January 23rd to 25th
Waking from deep sleep, disorientation hits as we find ourselves in a caravan in the middle of nowhere. Then, after remembering the previous nights treacherous 4x4 ride into the canyon, we rejoin Arturo. He takes us to a prefab that serves as kitchen and canteen for the mining community where he buys us an cyclist size breakfast.
Time to get specific. Last night we arrived in pitch black along an unmarked dirt track, so we have no idea where we are. Simple - I ask the miners where we are on the map. Considerable discussion ensues and it’s clear there’s a difference of opinion… Worrying! Seems there are 3 opinions; 3 different locations are identified, some 20kms apart. 20 kilometers away in these mountains is the same as another galaxy, especially as there are no roads.… We might have a problem here.
Not knowing how long we’ll need to ride out, I guess we’ll need water - a lot of water. The (only) shop only has 1 litre bottles so, to be on the safe side, I buy all of them. I’ll worry about how to strap 18 bottles to the bike later. And how to ride with the 40lbs of extra weight!
We do know we are in the middle of this big area of the map. We know that a town called San Raphael exists because it’s where the tarmac allegedly reappears out of the dirt. We know it is roughly North and roughly 75kms away. We also know it took 5 hours in a 4x4 to do 75 miles yesterday....
Looking back the mine community is rapidly swallowed up by the enormity of the place...
The road is gruelling, and riding is further complicated by runaway trucks overloaded with tons of gold ore as they struggle against gravity with soggy brakes and sliding road surfaces. They aren’t really expecting other road users and we have a couple of near misses….
There are other obstacles in the road too - kindly laying bombs…
And with daylight, we start to comprehend the scale of this huge mountain complex, hidden to us as we arrived under cover of darkness…
Our lunch spot is just spellbinding.
Until you realise this is the route ahead! So far we’ve managed 10km (6 miles) in 3 hours and the water is disappearing fast. The clouds match my mood at this point in time…
And suddenly, after 6 grueling hours, out of nowhere a town appears. Not really nowhere, we’re just in a different place on the map to where we thought, but it’s a welcome sight as half our water is gone - the cycle gods are with us once again. A thrilling, heart stopping 400m descent, bouncing down a rock and rubble road and we’re in “Cerocahui”. With a huge sense of relief - we are back on the map!
Yesterday was 7 hours to cover 22 kilometers and it was a killer - enough to warrant a rest day. This terrain is TOUGH.
Rest days are spent hiking the mountains around the town….
For some, just gorgeous vistas…