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el silencio


I emerge from the Huayhaush in something of a state: I am becoming more than a little upset and confused by my status as a gringa tourist in Perú. My fundamental discomfort with tourism and the tourist industry is normally relatively neatly sidestepped – a tent and a bike go a long way to that end –  but it is apparent in places like Hatun Machay and Huayhaush that that is not always enough and a number of awkward uncomfortable questions are rattling around my head.*

I am also hungry!

I don't always make the best decisions. In this case the choice is: Lunch or Oyon?... I have arrived from Viconga in the Huayhaush via the road on the left, Oyon is reached via the road on the right and Cajatambo is a couple of kilometres - and more than a couple of hundred metres - below. Ploughing on to Oyon, with the hope of encountering a smaller village somewhere before, wins out in this toss up - to the unfortunate detriment of eating anything much for the next 24 hours.

The road winds around the pampa towards an anonymous pass where I look back towards the Huayhaush Range.

Peruvians refer, rather poetically, to areas of sparse population as el silencio – the silence – and as it turns out there is plenty of that here and it is probably just what I need.

Lots of long lonely roads - the Peruvians calls this kind of area as "el silencio" and shun it where they can. Solitude, to their way of thinking, is inherently dangerous.

Sunset finds me camping in a stone corral to side of the road.


Morning brings me to a mine but still no restaurant or food shop. The working mine is below this collection of abandoned buildings from a previous Peruvian owned mining venture that folded in the 80s or 90s.. I am curious about this history. Most of the current mining projects are owned by American, Canadian and Chinese companies.


...el silencio. There is plenty of it,...

... interspersed with more mines. This one claims to work to conserve the environment with social responsibility.

Let's hope so.

And then,...



Miles and miles of it.

I arrive at Yarajhuanca, a small town close to Cerro de Pasco, at dusk. The area is in the midst of a number of mining projects which make no extravagant claims to environmental or social responsibility and there is little visual evidence of either. I quickly exhaust a cyclist's preferred accommodation options - Yarajhuanca is too small to boast of any kind of hotel, there is no fire station or police station, the school is padlocked. Finally, long after dark, I am rescued from the cold streets by a woman with a small child who takes me back to her crowded family home where, after I am supplied with a plate of rice and eggs and a warming mug of hot chocolate, I bed down on the living room floor.

In the morning, heart-warmed by this generous encounter and armed with a set of directions which will enable me to avoid Cerro de Pasco and the highway, I find myself riding across the fields towards Hauyllay...

...another rock forest. This reserve is managed by the local community, who charge 1 sol/night to camp in the area.

From Hauyllay, some quiet dirt roads lead to Laguna Chinchaychoca... impressive lake...

... populated by a multitude of...


It's a tranquil place, as shining and luminous in its own way, as the mountains.

* I may get around to writing something serious on this subject at some point in time.

{ 3 } Comments

  1. Neil | October 9, 2013 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    Looks like you had better weather for the road to Oyon than us!
    Was Karina´s shop before the mine not open? She had loads of tasty goodies in there, and let us stay the night when the hail arrived…
    We were told that the current Mina Chanca is still Peruvian owned, which would make it a rarity.
    Right, off to see if the road from Oyon to Rapaz and on southwards exists. Locals are (as usual) doubtful, but our Ministry of Transport maps show there is and they{ve been accurate so far. Had our first ‘el silencio’ comments when we mentioned going that way!

  2. anna | October 11, 2013 at 12:30 am | Permalink

    No, sadly, it was firmly closed and guarded by a very threatening dog.

  3. Neil | October 21, 2013 at 12:50 am | Permalink

    Bummer! Ah, the dogs. 4 of them were nice. The 5th (old, blind) warmed to us, after having bitten Harriet’s trousers…

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