Mission Aborted

As feared, the Andean rainy season hasn’t been taking any prisoners, with the combination of storms, mud and high altitude making for some pretty tough riding. Limited visibility and constantly soaked gear can have a profound effect on enjoyment levels, and it prompted us to start asking ourselves that well worn question posed by countless bemused villagers: “Why are we doing this?”. For probably the first time in the trip, the answer wasn’t forthcoming. The white flag was subsequently raised soon after, we’d had enough and our plan to follow the spine of the Peruvian Andes southwards was brought to an abrupt conclusion.

A year ago I would have no doubt pressed on regardless, unquestioningly forging ahead in the ‘spirit of adventure’. After all this is just what people do, right? You simply suck up it. My perspective has evolved with time though. True adventure undeniably involves a certain degree of hardship, otherwise it’s basically just a ‘holiday’ and you start to lose the essence of it; the sense of accomplishment, pushing your limits, finding out more about yourself etc etc. But somewhere there’s a line that needs to be drawn and in my opinion that comes by simply asking yourself ‘Would I do this if no one else knew I’d done it?’. Alastair Humphreys used this as a basis to turn down an expedition opportunity and I think more adventurers would be wise to ask themselves the same thing…

Anyway, enough rambling, here’s how it all went down:

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After our soggy arrival to the town of Oyon, we departed in surprisingly good conditions. Things appeared to be getting off to a good start…

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Climbing up and up towards the 4920m Abra Rapaz the mighty Huayhuash range, the stage for our previous endeavours, came into view.

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Stopping to ‘admire the view’ became an increasingly regular occurrence as we struggled with the altitude and associated headaches. Approaching the pass the weather quickly turned and we were soon trying to shield ourselves from a barrage of pretty sizeable hailstones. Once over the other side the hail gave way to heavy rain and minimal visibility, as we shivered our way down the muddy descent.

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Having originally planned on pushing on further, we decided to call it a day at the first village we came across (Rapaz at 4000ish m) and sought shelter from the deluge. First priority, as always, a cupper. Having travelled for so long in the company of an Englishman, Sam’s now well drilled on tea making protocol.

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Awaking to similarly minimal visibility we delayed our reluctant departure as much as we dared, before setting off into the gloom…

 

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Plunging down to 3000m or so conditions improved dramatically….

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With the village of Picoy adding a welcome touch of colour to the proceedings.

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But as we started to climb we were soon back into the murky grey. Here in Parquin, the last village for some time, a battered Toyota finds a good use for one the many political campaign banners.

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Having stocked up on supplies we pressed on with the beast of a climb as the weather closed in. Before long we in a deluge…

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Slip sliding our way up the muddy track, with the drivetrain taking a serious hammering. At 4200m, shivering and with morale plummeting, we came across the first water source and decided to pitch camp early.

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In normal circumstances we wouldn’t have even entertained the idea of camping here, it was basically a steep valley side full of rocks and streams, but these were pretty desperate times.

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The following morning conditions were similarly dire, but coffee and eggs went someway to offsetting the unpleasantness of donning the same soaking wet clothes.

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Keeping your wooly socks dry for the end of the day is a task of paramount importance…

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Onwards we plugged…

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Stopping regularly to try and scrape off the mud. A fairly futile exercise it has to be said…

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Finally we reached the top of the 4900m Punta Chucopampa, by which point we’d resorted to pushing the bikes through the scrub land alongside the road to avoid the sea of mud. In true fashion the descent down the other side featured more heavy rain and a few meters of visibility, turning us once again into shivering wrecks. The prospect of repeating this scenario over and over for the remaining passes on the route (of which there are many) now held limited appeal….

When cold and wet up in the mountains it’s hard to believe that the sunny coast is really not very far away and a right turn at practically any junction will fire you down there. For the bedraggled cyclist this can present a bit of dilemma: straight on for high passes, mud and rain, or right turn for sunny beaches. That right turn was becoming increasingly tempting and after a one-minute discussion the decision was made and an epic 100km descent ensued. Dropping through such a range of landscapes is a crazy transition to make in one swoop, and after so long plugging way in the high mountains it was quite surreal to suddenly pop out into hot desert landscape.

From the coast Sam decided to bus ahead to La Paz, Bolivia to meet a friend, with the plan for us to reunite further down the line around mid January. It was a typically quick farewell, but the time riding together has been incredible and such is the intensity of bike travel, we know each other like old friends. For my part I’ve now returned to Huaraz on what can loosely be called a ‘business trip’, with the past few days being spent in the great company of fellow brit, Fat Bike Mike, and his accomplice, Flo, the Flying Frenchman. Plans for finishing the Peru leg are still being formulated, but with two days left on my visa, a bus is likely to feature at some point…

2 responses to “Mission Aborted

  1. a very miserable rough ride for you. You will miss Sam, hopefully your meeting up with him in January will be successful. Good luck. Sheila

  2. Pingback: Back to the Blanca | THE RIDE SOUTH·

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