9/3/2002 Mud bath in the central highlands

I cycle now across the central highland of Peru. The mountains have not become higher here, but the valleys far deeper! There is hardly any flat space here, either steep uphill or steep downhill.

So I almost daily cycle a 4000+ pass and the same day cross a river at 1800m! Unfortunately I have bad luck with the weather. Already while crossing the first high pass it rains heavily. With the rain, the road got very slippery and so it happens, that I fall in one of the countless curves. Nothing happens to me nor the bike. In the night it rained a lot again and so the now no more paved road down to the river is a true mud bath! The bike & I look terribly dirty when I reach the river. As goog as possible I try to clean the chain & chain wheels, because now a long climb starts. The road fortunately is no more so muddy, so cycling is OK. In never ending switch banks the road climbs the mountain. Soon I am in the clouds again, where it starts to rain again. 8 1/2 hours I have been sitting in the saddle today and I got only 70km further... but 2100m higher! The mud bath continuous the next day. After a short decent I climb the second, even higher pass. At walking speed I then hop from one puddle to the next down into the valley to the next town. To be sure be be let in, I first wash myself and the bike at a river before town...

9/5/2002 River deep, Mountain high

The weather slowly improves and I continue the ride across this mountainous land. It is incredible, how many different zones I pass: On top of the 4000m passes there is the Puna, with it's coulourfull Ichu grass. Almost to that height, there are many fields of potatoes at which people work. No matter how steep it is. At around 3000m there is often a dense forest. Here the valley is very fertile and there are a lot of small villages. Further down, there are narrow canyons. Here it can be very hot and often there are many cacti. At the deepest places there are bananas and papayas growing, in the trees there are parrots.

Today it has been a hard day, passing all the above described zones and having gained over 2100m in altitude. I camp on a 4000m pass and the views are glorious! With the descending sun, the horizon becomes all colours! It has been worth every meter again, every single! The next day the road keeps this altitude for 50km: a dream world! I pass the Abra Huamira (4400m) and then descend to the city of Ayacucho "the city of blood" . Here the last battle with the spanish was fought, that brought independency to Peru.

9/9/2002 Above all clouds

The road from Ayacucho to Huancavelica is a true 'highway'. For over 150km it never drops below 4000m. First I cross the Abra Apacheta (4750m). Because of the oxides, the rocks are of all imaginable colours. On the way to Santa Ines, I pass Laguna Chuclacocha. I big, deep-blue lake surrounded by red rocks. Then there is the Abra Chonta (4850m). But still not enough, from the pass a road climbs even higher to the Abra Huayraccasa at 5059m, the highest drivable pass in the americas! No question I have to go up there! The road seems to climb a vulcano: red & black ash and green moss - incredible colours. The next night I camp at an altiplano at 4500m. It snows almost all night long, covering everything with 10cm of snow. The next morning I am cycling in a true winter fairy-tail. Everywhere are hugh alpaca herdes grazing.

9/16/2002 Mining towns

The last days, it had rained always in the evening. So the roads are often very dirty in the morning. Once again I climb some passes on bad roads until I reach the paved road near Huancayo. The bike looks terribly: everything is covered with mud. In the hotel, the bike goes to the shower right away! I cycle now on good roads again, therefor the traffic has become heavier. La Oroya is a typical mining town. No one would build a town here in the narrow valley, wasn't there the mine. At the entrance of town, I am greeted by a black monster - here they melt the ore. Although not along my route, I can not resist, cycling the Abra Anticona. A great scenery: To the right, there are beautiful mountains of rock & ice. To the left there are these colourful mountains. Here there are mines all along the way. In the valley there are a couple of nice mountain lakes. On top of the pass, I only had to release the brakes and would then be 130km further and 4843m lower in Lima! But I don't do this and cycle back to La Oroya. I come to yet another Altiplano and cycle for a 100km across the Puna, passing many mines again. After Cerro de Pasco the road plunges 2400m down to Huanuco. Here grow Yunca, Pineapple, Papaya and exotic flowers.

9/20/2002 Puya Raimondii

As if a 2000m climb was not challenge enough... Exactly the day, when I go back on the dirt roads, the rain starts. For hours I cycle in the pouring rain up the pass. Often the road looks more like a creek. But then, the weather improves. I pass many little villages, cycle through valleys and gorges. But the highlight follows on the last day: Crossing the Punta Huarapasca (4800m), I reach the Cordillera Blanca through the 'back door'. I camp almost on top of the pass at 4700m, just below a ice covered peak. What a glorious view! On the descent, I cycle through a true forrest of Puya Raimondii. That is a giant flower (!) which can become 100 years old and which flower spike can reach 10m in height! Then I reach Huaraz, the centre of the Cordillera Blanca, surrounded by spectacular peaks.

9/24/2002 Nevado Pisco

Just cycling past the Cordillera Blanca I could not. So I hired a mountain guide and together we are heading for Nevado Pisco. The first day we go by bus to the Laguna Llanganuco. Here we start walking. After 3 hours we camp at the foot of the moraine. Today the weather is not yet as good. The spectacular mountains are mostly in the clouds. For once my little tent has to be good for two persons. But the night is short as we start at 3:00 in the morning. In the perfect full moon light we easily find across the moraine maze and don't even need our flashlights. At 5000m we reach the glacier. Here we rope up and put on our crampons. What a day - there are no clouds at all! The rising sun colours the surrounding mountains in the most terrific colours. It is a varied, rather easy glacier tour. Short before the top, we have to pass a couple of seracs. At 7:00 we already reach the summit of Nevado Pisco (5752m) .The views are superb: Huandoy, Huascaran, Chacaraju, Caraz and many more. Actually I had hired my guide for 3 days. But at 11:00 on the second day we are already back at the road...

9/28/2002 Circuito Cordillera Blanca

In a loop I cycle for 5 days around the Cordillera Blanca. The first pass I cross in a 500m long, pitch dark tunnel. In Chavin I visit the ruins of the CHavin culture (800 BC). From the outside you can only guess, what the temples must have looked like. Most fascinating are the many tunnels and culverts inside the structures. On bad roads I then cycle along nice valleys and beautiful villages. On the Paso Huachococha I get snowed in one more time. The big mountain lake I pass next morning, looks even more beautiful in the snowy scenery. Back to the main valley, I want to go by the Punta Olimpica. It should be the 'Finale Grande' of the Cord. Blanca...

9/29/2002 Punta Olimpica

The first day I cycle up to 4100m. On the steep slope I try to put up my tent. The sight up to the pass is already breathtaking: In front of me is the 2000m ice wall of Nev. Contrahierbas (6036m). At night I often hear the thunder of falling ice on the glacier. Next morning it rains when I start! I am exactly within the clouds, out of which it slightly but steadily rains. The road had been bad and steep yesterday already and hasn't changed today. After 200m the rain changes to snowfall. Out of a Pickup, that passes me, the drives shouts: "nieve, hay mucho nieve al paso!" Well, I can't change much, so I go on. In many, many switch banks the road climbs higher and higher. From time to time, the clouds lift a little bit and I see a big, turquoise coloured glacier lake. On the last 300m, the roads gets worse and worse. especially the curves are very steep and often lok more like a quarry. In every curve it costs a lot of power to move the 40Kg-bike uphill. Then I am breathless for a while, until the next curve... In the snow flurry I can seen the top of the pass at 4890m, between steep rock walls. Tears run down my cheeks: Its exhaustion and joy at the same time. There are about 15cm of snow on the road. But on the other side, the weather clears up. What a pass! This is simply the only place, where there is no glacier on that ridge! As I cycle down the many switch banks into the other valley, Nev. Huascaran (6768m) comes into sight. The last hours I had asked myself, what's this / why am I doing this. But at the sight of this majestic mountain, all questions are answered...