December 3, 2015
Another brilliant day that is hard to describe. The sheer scale of everything here in Peru is indescribable. Photos just don’t do it justice.
Ian and I headed south from Huaraz (a bit late…his bike was securely locked in a garage — so securely that nobody could find the gentleman with the key to the garage). We turned into the Huascaran National Park again just south of Catac, and began the climb over the pass near the Pastoruri Glacier. When we turned off the highway, the temperatures were feeling a bit like summer at high elevation; probably in the low 80s. But we could see the snow-capped peaks in the distance.
A surprisingly large number of service station attendants are female. Pumping your own gas is nearly non-existant in South America.
Just turning off the highway onto the gravel road through Huascaran National Park. It’s about 27 miles across the park at this southern point.
As we began to climb towards 16,000 feet, the temps dropped of course. The only real complaint I have about my Klim Badlands jacket is that it’s necessary to take it off in order to zip up all the vents. Not terribly difficult, and I suppose it still beats the time it takes to put on a separate rainsuit if it starts raining. The scenery was no less stunning than Monday’s ride through the park further north.
I wasn’t expecting quite the temperature change we experienced though: when it began sleeting, I thought it would stop quickly.
At this point, it was starting to sleet.
When it started snowing, and accumulating on the ground, I knew it was going to be an interesting day. We crossed the pass at just under 16,000 feet, and stayed above 14,000 feet for quite a while. Heated grips are nice, but heated gloves would be much nicer. Heated grips don’t heat the tips of your thumbs, or your forefinger if you have it on the front brake or clutch lever. They also don’t do much to keep the backs of your hands warm. But I’ll certainly take them over not having them on days like this.
Eventually we dropped down below the snow and sleet, and hit the pavement for a brief distance. At the end of the pavement at La Union, we didn’t see any hotels that looked like they might have secure bike parking, so we continued on toward Rondos, climbing back up the mountain past some beautiful green fields and farm land.
Which is when it began to hail. Not big; just larger than pea-size. But at 30mph it still hurts. Slowing down helped, but the road quickly became muddy, and the pelting continued for more than 30 minutes. No photos here…it was getting late and I had no desire to stop in this weather.
We pulled into Rondos before dark. Rondos doesn’t even show up on many maps. It’s about five or six blocks long by about six blocks wide, with the typical central plaza. There isn’t really a hotel here. There is a small bodega (store) on one corner of the plaza, and the gentleman there rents out rooms, and has a small room to store the bikes inside (it only holds about three bikes, and there were three inside it when we arrived. He removed two of them so we could park inside. No idea where they went).
Lacking any other choices (we had planned to camp, but it was too wet, and looking like it might continue to get wetter), we took a room.
It looks better in the photo. Dirt floor, no electricity, but not raining in here. Oddly, the bikes were parked on a tile floor.
This was the first town I’ve been in where I felt uncomfortable. Everywhere I’ve been up to now, the locals have been incredibly friendly and curious about me, my bike, my travels, etc. No one in Rondos spoke to us. We definitely felt like outsiders and unwelcome. It was very odd. That said, we didn’t have any problems. It just felt different from the usual welcome I’ve experienced the past few months. To be fair, this is not a town on the typical tourist trail.
The next morning we continued on from Rondos to Huanuco. The first 20km or so was a dirt road used so little that it was mostly covered in grass. This might sound odd or made up, but it’s not: at one tiny village, I literally wasn’t sure if I was still on the road, or on the soccer field. One seamlessly blended into the other.
Just as I was about to snap a photo of Ian riding under this fallen tree, a branch sticking off the tree grabbed his helmet and threw him off. No damage. Up and rolling again.
The unused road eventually joined into a much more traveled dirt road, and we continued on towards Huanuco. Even the road workers patching the potholes on this dirt road were friendly, waving and giving us thumbs-up as we passed.
This is extremely common: a woman walking pigs or sheep down the road, usually accompanied by two or more dogs. At one point today I rounded a corner and a woman was leading two donkeys. I apparently spooked the donkeys before I could slow down and she just tossed the rope lead up into the air and let them go. They didn’t go far, but she wasn’t happy with me.
We arrived early in Huanuco, where we met up with Toby of Around The Block Moto Adventures. Toby leads guided rides throughout Peru, and rents and sells bikes (with a repurchase agreement) to tourists. He is a great source of trail and road information in Peru, and was nice enough to not only sell me a set of Pirelli MT21 tires this afternoon (it’s great to be back on knobbies), but he also led me to a tire shop that installed them for free (an agreement he has with them as he buys his tires there).
I’m planning to spend a couple of days with Toby before heading towards Lima.