DAY 655 - THE ROAD TO VOLCÁN TICSANI
Day 655 - Salinas Moche, Peru - 13373 km
After 4 weeks of almost no cycling I leave Arequipa. The first days will be a lot of climbing, until I’ll be on the altiplano where the road stays above 4000m for most of the time. I’m headed first to Volcán Ticsani, which I am planning to climb. After that it’s straight to La Paz, the capital of Bolivia.
The altiplano is the high plateau where the Andes is at its widest. It stretches from the south of Peru, into Bolivia to the northern parts of Argentina and Chili. It’s the largest plateau outside Tibet. The landscape is dry and arid, and population is sparse. Getting food and water requires careful planning.
I’m slow the first days. The body has to get used to cycling again and the bike feels heavy from the extra clothes and some souvenirs, but mainly water and food that adds to extra weight. I’m also not shipping luggage ahead which I did on some routes in Ecuador and Peru. From Arequipa the roads climbs from 2300m. I set first camp at 3700m not far from the road. A perfect altitude to acclimatise for the altiplano. I cook dinner in the afternoon sun and celebrate the end of the rain season (there’s a couple of weeks until it’s officially dry, but I’m trying my luck).
Day 2 is hard. I get up early at 5, while a thick moon sets on Arequipa. The climb gets steeper and the road rough. It’s an uneventful day, I’m in my head the entire day as I watch the gravel move underneath me. The view over the valley and volcán Misti evolves slowly as I get up higher at a slow pace of about 7 km/h. I just lost phone connection. Now it’s just me and the road. I miss Arequipa and Cecilia. I miss the good food, the nice restaurants, going out for coffee on a work day. I miss hanging out with other people. I miss internet, social media, youtube — stupid things to enjoyably waste time. I miss all the distractions.
Day 3 I wake up at a perfect camping spot. My tent is just over a little ridge so people can’t see it and it provides a good shelter from the unforgiving winds on the altiplano. There’s a water stream which is great for washing, cooking, brushing teeth. Especially here, water is scarce and usually need to be carried on the bike. If there’s also a great view it ticks all boxes. That day I climb up to 4750 meter. I’m not well acclimatised yet, so I have to stop often too catch breath. Then a canyon, the only time I dip below 4000m. The downhill ride is endless. It’s a lot warmer in the canyon, with exotic vegetation and cacti that grow sweet red fruit. It takes me an entire day to get out of the canyon again, where I only cycle 17km and climb 1200m. It’s a big difference with the lower altitudes, where I can cover much more.
I don’t have to tell anything about the landscape, the photos speak for themselves. It’s a serene and deserted beauty all around. The only thing I can’t capture is the incredible silence you hear when you stop, and the grinding through the gravel shuts off. There is nothing out here, I see maybe five cars in an entire day. Sometimes it drives me a bit crazy, then I have to take a break, make some tea and put up some music. It transport me to other places that feel familiar.
After a few days my mindset gets more postive. I get used to the quietness and being alone again. I’m longing to be ahead. The cycling is very tough at these altitudes, but now and then I go through a landscape which is deeply breathtaking, with strange colours and minimal vegetation, something I’ve never seen before.