It’s our third day back on the road and we unzip our tents to find that the skies are still shrouded in a murky smoke-filled haze.
It’s a hot and humid morning and both of us confess that we’re finding it hard to get going. There’s an underlying lethargy that festers in my bones, I can’t stop yawning and everything feels a little, well – flat. Of course that’s okay, and entirely understandable when getting back into the swing of things. We’ve both admitted to some anxieties about returning to life on the bikes, about shrugging off the comfort blanket of familiarity, and pedalling back into the unknown.
So I take today as my mind and body’s way of readying itself slowly. That said, I can’t help but feel that the oppressive skies aren’t playing a part too. Ever have those days when you look out of the window at a cloudy sky, and feel a little cloudy inside too?
We crack on down the way, and by mid afternoon we’ve sanctioned ourselves a roadside lunch stop. The smoke seems to gradually be lifting, and with each kilometre that we put between us and the city, the landscape becomes ever more beautiful. It’s as if a giant camera lens is being adjusted on the world around us – somehow the surroundings now seem in sharper focus. Great swathes of granite rock shoot up from the ground, the trees seem taller out here and the river more swift in its meanders.
We lay down on top of a bluff above the river, rest our heads on our helmets and stare up at the sky. The ground has absorbed much of the day’s heat and is now acting as a hot water bottle for my back. Strong gusts of wind are bending the trees to and fro, I can nothing except hear the rustle of their leaves and the thunderous roar of the river down below. I shut my eyes and doze. Faye dozes too.
We pass our sanctioned usual 20 minute break, and the little man who lives in the back of my mind starts to scream that we ‘really should be cracking on!! We can’t possibly rest for too long!!’ he barks. But in stark contrast to the morning, it’s turning out to be such a lovely afternoon. I have stopped fighting the lethargy, and have instead embraced it with open arms. Besides, after our race to make Santiago on time, we’re now back to a more loose daily mileage schedule. Faye seems to have read my mind on the matter:
‘Anna?’ She says, breaking our doze induced silence
‘Mmmm huh?’ I reply, opening one eye.
‘I like that we don’t have to be anywhere today.’
‘I like that too.’ I say with a smile, and shut both eyes again.
It’s official: Faye is Winnie the Pooh, I’m piglet, and today we’ve gone down to the river for a picnic, or so it feels.
An hour after we first lay down, we at last drag ourselves away from our lunch stop and carry on up the valley. The road paving ends, a sure sign that we’re heading out into the boonies, and so we continue on rubble – past men fishing in the river, families whooping and laughing in crystal clear plunge pools, friends gathered around tents – the smells from their roadside BBQ’s tormenting our nostrils.
‘Ooooohhh, I could nail a burnt sausage right now.’ I say to Faye, inhaling deeply.
‘Mmmmm. Me too. Or a slightly blackened burger?’
‘Heavy on the onions, light on the ketchup, soft squishy bun.’ We dribble.
At 5pm we stop for a drink by the river. The families and fisherman are a long way back and we’re now entirely alone. It’s still early and with the sun setting at 9pm out here – we could potentially ride on for hours.
After draining our water bottles, I look longingly at the flat patch of grass at the side of the road, complete with a river view. We’ve only camped once by a river so far in this trip. It’s a real luxury that means we get a wash, a drink, and a swim all in one. Again, psychic Faye-bomb is already one step ahead of me:
‘I’m screwed.’ She says
‘Me too!’ I chirp back. There’s a long pause, and at last Faye utters the magic words.
‘Yes!!! Tent time!!!’
Within ten minutes I’m butt naked and waist deep in the river. It’s icy cold and gives me the most glorious brain freeze. After a bits n’ pits wash, I scamper out, put some fresh clothing on and park my tired heiny on a large rock at the edge, dangling my feet into the water below.
I look down at my pasty white feet, bobbing around under the surface. I watch some birds swoop above the opposite bank, and take note of the power of the water as it surges over a gigantic boulder in the centre of the river. I can feel a light spray on my face, almost as if I’m on the Maid in the Mist at Niagra falls (but not quite). The sun is getting low in the sky and so the water is doing the most marvellous ‘sparkly thing’ in the flatter section, just up stream.
I sigh. It’s good to be back.
Live track us as we head in search of more sparkly things: http://z6z.co/AndesAdventure