The Peru Great Divide Route

I spied this route on the website Andes by Bike and I got excited. it looked remote, tough and spectacular. Neil and Harriet had only just completed it in a north to south direction and we were the first team to ride it northbound, with an extra section from Arequipa to the start. Their notes were detailed and we just had to do the maths to turn all the distances upside down so we did not get lost at key intersections..

The Grand Finale – wow

We have been blown away by the vistas of the Cordillera Blanca, and our circuit of Huascaran has been an amazing way to finish. The loop (Carhuaz return) is approx 200km and close to 5000 vertical metres (which incidentally took us into the stratosphere) and the first 90km is baby bottom smooth paved road. We did it in an anti clockwise direction, crossing the paved Punta Olympica pass thru to the town of Chacas. We had our first whole day of rain on the trip so we sat it out in our … Continued

The Low Point of the Journey

Leaving Oyon we had a big day with 1500m of climbing and 2000m of descent, followed by a ‘rest’ day of a 50km downhill. This dropped us to a new low for the trip of 1300m (the day before we had been at 4800m). The scenery was reminiscent of Pakistan – dry landscapes with pockets of green where there is irrigation. The Gran Canon gorge that we followed down for the last 10km was deeply incised and we could sit back and enjoy it on a downhill, another incredible landscape we imagine … Continued

What the mountains have to offer

Peru was described to us recently as 3 countries within one, the coast, the mountains and the Amazon headwaters. We have only experienced the mountain region and it’s riches. Our impression is that even tho’ it is the toughest of the regions for the people to live, it is thriving. Small towns seem to be engaging in major municipal work projects and we guess the money is coming (via the government) primarily from mining – just from the rich colours in the mountainscapes, one can imagine the rich minerals that lie below. … Continued

The Big Mountains Muscle in

As we near the end of the third section of this Peru Great Divide it seems that the everything is ramping up a notch – the roughness of some of the roads (seemingly the descents for us), the views from the passes and on these last two days some big glaciated peaks started appearing in the backdrops – a bit like they have been digitally added. We also found our best campsite (yet). We had two more passes between Tanta and the Caraterra Austral (the main west/east highway from the capital Lima). … Continued

Surprises in the Rio Canete

From Laraos we plummeted down a curvaceous smooth paved road to the Rio Canete and joined a single lane paved road from the coast heading inland. The paving lasted a few km before we hit the ripio again and bounced our way up the steepening and dramatic gorge to Huancaya. After a particularly steep section we topped out at a beautiful deep lake confined by the dramatic canyon walls. After biking at river level for so long it wasn’t surprising to see the road ahead climb high above the valley floor to … Continued

Steep climbs on short rations

We couldn’t leave Huancavelica without one more visit to the cake shop for a second breakfast. Then up the road for a steep climb up a side valley to yet another scenic pass, complete with cowboy who left town about the same time as us and passed us near the summit. The other side had stunning outcrops and lakes in the upper basins and then as the road steepened we had a feeling we were descending into the bowels of the earth. Suddenly we were bouncing down a steep rough road between … Continued

Rejuvenating in Huancavelica

It took three days in Huancavelica before we felt we wanted to move on. There was a lot of eating to be done and in between times, things to see and do. Today was a good example: Wake up. quinoa muesli, fruit and yog, big sandwich of avocado, tomato, cucumber and olives. Go for a walk up to Sanctuary del Señor de Orepesa for a great view over town. Second breakfast at cafe in the plaza, jo – hamburger, juice, Alan – desajuno Americano. Catch taxi up to historic mercury mine, walk back to … Continued

The unknown is the best part

Licapa – camp 4700 – camp at a different 4700 – Huancavelica. The day previous over the two passes had been hard and when we awoke in Licapa we contemplated a rest day but it was only 3 days to the provincial capital of Huancavelica and limon pie so we made a plan to carry on. There was nowhere to buy food after the first small village 15 km in so we did a shop up of our standard fare (bread, pasta, fish, tomato, crisps, eggs, mayo, puffed corn, tea bags, milk … Continued

Deep river gorges to high mountain passes

Vilcashuman – Cangallo – Chuschi – camp 4200 – Totos – camp 4150 – Licapa Rested from our stay at the Inca town of Vilcashuman, we set forth once more. It was Sunday and after a climb back up to the rolling high country, we started a descent to Cangallo. We were accosted by a harmless drunken group enjoying Sunday afternoon drinks high above the town. It turned out to be a special local/religious day and that evening the plaza was lively with bands and loud speakers as we tried to sleep … Continued

Cranking the uphills, hanging in there on the downhills

Abancay – Santa Rosa – Sanayca – Soras – Putongo – Antas – Vilcashuman Struggling a bit with righting this after our first beer of the trip (at the end of another solid day on the bike)…but I will persevere! We have had a challenging and amazing 6 day start to our mission following the Peru Great Divide Route that was put together by a British couple Harriet and Neil . It is set up in 4 stages and we are following it in reverse which makes it challenging at times converting … Continued

Alan uses up his truck pass

We only had to go 7 km to get to the larger (and hopefully more hygienic) village of Huacullo, where we planned to rest out our respective ills. It was not ideal as it was still at 4600m and it is hard to heal at that altitude. We were blown away at what a beautiful setting the village is in, two lakes, interesting sub alpine valleys & snowy peaks in the background – if it were Europe it would be a major destination. Instead it is a small town of maybe 400, … Continued

Caylloma to Cullipampa

Leaving Caylloma we were treated to a smooth road, gentle climbing and a calm bluebird day, who could ask for anything more. An older local woman walking the road did pass us on part of the climb (our excuse was having to stop for some roadworks and she took a  shortcut!). Climbing up on to the plateau that lead to the 4800m pass, we got the morning wind in our faces and the road surface turned to crap, hmmmm. The rest of the day was a bit of a battle and we … Continued

Leaving the paved roads behind us

My appreciative 4 legged audience of 2

It is a pleasant suprise to find some old computers in Caylloma – even if the ´s´ key needs a hammer to make it work! We left the tourist town of Chivay with me feeling under the weather but we only had a short day planned and our last day on ashfalt for a while. Suddenly the road was a lot quieter and Alan had his best day – his body is keeping pace with the altitude. We followed the Colca river to its upper reaches and found a small but warm … Continued

Rest days in Chivay, and the mighty condor

It was time to enjoy our last chance of being in a tourist town. Chivay is the same population as Wanaka but much more compact. No supermarket but a central shopping area of many small stalls, selling everything from veges to plastic containers to tourist paraphernalia. No post office, in fact no postal facilities in any towns apart from the major cities. The dead Kindle is going to get a free ride for many more miles yet. We zoned in on our favourite street food stall, large fried potato balls stuffed with … Continued

Rooming with the police and the high pampas

From our Hobbiton camp, you guessed it, the road kept climbing. Alan struggled this day and 400m above the village we rested at a high point, near an SOS pole with telephone. Weirdly we heard this woman’s voice say something and I only caught the last ‘necessario’ and Alan’s take was that someone perhaps called us in, either a truck driver on his radio or tha ambulance that went past and the nice voice was asking if we needed help – most bizarre. A rest, panadol and a Werthers seemed to do … Continued

Early Accommodation Variety

From a flash hotel to camping in hobbiton, we have certainly enjoyed the variety of places to spend afternoons relaxing after a mornings biking. With the road seeming to know only one direction – up – we are forced to cover short distances but it keeps at bay ‘mal de Montana’ or altitude sickness. From Arequipa we toiled slowly up thru the increasingly poorer suburbs till finally we hit the open road, we had only to contend with cars and busses but on the edge of town the trucks joined us. Luckily … Continued

Last day in Arequipa

Today we were on our bikes for the first time and it was a great feeling. Through Google Earth I had sussed out a hill climb to a view point above town and we were hoping to get several hundred vertical metres under our belts. We biked around a park near our hostel and through the major construction zone of a new bridge to connect both sides of the river Chilli which runs between the two major volcanoes and provides hydro power from higher up plus fertile fields alongside the river.  Then … Continued

Exploring Arequipa

We are starting to have our little routines in cities/towns in South America. For me I like to get my legs waxed at least once on the trip – a lot cheaper than NZ and fun to search out. I had two women – mas rapido – much faster – was the reason and they did a good job. We also find the closest bakery and local store and, when not eating out, we eat lotsa bread buns with cheese, tomato etc and fruit/yoghurt mixes. We also like to find and hang … Continued

Our third mission..

Back in South America again and the continuation of our travels north. We flew into Arequipa last night and we are chilling after the long day of flights and a hectic few days before leaving home. our plan is to spend a few days here looking around  and acclimatising before we set off. We have to cross our first high pass (4900m) only 100km from here and Arequipa is 2300m. We have new bike frames to replace the old trusty Treks that have carried us faithfully from Ushuiai to Cusco. Jo now … Continued