Skip to content

maps, mountains, mines


I’ve been studying Tom and Sarah’s excellent blog for route ideas in this part of Perú and shamelessly stealing them. Thanks for blazing the way, guys!

After a short stint on pavement out of Huamachuco a road, servicing a series of mines, heads across the páramo.


The road here is well defined and not very steep although it climbs steadily to well over 4000 metres.

I often feel that this isn't really a bike blog and that I'm not really a cyclist since me and my bike so rarely appear in it but here is a photo in an attempt to remedy that impression. (Photo: Kornelius Martin)

Cycling at over 4000 metres makes your tongue stick out. (Photo: Kornelius Martin)

There is more traffic than usual on back country dirt roads due to the presence of the mines and I pass a group of miners, bathed in heroic late afternoon light, drilling for core samples.

The ribbon of road winds its way across immensity.


Where the mining companies strike gold it's not a pretty picture.

Older and less invasive mining enterprises have long since been abandoned probably at the expense of locals. The big mining companies are all foreign and there is a considerable amount of bad feeling towards them. A lot of the people working on the mines are not locals, even when they are Peruvians, and consequently quite hopeless at giving directions.

High up in the plains herds of alpaca graze.

It isn't long before I am lost-ish, in the sense that I am no longer following the route notes I carefully copied from Tom and Sarah's blog into my notebook but I figure as long as I am still heading south-east it's all going to work out in the end. I will also now avoid the couple of dubious river crossings that have bought harder core cyclists than me a cropper. So it's all good. The road goes on...

...and on...

...and on. (Are these flowers lupins? Anyone?)

The structure of the earth, revealed.


Curious alpine cacti.


I cycle a few days in the company of an Australian motorcyclist in these largely uninhabited mountains. This collection of mostly derelict houses, here, reminds me uncannily of Comala, the village in Pedro Paramo, a Mexican novel that I have been carrying in my pannier ever since I was in Morales (luckily it's very small) and finally downloaded, in English, from the Gutenburg project and managed to finish reading in the previous week. You'll have to read the book yourself to find out why.


Eventually after a couple of days, we arrive at Laguna Peligatas...

... before dropping down through more semi-abandoned mining projects.

This collection of building appears, for all practical purposes, to be a ghost town.

A rainbow arcs out of the gorge and over the hills.

Pampas is the first convincingly inhabited village we arrive at since leaving the highway and represents a return to the mapped. The hotels are seedy and expensive but after a lot of asking around a couple of lads lead us to the Coliseo.

The Coliseo is a quite new, but, nonetheless, more or less derelict, sports centre...

...that seems to function mostly as a municipal depot. The mezzanine floor above the dusty, empty bar provided a reasonably clean and secure camp site.

The next day I drop down the mountains and ride along a gorge for a while...


... to the village of Conchucos. I wonder if Jesus Friend is the aspiring politician's real name.

The Conchucos plaza boasts extensive topiary and the artist...

... is a willing photographic model. He enthusiastically descends from his precarious perch to pose astride one of his magic green horses.

In fact, Conchucos is a friendly place where no-one seems to mind having their photo taken. I arrive during Perú's lengthy siesta and so I have ample time to snap away before I can restock my food panniers at the locals shops.

I am struck by this woman's pale eyes particularly since I am frequently approached by people exclaiming excitedly the fact of my blue/grey eyes. I could be moved to shout, "Gringa!"

More posing from some women and girl in a shop where I bought half a kilo of mandarins.

I spend time in Conchucos trying to find a route through another area on my map on which no roads are marked. I note down a few place names to assist in navigation but I have no clear idea of where I am going. It's 4PM before I set out of town along the river ...

... for a steady couple of hours climbing..

Small irregular fields - it's still a patchwork but the aesthetic is totally different to the regular Ecuadorean quilt.

Up, up.

I camp in a fallow field and continue climbing in the morning,..


... past shepherd's huts...

... to a long pass between the rocky snow sprinkled crags.

The valley floor is boggy...

...and the road sticky with cloying mud... I opt for the grassy middle ground.

It's a spectacularly beautiful day's ride... glorious sunshine.

I stop this man for directions and he is uncharacteristically articulate and informative. When I show him this image, in camera, he exclaims contemptuously, "Puro campesino!" which translates perhaps as, "100% hillbilly!"

In Cangual, a small child comes to observe me making and eating my breakfast. This village is unrecorded on any map and nobody I've spoken to outside its bounds seems aware of its existence. A woman that passes my campsite in the verandah of the church exclaims that it is a miracle that I am here. When I ask what she means she says that they have never had a visitor. I wonder if this is true. The group of youngsters that studied my every move while I set up my tent and cooked my dinner, the evening before, also claimed, once they stopped running away screaming every time I glanced in their direction and found their voices, that they had never seen a real live gringa before.

Past Cangual, I climb, until finally cresting a summit, the Cordillera Blanca appears in all its splendour before me. As the friendly and articulate campesino informed me yesterday, I still have to cross that!

The road drops down again, towards Sihaus, a town that represents another return to the mapped.

{ 3 } Comments

  1. Steve Tober | July 21, 2013 at 2:13 am | Permalink


    The road of my dreams….you’re livin’ it! Go Ana Go!

    Abrazos from the Tober-Zambrano family

  2. noel | July 26, 2013 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    such stunning shots!

  3. Sarah | August 26, 2013 at 2:06 am | Permalink

    I love the photos of you. My thanks to Kornelius.

{ 1 } Trackback

  1. […] in October 2011. The second part from Pampas through Conchucos to Sihuas was inspired by Anna who pioneered the route last year. In five days cycling I was passed by just four motorcycles and no other vehicles save for a small […]

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. Required fields are marked *