The team has spent the last few days catching its breath and preparing for the next stretch of difficult terrain in the large city of Huanuco. The city is known as the 'cuidad de enterna primavera' (city of eternal spring), and well it can be believed; it is wonderfully warm, especially after the last week, during which the team have slept at altitudes of over 4,400m, and even seen snow.
Sadly, the day after we left Piscobamba, Ed received the distressing news that his grandmother had passed away. I would like to take this opportunity to send the condolences and very best wishes of the entire Inca Ride team to the Baird family. His flight home was to be the following Monday, from Lima, so the team headed towards Huari (a few days' ride away), from where he would get a bus to Lima on the Sunday. That evening, in a farrier's field outside the quiet town of San Luis, Nick and Quita laid on a special supper of takeaway chicken and chips, and we toasted Gags. (It must be added that unfortunately the entire team apart from Ed fell victim to food poisoning the following morning, and hasn't been able to eat chicken since).
After a sad goodbye to Ed in Huari, Nick and Quita rode towards what they thought was the town of Antamina, while Phil took the longer route with Celeste. After a few wrong turnings, they were directed up a steep path over a high pass above the town, which gave stunning views of the surrounding lush countryside, bathed in sunlight. Once on the other side, however, the difference was remarkable; they were met by grey clouds and hailstones, and bleak, scrubby landscape. More worryingly, Phil met them with the news that the town of Antamina was actually a real mina de cobre (copper mine) and they wouldn't be able to stay the night there after all! After a freezing night accompanied by the wind whistling down the valley, Quita and Phil rode through the vast mine with a (bemused) guide the next morning. They were then very smug to break the Inca Ride Altitude Record, when they reached 4,572m (Nick was also very smug to have hopped out of Celeste, nipped up a bank, and found a handful of snow to take a picture with). After several days riding at freezing altitude, the team descended into the balmy valley in which Huanuco lies, to a joyful reunion with Ed. Many thanks to all the parents for getting everything together for him to bring out, and to Leonor for having him to stay in Lima.
Everyone we have met responds to our telling them that we are heading towards Cerro de Pasco next with shivers and comments of 'mucho frio!'; we have been warned that this will be by far the most demanding stage of the trip. All being well we should be on the other side in a few days...