Friday, October 9, 2015

Craziness and Serenity, October 7th-9th


October 7th
Our road takes us steeply out of the city of Huancavelica and up into the mountainside. We pass lots of little towns and villages. All the ladies seem to be sitting outside knitting or spinning wool in the sunshine. I guess with all the fuzzy animals around here there's an excess of wool.

Unfotunately the cute villages end and we are overwhelmed by road construction. Machines beeping, workers constructing, trucks going by and blowing dust in our faces, it seems that the whole road from here to Lircay is undergoing a complete makeover. We are stopped multiple times throughout the rest of the day waiting for machinery to finish work, and the workers tell us about the project. Apparently it started this past March and will continue probably for two more years. The plan is to widen and then pave the road. Luckily, the craziness of it all is moderated by the fact that everyone we see is so nice! We get a lot of "feliz viaje" (happy travels) and thumbs up.
Watch out

Construction craziness

Gorgeous reflections in nasty waters
Due to the delays, our ride takes longer than we expect, but we are able to descend into the city of Lircay just as the sun begins to set. Immediately upon entering town we find a perfect, cheap hospedaje and a restaurant. I wish it were always this easy!

October 8th
Waking up early we're back on the road and determined to conquer our big pass of the day. Unlike the bumpy, uneven road from yesterday, today's road is paved! Unfortunately, it seems that before paving this road they didn't take the time to widen it. It's so narrow that we have to get off for cars coming in either direction. Happily, once we leave the city we see hardly any vehicles, and the riding is tranquil and beautiful. In fact, I would consider this pretty much a perfect biking road: well graded, smoooth surface, no one around, and great scenery.
We take full advantage and make good time to the top of the pass. We're at 14,800 feet by lunch time.

Some of the only traffic. Check out who's riding on top: three alpacas

Classic high altitude scenery
Animals here are identified by the yarn ribbons which are strung through their ears.  All the colorful tags give me the impression that they are dressed up for a fair. It's really quite festive!

Feeling encouraged by our progress we decide to try and make it into Ayacucho.  It shouldn't be too hard, since there's a huge elevation loss,  right? (Ayacucho is at around 9,000 feet.) Things turn out to be a bit harder than we expect. There are a lot of ups and downs due to the topography, and the road to the city turns out to be about 25 km longer than the erroneous Google Maps indicated. It's 5:30pm by the time we get to the main road entering the city, with 13 km more to go. We don't have enough time to ride and we don't particulary want to ride on this narrow road bustling with city traffic. Rather than camping among the madness and insects, we decide to try our luck at hitching a ride. And success! In less than 5 minutes a wonderful guy picks us up and puts us in the back of his pick-up, delivering us right to the center of the city. When we offer to pay him, he says that all he would like in exchange is "amistad" -- friendship.

A bit of walking around brings us to the hostel where our friend Adriana is waiting to meet us. So wonderful to see her! We can't wait to bike together with her for the next couple of weeks.

Gifts from Adriana! (Peanut butter, couscous, chocolate, and pretzel crisps)

October 9th
Taking a day here in the city to shop, eat, rest, and enjoy.

Got cheese?
Route notes:

- Huancavelica to Lircay: currently under construction. A fair amount of traffic and a poor quality road in most parts due to the construction and mining make for a not-so-great ride. Construction is scheduled to finish with a wide, paved road in either one or two years. We heard varying accounts. Lircay is a legitimate city; the market is on the south side of town on the way out.

- Lircay to Ayacucho: All paved. Narrow but with almost no traffic, a beautiful ride. Big ascent out of Lircay, descent to Secclla, some ups and downs until just past Julcamarca, then a downhill to a wide river valley and a few more roughly flat kilometers to the main road, which is moderately uphill to the city.
The paved road, the 26B, is not what Google Maps shows it to be. It goes slightly north and is actually about 25 km longer than what´s shown, making it about 205 km from Lircay to Ayacucho. The biggest road in Open Maps is the correct main road. There are other routes, I believe, more direct routes, but we were not actively navigating, just following the pavement, and thus didn´t find them.
The last 13 km into the city are doable, but with no shoulder and lots of traffic, do not make for good riding. Again, there are other routes. Taking a right from San Martin de Paraiso, just before crossing the river to Compa├▒ia about 3 km before meeting up with the big road, appears to get you there on dirt via the northwest of the city.

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