Arequipa, we love you.
Updated: Mar 4, 2020
The climb out of Arequipa was long and hot. Until it wasn’t.
The now familiar storm clouds caught up with us around 12,000 feet and unleashed buckets of rain. We hid in a restaurant, drinking hot tea until the downpour subsided.
Our camp that first night was under the towering Vulcan Misti, which had been hiding in the clouds our entire stay in Arequipa. As we packed up and ate breakfast Misti peeked out at us, but soon was shrouded again in a thick mist that swept down the mountain and followed us up the winding road. Reaching the top of our climb, the fog was so thick we couldn’t see beyond the edge of the embankment. With no concept of what the landscape around us looked like, we settled on the side of the road to eat lunch.
The fog broke for a brief moment, revealing a lofty expanse of air between us and the steep cliffs below. Our road was visible in countless winding switchbacks, stretching towards the faint haze of Arequipa.
We pedaled like that for a few more hours. The fog always just behind us as we passed grazing Vicuñas, a vast salt lake, herds of alpacas, and vaguely pink flamingos.
The next day held three passes in store for us. The first was short and sweet, with a long downhill and epic view of a new towering volcano as a reward. A long pedal through a lunar landscape led us to our next climb. The long slow slog was made slower by whipping winds and even more thick fog, making it impossible to even see the road in front of us.
After another quick and cold descent, we huddled behind some boulders for a lunch of tuna and bbq sauce (better than it sounds, not as good as you want it to be). Then, we started for the third and last pass.
Around 500 meters short of the next high point (just shy of 16,000 ft) the storm that had been following us all day finally let loose. Thunder crashed all around, much too close for comfort; the rain was thick and relentless. Not wanting to be outside any longer or do the 15 mile descent on the other side in a storm, we turned around and raced down to a flat spot I had mentally noted as a good bail point just minutes before.
Huddled in the tent, we shoved soggy clothes and shoes to one corner and snuggled into our sleeping bags to wait out the storm.
Our entertainment for the evening consisted of trying to suck on gummy bears until they disappeared (much harder than it sounds) and watching episodes of Gossip Girl I had bought on iTunes in high school. We’re still figuring out the fine line between roughing it and treating ourselves...but it’s coming together.