Spinning upwards into whiteness, mud hurled everywhere. Ground saturated, movement possible only by dropping tire pressure and pedaling in an ever lower gear. Andean rainy season in all of its menace. Paul just visible ahead, a vague bicycle shape silhouetted against a background of mist.
3 hours of climbing in rain just light enough to make everything damp, find a stream gushing water and call it quits for the day. Set up camp fingers trembling, don’t care how much the ground slopes, will get in later and sleep contorted to avoid the larger lumps. Peel off wet clothes and open the drybag protecting the warm stuff, only to find it wasn’t closed properly, and that stuff is a little damp too. But less so, so it’s ok. Slide into sleeping bag and lie there getting warm, an hour and a half rest before going back outside for dinnertime.
Spend time in Huaraz and the trekkers flocking to the mountain city namedrop Huayhuash, that snowy peak filled range just to the south. The trekkers go out for a 10+ day hiking route there. Cyclists tend to spend some time kicking back and then setting out for Peru’s Great Divide route, a high altitude remote dirt road network effectively linking Huaraz to that other mountain capitol farther south, Cusco. But before you know it, you’ve spent a month staying put sleeping in a bed, resting from the exertions of the last leg and working on side projects.
A month off the bikes calls for a little something something special to get going again. Maps record a thin black line leading to a red one ending with a dotted black line offshoot. So theoretically a route exists, dirt roads to the start of the Huayhuash trek and after getting over a short section of trail, mining roads should link up the villages on the eastern side of the range before coming back west to the main Divide route. Uncommon sense says this would be a good idea, a bikepacking opportunity to test new bike setup iterations and a chance to explore even more of Peru’s back roads. The Divide route promises the latter too; in the mere year since the Pikes pioneered the route it’s well on its way to becoming a Panamerican classic. But the size and scope of Peru’s mountains means that however many cyclists ride through, there will always be more unexplored dirt roads taking you wherever you want to go. So Paul and I set off looking for some.