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A Perfect Day
It was the enviable perfect cycling day. A crisp early wake up with cyclist rugging up in their layers, but I am a bit freakish and enjoy the chilly mornings especially when I can sit with a steaming cup of coffee and watch the sun rays hit the bare hills that surrounded our mountain camp. The dark, dull brown treeless hillsides were instantly transformed with hues of bright pinks and oranges as the day brightened, a sign of the hours ahead.
It began with over 20km downhill on a paved trafficless wide road taking us deep into the twisting valleys. Crossing a bridge we followed the gushing river, the road tumbling and turning as much as the icy waters travelling below us. A bit of gravel, a bit of pavement, a head wind, a tail wind, no wind, cold in the shadows, hot in the sun. We were teased at every turn, especially with the thought of when would we see the origin of the river, when would the Andes finally come into view?
Turning another random bend along the road and unexpectedly the river valley opened and the entire horizon was filled with snow capped mountains. Stunning. Our views were no longer barred in by the valley walls but now our eyes could relax on the backdrop of the Andes, jagged peaks flanking the plains, strutting high into the cloudless blue sky. There was no interruption to the mountain range, no
distractions, no car horns or impatient engine rumbles.
It was a Sunday, which always feels different in South America. People are that little bit more happy and relaxed as few work and most try to spend the day with their families. So as I pedalled along there were the waves and greetings of locals as they gathered for a long lunch. On the outskirts of one town the weekend horse races were underway. I
stopped for a chat and a beer with the Ramirez family who were perplexed to the thought of why someone would choose to cycle over the Andes and tried to convince me of the virtues of swapping my bike for a horse.
As I left the races I was joined by a couple of local road cyclists. They had obviously been inspired by the competition and thrashed me riding up a steep little hill but stopped shortly afterwards for a chat and a laugh before continuing on their way, their motorbike support vehicle puttering along behind.
Closer into town the plains became more fertile with small family farms extending along the banks of the river. I didn’t know where to focus, on my left there yelling and screaming as two young kids ran barefoot through the paddocks, jumping fences as they tried to keep pace with the bike. In front the street was framed by huge willow trees, branches drooping to touch the path. And all afternoon there
were the Andes, patiently watching from the west. I love the feelings in the mountains, the unpredictability that at any second this could all change the sun could disappear and I could be pummelled by gale force icy winds or be caught in a snow storm. But today there would be nothing. It was the perfect day, sharing moments with locals, cycling peaceful roads overseen by a tranquil mountain range.
— Marlo Perry
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