayacucho.
Cresting the pass top, a 1600m descent ensues.
Down, down, down…
There’s no stopping Kurt.
Lunch in Secolla. The Pugs is always a crowd puller.
The ramshackle church in nearby Julcamarca.
And its ramshackle interior.
In these parts, beautiful, ageing terracotta tiles adorn the rooves.
Late afternoon riding bliss… Not a vehicle in sight. And no rain!
Which was just as well, as this section of crusty road wouldn’t have been quite so fun otherwise…
Down at a lowly 2500m… Kurt prepares his wake-up coffee.
Seemingly a world away from the mountains from which we have just descended, our dirt road wends its way between thickets of ping-pong bat cacti.
Then, it’s back up again, steeper and sweatier this time…
… on a switchback climb to Mollepata, then Ayacucho.
Rewards for our toils. A mixed juice, crammed with cooling freshness. “I can feel it behind my eyes,” says Kurt with relish.
Accommodation for the night comes in the form of quirky and spotless Hotel La Crillonesa (check out the link!). We’re in good company. The hotel is littered with weird and wonderful statues, like this rotund and larger than life tuba player. Time now to kick back and rest…
As well as doubles and rooms with bathrooms, Hotel La Crillonesa has barebones but comfortable, 10 sol rooms. And wifi even reaches there! It’s a stone’s throw from the market, home to delicious bread, cheese and fruit juices.
Bikes shops: there’s several fairly well stocked bike town in town. Behind Hotel La Crillonesa (turn right, and right again) you’ll find a few, in Jr San Martin.