Up 750 meters, and down 750 meters
Unless things change again, tonight we really are staying on a soccer field. I slept really well, probably the best since I started this ride. Regardless of the time I go to bed on a riding day – usually around 7 – I still never want to get up at 5am. Last night there were no roosters, no dogs, and it was not too hot or cold.
At the rider’s meeting last night Cristiano told us that Phil has now been evacuated from Loja and is in Lima finally. Hopefully he will make good progress and soon be able to return home. As expected with head trauma he is a bit confused, and whilst he can hold a conversation about having been injured he then will finish off his reply with “Now I have short day riding today, and I need to find my helmet and shoes”. A number of the riders are wearing orange (Phil wore lots of orange), and those that don’t have any orange have orange flagging tape on their bike or helmet, as a way of keeping Phil with us as we make our way to Ushuaia.
Today and yesterday it was overcast when we headed off and almost looked like rain but this clears midday and then the sun blazes down. Where we are staying tonight it has not rained since 2008!
One benefit of the short riding with no climbing is we have been getting to camp by midday. Mind you, it’s a bit disconcerting getting to the lunch truck at 9:30am. It also makes it a long time until dinner at 6pm. Most of the riders have a meal in between, plus the cook has been making soup every riding day since we left Quito and this helps bridge the gap as well.
Peru is hot and very, very, dry where we are. There are numerous dry river beds and the towns are all buildings on dirt. There is a lot of rubbish around also, not in the towns so much but in between, dumped in bags on the side of the road.
Today I rode about 30 kilometres with Mark and Nelson in a pacing line. Sort of like a peloton. We took turns being at the front pulling, and the riders behind get the benefit of some wind shield and drafting. I have not had much experience at this and find it hard to get close enough to the rider in front to benefit. Apparently I need to cut the distance I stay behind the rider in front by about two-thirds. All practice and experience. Given the shorter days I am pushing myself harder.
Where we are staying is a soccer field but thankfully not dirt. We are on concrete, but it there is no shade and it is only midday when I get to camp. The cloud has lifted and it is hot! Thankfully three of the locals have shops in their houses so we followed the shade from shop to shop. When I say ‘shop’ I mean they have a freezer with drinks and a few things you can buy, and generally will cook chips and eggs (fried or scrambled).
Often though it takes about 45 minutes from the time of order to arrival, and there can be some tension over whose order is whose. Also at times more arrives than what was ordered, but there is always someone willing to eat more.
It is one of the rider’s birthday today – Jos from South Africa – and he has organized beer, cheese, crackers and olives. There was a big container of crackers and cheese, and two of olives, but they were gone in no time.
As a couple of days ago, we have a number of the locals watching us with great interest. At the rider’s meeting we sat on the tiered seating at the soccer field, and we had a back row of local people who sat through the meeting, and watched us eating. They are probably going to have to restock their shops tomorrow as 45 hungry riders can eat and drink a lot between midday and 6pm.