Cordillera Blanca

(in the process of changing website platforms, new blog posts will appear here until I can complete the move! You can bookmark and follow this if you want. Later this will be the main webpage)

So a two day rest in Pomabamba proved to be a bad idea as I was just not sure what to do and where to go. My planned route lay ahead toward Caraz but what about these traile leading away from my lake camp few days ago? My friend told me that people can do it with horses and mules so by default it is possible on bike. I sent as much stuff ahead as I could including stove, repair kit and clothes and went out of town. We are doing this!

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It did made most sense to take the old road up. A 1300+m climb on a trail would be tough, especially if it will rain all day. I had gotten a Peruvian blanket-like plastic poncho which did wonders as it was fully waterproof and had enough openings to keep me cool. The light rain was on and off but as I reached above 4000m it got quite cold. Cows seemed to try and run interference but nothing could stop me now!

I kicked around cow and horse poop to clear a decent spot, as usual facing the big mountains when they come out. It was a rather rainy night and in the morning the mountain came into view on the backing of the bland cloudy sky as if it was a dream and not real.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I drove up to my friends hut at Huilca and he was surprised to see me again. I told him I am going to the other side and here is how the conversation went (in spanish of course)

´Do you know the trail?´
´Yeah´
´How is it? is it good?´
´its just rocks´
´but can I ride the bike?´
´no, just rocks´
´not even for a little bit?´
´no´

We ate great wheat soup for breakfast. They go to town twicea month. One time with horses for supplies and likely another time with the moto for small things if needed. No TV, no electricity (aside from a Solar Panel for light and charging their phones for music). There was a moment of awkwardness as I headed up, maybe he was expecting me to go back? I snap a photo as his wife (in red) goes off chasing after the sheep some of which broke off before their scheduled release time of 8am

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My ride through the flat valley bottom and the rain from the night before all contributed to my tires getting saturated with sheep and horse and llama poop. I take care to ride through every puddle and luckily it falls off. Pushing your bike with poop on it up a hill would not be fun!

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After some wandering among the millions of cattle trails that go up I find something more pronounced. Its the main trail leading over the ridge

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It was hard work but somehow easy as it wasnt like the deep mule trenches of Ecuador or the simply dangerous foot trails of Colombia. Peruvians had their stuff together and perhaps the topography of these mountains allowed it… for now. Sharp pieces of rock came over on the other side and I instilled fear in the hearts of the cows and horses as I descended the rideable section before the next pass, often staring at the valley end and wondering ¨How am I going to go over that???¨

It was the calm before the storm, figuratively and literally. I almost caught a glimpse of the sun as I munched some lunch after scaring off a band of horses from their favorite spot. I could see their heads at 30 degrees, looking curiously at me as I made my way up the hill and it started raining.

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The final push over the pass looked nearly impossibleOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

but it was easier than it looked. The rocky terrain offering good drip and always, always having decent space beside me to push the bike up.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and then it started snowing, haha it was just perfect! So thats why they call it Cordillera Blanca!DCIM116GOPROG0136316.JPG

I had a short moment of ¨NO WAY…¨ at the pass as I looked at the begining of the trail. I descended it on my bum with bike up front and using my feet and one hand not holding the bike to slow myself down. After the initial steepness, the trail evened out a bit. The soft cover of snow over the sharp rocks meant …. it could may be be rideable??

While the plastic poncho kept my core body dry and warm, everything else – sleeves and pants through my rain gear was soaked and while I wanted to keep doing the descend, I figured chances are I wont find a decent place to sleep and the bottom of the valley at 4200m would still be cold. It was best to set up right here.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I force fed myself as much as I can of the sandwitches and tuna that I could eat and went to sleep. The bright moon shoot through the clouds and I came out to see what was happening.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The morning was no less spectacular as the first sun went over the white giants and before the clouds engulfed them again. What a rad place!DCIM117GOPROG0087043.JPG

while I was watching glaciers and clouds, I too was being watchedOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Looking at the rough elevation for tomorrow I set up camp very early at 4200m to rest and celebrate the new year by sleeping half of the day. Tomorrow would be tough and its best to rest up. I fired up a big playlist of TED talks that I managed to scoop over my cellphone network in Pomabamba (as simply none of the internet cafes had decent internet).

It was a mostly rideable descend down the valley past some old ruins, perhaps older than few hundred years? These rocks are very very big and heavy and I dont think normal people would go about moving them…

Lorena from Lima was hiking here (also a warmshowers host in Lima!) We helped eachother move the bike and backpack over a thorny cactus-like plant fence, perhaps used to make sure cattle dont wander off on the trail and get lost. She was off to hike another 8 days and I was a little jelaous! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

But I had other things to worry about. Such as the over 1000m of vertical ascent that lay ahead of me today…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

and all the switchbacksOI000090.jpg

I dont want to be the one criticizing the ancient trail builders… but did they really have to dip 300m down and then up again? 😦OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was tough going up to 4800m again. Lots of pauses, especially during rockier parts or when bike needed to be lifted. But interestingly I was making good progress, slowly. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The final push, although at times scary looking was easier than the rest mainly due to wider trail

and for some odd reason, the descend was in a good shape as well. Partly rideableDCIM117GOPROGOPR7133.JPG

At the base of a lake I was looking for a camping spot when I stumbled at a decent shelter. 4600m is still quite cold and the thought of not having to pack frosty tent seemed appealing (I still had to dry mine which was still frozen in my bag from yesterday!). After watching the sunset show over the lake and to the west over Cordillera Negra across the valley, five gringos rolled in. They took the kitchen floor of the hut and I had the master suite.

We chatted for a while and drank Matte in the morning, I was just so happy to talk english (it has been a really long while!) and they were off to do the entire circuit – another 12 days of hiking. They also told me that the way down was rideable and while I did not fully trust that I still had to take the stairs for about an hour before the descendOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was actually rideable. At times bumpy and rocky but RIDEABLE! I scared the crap of a whole bunch of different groups of cows as I bombed down (at a safe speed), really appreaciating my new brakes and how well they have held up as well as the bike in general – it was a wonderful piece of machinery, new and old that was just perfect for the occasion.

I munched fresh food at the town while the locals were poking the tires, counting gears and wondering where the gas goes. I did quite well to find apples and bananas and I need to be careful not to overeat as that has been a problem in the past after similar stretches of eating bad or not eating enough (it has been 3 cans of tuna and sandwitches and cookies for the last 5 days). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The road was a road and I felt like a superman pedalling in low elevation, basking in the heat of the sun and talking to cows and dogs by the road (and people too).

The final descend to Caraz was something different. It started off good but the road deteriorated as we went on. I was just bombing down first passing the minibus, the taxi and then a mototaxi. Faster and faster I even overtook one of the Toyota Hilux mining trucks – the monstrosities of the peruvian dirt roads that stop for nothing. I was the fastest thing down this stretch of road.

Rolling into town was nice and I went for a $6 pasta at a tourist restaurant, followed by fried chicken on the street. There was the plan to ride over the Cordillera Blanca twice more, once on a road and once on a trail but that may have to wait. I had been copying videos off of my camera to my tablet to have space and now I was at capacity. While I planned to stop in Huaraz to rest up, a quick stroll around town found me a place to rent a computer and one of the hotels (at $15 canadian) seemed very good and the staff amazing! So I set up here for the next 11 days to work on 1st video of Peru along with few other projects and fatten up. They even brought a table, couch and coffee maker to the room.

meanwhile, typing up this post on the wordpress.com engine was a blitz and I will definitely be using this for all future posts and eventually move the main website here. So, you can hit subscribe here too if youd like to keep up to date! Cheers!!

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