Week 53 & 54 - Huancaya & The Cordillera Blanca
It was a sunny Sunday morning when we left Lima with an escort. Felipe from Socopur had arranged a morning ride-out with a large group of predominantly Triumph motorcycle riders and they just happened to be going South, so we were invited along. We all gathered at a local Starbucks no less, then headed out of Lima towards a popular costal destination called Punta Hermosa. We were led to a small restaurant where Felipe got us a fantastic breakfast. It was great chatting with the other riders, and several spoke good English which made things a little easier.
After a good old chinwag it was time to leave. The group were heading back to Lima, however a really lovely guy called Lucho was heading South, so he showed us the shortcuts to the main highway and then we were off to our next destination Tinco. As always the PanAm section was a tad boring, however after a while we were able to head off east after topping up our fuel tanks, and ended up at a campsite just outside of a tiny town called Tinco-Alis.
The place was beautiful. Luckily it wasn't too high in altitude so we were able to camp without freezing our arses off or feeling like we were suffocating. The Alpacas watched as we pitched our tent, and then we headed in to the cafe area for much needed hot drink and food. I made the mistake of running back up the stairs to the cafe when it started to rain. Although it wasn't crazy altitude it was still close to 3000m and we had come from seven weeks at sea level...my heart started doing back flips and it felt like major palpitations for about 10 minutes. A little scary but luckily it settled down.
The next morning we got up slow time, enjoyed chilling by the river in the sun for a bit and then headed off to Huancaya via a tiny, makeshift 'gas station' where a lady filled up our tanks with a jug and funnel, o for our Guglatech fuel filters.
The hostal options were limited, however we had been recommended a place called Brisas de Mayo by our good friends Michnus and Elsebie of PikiPikiOveland, so we headed there. It was a cute little place, right on the river with an amazing view of some waterfalls. The lovely lady who ran it also told us of a huge waterfall further up so we went for a wander. The area was so beautiful and the town was very cute. The kids played football together or sat with their dolly's on the doorstep playing.
We decided to take a day trip to Vilca and leave the heavy luggage in the hostal. It was well worth it.
On the short 17km dirt road route to Vilca there was some truly stunning scenery including some spectacular waterfalls, blue/green lakes and rivers. Kelvin decided he liked the more streamlined look of no number plate mount on his DR, so he decided to lose it somewhere along the route! Once there we continued along an un-mapped road for a little while and saw some more amazing lakes and rivers, however we turned around and went back to Vilca after a while as daylight hours were starting wain. We crossed a small, picturesque stone bridge to go and see Bosque del Amor and get right down next to the river. It was so tranquil.
On our return to the hostal we watched the guys from the hostal going to catch some trout out of the trout pens (there's many in this area), one of which I think was my dinner. They get into a small boat and pull themselves across on lines that stretch over the river, and then get on the narrow boards around the pool of trout to fish some out.
The next morning we had our sights set on Junin, our first destination in a four to five day trip to Huaraz in the Huscuaran National Park. Our route would take us on some beautiful back roads and mining territory, up through the centre of Peru.
Highlight video of our route
Leaving Huancaya we headed out via Vilca and after that the fun started. Multiple river crossings, some deeper than others, and one of which was a concrete platform covered in algae. We realised just how slippery it was after Kelvin crossed and almost came off his bike. After safely making it across with the back end going a bit crazy, he stopped and then promptly dropped his bike on the side of the road...oopsy! I decided to go across the river bed, off to the right of the slippery concrete platform. Although it was a little bumpy I made it no issue and it was a much better option.
Beyond this the road continued to be stunning. We climbed up in altitude again, on small dirt roads and then through the mountains with blue lakes and lots of wildlife. It was a truly fantastic ride, probably up there with one of the best of the trip. After about 70km of absolute riding bliss we unfortunately met the tarmac, however the scenery did not disappoint. It was pretty cold, but armed with our nice new thick Rukka gloves (thank you Rukka Motorsport) and our heated AVADE tops that Kelvin had brought back, we managed fine.
We found Neby's hostal, put our very mucky bikes to bed, in his lovely clean events hall! The village was again small and we managed to find some food for five soles each (just over £1), including soup, rice, chicken and a drink. Bargain! We explored the village, and then returned to the hostel for some much needed rest. Later on as we were snuggled up in bed with a good film on Netflix the owner of the hostal came around with some glass bottles filled with boiling water and placed them in the bottom of the bed to keep us warm. Nice one!
Next stop was Oyon via Cerro de Pasco, a huge mining area. The route would only be about 168km, however the majority of the second section was muddy mining roads with plenty of lorries. Luckily, despite the freezing cold and the odd snowfall, the scenery was worth the muddiness. Once in Oyon, with several unmapped diversions we found a reasonable hostal with safe parking, although we had to tread carefully as it was also where they kept their dogs and they had pooped everywhere. Not nice. After hunting down coffee and empanadas the headed back to the hostal to chill and sleep.
The next day we were off to Huallanca via back roads. It was yet again awesome...approximately 175km of mining roads straight though the snow-capped mountains of Cordillera Huayhuash. Huge, blue/green lakes, crystal clear waterfalls and a few inquisitive Llamas. The best part was the lack of other vehicles on the route. There were a few lorries and trucks, but all-in-all it was quiet. Arriving in Huallanca, we found a place called D'Casa Vieja. Parking was a block away in a courtyard and down some steps, but I managed not to embarrass myself and negotiated it without any issues. Phew! The room was up about 5 flights of stairs, but after much heavy breathing we reached the top which had a great view of the town. The owner then took us in his truck to see his campsite area, complete with bull-ring, and a nearby waterfall. He is heavily involved in promoting the area and tourism, which is gradually building. We decided that we'd spend two nights there due to it being super cheap, having a decent hot shower (hard to come by) and a comfy bed. The next day we walked all around the town and just relaxed, which was nice after all of the moving about.
Then it was the final day of travel to get to Huaraz, however we would take the back road via Pastarouri glacier. It was my first time ever riding on snow and ice, I managed to stay upright despite a few wheel spins and the back end playing around a little. It was worth it though. We got there and left our helmets with a lady who ran a stall. We then walked the 2km or so to the glacier....very slowly! We could really feel the altitude, but we were determined to walk and not pay for a horse. Luckily, as we'd arrived early there was virtually no-one else there.
I had another go at flying the drone (I'm sure I am way better than Kelvin) and took some photos, then a blizzard hit. It was super cold, but still an amazing place to be. By the time we left the tourists were starting to flock in, so it was a good time to depart. We warmed up with some coffee at a small stall, collected our helmets and gave a small tip, then headed off. We passed a load of tall plants, I believe called Puya raimondiiI, and were surrounded by towering snow-capped mountains, which we could see all the way to Huaraz.
We made it to Hostel Bond in Huaraz, however by this time my bike was sounding quite tappety again, and the valves were in dire need of calibration which was definitely not a good sign. We contacted Peter Document (Documoto) in Lima, who put us in contact with Jael, a super helpful guy in Huaraz who's friend Helber was a very good mechanic. Jael came to meet us that evening as soon as he go the message and he took me pillion to Helber's place, so I got a small tour of Huaraz. Helber was no-where to be found so we returned to the hotel and then he took us for roast chicken and chips. Yum. The next day we got up early as Jael had arranged with Helber to collect my bike. Helber came in his little van and towed Jael all through Huaraz traffic to Helber's workshop! Rather him than me...it was quite a mission but the bike and Jael made it safely.
We left the bike with Helber so he could re-set the valves, while we went off exploring Huaraz. That afternoon we picked up the bike and then Jael took us to a Mirador over Huaraz, which was very beautiful, especially watching the sun go down. The next day he took us to another Mirador, which again was very beautiful and then Jael took us for a lovely Chinese, what a lovely guy. Although we are extremely fed up with my bike breaking down, it has meant we have met some wonderful people and made many new friends.
The time then came to leave Huaraz for a few days and explore Huascarán National Park. We headed off via Punta Olympica to Chacas, a small village on the other side of the Cordillera Blanca. The ride was very beautiful. We had to pay for a ticket into the park (about 30sol each I think) but it was worth it. The tarmac road snaked up and up and up, with snow covered mountains either side. We then went through the long tunnel (Punta Olympica) and came out the other side to yet another deep valley. After a little while we made it to Chacas and found a great place to stay in the corner of the main plaza. It was so good we decided to stay two nights.
The town itself was very quaint, with a huge church and an artisan school where locals learnt many trades, apparently the local monks have been teaching their trades for many years and the majority of the schools wood and ceramics are exported to the Vatican. The majority of wooden balconies on the local buildings are also made the local artisan school and are truly amazing, with very detailed carvings. The hostal also served good, cheap food so we were sorted. It was a relaxing place to be and we could watch the world go by from the terrace.
After our two nights we headed to Caraz via Yanama and Yungay. It was a truly awesome ride over the mountains, all dirt road and it surpassed the views we'd had two days previously. As we came over one of the mountains through a gateway in the mountain we were met with one of the most awesome views... a road of multiple switchbacks descending to a bright blue lake (Llanganuco lakes) and snow-capped mountains all around. It was definitely a great opportunity for drone flying and we spent a good while there just taking in the scenery. After that we continued all the way to Caraz, where we found yet another bargain place to stay with parking, although the parking was also a saw mill. Interesting.
Highlight video of our time in Huascaran NP:
First on our agenda was Cañon del Pato. The road was nearly all tarmac, with only one or two tunnels being dirt. It was quite an interesting ride, and only once did we meet a vehicle in one of the tunnels. Unfortunately it was a very long tunnel and we met a lorry so we stopped and hugged the side of the tunnel as the lorry squeezed past. We continued beyond Cañon del Pato itself for a little while and the road had a great view of some multi-coloured mountains.
We then turned around and headed back the way we had come. Before getting back to Caraz we turned off left in the direction of Lake Paron. The road was definitely off-road with lots of small loose rocks, but it wasn't actually too bad at all. A ranger on the way up charged us 5 soles to go to the lake (only a little over £1). We passed a Colombian motorcyclist on the way up who was struggling a little due to having road tyres on, but he made it up not long after and we had a chat. The lake was beautiful and very blue. Sadly we couldn't see the top of Mount Artesonraju as it was quite cloudy, but it was still definitely worth the effort to go.
The next day we stopped for a good breakfast, and the security guard at the bank was happy to let us park outside in a little bay. He even kept an eye on the bikes for us. After filling our bellies it was time to leave Caraz and head back to Huaraz...for longer than expected!!!