Todays ride was an uneventful 102K paved two lane highway which started with a 22K 1300 meter climb and then basically downhill until the last 8K or so up into the busy city of Huancayo. It was uneventful as far as scenery goes – we did climb to 4200 meters which is quite high before ending at 3250 meters in the city. I have been fighting off a bad stomach and a little hack. My little malady is making the higher elevations more difficult. I’m starving for oxygen as we climb, breathing heavily, and have a hacking cough which is troubling. I felt pretty good in the early part of the 1300 meters of uphill, riding with Toos and Theo and also Jan Wilhem all from Holland. Toos is a research scientist at the university there and her husband ,Theo, is on staff at a psychiatric hospital. Jan Wilhelm is fun to ride with as he has a good eye for photographic possibilities and doesn’t hesitate to stop for them. They chattered away in Dutch for much of the morning – at one point Theo remembered I was also there and acknowledged me with a “how are you doing Buck?” We travel in single file for the benefit of traffic and I was happily pedaling along in the rear of our little contingent. Reaching the top of the pass, we stopped to alter our clothing for the descent, then continued on the long downhill to the lunch truck at 58K. Walter, our driver, and Annelot our doctor drive one of the matching Bike Dreams vehicles and host a lunch for us at approximately the half-way point each day. The Dutch trio quickly left me as I’m slow and careful on these descents and they are experienced and unconcerned at higher speeds around the tight corners and oncoming traffic. We met up again at lunch but they were done before me and I then asked Michelle if she wanted to ride together to trade off leading and drafting since it was her first day back riding after being sick for a few days. I also would appreciate her help and her Garmin would make navigating some of our road changes along the way easier. Of course she was game and we were joined by Kristen and Hilde, the two Norwegian sisters who are on vacation for this trip from their jobs as nurses. The four of us got on our way and made good time with the slightly downhill paved roadways. Michelle and I took turns taking the lead. Drafting refers to riding behind the front rider(s) and having the benefit of not having to fight the force of the air flow as you move forward. You actually can stop pedaling for short periods and still move along at the same speed as the person ahead “pulling” you along. Michelle and I kept up this rhythm until we got into the bustling traffic of the city limits. There were taxis everywhere as well as cars, garbage trucks playing loud music, vans and other assorted vehicles but the one constant was the cacophony of horns beeping and screaming their way along with the stopping and starting, lane switching, turning and pulling out and into the flow. They can’t possibly have two hands on the wheel ever as the use of horns seems to be an essential part of the driving experience. Some sound like what we in America are used to but many car horns here have to be special order with their siren sounds or shrill screams. For us on bikes it’s tough to know if the sounds are important to our safety or just a nuisance to our ear drums since they are used so indiscriminately. Traffic in this town is really crazy and it was with tired relief that we finally pulled into our hotel for the night.
I have described Michelle for you in earlier posts as a very positive and outgoing Aussie who is fun to be around because of her upbeat attitude and friendly nature. I thought I would take a minute here to fill in a little more of her inspiring story. Less than 12 months earlier Michelle underwent a couple of surgeries and other treatments for cancer. She had been saving for a house and was ready to make the purchase before the cancer came into her life. The subsequent time away from her job and treatments for her disease got in the way of her financing so she postponed her housing purchase. As you can imagine, an experience such as cancer survival can dramatically affect your approach to life. Michelle decided to do something that would really make her feel alive again. She has always been an active person and cycling is far from foreign to her. A trip through the Andes on her bike sounded like the perfect way to feel whole and healthy again. She presented the idea to her doctors who were certainly taken aback at this young women’s idea of taking on such an ambitious trip after very little real recovery time from her cancer ordeal. But….they could find no grounds to say no. Michelle took the money for her house down payment and sent some of it to Bike Dreams to ride the Andes Trail. I am so impressed with her inner strength and vitality after such a life changing ordeal. I really have enjoyed cycling with her when it happens that we are moving along at the same pace. She is just 36 and is getting steadily stronger cycling.
For the next two nights we will be in bush camps and will again be traveling unpaved small roads – they are much more interesting. You find yourself closer to the real culture of Peru – the people are right there next to you and the scenery has been incredible here. I look forward to pedaling and am hoping to wake up tomorrow with the hack gone and my stomach back to whatever normal is. Wilbert, our Bike Dreams leader, told us this morning that our hotel tonight would be the best of the trip. I have a king sized bed here, an actual shower with liquid coming out of the hot side of the tap and an elevator to get my stuff up to the 3rd floor, Life is pretty good. Our next hotel and rest day will be in Ayacucho on Sunday and Monday.
Now for a little rest.