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cañon de pato


I drop down from the mountains in Sihuas only to be immediately confronted with climbing back out of the river valley and crossing the Cordillera Blanca and descending into the Cañon de Pato.

Sihuas sits at about 2700 metres on the river. I love these aerial views of towns and villages, far below, as I climb the roads out of them, looking just like toy models.

Peeking peaks.

Woman with a Huaraz hat.

I bed down for the night in a restaurant in Pasacancha, a rather drab village, at over 3600 metres. It happens to be where members of the road crew who are upgrading the road over the pass eat their dinner and breakfast which is turns out to be handy.

They road guys watch me setting up my bed and offer me a foam mattress for increased warmth and comfort and I check that they will let me pass through the road closures the following days.

The restaurant owners feed me along with the road crew and wave aside any idea that I might pay them for their generousity.

It's a 6.00AM start and so it takes a little time to climb above the valley shadows...

... but at the top the sun is shining and those snow caps peaks are ever closer.


This Cordillera Blanca pass, Abra Cahuacona, is a relatively lowly 4207 metres above sea level, lower than some of the other remote, anonymous mountains passes I've crossed in the previous week.

And then it's downhill...

... past the roadworks and then down, down, down without a single car to raise any dust since the road is officially closed to traffic during the day.

One the other side once I pass a village or two my exclusive use of the road is over but this is what makes for a traffic jam in these parts.

Down, down. It's another one of those all day descents.

Precarious, above steep valleys.

I pass the tiny mountain village of Yanac...

...a handful of houses trickling down the steep streets.

The village store looks like it has remained unchanged for decades. There is a bare light globe for illumination but the kerosene lamp still hangs beside it - whether this is because the owner hasn't got around to taking it down yet or because the electricity supply is unreliable isn't entirely clear.

The landscape gets drier and drier as I descend into the valley.

The road is rough and loose; rocky, dusty, and steep!


Up above, from time to time, I can glimpse the ice caps and in one gulley a glacier fed stream rushes down and water follows the road for a while...

... but overwhelmingly it is a dusty, dry place.


The vegetation lower down is deserty again.

Red peppercorn trees are native to this habitat in Peru.

I arrive finally at Yunacmarca and find a tiny room for night - just room for me and my bike inside. There is only running water for a few hours a day but there is a drum of water in the bathroom to wash off the day's grime. It's my first proper opportunity to bathe since I left Huamachuco and so I wash my clothes, too.

The next morning I set off along the famous Cañon de Pato. It promises to be another dusty day


Strange fruit.


The canyon houses a hydro electric project and it looks like the management enjoy a little more lushness than any of the other locals.

The road through Cañon de Pato is famous for its tunnels:...

...a series...

...of over thirty of them. Some long...

... and all of them extremely narrow.

There is plenty of traffic and not much room. I don my head lamp and hope for the best.

Water finding its way down from the snowy peaks to the river in the gorge.

{ 1 } Comments

  1. Lucie | August 5, 2013 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe, Anna, there were trucks on that road with tunnels. Hope you didn;t come across any in one of the tunnels. Incredible pictures in this post! Love them all! I am trying to imagine the feeling of descending all day long, and seeing what you see. Wonderful! Keep safe! Lucie

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