Leaving Caylloma we were treated to a smooth road, gentle climbing and a calm bluebird day, who could ask for anything more. An older local woman walking the road did pass us on part of the climb (our excuse was having to stop for some roadworks and she took a shortcut!). Climbing up on to the plateau that lead to the 4800m pass, we got the morning wind in our faces and the road surface turned to crap, hmmmm. The rest of the day was a bit of a battle and we pulled into Tolconi stuffed. The brew of two minute noodles at the only accommodation in the village, revived us. These small villages aren’t on electricity so an hour or two of electric lights at night comes from a generator or solar charged battery.
Next day, another high pass and views of Peru’s second highest peak Coropuna (6425m) and on the rough descent to Arcata the terrain suddenly changed from the open pampas to smaller more defined catchments. The larger village of Arcata was set on a small lake, with Coropuna in behind. We stayed in the mine-owned ‘hotel’ and had a comfy night there. There were no dining places open so we were told to turn up at a particular house at 6 for dinner. Knocking on the door we were not sure what to expect. As it turned out we had a great meal cooked by three teenage siblings, with some nice music backing. The joy of random events.
Seven km up the road is Mina Arcata, a large silver mine that employs 2000. We had to sign in and wait for permission to bike thru. Mining is huge in the highlands of Peru. Many are overseas owned, but employs many Peruvians (dido -drive in, drive out-not fifo like in Western Aus. ) and provides the network of roads we were enjoying. The local villages are also doing OK out of it. It also means the village businesses are run by the woman, as the men are working away. The first km out of the mine was the steepest we’d encountered and had us in oxygen debt.
It was a stunning climb up to the 5100m Abra Arcata where I was molested by an over friendly 1 yr old pup and we had to make a fast descent so it didn’t follow. We had a similarly spectacular (and in places very rough) 12km descent to a campsite at 4600m. Water bottles kept inside the tent got a bit crunchy overnight but we slept warm.
The biking the next day to Cullipampa was one of the nicest with regards views, road surfaces and lack of wind – the photos tell the story. We had enjoyed the day but we pulled into the wee village at a health low point, jo with developing chest infection and Alan with the runs. In the very basic accommodation I thought with all my trips in Asia I had seen bad toilets but this one did take the prize. Time to raid the first aid kit of antibiotics..