Tupiza

No Comments Written by Tam on 10/10/2012 in Andes-Trail.



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212km, 2230m of ascent, on difficult unpaved, sandy, washboardy tracks, over the last 2 days, has seen us cycle through some of the most awesome canyons, past loads of huge cacti and some awesome rock formations, to what seems like the end of the altiplano, and now down to a rather green 3100m at Tupiza where it’s positively toasty compared to the last couple of weeks! After washing all the salt off my bike in Uyuni, it’s now covered in pink dust and mud again. Ahh well.

Tomorrow we head to the Argentine border and stop in a border town overnight (it has 2 names ? Villazon (Bolivia) or La Quiaca (Argentina)). I can quite happily say farewell to the crazy Bolivian drivers, but sadly to another hour’s sleep; and here’s hoping for good coffee, good steak, and good Internets!


Uyuni

One Comment Written by Tam on 07/10/2012 in Andes-Trail.



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Yes! We’re alive! Although getting this uploaded given the quality of internets here is quite the challenge. The last 7 days have been pretty cool – both figuratively and literally! My knobbly tyres are back on and there’s been a bunch of rough tracks.

The most notable stops were the bushcamps, at the “bus accident” where a bus crashed in 1998 and the shell of the bus, and graves of a Belgian, Dutch and Israeli sit beside the road; then the following night at a ~1km across meteor crater.

The third bushcamp was on the edge of the Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt lake, and the next morning we cycled 38km across the salt to the Isla de Pescado in the middle for lunch. It was a very rough surface (presumably churned up by the recent rain) and hard going, but an awesome novelty and felt so much like being on ice. Another 64km followed on a much smoother surface, following the route that the tourist coaches used, to the east of the lake and to a salt hotel where we spent the night.

Yesterday we did a time trial across the last 6.5km of the salt lake, setting off at 1 minute intervals in reverse ranking order. All just a bit of fun really – surprising how nerve racking it was! A final rough 28km and a huge nail in my tyre so a replacement tube, saw us into Uyuni for a rest day.

2.5 cycling days left until Argentina; 20 degrees South!


La Paz

One Comment Written by Tam on 29/09/2012 in Andes-Trail.



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The highest capital in the world… two days off after a few beautiful days cycling alongside Lake Titicaca with spectacular views of the snowcapped Cordillera Reals. Nothing too tough except for the mad downhill on a sub-optimal road surface, and many fast, crazy drivers, down into La Paz… which I might add was incident free this year (the previous 2 trails have seen such injuries as broken collarbones on this section!).

I meant to say as we left Cusco we saw Monique, Johan and Chris Brown off – thanks for some awesome company guys! – and were joined by Tim (Aussie cyclist), Michelle (US cyclist who was supposed to start in Quito but injured herself so only just joined us), Jaap (Dutch chef), and Alberto (Susana’s friend from Aruquipa, who joined us for 3 days of cycling).

Sadly Kees (one of the Dutch cyclists) has decided to leave us as he misses his family, so heads home tomorrow. As does Tim, who cycled through the Pyrenees a month ago with Bike Dreams, and whose farm and sheep need his attention more than the salt flats of Bolivia. Farewell to both of them. It’s sad to see them go :(

However we gain Paul (Anna’s Dad, who cycled part of the trail 2 years ago) and Bob (another Aussie, also known to the Bike Dreams crew), so hopefully some good characters to fill the gaps.

We now have a long stint of 7 days before the next rest day, and some of those are long and tough. Here’s hoping for good weather, good health and good luck all round!

16.5 degrees South so far!


Copacabana

No Comments Written by Tam on 25/09/2012 in Andes-Trail.



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Adios Peru, Bienvenido Bolivia!

We had an excellent hike up to Maccu Picchu, and then up Huayna Picchu, although it was steep, and those Incas built huge steps for people with short legs! Back to Cusco for shopping, eating, sleeping, laundry and then back out on the bikes!

We’ve then done 4 long days to climb up onto the altiplano and we stay up here for the next couple of weeks at above 3800m. I’ve cycled 537km and climbed 3493m in the last 4 days. Phew! We had a cool bushcamp by the Racqui ruins and another half way along to Puno (159km in 1 day!). 2 days ago we stayed overnight in Puno and took the boat out to the Uros islands (floating reed islands) on Lake Titikaka.

Yesterday afternoon we crossed the border and cycled 10km into Bolivia to Copacabana where we are staying for a rest day before 2 fairly short days (and a ferry ride) to La Paz for another couple of days off. So Bolivia seems sunny, full of road works, cheap, plentiful and has great coffee and beer. I wonder how long these first impressions will last…


Maccu Picchu

One Comment Written by Tam on 19/09/2012 in Andes-Trail.



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Woo! So 4 tough days: an awesome bushcamp in a Eucalyptus forest; followed by a 40km unpaved descent (then 20km ascent) to Abancay; a 118km day with 2459m climb, and our first major downpour, to a lovely hostel in Limatambo where we couldn’t all stay inside so some camped or bivvied outside in the gardens, and had cuy (guinea pig) from the local cuy farm for dinner; then a final short 78km, 1479m ascent (yes, I just described that as ‘short’!?) to Cusco for 3 much anticipated “rest” days.

So at 8am this morning we caught the bus for a scenic tour out of Cusco, past the Sacsayhuayman archaelogical site (Inca temple and terrace remains), through llama and alpaca farms, a fantastic buffet lunch, past Pisac (an old Inca town that’s still inhabited), visited Ollantaytambo and climbed the terraces to see the temple at the top, past the water fountains and channels, before finally catching the train up to Maccu Picchu station in Aguas Calientes. Tomorrow the trains start running at 0530, or the gate opens at 0500 for us to walk up (about an hour walk) to hopefully see the sunrise from the top. Some ‘rest days’ đŸ˜‰

We feel like proper gringos wandering around with our tour bus and cameras in towns full of other gringos, decent coffee shops, and stalls full of tourist junk. I also finally managed to get an Inca Kola t-shirt. However, it takes the fun out of bartering when the shop assistant responds in English ;(

13 degrees South… I learnt the other day that the Tropic of Capricorn runs through Northern Australia. Woah, that country is huge, and much further north than I ever imagined… subsequent research shows that we’re already just south of the most northerly tip, and even Darwin.


Andahuaylas

No Comments Written by Tam on 13/09/2012 in Andes-Trail.



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Wow, tough few days –

so the first day (78km, 5% paved, 1854m climb) was reported as ‘now fully paved’, which turned out to be paved for the first two thirds, so most of the climb, which helped. But the last 25km was an unexpected ‘unpaved’ new road construction full of diggers, trucks, girls with SIGA/PARE boards, diversions, and wolf-whistles. The works forced the bushcamp to be 7km further down the road too, which I guess took a bit off the next day.

The second day (97km, 0% paved, 1082m climbing, to Chincheros) was a similar set of continual roadworks, which prevented the trucks from passing except for a small window around 12pm and then again around 5pm. So we were all packed off to wrestle with the unpaved diversions to greetings from the SIGA/PARE girls again, with packed lunches and no expectations of trucks. Unfortunately, despite promises that bikes could pass, we ended up being blocked twice by diggers – the first we got through ok(ish) after about 10 minutes, and the second we were all forced to wait until 12 when the workmen took lunch. So it dragged out into a long day all round, and not the most picturesque set of roadworks ever. This was then compounded with our hostel being booked out to all the workmen so a last minute shift to different accommodation, dinner and breakfast arrangements made, is just testament to what an awesome and flexible crew we have :)

The third day (75km, 5% paved, 1540m climb, to Andahuaylas) was exactly that – some awesome rough tracks through woodlands, twisting around hillsides, landslides, through small villages, and spectacular views across the valleys. So my hands and arms are sore from all the braking on the descents on the rough terrain, and everywhere is itchy from the abundance of midges, but I really can’t complain – it’s been an awesome few days :)

4 cycling days left to Cusco! 13.6 degrees South… I should upload some photos, there’s just so many awesome ones to choose from, and rubbish bandwidth :(


Ayacucho

No Comments Written by Tam on 10/09/2012 in Andes-Trail.



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13 degrees South, an amazing hotel and goodbye to Martin in Huancayo, many km unpaved through some fantastic scenery, amazing valleys of funkily striped sedimentary rocky mountains all pushed up into creases, cacti galore, and wild-west style canyons, an interesting ‘bushcamp’ where we were asked to move down towards the town for our own safety by the local police, so camped on the site of a Hydroelectric Plant (and got a special invite to go and enjoy their local bar, table football and warped pool table!) near La Esmeralda, another interesting bushcamp on the rocky floodplain at the side of a river where we were all eaten alive by midges (despite the excessive use of deet) near Mayocc (also amazingly clear sky, including the milky way, and a campfire thanks to Ilkka and Didier!), and finally to Ayacucho for a rest day, a bustling town full of festivities and the ‘privilege’ of having a celebrity in the hotel and screaming fans outside.

The hotel even let us hose our bikes down with their hosepipe in the yard, and Col and Yol took a cacaracha (tuk-tuk) to the local grifo and got more diesel so I have a shiny chain and de-gunked casette and derailleur :) Delicious cappuccinos earlier, and alpaca for dinner just leaves us wondering about tomorrow and the next few days…

One rumour has it that the full (78km, 1854m climb, 5% paved) day is now paved, which should make the climb easier. Another rumour has it that trucks can’t pass down the road for most of the day so the logistics of lunch and bushcamping might have to be reconsidered. Another rumour has it this has forced a rethink of the route itself. All sounds quite exciting! Guess we’ll have to wait and see…

Monique and Johan are getting sad – they’re 14 cycling days in and have only 7 left to Cusco where they leave us :( Guess they’d better make the most of them! It will be sad to see them go as they’re great fun and have clearly loved every minute of their time in Peru. I often catch them up as they are capturing some of the most amazing sites in photographs. Can’t get too sad about getting to Cusco though as we are heading up to see Maccu Pichu when we get there!


Tarma

One Comment Written by Tam on 04/09/2012 in Andes-Trail.



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Phew! A couple of tough and long days, a massive climb up to, and a cold night in, Cerro de Pasco (the “highest city in the world”), lots of alpacas and curious vicuñas, 115km cycling at 4200m to take your breath away before a 25km downhill finish to 3000m for a rest day.

Our favourite Peruvian (well, a close 2nd – after Susana!), Lucho, was cycling with us for 8 days from Trujillo, but finally had to leave us in Huanuco so we had a great night out dancing to see him off :) Things have been a little quieter without him around for the last couple of days. Maybe things are just quieter because Ricardo’s girlfriend, Christine, has joined us and has had a major calming influence on him? đŸ˜‰

11.4 degrees South now and a couple of long unpaved sections coming up which will be tough…


Huanuco

2 Comments Written by Tam on 01/09/2012 in Andes-Trail.



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4 spectacular, but rather tough, days through the Huascaran National Park with impressive Puya Raimondi plants, a bunch more unpaved trails, 3 bushcamps – one at 4200m, the highest pass of the trail at 4885m, and a final 110km day with a 1200m climb followed by a rather treacherous 2000m descent. Back down at about 2000m now and feeling slightly better for it, although the late night drinking and dancing to see Lucho off left a few of us feeling a little worse for wear this morning…

The next couple of days are big ones – tomorrow is 120km with a 2611m climb, followed by 141km and a 863m ascent – so we will be having the next rest day a day early in Tarma.

10 degrees South now. Awesome stars from the high bushcamp – the Southern Cross isn’t much above the horizon yet though.


Huaraz

One Comment Written by Tam on 27/08/2012 in Andes-Trail.



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Another 4 awesome days through Peru, including 140km unpaved on my knobbly tyres through the rough tracks of the Cañon del Pato, running up the valley between the Cordillera Negras and Cordillera Blancas, gaining us a net 3000m above the sea level we were in Huanchaco. The two north-south running mountain ranges are about 16km apart at their widest, and only 9m apart at the narrowest, so above the torrent of the Rio Santa, the track sometimes cuts through the rocks, and the route passes through about 50 tunnels.

Lots of fun, a couple of cool bushcamps including one that offered bathing facilities in the Rio Santa itself, spectacular views of the snow-caps of the Cordillera Blancas, a ride through Yungay, the town that was destroyed by a landslide following an earthquake in 1970, and now a much needed rest day in Huaraz to clean the mud and dust off both my clothes and my bike.

Tomorrow we head to the HuascarĂ¡n National Park, and hopefully views of HuascarĂ¡n itself (6768m, the highest mountain in Peru, 6th highest in South America) and have 3 days of bushcamps and a bunch more unpaved trails. I doubt my bike will stay clean for long!