I thought it was finished. Take the medicine and the problem goes away, right? Turns out Giardia is pretty complex, and down here it’s developed quite a resistance to the standard treatment of metronidazole.
You can imagine my frustration when I awoke to the familiar symptoms of this terrible parasite worming its way through my stomach. Lukas and I were in the middle of nowhere, not a hope of getting to a larger town without a rather large climb ahead of us. Our only option was to push on. A day of riding later, arriving in the town of Chicla on the Carretera Central, it was clear that the medical facilities would not be up to the task of a lab test. The next morning we took a collectivo to a nearby town where I could get some answers. The disappointing but unsurprising lab results showed that once again I was positive with Giardia. A sad moment, in realization that Lukas and I had reached the end of the road. It was time to part ways. The ride ahead was a serious one, and I had no choice but to sit it out.
Anyone who’s ridden all but 30 seconds on the Carretera Central knows what a miserable place it is. It’s one of the only paved roads to run from the coast to the rainforest, and because of this, buses and trucks are lined up bumper to bumper spewing out fumes blacker than a goths fingernails. I’ll put it this way, the Carretera Central makes the PanAm look like a bikepacking circuit. Bearing this description in mind, I hope even the most hardcore of purists can understand why I’d rather hop on a bus than deal with this dangerously disgusting road. Paul Griffiths and I had been talking in Huaraz about the difficulties cyclists sometimes face in regards to taking buses. His thought was that maybe our pride gets in the way of enjoying ourselves. I thought it was the perfect time to put his advice to practice. With an upset stomach, I waited outside our hotel in Chicla. Finally I flagged down a bus to Huancayo.
Meanwhile, Gina had just finished her volunteering in Lima and joined me just in time for a nice train ride from Huancayo to Huancavelica. I’d been taking three different courses of meds to try and rid myself once and for all of my stomach troubles. Things were finally starting to look up, and to top it all off I was able to meet up with Lukas for a steak dinner and a spot of Peruvian dancing with the locals. I was feeling stronger and up to the task of tackling some big climbs. Gina, having spent the past month at sea level, was having some troubles at 3800 metres. So I thought it would be a good idea to up the ante and ride the highest pass I’ve ever ridden, dragging her along with me.
There is ample beauty in this route, there is no doubt of that. It’s constantly mutating environment occurs so subtly that you don’t even seem to notice. Still, the changes are immense and unquestionable, and sometimes looking in retrospect helps you to see the grandeur of what you’ve just ridden. The nights have been some of the coldest so far, the roads some of the loneliest. It throws some tough stuff your way, but in return gives you stunning Abras, quaint villages, and a plethora of natural wildlife. There are certainly easier ways to cross the Peruvian Andes, but none so remarkable.