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We begin another traverse of the Cordillera Blanca by zenning our way out of Huaraz, a bit later than planned but with some new and cosy winter mitts for Sarah.  We’re out of fuel for our stove, but all the petrol stations only have gasoline-alcohol mixtures.  We’ve never tried running this stuff – the stove is supposed to take most things – in the end I buy some and hope hot food and and drinks above 4000m aren’t going to fizzle.

Our route has been well travelled by cyclists recently, and rated highly.  We have been saturated with stunning, but testing riding over the last few weeks, and hope this will come up to expectations.

Not long after leaving the paved road behind at Pachacoto the afternoon rain looms

Perú has given us yet another landscape - windswept grassland. Hidden among the rocks we choose as our camp shelter, there is colour - albeit prickly

Morning brightness, and a cautious calmness bathes us as we pass horses, cows and their herders.

A feature of this route - the towering Puya Raymondii are double my height or much more. They flower once in their 100 year lifetime

The Puya Raymondii flower is one of the biggest

With Joe making a more leisurely start to the morning to write and Sarah already far on ahead, I pause to look at rock-art under a large boulder on the way to the 1st of passes

We don't have the heights to ourselves. Herders live in grass-thatched stone shelters - their livestock in pens nearby overnight

Almost at the Huarapasca pass, the now-brief shafts of sun only sweep the mountains

Afternoon snow and thunder moves to engulf us as I stop to patch a puncture. After I repair a second not long afterwards, the worst passes us by

The aftermath leaves us mudspattered as evening approaches. A very quick 25km downhill on asphalt brings Huallanca into view

Onward from Huallanca Sarah and I are paralysed by choice.  One path is the ‘standard’ – to Cerro de Pasco via Huánuco.  The other is the result of another of our “can you get through this way on a bike?” questions to the wonderfully patient man at Pony’s Expeditions in Caraz.  This route would involve strapping our bicycles to donkeys or horses, and walking with them for 3-4 days before attempting to continue under pedal power towards Raura and Oyón.  We’re stumped by (to us) inexplicable fatigue, nasty weather in the Cordillera Huayhuash and a feeling that organising the 4-legged part of the deal will turn out to be very complicated (a product of our shyness…).

In the end, we leave the ‘Burro’ route, with all its adventure potential to another time.  The start of the day is delayed by heavy rain and heavy-riding induced headaches, but the ride onwards from Huallanca down the standard route turns out to be paved and very pretty.  We are not displeased.  Relatively easy riding (still plenty of up) is just what the doctor would have ordered.  Rewards are not just in the form of limestone gorges and smiles all round, but are completed when we become 5, just after lunch, with the addition of Eugenio and Angus.  We cross the bridge at Tingo Chico and are herded towards them and their bicycles by a determined team of kids.  They’ve come a different route from Huaraz and are heading into the Amazon to take boats north to Ecuador and beyond.  Nearly half our age, we feel protective of them, but envy them their leg-power!  That night Eugenio (Argentinian) charms our way into the local health centre to give us a dry place to sleep and we share the road to Huánuco where there will be many partings.

So different - limestone river gorge - smooth pavement - still little traffic, and we cruise - Joy!

Onward, the textures change

After a morning working our way up, the possie fly down the narrow curves from Punta Union to Huánuco

Potatoes everywhere - fit them in where you can!

Then there is always maize, hung to dry out of harms way

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