Well, today the scale tipped back to yeah, some parts of this adventure touring business are a pain in the ass, but OMG, WTF and you can even throw in a yikes or two. Today was 20K of down, 60K of up, 30K of down; 6,000 ft of down and 8,000 ft of up; five hours of climbing and an hour and a half of descending, on a smooth and brilliantly engineered road, all while surrounded by a combination of Zion and the high Rockies (but with another mile of mountain on top). All of my competencies as a cyclist—strength, endurance, will, intention, technique — were tested today, and I can report all are still intact. On a climb like this, the diamond focus narrows
until there is only the spin of the hip joints, the rhythm of breath, the balance of quads and hamstrings, and as the climb goes higher the desire to finish reaches epic proportions. You want to stop so badly but you can’t until you get to the top. Today’s lunch stop was scheduled with only 8K to go; the chicken soup wasn’t ready and so I inhaled a Coke and two granola bars and let the mountain pull me to the top. (Only five of the 13 riders ate there.) The pass was at 13,200 feet, and it wasn’t even named. Over the top and the other side is revealed; Abancay is there, 4000 feet below, sun glinting off roofs and windows; large portions of the road are visible, snaking down the mountain. Quite extraordinary. Traffic is light enough that the descent is undertaken alone (I passed two trucks and a station wagon full of corn, and was passed by a few private cars).
It’s a fairly big town, and when I got there I found the route sheet ambiguous, and I got a bit lost. Three words of Spanish, “Donde Avenida Arequipa?” asked repeatedly helped me zero in on Hotel Ozy Wasy, a definite upgrade from the Palace in Limatombo. Dinner tonight was in a full fledged restaurant, with a diverse menu, refrigeration and uniformed servers, a big change from our single choice dinners in the more rural towns. On the way to dinner we passed two guitar stores; I have a major music jones going on, but alas, on the return they were closed.