In two days’ time, we finish Transamazonica. So today was the day before the day before. And it was exhausting.
I always find the last stage of any journey the most wearisome. It shouldn’t be the case, I should be buoyed up by the excitement of finishing and of seeing my loved ones again. But the accumulation of all the emotional and physical strain I have endured always hits me the hardest during those last few days. Today was no exception to that rule.
Of course, today’s conditions didn’t help. It was another long day of cycling, most of it up, and as we rose and rose the air grew thinner and colder. After two months in the jungle, I’m not used to these low temperatures anymore, nor these arid landscapes.
By late morning we reached the Reserva Paisajistica Nor Yauyos-Cachos: a high and frozen reserve which reminded me of the Yorkshire Moors. Rain came: first drizzle and then a heavy bout of hail.
I began to feel a headache throb from within my temples and, as we rose in altitude, it got worse and worse. My vision began to blur. My heart-rate seemed to double. I was shaking hard – perhaps from the cold, perhaps not. I could not catch my breath.
It was altitude sickness.
There’s only one real cure for altitude sickness. To go lower. I looked ahead, hoping to see the pass we were surely getting close to, but it had begun to snow and, anyway, I could barely see as it was. I considered climbing from my bike, lying down in the snow, and taking a nap. How pleasant that would be, I thought.
If the pass had not arrived at that moment, I think I may well have elected to sleep, and that would have been the end of me. But the sign denoting that we were at 4,500 metres appeared and, beyond that, a snowy road which pointed downhill.
I’ve never been so grateful for the direction.