Riding through the valley of the volcanoes, along side Corapuna, the largest and highest volcano in Peru, then down to the mouth of the Colca river through prehistoric lava fields was like nothing else I have experienced. Our curiosity to find out if there was a way to cross the Colca river meant that we plunged down into the bottom of the valley, only to find out there was no way to cross and would have to do a U-turn. We then took the long way round following the mining traffic, eventually arriving to Yanque, in the Colca canyon. So much beauty and unique landscape, we have been truly spoilt in Peru. You can read Nathan’s far superior version of events here.
To view all of the photos in this set click here.
2nd August – Cotohuasi to camp
We we were up and out of Cotohuasi early (well, around 9am), which is impressive for us after some rest days – we had a 2000m climb ahead of us so knew that it would just be a case of putting our heads down and getting on with it. The first almost 30km were paved so we moved at a fairly good pace. We were leaving the balmy sun soaked valley of Cotohuasi canyon to again head back up into the sierra, I basked in the warmth of the sun as we steadily climbed; this kind of methodical climb needs music, so I had my ipod for distraction. The day we leave a town we always eat a descent lunch, including fruit and salad, then the days that follow we return back to super noodles. Post lunch we sort of lost our rhythm, and then our speed most definitely reduced once we hit the unpaved road again. This was a bumpy washboard type surface and we just could not motivate ourselves for this climb.
A passing car stopped to talk to us, this was a family from Spain, the father originally from Peru he was bringing his wife and children here for a road trip. The family gave us loads of water which was great as we were beginning to get a little anxious about where we would find out next water source.
We continued climbing but it was not too long before we called it a day and attempted to find a camp spot. This was not a quiet road, maybe because it was a Saturday but there was a car every few minutes. We finally decided on a less than perfect spot, but the best we could find, all the decent places seemed to be occupied by llama and alpaca herds. We were still semi visible from the road but in a small dip in a hill making us less than obvious. Back to pasta for dinner and to another cold night of camping.
Finding a space to sleep
The location of our camp in terms of how early the sun will hit is one of my key factors in choosing a camp spot (top one is to be hidde, then surface- flat, not too spiky etc., and proximity to running water is also another as this saves having to fill a water bag before setting up camp). Sometimes you get to tick everything on the list and some nights you just about make one the top requirement. Nathan is such a pro at finding good spots as before Peru I was mainly travelling in more populated places and sleeping in municipal buildings. This does however mean that when we arrive in a small village Nathan says to go me ‘go do your thing’ as I am pretty good at finding a free floor to sleep somewhere in the village, whether that is the village hall, church, or the back of a restaurant.
3rd August – camp to camp
The wind had kept me awake and I woke tired, plus sleeping in a the dip of a hill meant that the sun did not hit our camp until we were almost ready to leave. That feeling when the sun hits your camp after a freezing night is like nothing else. Plus it has now been so long since we have found benzina (the fuel we need for our camp stoves) that we are eating a breakfast oats cold, which effected moral that morning.
We made it to the top of the pass by the late morning, and had wanted to take a break in front of the sign for the national reserve, but someone had taken a dump, so we had to choose another spot. We headed on a down hill trend, but with plenty of high points to a river where we had planned to top for lunch, but again our break was ruined by the amount of soiled toilet paper, used nappies and sanitary pads that has been discarded by the river, we felt pretty disillusioned and, our moods only soured by eating dry crackers for lunch, we both felt too lazy to cook up some noodles.
After lunch we headed off that main road, and as quick as that our moods changed, along with the scenery. We were now in stunning open pampa, like nothing we had ridden before. We stopped in the small village of Mauco Llacta (means ancient place in Quechua), the village itself is an archaeological site as it is that old . We did not expect to find a shop here but we asked and were directed to a woman where we purchased eggs and biscuits.
We found a camp spot next to river ate pasta with eggs scambled into it (no sauce). Our cold night staple of cocoa winter’s hot chocolate is back. We measured lows of -4°c by the time we went to bed, it felt like one of the coldest nights I have experienced, and it took a couple of hours before I was cosy enough to fall asleep. The night was clear and the stars were truly magical.
4th August – camp to Andagua
Despite the cold night this had to be one of my favourite camp spots, the sun hit the camp early and I soon forgot the freezing conditions of the night. With such stunning views of Coropuna we drank coffee and chatted before finally getting on our way. Nathan and I had not been cycling as fast or efficiently as we could, we spent a lot of time faffing, talking and having fun and taking lots of pictures. That day we cycled about an hour and a half before taking a 45 minute break, we then cycled 2 hours before taking a 1 hour and 45 minute lunch break. After all that we decided that we better cycle – we wanted to arrive of the village of Andagua that night, it should have been an easy target.
5th August – Andagua to Ayo
Nathan had done some research about a potential crossing from the village of Ayo crossing the Colca river and then up to the village of Huambo. From here we would then cycling through the most touristy part of the Colca canyon. The government maps shows that there was a road, and from looking at google earth it seemed there was a track, we now just needed to find out about the river crossing. We asked the mayor in Andagua and he said he thought there was a road but was not sure about a bridge, but imagined someone would help us cross with pulleys. With this advice we thought we would give it a go. With this we headed down, through lava fields descending almost 2000m over 34km. The route was so spectacular that it took us all day.
On arriving in Ayo I ask the road construction workers about the road. They say that there is not one, and that the signs that we saw were preemptive, the road will not be complete for another year . The only option would have been a track going up the sandy cliff, which had since been lost in a landslide. We do not want to believe the construction workers so we head into the plaza to ask some locals, including the mayor, who told us the same. We are told that we could potentially hire a local person as a guide to hike up, but this still is dangerous and someone died doing it the previous year. There is no way I want to consider a hike and bike up that steep sandy surface. Dejected we find a place to sleep in this balmy village which was in the middle of a power cut,and plan alternative routes. He he dares does not always win, but we still felt honoured to have visited this spectacular valley. I would love to return to this place and explore one day.
6th August – Ayo to Andagua (truck)
There are only 2 buses a week leaving Ayo so we are lucky that the mayor organised a lift up to Andagua in a construction worker’s truck. Descending the previous day took a lot of concentration so I revel in the opportunity to look out of the window and watch the landscape slowing change as we gain altitude. I study the forms the cacti take on, some looking like animals, others looking like the menorah (the candle used for Jewish Hannukah celebrations). Back in Andagua we decide to take a day off, we have plenty of jobs to keep us busy and have been exhausted by our exploits.
Part 2, the journey continues
7th August – Andagua to camp past Orcapampa
8th August – camp to camp
9th August – camp to Caylloma
10th August – Caylloma to Sibayo
11th August – Sibayo to Yanque (then Arequipa by bus)
It’s hard to keep finding superlatives to describe riding in Peru, just wow.
The first few days of this ride, until we turned off to Andagua we followed the andesbybike.com route notes.
- Abracadabra – the toughest, highest, coldest route
- Colca Canyon to Lake Titicaca, our last jaunt in Peru