Climbing 1,250 meters – down 2,300 meters
Thankfully no snow or gastro overnight, but it is bitterly cold – less than zero degrees. Trying to do things with numb hands makes everything take longer! Trying to get cold hands and gloves to work together is also not terribly successful. I am dressed for riding in long johns, long bike pants, icebreaker top, long john top, bike top, bike silk balaclava, hat, socks, water proof socks, thermal gloves, and I am freezing. Having breakfast and washing your plates is painful.
A number of riders are quite unwell and are going on the truck which looks so tempting I almost give in. Cathy became so unwell during the night she has a swollen face, and has had to be taken to a lower altitude.
I set off, it is bitterly cold and my hands are frozen. I was finding it hard to get my hands to adjust the gears. I would have cried if I wasn’t worried that my tears would freeze on my face. I rode the first five kilometres trying not to ride over my bottom lip, and finally my hands started to warm up. Then the next five kilometres I had the stinging as feeling returned to them. I am sure a black cloud was oozing out around me, such was my lack of joy to be in this moment! Then I came round a corner, the sun had come up, the temperature was climbing, and there were hundreds of alpacas. There were white ones, brown ones, black and white ones, and baby ones. They look so gormless when they look at you, it is impossible not to smile (Editor’s note: I wonder if their ‘gormlessness’ reminded Kaye of Benji 🙂 )
I sat and watched them for a while as they were crossing from one side of the highway to the other. The trucks and buses are used to them but there are a few close calls with the cars.
I set off again warmer and happier, still finding the climbing difficult due to the altitude.
I got to the top of the climb (4,515 meters high) and then a 9 kilometre downhill. Unfortunately I was not paying attention at the rider’s meeting as was too cold, and did not hear about the 7 kilometres climb after that –starting at 4,200 meters in altitude. Suffice to say the morning was the most miserable ride so far I have ever had. I had to stop about every 500 meters going up the 7 kilometres. Lunch is usually about halfway so expected it would be about the top of this climb, which was at the 57 kilometre point.
I had two attacks of gastro on this 7 kilometre and was pretty sure I was hoping to ride the lunch truck to camp. However the lunch truck was not at the summit. I was not too concerned as there was a downhill but then it started climbing again. I did a couple of climbs, stopping often and then thought I am hitting the wall. I checked my phone, the time was 1pm so I had been riding for about 7 hours.
I stopped and ate some Oreo biscuits that I keep as an emergency supply. Then I continued on riding, getting off, riding etc. I finally got to the lunch truck at 75 kilometres. Clearly the effects of altitude on the riders had not been factored into today. I decided not to discuss this at the time as I was feeling pretty grumpy, though it turns out a number of other riders had had a go at the staff about this.
Given that there was only 35 kilometres to go, and there was a lot of downhill to come, I decided to continue. When the first 10 kilometres was rolling hills and then a climb I was starting to regret this choice. Thankfully at that point I came to a huge downhill switchback, and then more downhill all the way to camp.
We are camping on a school soccer field. The school asked for donations of useful items rather than money, so we have bought sports equipment etc.
There were a number of children all watching everything we did with great interest, peering inside tents etc and wanting to take photos of us. Plus a few hopeful village dogs keeping a watchful eye on the dinner preparations.
Thankfully we are at 2,900 meters in altitude so it was a lot warmer than last night.
Dinner was beef and lentil stew, cauliflower, and rice.