…posted about a week later than planned…
Riding out of Cusco, I was once again back with Nedo who I started this bike trip with. After cycling on my own for awhile, it was nice to have someone along side on bike.
and I swear we didn`t dress alike on purpose.
The route through the mountains to Huaraz was definitely challenging. On a flat map this section seemed a lot shorter, but due to the continuous switchback roads that had us either climbing and descending – the kms added up pretty quickly.
It was about 1,800 kilometers of high mountain passes, deep valley floors and some rough dirt roads. However this also provided, in my humble opinion, some of the most beautiful landscapes I have seen in quite awhile as well.
With mountain passes reaching 4,000 altitude meters and more, some days were dedicated solely to climbing one single pass.
By the end of the three weeks it took to get to Huaraz, we ended up climbing over 21,300 meters in elevation. To help keep my mind occupied and motivated on the hard days I started visualizing the altitude numbers in different ways:
21,300 meters of ascent is the equivalent of riding a bike from sea level to the top of Mount Everest about two and half times. Or to bring it closer to places I have called home in the past years-
* Boulder, Colorado: 21,300 meters is the equivalent of riding a bike from Boulder to the top of Loveland Pass about 11 times
* Pine Plains, New York: 21,300 meters is the equivalent of riding a bike from the base of Stissing Mountain to the fire tower about 67 times
* Amsterdam, the Netherlands: 21,300 meters is the equivalent of riding a bike from city center to highest point you can find in that flat country probably more than a million times
But enough of my indirect bragging about the distances we have climbed on our little bikes. The people we passed along the way was actually much better.
Speaking generally, I have found the people in mountain regions to be some of the kindest and most genuine people I have met on the trip.
These are people living in places where we are not only the only gringos, but the 1st they have seen in quite awhile.
But contrary to feeling vulnerable, because these are great people with big hearts, I have felt quite really safe here (and really tall).
But despite these people being so kind natured, I am still a Gringo and they have no problem letting me know here. Gringo chants are common with the kids and the adults also use it like it`s going out of style.
Often times the word Gringo is followed by incessant laughter, like they just invented the word. Most of the time it`s just in good fun and if not, I just pretend they are saying ´Amigo´ anyway.
The only thing I might slight them for is their lack of creativity and originality. Would it hurt them to throw in the occasional ´Honky´, ´Cornbread´ or ´Cracker´ whiteboy slang into the mix? These people need to put some more effort into their taunting.
As for other roadside attractions, we also ran into another protest/road blockade we needed pass through.
This time, the local opinion was that there was no way we could get through on our bikes without rocks being thrown at our heads. Stories about flying stones and boulders at anyone who would come close were common.
At this point, Nedo and myself were quite flustered about what to do and our hearts were pounding a little when we finally gave passing through the blockade a try.
With not many other options, we devised a plan for a sunrise mission to get through the protest in hopes that we would catch them sleeping or at least too hungover to care.
The 6am start seemed to work out as we passed through unharmed while the protesters were still setting up for another day of fun.
But honestly, I`m not sure if the early start was actually necessary.
Despite what anyone might dream up, these aren’t international criminals set on causing anarchy and violence around the world. These are normal country folk trying to have their voices actually heard for once.
For this protest: these farmers, shopkeepers and kids were just trying to keep a local university open. Sounds like a decent cause to put non-violent energy into to me.
Not only were we untouched, we were even served food while some protesters explained their cause and reassured us that their efforts were not pointed towards violence or hurting tourism.
However, as we entered the outskirts of the next sizable town, some people and the riot police seemed like they missed that point.
With a brief detour on some train tracks to get around the mayhem, we moved on with no problems and finally closed in our destination.
After clearing the final and highest mountain pass of the ride at 4,820 meters (15,814 feet), we had the opportunity to ride downhill through the Peruvian National Park Huascaran and into the mountain climbing town of Huaraz.
Due to some unfortunate family issues back home in Switzerland, this section would be the last I will be riding with Nedo for now.
As he will be flying home for a week and I need to move on due to time, we won`t be leaving Huaraz together but it was great riding with him again and hope to have the opportunity again soon.
Saying goodbye in the only way my little mind knows how – a petty bet with consequences of embarrassment was used.
Luckily, I am happy to report that I was able to avoid being the cyclist wearing Superman underwear on our last day of riding into Huaraz!
Life is good.