After a surprisingly good night’s sleep – Sarah slept much better than I did on my first night wild camping in Peru – we set about the process of packing up camp. I’ve talked about this before on the blog, and those who have done a bit of camping or touring will be familiar, but this is a very linear process. There’s a sequence in which things have to be done, in terms of packing things away, having breakfast and preparing yourself for the day’s cycling. There are relatively few things that can be done in parallel and, as such, there’s a limit to how much you can speed the process up. You can’t just have your breakfast and throw the bowl in the sink to wash up later or put it in the dishwasher – it has to be cleaned and stashed away. On a longer tour such as ours, this can get a little tiring quite quickly, so you really just have to just put your head down and get stuck in – nobody’s going to do it for you. I read one long-distance tourer’s blog that talked about how he had managed to optimise his routine down to about 40mins (from wake up to pedalling away), but I don’t think I really ever managed much less than an hour on my last trip and, with two people, there’s always going to be a bit more faff. Plus, I’m not exactly a morning person (just to be clear who’s probably slowing us down here)! Anyway, realistically, an hour and a half is a much more likely duration, perhaps knocking on two hours if we make coffee.
We’d left ourselves a few gentle kilometres of downhill for the next morning, before we had another climb up through drier areas, some of which had suffered from fires. This also took us to the high point of the entire route, at a meagre 1419m, which was still a cause for (minor) celebration! From there, we had a fast downhill, again taking advantage of some trees for a shady lunch, before the hill petered out and we turned onto a corrugated sandy descent with a strong headwind. This was my first real moment of appreciation for our front suspension forks, having spent my fair share of time being rattled around on my rigid steel bike on corrugated South American roads during my last trip. It’s amazing what you’ll put up with when you’re ignorant! Needless to say, the cold drinks tasted very good…
After a short while on yet more sandy corrugated roads, we entered the town of Ojos Negros and found a small hotel to check into. This time round, the taco stand owner was able to describe exactly what we could expect from our order and we munched on a selection of tacos whilst the sun set and watched the townsfolk go around their business.
The next morning offered up an initially gentle climb, but this was followed by increasingly short, steep and eroded sections. Whilst you can do your best to power up these, sometimes the loose sand and rock means a total loss of traction and, once you’ve come to a stop, getting started again is nigh on impossible. Pushing is inevitable.
The reward, however, was a really fun technical descent that gave us a chance to put the bikes properly to the test. This sort of riding is also highly dependent on upper body and core strength, neither of which the two of us particularly had in abundance at the time, but it was fun all the same. The upper body strength is needed to control the handlebars at speed which, don’t forget, have many kilos of gear attached to them, whilst the core strength is crucial for balance at lower speeds and on the unstable terrain. It requires your complete concentration and, as such, it can be mentally draining as well as physically. That said, it’s one hell of a rush and when you nail it, the sense of satisfaction is all the greater.
The Baja 1000, an annual off-road car and motorbike race, shares this part of the Divide and it’s clear that the terrain takes a hammering from it. That said, judging by the various car parts scattered around, the terrain issues a fair hammering back!
We had hoped to camp in that next valley, but it soon became clear that we had made it to wine country and every bit of flat land was being cultivated. With a fair bit of time to spare, we decided to push on, increasingly late into the evening, until we eventually found a place to pull off, hidden from the road. Our only company was a pair of blue trousers that lay bedraggled on the ground. We were really not sure in what scenario somebody ends up leaving the hillside without their trousers, but didn’t give it too much thought and, having wolfed down our food, settled down for the night.
Having put in a big shift the day before, the next day promised to be a little shorter and, after a quick climb, we started to descend towards the coast, rolling around every bend, excitedly wondering when we would get our first view of the Pacific Ocean.
Disappointingly, we wouldn’t get quite the views we had hoped for, as the coastline was shrouded in a thick bank of fog! That said, it was quite moody and dramatic descending into this and the sounds of breaking waves assured us that the Ocean was still there somewhere!
The rolling terrain of the coastline meant that it wasn’t exactly an easy roll into the seaside town of Eréndira, but we arrived there just in time to avoid serious hanger issues and then proceeded to find a room to take our first and much-needed rest day at the popular Coyote Cal’s. Or, at least, popular ‘in season’… we had our pick of the rooms and so didn’t hesitate to occupy the “Crow’s Nest”, which offered us 360-degree views of the coastline (once the fog had cleared)!