to Cusco 1

Today, gallos day, I rolled some dice and it didn’t turn out so well, but not disastrously. But the ride was another one never forgotten.

The day’s track
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Out of Nazca it’s back into the desolation
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We have a feeling it’s the last green we’re going to see today
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Further along even the cacti are hurting
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The road is pristine. Huge fun ripping through this environment on new asphalt
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It gets better. High-speed switchbacks through no-mans land with just the sound of Lucinda screaming in happy anger ricocheting off the mountain walls. Unbelievable. This is another time when riding solo is the only way
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Higher the switchbacks get very tight, down to 1st gear often. And they stay that way for 75K. This has to be a new record.

A little exposure at times to bring you back from wherever your head was at
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Imagine this. Or better yet announce to your wife that you’re shipping the bike to Peru whether she likes it or not
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Up high a solitary home. With zero annual water and no life at all you have to wonder, and until recently no road
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Much later we start levelling a bit at about 12,000 feet and there’s a llama like animal! Whoa, this is fun. I don’t know what anyone of these things are called yet. But that problem only lasts an hour
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And another on a ridge
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The road starts weaving rather than switchbacking and we keep slowly climbing. Suddenly the hills are covered in low brown grass. It’s beautiful
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Further along, up close
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Then a wonderful surprise. Low cushions of Raoulia. An alpine collector would go nuts up here
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Check these various cushions out. Like the famous Kelseya uniflora you want to pluck the flowers off when they appear so they don’t mess up the perfection of the foliage
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I see a big huge bird by a stream with the llama-thing in the background. I look it up later – it’s an Andean duck and they only live at these altitudes
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All these good things are a bit scary. I’ve got a 251 mile ride and I left the gallos stables at 11:00. I’ve got to stop taking photos and get hauling.

But there’s a great pond off in the distance a bit, so I ride to it
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Incredibly it’s stuffed with medium-sized tadpoles. I wonder what kind of frog survives up here. More research needed.

The llama-things poo in one spot. Millions of acres and they do it in tidily. (this was confirmed a few days later when I found out why)
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If I’m going to die of frostbite out here tonight I might as well take a great Lucinda shot. She agrees, but she can be like that
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Then we bump into a collection of buildings. Not what we expected. We’re in a park set up to protect the llama-things, which are actually Silvestre vicuna, or vicuna for short. There’s an awesome lunch spot in one of the 5 foot ceiling height buildings and I have a short chat with Anna, who’s been up on this plain all her life
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Her home and restaurant
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Off we tear
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The landscape starts breaking up
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Signs of life
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Good rock formations
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And we start loosing altitude fast. The road does it’s switchback thing again as we approach civilization. Complex corners. Great riding but 125 miles to go

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Then, a town. I’m amazed it’s not on my GPS Basecamp and we’re thinking about stopping here
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They have a nice fighting ring. I’d have previously assumed bulls, but now maybe it’s gallos
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A cool rock at the bottom of the valley hangs over a house
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Stop for a very quick bite
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Then off again, out of this valley and gaining altitude fast. The road stays excellent. Soon we’re high, 14,000 feet and it’s really cold
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Flat for a while then mountainous
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Peaks in the distance
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We ‘ve been moving fast at around 15,000 feet, freezing, and the math doesn’t look relaxing
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30 minutes between ETA at God-knows-where and sunset. This happens once in a while but it’s best avoided. So we hustle. As the sun get’s lower we start the descent
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In this pic the valley’s full of hundreds llamas, some white, some brown and white
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Down to a deeper valley
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And through a small immaculate village. Too small for a hostel
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Race through a gorge
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To the town of Chalhuanca. The information I have is that there’s a Hotel frequented by riders here
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It’s now sunset. I ask a guy where the hotel is. He says 10 kilometers down after a bridge on the right. Good. Off I race and it’s not there. Now the Latins hate to not have an answer to anything, so they just make shit up sometimes. They’re famous for this. You generally need to ask more than one person and compare answers. So back to town I go. This time I ask a mototaxi driver. He says more or less the same thing. I take another shot at it thinking I wasn’t being observant enough. Can’t find the fucking thing. Back to town again, it’s dark. I stay in a 40 solas dump with no window, no hot water, no toilet seat. Usually rented by the hour. The standard place you can always find.

Saludos
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