We had stayed the night in Melgar, a touristic spot filled with hotels and resorts, a friendly fellow saw us biking in and gave us a really good rate at one of the hotels off the main road. The morning forced a decision as to which of two route options to take. In Carmen de Apical we spoke to some tuk-tuk drivers who told us the mountain route to Cunday was paved, and the “flatter” route was dirt. We opted for the dirt road to Suarez. The first 20k were nice, through forests with great views of the mountains. Then we came to a fence and were told that a mountain followed: “up up up up, down down down down” we were told. It was a hiking trail, but we’d seen a man pass us on a horse. I said “if a horse can do it, we can do it”. Well who’d have thought horses were so tough.
The problem is we hadn’t really looked at our map. We just briefly saw a route on Google earth but neglected to check the contour lines and the tuk-tuk drivers said the route was 80% flat. What followed was a steep estimated 50% grade of a trail with no possible way to cycle. If it wasn’t a precarious rock face, it was mud or a stream that we had to stumble our bikes through. We started by pushing the bikes up, but soon realized we couldn’t go on. Gina decided to remove her bags and carry them separately, and I followed suite. It slowed us down, making the trips twice, and the blistering heat was hard to seek refuge from. We got dehydrated and Gina had to make a run back to a stream to top up our water. Finally we reached summit, and after a rest continued down the mountain towards Suarez. The down was quicker than up but still impossible to ride. Eventually we made it out to a farm and had to enter an enclosure with bulls for our final descent to the dirt highway. At the bottom we met Freddie, the farm manager, who offered us lemonade. As we sat in the shade drinking our refreshingly cool beverages, we realized that this “mistake” would teach us a lot about our future routes. We came out with bruises, cuts, bites, burns and incredibly fatigued. Gina lost her rain jacket, I lost my coffee filter. I think the bikes are alright but I haven’t had a chance to check. On the plus side, I think this is the first hiking trail we pioneered on bikes, Freddie said he’d never seen any other bikes pass through. But I’ll be honest, this isn’t a route I’d recommend to anyone! But if you ever happen to be in Suárez, go to Los Lagos, a beautiful spot just outside the centre – we had a great stay and rest day here to recover!
Happy end to the rain jacket incident: On our rest day, Freddie rode on his horse all the way to almost the beginning of the hiking trail to get the rain jacket – he found it and brought it to us the next morning before we headed off. There are no words to describe how thankful we were!
Route info: See/download gpx track on RideWithGPS