Not classy enough, I guess; the glasses broke in half when I tried to put them on with one hand. Fortunately Dan had an extra. Thanks you Dan! A 7000 ft day today: the entire day was pretty much uphill. The road continued up the river valley for 30 K, then turned into a steeper set of switchbacks taking us up another 3000 feet, where we entered the altiplano, or high desert. The road ran flat for just a bit, but then turned upward again, topping out at 14,800 before dropping down in to Pampamarca at 14,000.
I started slowly, but built up more power and felt great to lunch, spinning strongly in just the right gear. The afternoon was
a lazy spin, There was no need to hurry, as Pampamarca had nothing to see, and so I immersed myself in a landscape that became more desolate as we rode. I lazed about at at the rest stop at the toll station at 13,500 feet and abserved the alpacas, lensed the llamas, visioned the vicunas (Hopefully I won’t have to return my MFA for that sentence). The town, maybe 30 or 40 buildings strung out on both sides of the road, is situated in a monochromatically colored valley, a stop along the road for truckers, and
a supply post for the surrounding alpaca herders. Rather than repeat 2012’s rather hardy experience, we were lodged at a newly-built government guest house; rather than cook our own food, a restaurant had opened that, under Clara and Viorica’s management, prepared an absolute feast which we devoured while listening to Reggae and Classic Rock on Direct TV. Cell phone reception: four bars. Go figure. Cell phones seem as ubiquitous here as in Lima, or Los Angeles; dusty roadside stores offer batteries, sim cards and connection plans.
There’s a lot of discussion in the group about what it would be like to grow up here, in cold high desert of Peru, but it has to be changing as rapidly as everywhere else. The very funky restaurant had one light bulb in the middle of the room and a 55” color screen with Direct TV. The concept of “third world country” is obsolete; instead there are pockets of poverty within countries but modern commercial life is available everywhere.
I had another interesting experience, trying to sleep at 14,000 ft. Every time I would settle, have my breathing regularize, and seemingly be ready to nod off, my eyes would open; I’d feel a clutching in my chest, an anxiety in my heart. I think this was my body’s response to the lack of air, and it actually built into enough of an anxiety that I got up and dressed at 12:45 am (it was under 30 degrees Fahrenheit) and used those four bars to call my beloved wife. Pacing, we worked it out in the call, and I was able to get back into bed and knock off four hours uninterrupted. I was told the next morning that there is a condition called “Stoke’s Breath” which my symptom matched exactly, but I haven’t had good enough Internet to look it up yet.