Head wind, soft, penetrating rain, a 70km stretch of near straight road. A 6250m cerro to our left is consumed by cloud, the low red hills on our other side, vague, amorphous out lines. We’re all lost in a soft white world. A trip across the road side berm, and now I understand why there’s little agriculture. In the dry the tierra is a baked solid mat of wind blown dust; in the wet it turns into a slime of undrinkable glutinous sludge. Eminently campable in the dry, in the wet, a mud-fest. It’s been a while since we’ve had similar conditions; oddly, it was heading for exactly the same destination, Villa Union, back in December.
We resort to drafting, taking turns at breaking trail, rotating at each even kilometre post. The leader does the grunt work, the follower has to stay alert, fingers feathering the brakes; in these conditions it becomes a near freewheel. I’m head down, taking the weather, lost in my own small world, keeping to a rhythm, playing with thoughts. When suddenly a young tarantula appears close by the front of my wheel. I miss and turn to make sure that the following set of wheels don’t complete the coup de grace. In doing so I wobble and the next thing I know , The Navigator is spluttering expletives as she stumbles across the tarmac on her hands and knees.
Accident book entry records, partial hole in Gore-Tex trousers, spilt powdered milk in pannier and a possible bruised knee. Despite my attempt to dissuade it, the spider continued its death march across the road.