Friday, 29 May 2009
Huaraz to Huanuco
Riding over the chilly Cordillera Blanca and into the warm Huallaga valley. We are now soaking up the sun, cold beer and icecream of Huanuco. An exhiliratng week of cycling - climbing over a 4880m pass with superb views of both snowy ranges Cordilleras Blanca and Huayhuash; camping on the pampa beside Huanuco Viejo, an imposing Incan fortess; bumping along the stoney, boney roads high above the Marañon river and down over the same dirty dusty road which threw me off the saddle last year.
Here are some more botanical specimens from the pampa and cordillera along the way.
Oy, you requested more flowers so these are for you.
This cactus was a tough little survivor at 4850m.
Just as we left Huaraz a fiesta and procession was in full swing.
Judy climbing a hill out of Catac in the Callejon de Huaylas with Mt. Huascaran in the background. It´s the highest peak in Peru at 6768m.
The last gasp. Leaving Cordillera Blanca behind, the sun sets at Catac.
Judy was having problems with the altitude and took a bus to Huallanca. I had attitude problems and had my heart (and lungs) set on climbing the pass at Pasto Ruri. It was an amazing ride - great weather, superb views in all directions, decent gravel surface and no traffic at all.
At 4200m the dirt road passed a colony of Puya raimondii, the world´s largest bromeliad. It only flowers once, at 100 years old, and then fades away and dies. The flower spikes are over 10m tall, with over 3000 flowers. I hitched through this quebrada in 1984 and camped by these plants. There were many more plants then. Still an amazing sight, reminiscent of the giant lobelia of the Ruwenzori Mts of central Africa.
The road snaking up to the pass from my campsite at 4600m.
On the way to the pass met 3 Californian cyclists riding from Alaska and following the spine of mountain ranges from north to south and, like me, hitting the backroads. Hence their website www.ridingthespine.com. They had unusual bikes, with a unique luggage system called xtracycle. This is Goat, who rides barefoot with halfcut Teva sandles in clipless pedals. His bike has a Rohloff system with 2 drivetrains and huge snow tyres. It´s a real beast!
I left the lads to sleep in at camp and set off at 7am to get the early morning views. It was actually a triple pass peaking at 4875m, traversing along edges of the range. 25kms of high-altitude riding, not dropping below 4600m - with splendid views of Cordilleras Blanca to the north and Huayhuash to the south. I came across 2 very shy vicuña grazing and startled them. No traffic at all on this road.
Amazing geomorphology of folding strata and brilliant colours in the tortured rock.
Hit the main sealed road and a nice freewheeling descent of over 1000m to Huallanca to meet up with Judy and the followung day continue onto Huanuco. Between Huallanca and La Union, the road goes through a small narrow canyon which Judy manages to squeeze through.
Then up a steep dirt road to the puna to visit Huanuco Pampa, once an important Incan city, now lying forlorn high on the broad pampa. We camped beside the ruins with a brilliant sunset. To see more photos of this site check out the earlier posting last year. This was my third visit here and the feeling of immensity in solitude is still present.
We chose a back route to Huanuco, avoiding the dusty and unfriendly road through Chavinillo. If you´re cycling it´s the route Iscopmapa-Rondos-Huarin-Choras. Some idyllic landscape between Iscopmapa and Rondos - great for camping. It was very quiet but also stony and bumpy. Here Jude reaches a small pass at Iscopampa. The locals were very surprised to see us there.
The royal Incan highway runs beside the road at times, but much of the stonework has, since the Conquest, been dismantled and used in corralls and fencing.
The March and April rains cause the rural roads to melt and bleed away.
We met up with the mighty Marañon river, crossing it and then climbing high above the chasm. Locals warned us that this is bandit country and not to camp or ride at night so we didn´t linger too long in the villages.
This is why we prefer the bikes to local transport. A near miss, just inches from plummeting down the hillside into the Marañon.
The high Marañon valley is heavily cultivated, with terraces slicing into the precipitous hillsides.
Over the last pass at Punta Union which encircles El Corona del Inca, or the Inca´s crown, a rocky outcrop at 4000m.
Then a 2000m long dusty descent to the Huallaga river and the bright lights of Huanuco. On the way down passed the site of my infamous fall but instead of finding la culpa piedrosa , the stony culprit, which interrupted my journey last year, it was graded to a smooth surface. But a few kms lower down the road broke into a pulverised and lumpy mess. Judy, not to be outdone in the crash stakes, went for a spin in the dust. No serious injuries fortunately.
Now it´s back up to the sierra with a climb from 1900 m to 4330m (Cerro de Pasco) in the next two days. We´re both well acclimatised now and feeling much fitter than when we arrived in Lima 3 weeks ago overweight and jet-lagged. More news from Huancayo in about 5 days..........