Sunday 5 July 2009

Andahuaylas - Cuzco

Judy and I felt quite ill the next morning so we had a day´s rest. It must have been something we ate or contaminated water as we felt weak and had stomach cramps. As it happened it was a Sunday and the Sondor Raymi festival was on (postponed because of the paro.

After a bit of a sleep-in we took a minibus up to Laguna Pachacas and the Sondor ruins above Andahuaylas. It is from the Chankas culture, bitter enemies of the hegemonic Incas and it is set on top of a conical hill with spectacular views.

Quechuan women at Sondor

Sondor Raymi- a copy of the famous Inti Raymi in Cuzco. Although Inti Raymi was part of the Incan calendar these regional Raymis are nothing but inventions of the Peru tourist board. All the participants are uni students from Andahuaylas, few Chankas descendants in sight. Very camp and tacky - a cross between a Tasmanian high school eistedford and a medieval tournament re-enactment.

Sondor Raymi- a campesina cooking some food for us. It was a like a massive picnic with the local indigenous folk selling food to the tourists and Peruvian ladinos. It was a very ordered and sober affair compared with the more authentic and chaotic village festivals where the locals get pissed, blow trumpets and throw around shrines and lanterns.

Pete & Jude crossing yet another pass, this one between Andahuaylas and Abancay - Abra Huallaccasa 4150m. En route we spent a night in Kishuara- at a cheap place Hospedaje Lisbeth (15 soles dbl) with a delicious cena at 3 soles ($1).

Riding high in the Andes. It was a sunny clear day with great views of Mt. Ampay and the distant cordillera. The descent from the pass to the river was a long and dusty one, and would a hard ride from the other direction, climbing from 1800 to 4155m.

Scenery from the pass

MAG T-shirt (Mines Advisory Group). MAG is a UK-based NGO helping countries dispose of their sinister landmines which maim thousands every year.
Check out their website

This T-shirt was given to me by Rupert, the MAG director in Cambodia in 2005 and it´s been on my back through SE Asia, China, Tibet and down the Andes. Worn out now but will be my `Mag rag´ from now on.

We hit the Cuzco-Abancay-Lima paved road in the hot windy valley and instead of a nice gentle ride up to Abancay in the late afternoon we had strong headwinds and a punishing steep ascent. We made it to Abancay by 5pm and fell onto beds at the Hotel Imperial. I think we still had a hangover from the stomach bug. Jude didn´t really have to persuade me to have another rest day. Cold beers and hot showers went down ever so nicely that night.

Up at 4.30am the next morning. I cooked up the regular breakfast of strong coffee, fried eggs and tomatoes with hot bread, and bananas and jam as sweeteners. On the road by 6am for another long climb.

Memorial of a tragic bus accident in 2004 - 38 passengers, all from Abancay were killed as the bus plummmeted over a 500m precipice. Lots of shrines to roadside tragedies throughout the Andes but it´s no surprise as we´ve witnessed some bloody awful driving here - speeding, driving on the wrong side, overtaking on blind corners...

Climbing to the pass on sealed road from Abancay - Mt Ampay in the distance

View of Abancay and the winding road on the opposite side of the valley of the previous day - a drop from 4150 to 1750m.

Cordillera Vilcabamba from the pass at 4015m

Sahuite stone - an intricate piece of Incan stone carving in situ. Unfortunately many of the animal heads have either been hacked off by thieves or are the result of a botched casting job.

A long descent from the pass down to the Apurimac canyon. Magnificent scenery as the road twisted itself in coils to reach the bottom of the hot, arid valley.

Morning light in the Apurimac canyon

A long day´s ride - 95kms, 1750m. climb and almost 8 hours in the saddle. We stayed the night at 1900m. at a nice hospedaje Quinta Caranavel in Carmen village (15 soles dbl room - great value). Lovely grilled trout and warm beer for dinner, followed by refreshing cold showers.

Remains of an Incan bridge over the Apurimac river - the setting and inspiration for the novella `The Bridge of San Luis Rey´ (by Thornton Wilder). Impressive stone walling built into the rockface. In Incan times the span would have been bridged with vines and rope made from grasses.

From the canyon bottom (at 1800m) a long slow climb to Limatambo (2600m) and through smaller villages to 3600m. Below Limatambo we met Bob, an Australian cyclist who was travelling light with only rear panniers and he will spend 2 years riding around the continent. Lat ein the day we found a great little campsite at 3600m and 3 kms from the pass with views of Salkantay and the cultivated valley below.

Plants and flowers - at our campsite 3600m - remnant relics of Andean alpine vegetation, sadly so little left due to heavy cultivation, population pressure and the arrival of exotic plants (especially our own native, the eucalypt).

Mt Salkantay 6712m

Salkantay & cultivated slopes

Our hidden campsite just below pass, with Salkantay beyond. It was a great spot as we watched the mountain reveal itself slowly emerging from the morning mist as we ate breakfast.

Bike repair on the go - brakes need constant tweeking on these long descents.

Riding over the pass at 3750m, with Salkantay in the background.

Over the last two days we had climbed over 3500m and we felt a little smug as we approached Cuzco and the final little climb of 550m. From Huaraz to Cuzco we cycled around 1800kms, with 28 days of riding and 26,500m of elevation gain. Our detours and escapades from Ayacucho to Andahualyas added quite a bit to the route in time and effort. Cyclists usually take 9-12 days to do the infamous Ayacucho-Cuzco took us 18 days...but well worth all the pain, heat and dust.

If any cyclists want to take the Vilcashuaman 2011 the bridge over the Rio Pampas at Incachanka should be built, the road from Concepcion to Airabamba will be finished by next year....and if you want to risk the river crossing below Saurama the water level should be low enough by Aug/Sept to attempt a crossing with gear. It would make an epic ride, avoiding the rather boring section between Tocto and Uripa.
You ride from the river to Uranmarca and meet the Andahuaylas road about 10 kms below the pass. If you want specific info I can email it to you.

Quechuan woman waiting for a bus to market in Ancahuasi.

The road from the north entering Cuzco on July 3.


Unknown said...

soñar es tambien vivir, pero vivir los sueños es llegar a disfrutar y entender lo maravilloso que es la vida en toda su extención.
son pocos pero son, FELICITACIONES por ser uds unos de ellos. muy bonitas las fotos con uds estamos conociendo mas nuestro país
el peru agradece su visita, los niños de tauli siempre les recordaran. regrecen cuando uds lo deseen.
tus amigos
ufis peru.

Carol y Kent said...

amazing amazing journey and wonderful pics! We are travelling here also but by bus (wimps!). Because of your blog and pics we have decided to go from Huaraz to Huanuco and down to Lima from there.
Wish I had the energy for a trip like you are making!