The higher you climb the further you fall… Up and out of Ayacucho in short lived high spirits before being grounded to seek out out my Rabies injections.
30th June- Ayacucho to Ccayarpachi
1st July – Ccayarpachi to Seclla
2nd July – Seclla to Lircay
3rd July – Lircay to Huancavelica (bus)
4th – 8th July Huancavelica
9th July – Huancavelica to Ayacucho (bus)
We finally forced ourselves out of Ayacucho and our comfortable surrounds, but not until mid day. A wrong turn out of the city due to some bad advice and then a short stint on tarmac. This was my first time on a paved road since leaving Huaraz 6 weeks before, I felt a nervous wreck amongst the traffic.
A turn off and we were back on the unpaved road, and time to exhale.
Dust and cactus, we were back in a dry river valley and slowly making our way up hill.
The clouds were looking pretty ominous so we opted to stop in a village rather than plough on to a wild camp. The locals all made us feel welcome and pointed us towards the ‘casa communal’ for a place to stay. The village president kindly let us stay on the hall floor. They’d been a party there a few days before, a rotting animal carcass the only evidence of this. We asked him if he could get rid of it before we settled in, which he kindly did, giving us enough time to air out the room before bed.
We shared a beer (gotta wean ourselves off the booze after our Ayacucho holiday) and cooked up peas and cheese with pasta, and that was that.
Our online research told us that Lircay should have been one easy day away, but this wasn’t true, which we quickly realised after setting off (stocking up on cola and energy drinks first of all).
We slowly winded our way past stubby switch backs and traffic works. Nathan and I cycle at about the same pace, which when leaving Huaraz it wasn’t really possible to tell as he was still getting over some illness. We stopped for more Lady Bars before arriving at Julcamarca for a pretty great lunch of bulgar wheat and cheese soup, vegetable tortilla and rice, then finished off with an ice cream and a sublime in the square. Hungry cyclists. The restaurant was called Super Gordo (super fat) and so we behaved accordingly.
Locals told us it was down to Seclla but it wasn’t at all, rain started to close in, and although we’d arrived pretty early at 4pm we were happy to call it a day. The municipality said we could stay on the floor there but that meant hanging around for 2 hours. Plus it was now cold and we were wet. We opted instead for a cheap hospedaje where we watched the extra time and penalties of the Belgium v USA match. I was incredibly sleepy (too many late nights watching tv series on my laptop in Ayacucho) and did not move from my bed all night. Nathan made us egg salad sandwiches which was surely pay back for making him soup when he was in his sick bed when we were back in Cajatambo.
The following morning we were up and out of Seclla we continued to climb all morning and into the afternoon.
By the time we hit the pass it is snowing, but we are in great spirits and we are flying.
A quick stop for some chicha morada, a purple corn drink (Nathan needs regular sugar drink stops) before continuing our descent.
There was a road blockage due to road works abour 6km before Lircay and we were told that we could not pass until 6pm, we wait a little while and then just make our move. The construction workers loved it and helped us lift our bikes over the massive holes, this sense of rebellion only added to the high spirits. We went back to the same hotel I had stayed in 2 weeks previously, we ate a disappointing dinner of cold chips and then hit the hay.
The thing about the rabies injections
So, I should back track with this one- after getting bitten I got treated at a health centre in a rural village. The nurse gave me an injection and when I said that it was she said ‘teninus’ and when I asked about rabies she said ‘yes, it’s that too’. Now this makes me feel incredibly foolish to admit that I just believed this at the time. I should have made it my responsibility before this trip to understand what the treatment for rabies involved, and how to access it. (having an immunisation for you begin the trip will mean only having to have 2 or 3 injections in the event of a bite, however having no previous immunisations means having to seek treatment immediately and then receive 5 injections in total over a 28 day period (days 0,3,7,14,28 post bite). I should also note that if you get bitten by a dog you should wash the wound under running water for at least 10 minutes and then leave the wound un-bandaged. It was only when arriving in Ayacucho I realised that the nurse had lied and I had not been given any rabies vaccine. I was furious as treatment needs to be given within a few hours of a bite. She’d left me in an awful position. I did go to the hospital and then to the health centre in Ayacucho where they made me return 3 times, on the third day they gave me the first injection, 19 days post bite. Only 2 days before I was leaving the city.
I was told I would be able to find the injections in health centres or hospitals of towns. Arriving in Lircay I woke early to go and get the second of my Rabies injections, a pretty sizeable town with a hospital, but they didn’t have it. This left me with a decision to make- skip the jabs and continue with the route or skip the route and continue with the jabs. Some solid advice from an old University of Liverpool friend, Dr. Tom Boase (who’s interest in infectious diseases meant he’d intercalated for a year at the School of Tropical Medicine in Liverpool, and had spent 5 months in Pakistan, as well as previous trips working in Africa.
This advice left no doubt that I must go find treatment. It just felt like a bitter blow as I was having so much fun. I was so disappointed I just spent the rest of the afternoon in bed. I am so grateful for Tom, a friend who I have not seen for years – he is just one of the most solidly kind people that I have met.
Back in old Huanky
My plan had been to go back to Ayacucho where knew I could get the jabs. The previous day I’d booked my place on the collectivo car that was making the journey (which would include a change in Jalcamarca, it was due to pick me up at 3am (road works and closures meant this was the only time they could make the journey). A sleepless night in anticipation and then I got up to wait in the hotel lobby, at 4.15am still not there so I got on my bike to see if there were other options of leaving the town. I could already feel my chances of getting to Ayacucho slipping away.
A lone man in a car offered to take me, but I’d have wanted to wait for other passengers, I didn’t want to go solo- it seemed like a one way ticket to rapesville. On the other side of town a bus was leaving to go to Huancavelica , 3 hours direct and only 10/s (£2) and I was back in dear old Huanky for breakfast. I was straight to the hospital and the nurse was very professional and gave me a lot of confidence. I decided to wait there for the 3rd jab in a few days time.
So many cyclists have to wait out long delays- due to illness, the arrival of much needed bike parts or passport renewals, so really I need to feel lucky that this is not as protracted as it could be… And there is always something to do, skype calls to make, writing, reading, world cup watching, oh and eating baked goods.
During my first time in Huanky I’d had a different focus, my first big place in a month I’d needed to do laundry, get my pannier and my glasses fixed and just really get to know the local bakery. So this time was different and I was grateful for a second chance to be there.
Visit to the colonial mine Santa Barbara
Local people were using mercury long before the Spanish arrived, they used the stones red colour for paint. The name of the city actually means sacred stone in Quechua. Spanish worked out what this stuff was and started mining straight away. Local people were slaved to work in the mine and the rivers were contimated. Mina de la muertas.
9th – 12th July – Ayacucho
I headed back to Ayacucho to get my final injection as from here I could easily join the road to go and meet Nathan, plus it’s warmer climate makes it an appealing place to. I was lucky that Jan and Ellen took me back and in return I cooked lasagne for them. I also got a chance to see Jukka who plans on staying in the town for a total of a month to rest.
And phew, the morning I got my last jab I was out of town and on the road… those stories will have to wait for another day.
- These Bits In Between, part 1
- Gratitude and Humility – out of Ayacucho, the Great Divide and onwards