Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Segment 44: Huaraz, Peru to Ayacucho, Peru (September 19 - 30, 2011)

After several weeks in Huaraz, it was time to ride again... this stretch to Ayacucho turned out to be shocking for its scenery and challenging and rewarding riding:

Arnaud, now without his trailer (he rode Alaska to Quito with a trailer)... it turned out to be too much trouble on the rough dirt roads

At Pachacoto, shortly after Catac, we turned off the main road and headed up this gravel road into the Cordillera Blanca.

as you can see it started off pretty well

low traffic on this route, this comby van has a number of sheep tied to the roof, West-Africa-style

... these fantastic plants are Puna Raymondi, a unique high-Andes species found along this road in a few patches. 

... the route keeps getting better...

rock paintings

at over 4500m (nearly 15,000 feet) here, we are beginning to be hit by an afternoon storm - COLD!!!

our campsite just below 4800m, the following morning after the storm.  This was to be one of our favorite cycling days in our lives.

... we started by coming over the pass at 4800m near Nevado Pastoruri, and then continued along these gorgeous mountains heading towards a second pass at 4900m...

Arnaud just beyond the second pass at 4900m (16076 feet), the highest either of us have ever been on a bicycle

a view of the Cordillera Huayhuash to the south.  A stretch of this road winds along a ridge that is between the Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Huayhuash, truly extraordinary riding...

... surreal geological features...

... stunning beyond words... to the extent that this route has become our FAVORITE of all time, the second time this has happened in Peru. 

descending now back down to earth, here we are riding with a German couple who are on the same route...

... these kids came to check us out at some hot springs just below La Unión

the scene heading towards El Tingo

a view towards the east face of the Cordillera Huayhuash

in Llicllatambo

... a big climb out of Llicllatambo brought us to Punta Unión (4010m) and this descent...

in Huancapallac we stayed the night in the civic ballroom

out of Huánuco (2000m), we climbed and climbed (over 90km) up to Cerro de Pasco cutoff, at 4300 meters.  It was cold here.

this is a huge herd of llamas found near the Cerro de Pasco cutoff, just off the highway

Colquijirca where we had lunch.  this was a surreal mining town

with a surreal new-age plaza

up on the high basin between Cerro de Pasco and Junín... this was truly cold riding.

especially when the storm hit:  cold, windy, rainy, a headwind blowing slicing rain into our eyes, no shelter anywhere.  Here we are beginning a 55km dirt detour into Junín (passing through Vicco and Ondores).

this was a beautiful stretch of dirt

a late afternoon run-in with a herd of alpaca!...

a blissful sight for any dirt-road tourist

... we were hosted in Ondores by a friendly family who gave us a room and looked after us properly after a freezing day...

contouring around Lake Junín the following morning.  Second-biggest lake in Peru after Titicaca.

flamingoes spotted here.  Other than in Cuba we haven't seen them on this trip

Sunday morning religious parade in Junín

... the bizarre mining town of La Oroya...

... dry mined-over landscapes here

Jeff was selected to pose with this baby near San Francisco, heading towards Huancayo now

climbing out of Huancayo

Jeff bit by an aggressive bastard dog after being chased by a small pack on this climb.  Not to worry, no rabies contracted, and Jeff made sure this dog suffered by pegging him with a big rock in the head as hard as he could throw.  In fact, this incident led to a small change in philosophy, one from kicking an aggressive dog in the face with cycling shoes whenever possible to that of dropping the bike, grabbing the nearest adequate rock, and aiming to hurt the bastard as much as possible. 

... agricultural scenes near the top of this pass...

now, descending, first on pavement for a LLLONNG time...

... the town of Izcuchaca where the friendly Padre put us up for the night...

... the road turned to dirt just after Izcuchaca...

we followed the Mantaro River down forever it seemed... note the water color here (a bit silty)

the huge Tablachaca Dam on the Mantaro River

now emerald water color

these trucks brave narrow lanes, knife-edge ledges, landslides, no guardrails, and mudholes to navigate this road

our campsite just before Anco

... this fantastic ride continued the following morning...

but now the river is red???

we had some good muddy fun here in a few places.  This road, the Mantaro River Road, has become another favorite ride of the whole trip, and the second on this segment alone.

Arnaud didn't escape without incident... this is his broken crank, which happened just before Málloc

... in Málloc we witnessed the festival of the virgen of Málloc...

great bottom-land scenery outside Málloc (river now mostly clear)

... we were hosted in Huanta by El Maestro, a local bike aficionado,mechanic, and head of local cycling club who has cycled extensively in Peru... (he helped Arnaud get some new cranks as well)
... the local kids are all about it too...

Jeff repairing broken spokes numbers 5 and 6 on this segment!  Last task before Ayacucho.

(all photos this post: Arnaud de Lavelaye)

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