Monday, July 9, 2012

Short Pants and Loooonnnng Socks…

And other high altitude, cold weather, survival innovations.

P1040798 - Blog

The ride from Nasca to Cusco was so far the most challenging section of the trip for us.  It took 10 riding days for us to cover 650km.  In those 10 days we climbed over 12 500 vertical metres (40 010ft or 1.5 Mt. Everests).

Jenn on the climb up from Nasca.

The climb from the coast to the first 4000m+ pass was hot, dry and full of switchbacks.  It took almost two full days of pedalling to cover 95km.

Another consideration for this section was that the riding was a lot more remote.  Much of it was over 4000m in the pampa (grassland) covered Peruvian altiplano with nothing but camelids for company.



A fine, warm looking member of the alpaca species.


Vicunas are an undomesticated relative of the llama.

The remote environment meant we had to be a lot more self-sufficient, carrying enough food for several days and putting to the test our new water collection and treatment methods.

Duct tape bucket.

Jenn made this nifty, roughly 5L, water bucket in Lima with about $1 worth of duct tape and zap straps and a left over shoulder strap.

We use the bucket mostly for retrieving water from streams before using our recently purchased MSR water filter to purify and transfer it to a camel bag for transport.  Other uses include clothes washing and holding heated water for sponge bathing when it’s really cold and an unheated water bottle just won’t cut it.


Our highest camp of the trip at 4300m made for some great sunset views…

But man is it cold that high up.  Thankfully we were aware of the negative temps awaiting us and did some preparation beforehand.  The most beneficial item added to the kit list had to be the Thermos’ we purchased in Lima.  The tricky (but not without a solution) part was finding a convenient way to carry them:

Zap straps, a ski strap, cardboard, duct tape and some manipulation of an existing water bottle carrier  together create a perfect spot on Dave’s large frame for 1L of hot beverage heaven.


Jenn, her frame being too small for this method, resorted to reinforcing (with you guessed it: duct tape and zap straps) the included Thermos carrying pouch and attaching it to the back of her pannier.

Dividing the high altitude sections were cruel and steep but beautiful descents  into (and subsequent ascents out of) stunning river valleys.









Jenn climbing 30km from Abancay and you can still see the city below.

This area also presented a whole different ball game when it came to finding a hidden campsite.  There weren’t many, so…


You take what you get.  Even if it means a little prickly bike mountaineering.


And sometimes you make it your own by creating rock walls and other features to decrease conspicuousness and increase comfort.


That’s right, we’re a couple of real cycling ninjas.  We could be hiding anywhere.

Although this area was difficult and remote, we definitely weren’t the only ones on it.  Highway 26 is a major thoroughfare from the coast to Cusco.








These friendly folks stopped to give                        Javier, from Argentina.  The
   us some fruit, a hot commodity in                           first cyclist we’ve seen in
                   these parts.                                                             awhile.

It was a huge moment for us to finally arrive in Cusco: long awaited and hard fought.  It is hard to believe that after 10 months of pedaling we have arrived at a destination always thought of as being so far in the future.  Going along with the nature of the trip, there is never a dull moment, and now we are preparing for our 4:30am departure tomorrow for a 5 day trek to Machu Picchu.

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