Having witnessed the seemingly endless deserts around Nazca both on the bus and from the air, I elected to follow a different road- striking out eastward from Lima on the Carretera Central.
The road climbs smoothly but relentlessly – a long grind back up to almost 5000m.

The first day out I was passed by many lycra warriors – serious faces and lightweight bikes. Almost to a man, they cheered me on as they zoomed past in the opposite direction a little later.

Fernando -a fellow cyclist living close to a place where I was again repairing a puncture- offered his garden as a place to camp, fed me, gave me advice about the road ahead, and even gave me a Peruano flag to display (though I think it would take more than that for me to be mistaken for a local).

It took longer than it perhaps should have done to climb all the way – as impressive as the scenery was the railway woven into the landscape. Many switchbacks and bridges- in some places the track disappears into tunnels at both ends of a bridge.
At long last I climbed into the clouds and the highest point – Ticlio at 4818m. Minimal visibility, freezing rain, and rarified air. It didn’t take long to roll down to La Oroya. There are two huge mines on the way- Copper, gold, and molybdenum amongst other things. La Oroya is filled with people from all corners of the globe- many of them in overalls, high-vis jackets, and steel capped boots. The central highlands are home to both natural wonders and heavy industry on a large scale.

A gentle descent (for the most part) over the next 125km to Huancayo – the rain at least wasn’t frozen. I was flagged down a short distance outside Huancayo by Karim, a lawyer for one of the mines, and once again offered a place to stay. I ended up staying several days- visiting nearby lagunas, a trout farm (local trout is .. excellent), the bustling markets of Huancayo, and going dancing at Wanka Wanka. As ever, I am humbled by the generosity of people offering hospitality to cyclists they find on the road in the middle of nowhere.

The line from Lima to Ticlio doesn’t carry passenger services – but it is possible to catch a train from Huancayo to Huancavelica. A different way to that which I was intending, but I promised myself I’d catch an Andino train at least once. Six hours and ~120km later, we rolled into Huancavelica. It’s a tough business watching the scenery roll by, and not so keen to head out into the rain on an empty stomach, I looked for somewhere to sleep. I wandered into the first likely looking place only to find Cass Gilbert (last seen in Huaraz) and Dirt Kurt (last seen in Tumbaco, Ecuador)..

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