After few days in Huaraz eating lots of big food and hanging out with the french and the big dogs it was time to go along the last bits of Cordillera Blanca and toward Huayhuash.
Although i try my best to avoid it, riding on pavement isn’t bad. We climbed gently up the valley passing towns and mines.
Our first stop was the Pastoruri glacier. It was nice to see the locals herd their sheep up the hills but man these peruvian sheepdogs really don’t know what they are doing, running around and barking and not helping like a proper sheepdog.
Sylvain had seen me rock the peruvian poncho and got one as well. We set camp just before the rain hit.
The peruvian national park service had it all figured out: run animals everywhere in the park, build mines and gringo tax tourists (4x normal prices). We paid our 20$ for a night of camping
“You can sleep in the parking lot.” Oh, great!
It was still early before the tourists flocked in on buses and the valley was full of big weird plants. Pretty good weather considering the downpours we had between Caraz and Huaraz.
At the end of the road the guys told me I can’t go with bike and need to take horse instead. I pointed to the old road and they said yeah then went back to their card game.
The glacier seemed pretty small but had a nice vibe with the on and off snow and sun. At 5000m it was the highest I have ever been. Apparently the horse rides to near the top are just $2 but there is also a dude helping and carrying people on the final steps (not kidding!), that would set you back a $6. I waited for my friend as people went about taking photos, selfies and getting cold.
At 4 some whistles started blowing and they all went down. Sylvain went around and we set up camp. Water, from the lake or the ponds was undrinkable with very strong metallic taste. We scooped some fresh snow nearby. Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to eat snow? Well, it will be snow for dinner and breakfast!
It was a cold night and silent morning. It was truly awesome to wake up in the white winter wonderland without a single cloud in the sky.
We rode down early as the horses got ready for their day and towards a true peruvian dream road. Snaking its way amongst ridges and peaks, barely used and never too steep.
Eventually hail and rain rolled in for a bit and there was a final 1300m unbroken downhill past more mines to a little mining town. Even our hostel was named “the blue mine”.
We climbed on a too good to be true road out of town. I was somehow worried that there may be a mine gate at some point as we watched convoy after convoy go down. Zero up traffic, they must all go up in the morning.
Then as Sylvain said it “the fun begins”
Around the corner the small road ended and it was trail time. Thats when the real fun begins!
Wait… is that a sheep???
Peruvian poodle dog!
We made good friends while waiting for Sylvain and she even went with us to show us the right way among the many false cow tracks. And boy she could howl!! A howling peruvian poodle???
More friendly farm dogs to come!
Eventually we got on a road, map had one the whole way but maybe they put it on the map but forgot to build it?
Wer rode down a ways and set a camp, rather windy but the wind blew away the clouds just in time for a red sunset over the Huayhuash.
Morning was clear and road good until it ended. We went past a toll booth luckily unattended and up a trail.
It was easy pushing except for few steeper parts, lots of water, birds and cows.
Downhill was rideable and fun, Sylvain walked most of it though, love fat bikes! But i really wish I had a helmet.
This donkey did not hide too well but stealth is a useful skill to have as a donkey.
I got myself well aquianted with the next set of peaks and glaciers while waiting for my friend and a local went looking for the donkey, who by the way had escaped and if he didn’t bring it back it could wander off.
A stealth donkey and an escape artist! Wait.. there are two of them??? was the other one just that good at stealth???
Camp was with obligatory door facing the view. After the 4pm hailstorm it got nice again.
Sylvain wanted to shuttle the bike up the pass and go hiking and I added my gear to the donkey taxi but decided to bring my bike, in case I can ride it. A stealth escape artist donkey taxi.
After having paid yesterday, a kid with a notebook ran up to us asking us
to pay another $15. Really? We knew what we were getting into, Huayhuash was pretty popular and the whoe loop runs about over $100 but getting charged at each house is silly. We argued for a bit until his dad waved us on from the field.
Next house up the hill came again a lady with a notebook.
“You have to pay”
Sylvain confirmed that this was on the list of “have to pay” places and we paid our $10. Kind of a bummer to be charged everywhere but if your quiet farm turns into a tourist wonderland how could you blame anyone for making a profit?
Trail was very narrow and steep, making carrying impossible and pushing very difficlt. Taking off a pedal did the trick and I made my way up, Sylvain also pushing the bike from time to time in the back.
Sylvain had to keep his donkey date at 3pm so he went on and I slowpoked my way up the 4800-somethingish pass.
Some guide book had it titled the best hike out of the circuit and it was beautiul but I wasnt here for that. Just going along for the ride… er. Hike. Ok, downhill was actually mostly rideable save for some really bumpy boggy parts.
Sylvain tells me was was 10 min early for the donkey date and it all went well. No second date though and he’ll be biking the next pass. Hopefully they make it back before 4pm hailstorm. Just before the dark it broke for an amazing sunset and oh, have you seen the moon?
We descended down another valley wondering how many times we can be charged but luckily nobody was at home. I looked over my shoulder for a bridge troll and a notebook but we made it clear! Despite that, it is a wonderfull place where the valleys climb toward the sky and the rugged peaks stand tall from above. It is a place to feel at home, a place to take your breath away (literally) and a place where you can’t dream because well… you are in it.
The ride down was a blast but perhaps tougher if you were pushing more of it.
Doing the whole circuit for me was a no go, not only because its expensive but also my ticking clock on peruvian visa. I have 28 days to get out and just so much more to see. Sylvain was not super stoked on pushing his bike up and walking it down. I think he was also struggling with altitude but I am also just good at pushing my bike (we have same riding speed on roads). He wasn’t overly excited about the exit trail and decided to zoom down the valley where there seemed to be a road. We agreed to meet in town in two days.
In my turnoff I was clear of any and all toll/troll houses and receipts! Although this second climb of the day was a bit much. Going up is tough but downhills really sap your strength, negotiating with rocks and bumps and cowpoop.
I found a good spot with protection from the wind and the cows but a short scout did not show a road where the map had it, just a trail. Maybe Sylvain was right to opt out but tomorrow is another day, another 4800m pass and if all goes well I can stuff my face full of food in a town in the evening! These peruvian mashed potatoes are crappy, I feel sick about 3/4th way through a bowl.
I tried to capture the thunder sizzle above in audio but the hail pounding on the tent muffled most of it. But the best about being so close to the equator is that the frost and snow melts super fast and you can definitely pack a dry tent.
Good trail up until what appears to be a road.
The road went gently down after the pass and a mine but still rather rocky, hard to ride with one hand and take video with other. Without the looming threat of toll booths and notebooks it was much easier to stop and talk to the locals, to work out bike for a horse and a half trade and invite their kid to argentina!
The main road widened almost expecting big mining truck convoys but they never came, just some little mines alongside.
This little town had a restaurant but you have to pay money to go in the town. Odd. I just went on.
I asked to buy some eggs and rice at a little store and hung out with their dog and kids for an hour. Theolder kid was super curious and the younger one just grumpy! Dog played soccer too!!!
To top it off I found a shortcut at a little town and got mobbed by 6 dogs in a little alley until an old man came out and threwrocks at them. The road turned to hiking trail. A peruvian dream trail, not steep, wide enough and smooth. It ran all the way to the town.
Oyon, a typical miner town, we found a place with ok hot shower at The Miner hotel and munched a so-so (by peruvian standards) dinner with the other miners. We even managed to catch up with the 2014 huayhuash video and turns out we did almost the same side (they did 2 extra passes).
so yeah this is about it for this post! lots of peru left to go!
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