We killed it 18 miles up a 13,036 foot dirt road mountain pass today. We’re still slow, but suffered no altitude sickness and took only a few breaks. A much better performance than our climb through Cajas National Park, our first 13,000+ foot pass back in Ecuador.
View at the top:
We’re camped at 12,417 feet, a new record camp altitude. We’re rewarding ourselves with coca tea and fresh mountain cheese (the very salty queso fresco).
Coca leaves are supposed to prevent altitude sickness. They’re illegal in the US, even though coca tea and chewing coca leaves do not produce the high associated with cocaine. Hugely hypocritical is the exception given to The Coca-Cola Company that allows importation of coca leaves, as coca extract is a key ingredient for the beverage giant’s business.
Today is Sunday, market day. We’re in dairy country. We’ve passed a few places where people have brought crates of cheese down the mountain for delivery to the village market. Passing these locations with towers of cheese waiting for pick-up really got me craving cheese. I stopped at one such place with the crates and inquired about buying some of this fresh dairy deliciousness. The woman offered to sell me a block of cheese the size of a baby. I had to explain that while I am a lover of cheese, I simply do not have room in my panniers for what appeared to be a 10 lb block of cheese. So she cut me a 1 kilo block (2.2 lbs). A kilo is still a lot of cheese. Queso fresco is a very soft cheese. I don’t favor the idea of carrying it around in my pannier for another day, so we tried to eat all of it tonight. We feel a little gross. If it wasn’t so darn cold up here I’m sure we’d have the cheese sweats¹.
¹Cheese sweats is a real, biological phenomenon in response to eating too much cheese (as if there could ever be too much cheese). Though when I did a google search, perhaps the best explanation for cheese sweats came from someone on Yahoo Answers:
Maybe you get so excited that you are eating cheese, that you can not control yourself.