La Paz to Cusco: The Mountains
By Checacupe we finally branch off the rail trail linking Cusco and Juliaca. A veritable feast of narrow singletrack, railway sleepers and dirt roads. 200kms of riding, hefting bikes across rails and occasional buskwhacking our way across fields.
Leaving the towns main plaza we branch off toward Pitamarca and the Ausangate valley, home to the mighty Nevado Ausangate (6384m).
Fast dirt roads take us through sleepy settlements gearing up for the regional and provincial elections.
Before we ride through Tolkeinesque middle earth landscapes. Deep red dirt and terracing.
Small settlements nestle in the valley below, with high contrast green fields.
Roads carved deep in to the hillside.
Llamas outnumber local residents in the villages we pass through.
Eventually the dirt road peters out. Taking us to the head of the valley home to a number of small agricultural settlements of Llama and Alpaca herders.
As clouds roll in, so too does hail. Finding a solitary piece of plastic we huddle under it sitting out the worst of the weather.
A series of herders tracks takes us to the tiny hamlet of Ausangate. Low cloud hanging over the Ausangate glacier.
Picking lines across the boggy pampa when the herders tracks eventually run out.
A cluster of small adobe huts scattered across the valley defines the hamlet of Ausangate. A cold stiff wind blows down the valley and with it sleet and snow we camp in the lee of one of the basic huts. Frost coasting bikes and tents by morning.
Our hostess treats us to a handful of boiled potatoes and then straps a sheep to her back and grabs a lamb by the scruff of the neck. Striding off in to the distance to tend to her Llamas.
Goodbye White dog. Having sat by our tents all night guarding us, he receives what seems like his first ever stroke and bit of affection. Pity I couldnt bring him with me.
Following faint trails we head toward the looming Ausangate glacier.
Before a heinous hike a bike has lungs heaving, and calves pumping.
Fast flowy trails.
Hanging glaciers over our shoulders.
Time to take in the views.
Quite possibly one of the most amazing places I have ever ridden a bike.
Abra Apachita way off in the distance, and more hike a bike to look forward to.
After a couple of hours we eventually crest the pass as once again the weather closes in by afternoon.
A Scottish style descent replete with drainage ditches and plenty of rocks has up looking back up to the Abra and the enveloping cloud. Just in time to miss the worst of the weather high up, we are treated to stinging hail in the face.
Traverse of the Ausangate range complete. We ride on to the town of Tinqui at the road head. Cusco just 100kms away.