Peru humbled me over and over and over again. I knew traveling through these high regions in rainy season would be tough, but I didn't anticipate all the other challenges. Major mechanical issues, two bad bouts of food poisoning, a crazy bull, to name a few. Were it not for some of the most spectacular scenery we've seen in the Americas and the most fun roads, I would have dropped to the coast and sped through Peru to escape the seemingly constant obstacles. The highs were high and the lows were low. If you graphed my emotions, the profile might have been nearly as crazy as the elevation profile (and likely had an inverse relationship). But we made it through! And now we're on flatter, easier, faster ground in Chile.
Yesterday, we met Lucy and Wombat (@tanglesandtail) walking on the road. The moment I saw Lucy, I knew she was on her way to Alaska. We were just north of the Peru-Chile border on a rather bleak stretch of pavement at the northern end of the Atacama Desert (the driest place in the world save Antarctica). It reminded me of a time in Wyoming when we encountered a cyclist heading north from Argentina in the middle of the similarly devoid of life Red Desert. We have had four encounters with cyclists on this trip headed north from our destination, the bottom of Argentina, and to our start, the top of Alaska. This was our first with someone walking. It's a special meeting because it's a sign that what's ahead can be done, and you also just have so many stories and tips to trade. All at once, the world feels both grand and small. Lucy has been walking for two years, and we have been cycling for ten months. But at the same time, we saw a woman walking well over ten thousand miles from her destination in the middle of a place you've never heard of, and we knew where she was headed and instantly connected with her.
We're finally getting back on the road today after over a week of resting and eating everything in sight. Oh yeah, there was a big volcano hike too that required some more rest... While we had hoped to spend a few days in Arequipa anyway, we had to lengthen our stay to wait on a new fork from the US for Devon. We hadn't noticed anything wrong, but as we descended into Arequipa after a long and challenging remote stretch, we bumped into some other touring cyclists for the first time in months. As we exchanged stories from the road, and one of the cyclists looked over our bike setups, he noticed a crack in Devon's fork. On closer inspection, it was nearly cracked in half. We had just been descending pavement on the way into town at up to 40 miles per hour. Yikes. We took the delay as a blessing in disguise. We're starting to miss more and more familiar things from home, so it's great to have a little extra time to recharge in a city with luxuries like comfy beds and craft beer. We've become regulars at @chelawasi.😁🍺
I think we finally found the top of the world. Volcano Misti towers over Arequipa at 19,100 feet, peeking over the tops of the historic architecture from nearly every alley of the city. It just begs you to find a way to the snow-capped peak. We might have been a bit overconfident in our acclimatization when we decided to climb it in one day (starting in the middle of the night). We're now pretty comfortable at over 16,000 feet, and we've certainly got good endurance. But as usual, things didn't go quite as planned. We made a wrong turn on the descent when trying to avoid a sketchy snow section, and our hiking adventure turned into quite a long one. But we saw a whole lot of that volcano and its black ashy soil valleys which transitioned through a remarkable range of ecosystems in the 10,000 vertical feet we covered. Maybe next time we'll hire a guide? By the time our sore legs recover, we'll probably only remember the views and forget our colossal mistake.
Sometimes it's hard to find enough snacks for during the day while we're on these remote sections. When we find a little tienda, we buy all the packaged cookies we can squeeze into nooks and crannies on our bikes. Those are usually the only ready-to-eat foods available, besides maybe some stale bread and soda. We usually share a 2.25L Coca Cola right then and there. Our soda consumption is off the charts these days! We inevitably run through our cookies in less than 2 days and are hungry between cooking meals. At one of those snack-less moments, I was climbing what seemed to be a never ending hill. Already starving, I decided when I reached the top where Devon would probably wait, we would need to stop and cook lunch. I was out of gas. I came around a bend thinking I was almost at the pass, but I was crushed to see that the hill kept going. Hunger is never good for my morale, and I just couldn't see how I was going to finish that climb without a little fuel. Right then, a mineworker pulled up in a truck and handed me a plastic bag with a piece of bread and a granadilla fruit. I thanked him profusely and shoved the bread into my mouth, saving the fruit for Devon at the top. As much as the few calories gave me the boost I was desperate for, it was really the encouragement of receiving help from one of the few people I saw that day that got me to the top of the hill. You might remember that this exact thing happened on the Dalton Highway in Alaska when we were also very hungry. The snacks on offer have changed, but there seem to be good people who want to help everywhere.