Day 76: Bike & Hike

Sun. 28th October 2012

A lovely (but hilly) place to go cyclingSucre is a (mostly) pretty city with  lots to see and do and, as ever, our challenge was going to be to try to fit as much as possible in. Going off on a combined biking and hiking tour in the hills outside of Sucre seemed to be a good way to combine sightseeing and a bit of exercise to counter all those bus trips we have had recently. So, Janet and I along with 3 others in our group signed up – after all, a mere 18km cycle and a 4km hike couldn’t be that bad could it? Also, as we are still carrying our cycle helmets, padded shorts and cycling gloves, we might as well get some benefit!

Bikes loaded and ready to goWhen we get to Joyride’s (the activity provider’s) office, we can see the bikes loaded up on a trailer hooked up to a 4×4 Toyota SUV / truck with a tent-like cabin on the back providing some extra seating space with natural air-conditioning and good views front and rear. We jump on board and head off out of town and up into the hills stopping on a ridge overlooking a valley with thin stream winding along the sandy floor. The bikes were unloaded, and after a quick familiarisation, we were ready to go.

The mountain bikes provided are in pretty reasonable condition and most of them had disk brakes along with front & rear shock absorbers. As we head off downhill, we quickly come to appreciate both of these points – the dirt road is very dusty and rocky and rutted and the brakes are needed all of the time. The steep drop off one side of the track kept speeds down and concentration up! By the time we reached the valley floor, we were all caked in a layer of dust.

Bitten by the bike!Sadly, one of the rules of cycling is that what goes down must come up and after a couple of kms of undulating track following the stream, the track turned up the hill again. We quickly found out that whilst we might be acclimatised to the altitude now (no more headaches or dizziness) that didn’t magic more oxygen into the atmosphere. It was hard going and we were soon all gasping for breath. To make matters worse, I got bitten by one of the pedals (I maintain that the bike jumped out of gear and therefore it is not my fault!) After having my leg daubed with disinfectant and walking off the initial soreness, I had Jerry’s words ringing in my ears (“just keep pedalling”) and so it was back on the bike. I did stop for air a couple of times, but I did make it to the top – though I was too short of breath to really appreciate the achievement. Janet and her bike also made it up the hill but mainly on foot pushing the bike!

Along the banks of the riverThe truck and its bike trailer had followed us all the way and so we were able to leave the bikes by the trailer and start the hike portion of our trek. We had been promised that we were heading to a secluded canyon with waterfall and rock pool where we could have a  swim. What we hadn’t really expected was that there was little path and most of the time we were scrambling across the side of the hill, often on a scree slope, or over rocks and boulders alongside the stream / river. (The rainy season is late in starting and so everywhere is very dry and dusty and the river level is much lower than it would normally be).

The scenery was rugged and spectacular and the boulders were mostly sedimentary rock in various shades of red and pink with clearly visible striations. We could also see in the cliffs where the rock changed to a black slate-like stone. So we had a bit of a geology lesson as well as some exercise.

A well deserved rest for sore & dusty feet!When we got to the rock pool, we found that the water was quite muddy and not that inviting for a swim – good for washing some of the dust off feet and legs but nobody braved a swim. We did, however, appreciate the opportunity for a rest, to contemplate the scenery and the sound of the water rushing through the nearby rocks as well as the packed lunch that had been provided.

That's enough biking for one day, what about that beer?After our walk back , nobody wanted to get back on the bikes and do the downhill section of the ride back – we were all hot, dusty and tired – and so we loaded the bikes onto the trailer and ourselves into the truck and headed on back to Sucre. If I thought that I was dusty before the drive back, then sitting in the exposed cabin whilst being driven along creating a trail of dust that blew in to the cabin, took it to an extreme. I was just caked. Before a shower, however, there was the important matter of the free beer included as part of the trip – it is important to wash the dust out of my throat as well as off my clothes and body! As well as being a nice touch, the free drink ensured that the activity company got their evaluation forms filled in, so it was a good deal for everyone.

Before leaving for our trip, we had asked Neil if he could drop some washing off at the laundrette for us, as it hadn’t opened by the time we had to leave. On our return, we found that the good news was that he had been able to drop it off, but that the bad news was that it wouldn’t be ready until tomorrow. This meant that I was down to 1 shirt and my swimming shorts for the evening and for the next day’s paragliding. Lets just hope that informal attire is the order of the day (and night)!

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