From La Cumbre, I took a left down a gravel road, seemingly leading to nowhere. My suspicions were confirmed as it stopped before the edge of a nice freestyle descent. I found my way through the undulating pampa of Cordillera Real, single racks, no track or old double track for the most part following my GPX. Usually it was just a plough, or drag across the landscape until a road would come in sight, then ride to the end, before repeating the process over another pass into the next valley.
It was the first day back on the bike again after almost two weeks, I was recovering from a sickness like i’d never experienced before. Maybe from exhaustion rather than germs. It all started as a phlegmy, mucus cough, and evolved into crippling grossness, and sleepless nights due to endless coughing. It lingered, got better, got worse, and then lingered. Back in the mountains, I can already feel myself healing, pushing myself beyond my candy trail of mucus.
I pulled up for camp under a beautiful snow capped peak. Surrounding water sources were still frozen in the late afternoon. I seem to have become better at coping with the cold since the start of the journey. Bolivia’s cold is different as its a dry cold. Though it might hit -10C at night, it’s easy to protect yourself. I never seem to be without two layers, and sometimes sleep in my rain jacket.
I was surprised by a Bolivian Cholita, a mountain woman rounding up her alpacas and llamas. She spoke very little spanish, but asked where I was going and wished me good luck. I gave her some chocolate for her multi kilometre journey back to her earth abode hut down the valley.
Apacheta pass was a high altitude hike-a-bike, steep gradient, very slow, snowy and covered in loose scree. Even after leaving much of my excess gear in Cusco and shaving roughly 4 kilograms, it was arduous. I would push for 100 steps, before pausing to get some air back in the lungs. It was slow going, so damn beautiful. There wasn’t anywhere else i wanted to be. Cutting fresh tracks in the snow, I was reassured that I was on a route beyond the path of most.
Atop the pass, i was looking for a nice trail down, but it was predominantly scree. With no one else around, I decided the smartest option was walk until the gradient subsided and riding within my ability was possible. The harder high altitude hike a bikes mostly subsided, and gravel riding, with the occasional single track took over. The climbs relatively short, accentuated by the altitude, it was slow going, but the sights were otherworldly. Sporadic lagunas, lonesome pampa, coloured mountains and Cordillera Real, extending as far as the eye could see. Although sometimes tiring and testing, the rewards of traversing this mountain range are beyond what I ever anticipated.