We are three leaving Huancavelica- climbing steeply at first, and into the seasonal chilly afternoon rain characteristic of that part of the Andes.
Arriving in a tiny village after dark, Victor kindly offers his floor for us all to kip down on – I was certainly grateful to be out of the weather.

Clearer weather the following day – no respite from the mud, however. I’m not so used to this, but the hills are beautiful and the gradients manageable. The few people we do meet are friendly and welcoming .. amused I think by these faintly ridiculous strangers.

A welcome plate of lomo saltado (the finding of which was of particular importance to Cass) after a steep and winding descent into Lircay, and another mechanical problem. My rear wheel was noticeably further from true than usual – it turned out that the rim itself had fractured, and one of the spokes had pulled itself all the way out, leaving a nasty hole. Not an easily fixable problem .. but Kurt is a man of not inconsiderable ingenuity.

One of the holes that would ordinarily support a spoke and nipple was entirely broken- however, by using a bent washer, it was possible to house the spoke using the inner wall of the rim. This requires a rather longer spoke- in this case Kurt used a ‘trucker’s hitch’ to tie together two spokes and create a hybrid spoke of just the right length. Not particularly pretty, but more than good enough to get me rolling again.

The afternoon having been mostly consumed by this and other errands, we resolved to head some distance out of town on camp by the river while there was still light.

I wasn’t that far behind the others, but I lost sight of them while negotiating some roadworks and soft earth masquerading as a road surface. Somehow, I cycled past them without any of us noticing.
Thinking that they must have seen somewhere suitable further up the hill, I pressed on, and on.. up a series of hairpins climbing a steep hill. Nowhere for a tent, let alone three. In the darkness I could see several clusters of lights, and at one point a flailing torchlight (surely there’s a gringo on the other end of that?)

800 metres above Lircay I admitted defeat- the only remotely flat ground I could find that wasn’t made of rock or alpaca shit was directly under the solitary streetlight in a tiny village. Trying to camp discreetly would be folly in any case, so I pitched my tent, strung up my Peruano flag, and went to sleep. Cass and Kurt appeared the following morning, having imagined that I’d retreated to Lircay with wheel problems .. until they discovered my tracks in the mud.

And so- onward and upward towards Ayacucho, with an excellent view of the hillside I’d largely climbed in the dark.. a view I’d have ample time to appreciate, as it turned out. A loud twanging sound heralded the jury-rigged spoke and washer pulling through the rim. Closer inspection revealed many other fractures next to other spoke holes; I think I was lucky to get as far as I did.

Not so many minutes later, a motorcyclist appeared- I scribbled a note for him to pass to Kurt & Cass (somewhere out in front) .. and waited.
After a couple of hours (and a cup of tea) a collectivo appeared- I was on my way. Also on board was a doctor seconded there from Lima- also something of a foreigner in these parts- in the next village, he kindly bought me lunch, and helped arrange transport to Ayacucho.

Finding a suitable replacement rim in Ayacucho was not particularly easy- one with the correct diameter and number of holes was eventually located – built up badly in the bike shop, and properly by Kurt. I ended up staying a week, and had a chance to order proper replacement parts, including new tyres which by this point I badly needed.

I eventually headed out along a brand new tarmac road towards Cusco- making it 40km or so before my rear tyre burst. Fortunately, this happened in a small village- I was generously offered shelter from the rain, and a floor to sleep on.

Somehow, the tube on my rear wheel was forcing it’s way through the holes on the inner wall of the rim and consequently bursting – in spite of the rim tape intended to prevent this. I shored it up as best I could with more tape, patched the tube, and pressed on to Andahuaylas.

I had a decision to make there- I had to meet Olivia in Calama (Chile) on 01-Dec; there was nothing like enough time to cycle all the way there. I decided that I would skip ahead by way of public transport to Tacna, on the Peruano side of the frontier- that way I’d still get to cycle the Atacama desert, and if I continued to have problems, I could still hitch and make it on time. The mountains and high grasslands of the Peruano Andes are a beautiful and excellent place to cycle, though it can be hard to estimate how long a distance might take- both as a consequence of terrain and remoteness.

The bus that took me from the Peruano central highlands down to the coast passed several cyclists on the way, presumably also bound for Chile. Even the main road isn’t particularly busy. It’s rugged and beautiful. Unforseen problems caused me to miss too much of Perú – I’ll go back and cycle it one day, perhaps on my way to Macchu Picchu.

Perhaps Tacna is a lively, bustling town- but at dawn, it isn’t. I cycled out into the desert, and towards the border. I had seven days to cover the 650km to Calama.

(Images linked to from the text of this article are property of Kurt or Cass respectively; cheekily linked to with no permission whatsoever)

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