Scott’s version of yesterday
We were a bit hesitant to leave the comfort of the pavement yesterday after the rough roads we’ve experienced. Leaving the pavement for dirt was like leaving a toasty warm bed on a cold winter morning. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as hitting “snooze” on the pedals.
In my mind, I had prepared myself for the miserable loose dirt and rock combination we’ve been riding through. These conditions makes your back tire slip regardless of the tread pattern and at times the whole bicycle will slide sideways on banked corners for lack of traction. Sand in Baja California was easier to traverse because it was mostly level.
Initially, my fear regarding the route was unfounded. We were on a relatively smooth hard packed road. Almost immediately, we encountered an old lady in traditional dress who bellowed, “¿Gringos, adonde van? (Stupid white people, where are you going?)”
Satisfied with our answer of an intermediate destination along our planned route, she gave us an approving nod and a grandmotherly “Está bien! (It’s okay)”
We left Huamachuco late in the afternoon, making it a short day, which was fine since Sarah was feeling nauseous all day. We found a suitable campsite and set up the tent. Sarah decided to rest and take a nap while I cooked dinner. I decided to improvise from the food bag.
For those readers wanting more than a vicarious experience, pause the DVR and prepare the following meal.
Recipe: How Now Brown Cacao?
1 pot meal. Serves 2.
- 1 chicken stock cube
- 3/4 cup of quinoa
- handful of soy (textured vegetable protein)
- small onion, chopped
- medium carrot, chopped
- medium red bell pepper, chopped
- 2 squares of raw (unsweetened) cacao
- dash of dried hot peppers
- about a teaspoon of sugar
- about 2 cups of water
It started to rain while I was cooking and I woke Sarah up to help put the fly on the tent.
Returning to the stove to stir the pot, I noticed Sarah in the bushes, projectile vomiting, like Linda Blair in “The Exorcist”.
In retrospect it was most likely altitude sickness. Altitude sickness is an odd thing. There is no specific elevation when the symptoms seem to strike. The night before in Huamachuco we were over 10000 ft (3050 m) and we were only a bit higher tonight.
After Sarah expelled the altitude demon, she felt instantly better, had her appetite back and managed to make a significant dent in the stew.
The calico of the strip mines
Today was a record setting day for sustained riding at altitude (not up and over a pass) and our highest camping point to date. We started out at 11000 ft (3350 m) and spent the second half of the day riding over 13000 ft (3960 m).
The seemingly never-ending ascent made it a slow day. In fours hours of riding we managed to make a meager distance of 17 miles (27 km). Everything seems to move slower in the thin atmosphere and cold. Flies acted like they were drunk and hitched rides on our shirts or bags rather than fly. Our leg muscles were able to spin the pedals but our strength felt sapped.
It was our slowest day to date, averaging just 4.3 mph (6.9 km/h). It was also a slow day for traffic. The entire day we had only four vehicles pass us from either direction.
The rough and remote roads have their benefits. They are tranquil and often lead to brilliant scenery. The vistas, valleys and peaks combined with the altitude left us short of breath. Sometimes getting to the best stuff takes a lot of work. For example, it takes a lot of licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Tootsie Pop, unless you are an owl.
We ended the day camping with a backdrop typically found in a travel brochure, national park guide, or on a postcard.
Sometimes the natural beauty becomes part of the background and we take it for granted. A second look reminds us why at times we take the more difficult road. It always yields surprises. Today’s little wonders were blooming cacti at our highest camping point to date, 13225 ft (4030 m).