Southbound at last!

After a warm cuppa to defrost, I headed down through the valley towards the mine.  The terrain got pretty sketchy (lots of loose rocks and gravel)…

Inevitably, given my limited experience off-road, I had my first fall of the trip!  Fortunately, however, bike and rider were relatively unscathed.  Whilst some of it probably is down to lack of experience, it’s definitely no mean feat controlling such a heavy bike on this terrain.  This has definitely encouraged me to further pursue my (bike) weight-loss drive and I’m continuing to tinker with the setup to try and get the best possible weight distribution (fore and aft).

Soon enough, I arrived at the mine, not entirely sure that I would be able to cycle through it!  Fortunately, it transpires that it’s not been operational for a year or two now and the road is open.  It’s quite an eye-opener to see one of these places up close – I particularly appreciated the irony of the sign at the bottom which reads, in Spanish, “Looking after our environment is everyone’s task”!

There were a few other creatures around…

It was hot and hard work going up the steep road through the mine and I then had to push on back up to 4200m to make it over to the next valley.  It was all worth it, though, for the beautiful camp spot…

The next day was possibly one of the toughest – certainly the sketchiest terrain so far…

I could really have done with a fatbike (with 4″-5″ tyres) for this section of the trip!  My 2″ wide touring tyres are definitely an absolute minimum for this kind of rocky road.  As such, I had two more very low-speed tumbles and then, later in the day, a final ‘stacking’ which was the fastest/hardest of the lot, although this time I discovered a front puncture from a thorn afterwards, so I’m blaming that!  At least, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it!  The only breakage, besides a bruised hip, was the quick-release on one of my pannier brackets, which should hopefully be replaceable (albeit with an international delivery)!  Looking back, I’m pretty happy that I went with the Rohloff (internal hub) gears – having fallen four times on my right side, I would surely have bent my rear derailleur (the gear-changey bit that hangs down at the back) with a standard setup.  I hadn’t judged provisions very well, so by this time I was pretty much out of food and low on energy!  With the puncture fixed, I put my head down and pushed on to the next village, where I raided the first shop that I found!  That night was spent in a back room of the Village Hall in Mollebamba, having bumped into a friendly Argentinian touring couple who were just negotiating to stay there!

The next morning soon revealed the main task for the day…

With the hairpins done, I still had another 500m of elevation to knock off before getting to the town of Pallasca.  Having stopped to buy honey in town (becoming fairly standard practice whenever I see a ‘honey for sale’ sign!), I found a hospedaje and headed to the Plaza to chill out, where I met a very friendly local security guard called Elvis!

Pallasca is at just over 3100m and the day had finally arrived to do some serious descending!  I was headed down the valley, alongside the river, to Chuquicara at a mere 500m!  I think it was the first time I’d been much below 2000m for about two weeks!  The route was pretty special…

The only real downer was that, as the day wore on, a headwind sprung up!  To the point that, by mid-afternoon, I was having to pedal pretty hard DOWNHILL to make any serious progress!  As I said above, touring seems to have a way of bring you down from any (emotional) highs fairly quickly!!

After a lot more effort than expected, I arrived in Chuquicara, which is situated at the confluence of two rivers and is little more than a gathering of 40-50 houses along the roadside, more of a service station than anything else!  The wind, by this point, was blowing really hard, whipping up all the dust so I figured I’d try and find somewhere to stay rather than camp.  I went over to the police station and asked the policeman outside if there was a hospedaje in the village, to which he replied no but I could set up my tent in the parking lot of the police station (which was merely a dusty spot under a rickety shelter).  Normally, this would have been fine but with gale going on, it would have meant getting dust on everything!  The policeman had been far more interested, however, in the cost of my sunglasses than anything else, which prompted me to enquire a little further about somewhere to stay (out of the wind)!  Needless to say, after a few questions here and there, I found a great room with shower etc run by a lovely old lady at the other end of the village!  I told her to give the policeman a strict talking-to for not knowing his village better!

The next morning, I was headed back up the other spur of the river towards Huallanca.  The road was closed to traffic as they were changing the bridge over but it was still passable to bikes, which made for a nice and relatively car-free ride up the canyon.

After a night in Huallanca, it was then the final push onto Caraz, up through the magnificent Cañon del Pato with no fewer than 30 (unlit) tunnels, several waterfalls and its fair share of precipitous drops!

Eventually, however, I emerged at the top with my first proper view of one of the peaks of the magnificent Cordillera Blanca.  Finally in Caraz, I headed to the very nice Hotel San Marco for some well-earned R&R!

It’s a fantastic route, through some very varied terrain.  I could probably have done without the stony section and falling over several times, but you’ve got to take the rough with the smooth (literally)!  Onwards and upwards…

11 Comments

  1. Your adventures have really begun – what a great account and fantastic pictures. Those stars at night must have been totally amazing. xx

    1. Yep, the stars are incredible. I lay for ages in my sleeping bag with the tent flap open, just taking them in! Eventually had to close it to stay warm. Biggest issue with camping at that height/in that temperature is that my breath condensates on the outside of my sleeping bag near my face! I had to wrap my towel around the neck of the bag to keep it dry! I guess it shows that the down insulation is effective! Cxxx

  2. I am reading this whilst sitting in the comfort of my flat with hot coffee looking at the mayhem and madness on the Fulham Road and am overwhelmed by the enormity of your trip. I am full of admiration at your tenacity and bravery…isn’t it amazing how football brings all races and creeds together!! Keep going. Love Joanna x

    1. Thanks Joanna! The enormity of the trip can be somewhat overwhelming for me too, although I’m getting much better at just focussing on the next week or two!
      Yep, for all the crap at the top of the game, it really can be an amazing ‘uniter’ – especially as it’s such a flexible game, in terms of where you can play it, when you just need a single ball! Cx

  3. Loving the blog dude! Sounds like your having a proper adventure! Well jealous!!!
    Keep up all the photos and 360s! Peru looks amazing and some spectacular sights!
    Beards coming on well! 😉

  4. Intriguing narrative, magnificent pics, and clearly a diplomatic career in the making! As for the rock art ….. just stunning – and what a privilege!

  5. Looks amazing. Those rock paintings truly something. It all looks extremely exhausting. I do like armchair travel! (ie someone else does it snd I just read it at home!) Courage!

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