Sunday, March 21, 2010

Andahuaylas to Ayacucho - March 19

We were underway just after 7:30am, with Petra back to 100% and a big ride ahead - 10 hours to make Ayacucho or we're camping somewhere remote and likely uncomfortable given the cold and wet weather of the past few days - and it's only 250km's away!
The ride out of Andahuaylas was a long, steep, wet climb over a semi-tropical mountain ridge on what is deemed by the authorities as an "all weather road".  Ruta 3S is essentially a one lane track connecting Abancay to Ayacucho with a mix of surfaces from ripio to dirt/mud.  Tiny villages appear out of the clouds along the route, containing lots of smiling, often waving locals in traditional dress.  There are no road signs, and we were "off the chart" as far as the GPS mapping went so I had numerous brief conversations at y's in the road consisting of "Ayacucho?" combined with a pointing finger, and the response of  "Si, Ayacucho!".

Over the first half of the day we picked our way cautiously along the path, peering carefully around blind corners with concern for oncoming buses, trucks, or collectivos (mini-bus cabs) that might appear - bearing down at almost uncontrollable speed.

The GPS did give us an indication of progress - by noon, we had covered only 80km's at an average speed of less than 20km's per hour, and a top speed of only 44kmh. We had no time for any kind of substantial lunch, and settled for bread and water beside the Rio Bamba bridge.
The Rio Bamba flowing fast and brown.

After the Rio Bamba, the terrain and climate change dramatically from lush tropical to semi-arid, but following the climb out of Ocros, we saw a new kind of landscape - high alpine plain with short plants and grasses and moss in unusual shades of gray-green, and lichen covered rocks.
The rain had stopped, and the dirt track was dry, allowing for some high speed travel - at up to 70kmh at times! 
 Winner of the "Most Unusual Plant" Award.

Eventually, we found ourselves descending into the Ayacucho valley, through the plains where Simon Bolivar and company inflicted the deciding victory over the Spanish in the war of independance.

We found a nice hostal tucked away in a courtyard just off of the Plaza des Armes, in an area of 16th century colonial buildings - had an early dinner and were done for the day!

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