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loop the loop

PERÚ: HUARAZ — CARHUAZ — SHILLA — PUNTA OLIMPICA — CHACAS — ACOCHACA — YANAMA — VAQUERIA — LLANGANUCO — YUNGAY — HAURAZ

James...

... and Sarah...

... pack up and set off...

... leaving me nothing to do but to follow their example. Unfortunately, we are not heading the same direction.

A quick hour and a half back down the highway towards Caraz, brings me to Carhuaz, where I turn off onto the recently paved road that leads across the Cordillera Blanca via the Punta Olimpica pass. It's one of the classics of South American riding and despite the pavement still a glorious ride. The climb starts relatively sedately, with the road winding its way gradually up the river valley.

As the sun starts to dip behind the mountains, I pull off the road onto the pampa and find a nice stealthy camp, not so far from the road, but sheltered by a rock and plenty of lupins.

Pomegranate. Good stuff. I crave fresh fruit and vegetables.

Morning coffee. The Trangia is still making me happy. I haven't had any problems with it at altitude (up to about 4300m to date) and despite some reasonably involved meals haven't gone through too much fuel. Alcohol seems readily available here in Peru at pharmacies and larger markets. All good.

Despite the areas national park status cows, and cow shit, are everywhere.

...

The climb starts in earnest with an incredible series of switchbacks,...

... coiled like intestines up the mountain slope.

An icon of Mary watches over the welfare of travellers towards the top of the pass...

...where the smooth new tarmac ends. A team of road workers are still labouring on a tunnel that cuts through the top of the mountain which will allow motorists to avoid this last avalanche prone section of road.

Finally, a gap in the rock...

... and there I am - at 4890 metres above sea level.

One the other side of the pass - a glacial lake of improbable blue appears. The colour is caused by the population of algae that grows on the suspended particles of rock 'flour' created by the eternal grinding of glaciers in their rocky beds.

Celestial: heaven is blue, I'm sure.

The tunnel.

Now it's time to layer up and descend,...

...the pavement is satin smooth all the way into Chacas.

The next day, however, its a (welcome) return to signless dirt roads that even the topographical map that James and Sarah gave me fail to shed much light on. However, I am more and more relaxed about not knowing exactly where I am. Most roads go somewhere and that is good enough for me. I choose up.

The somewhere that these roads traverse are a series of sleepy villages...

... inhabited by relaxed locals.

Corn hangs drying in the sun in tiny village squares.

A modest village church, now derelict...

...has been replaced by a grandiose Don Bosco edifice,...

... with the characteristic elaborate and detailed wood work celebrating the glory of Catholicism.

Three little pigs go about their business.

...

...

...

Planet Earth's pointy teeth rise above it all.

I arrive in the Yanama village square towards the end of the afternoon siesta period.

Yanama is a bigger town but exactly the same themes are repeated; sleepy square,...

...corn drying in the sun,...

... some frantic activity around the new Don Bosco church, another grandiose affair, this time featuring modernist architecture in the form a huge expanse of tiled concrete representing Mary's mantle. (In celestial blues, no less - couldn't they just go and contemplate one of the gorgeous glacial lakes...?) The building is going to be inaugurated at the end of August by the President himself.

I flee Yanama, into the gathering shadows.

Next day, the climb begins again as I approach the Portachuelo Llanganuco Pass. The indigenous high altitude Polyepsis trees are abundant here...

...with their characteristic flaky papery red bark. They are reminiscent of Australian paperbark trees but are, in fact, part of the rose family of plants!

More lakes and lupins...

...

...

...

...

The road winds up in a series of convoluted twists and whorls...

... towards the gap in the rocks up there that is the pass.

...

Pedal stroke after pedal stroke until I am there...

... and the road unravels on the other side...

... dropping down to the Llunganuco Lagunas.

...

...

...

...

The sound of running water is a constant as glacier fed streams...

... plummet down rocky slopes.

...

...

The streams collect themselves...

... into a lively river running along the valley floor...

... all of which adds up...

... to a perfect campsite...

...

... where I can watch the last of the day's light play against the mountain tops.

...

Up at dawn...

...

...

... descending, as clouds creep over the range,...

...through more sleepy villages...

...and past more super relaxed pigs. These guys did not budge a single millimetre as a speeding car roared by.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. James | August 10, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful photos, as always. And finally, a photo of us on our bikes, rather than stuffing our faces or drinking coffee! (No need to mention that just a couple of hours after those photos, we´d turned round and were back in the same spot, eating cake and sipping coffee…)

  2. Steve Tober | August 17, 2013 at 1:30 am | Permalink

    STUNNING…I’m Jealous

    ….hard to believe they pave roads to nowhere!

{ 1 } Trackback

  1. H Pike vs 4000m pass | PIKES ON BIKES | August 15, 2013 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    […] much more beautiful photos of the route in good weather, check out  James and Sarah’s and Anna’s photos – some cycling friends we’ve been hanging out with here in Huaraz. By Neil […]

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