Pampamarca – Puquio. 103 km, 785m climb, 1715m descent, 4:45 saddle time. We spent two days climbing to the top of the world and it’s going to take two days to descend out of it. The morning dawned cloudy and cold, and after our breakfast of french toast we saddled up for 60K of rollers mostly between 14000 and 15000 feet. It was cold, desolate and beautiful. Scrub brush, occasional llama, alpaca, vicuña or a sighting of a small, evidently rare antelope called a pudu broke up the stillness. Villages were widely spaced; there were occasional shepherds’ shelters.

At the first summit out of Pampamarca, above 15,000 ft.

A feature of the roads are these roadside memorials, seemingly for people who died on the road. I collected a few, but as you can see they are sturdy, quiet, and lasting. note the flowers denoting a recent visit.
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Although the last few rollers got harder, the knowledge that there was some major descending coming buoyed my spirits, and as we came to the end of the altiplano (or so I thought!) I took a memorial photo.

120 degree panorama from the top of the last hill.

We descended to another chicken soup lunch at the bottom of a several K descent. It being PAC Tour, the challenge is never over, and we did have another fairly lengthy climb before we got to the top of the 35K, 4,000 foot descent to Puquio. What a blast! The grade of the roads are such that braking is only required in a few places. I was able to safely pass the two trucks I encountered, and so I got the entire descent.

Puquio from about halfway down the descent. A gigantic canyon extends off to the left, down to the desert, but tomorrow we climb two more ridges, beginning right on the other side of town, before the last descent.

Because I was off the front, I missed the one serious accident we’ve had so far. Bob, the strongest rider who isn’t Lon and a bike shop owner from Illinois, north of Chicago, suffered a rear wheel blowout while leaning into a turn. He hit the deck and slid across the road directly in front of a semi. Fortunately, the driver was going very slowly in the hairpin and was able to stop; Bob evidently came right up against his wheels. It was a near thing. He has road rash and a huge bruise, and his integrated shift lever was destroyed. Susan had an extra bar end shifter and a brake lever, so the bike was repaired. His injury treated, he rode well the next day, but the episode was a significant topic of conversation in the evening.
Being first in, I climbed several blocks to the Plaza Mayor, encountering a couple of kids on bikes along the way. I explained to them what I had done that day, in my pidgin Spanish. One of them rolled his eyes and the rode away. Sigh. No one understands us. Puquio is a small town, seemingly a market and transit town, and one not accustomed to tourists; our party of 14 needed to try three restaurants before we found one that could accommodate us. I ordered, and mostly ate, half a chicken. Brent and I were in a 4th floor walkup—definitely the hardest climb of the day!

Thanks for reading.

Day Five