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 in our plaza hostal. Unlike Argentina tho’ it quietened down by respectable hours.
Our treat the next day was a paved road for the first vertical 700m. The rate of ascent on paving is much faster than ripio. We turned off onto a dirt road shortcut and I fell off my bike for the first time – playing with my GPS instead of looking at the road. Just a grazed elbow and ego. At the next town we enjoyed some local fare at a local food fair before the road undulated us high above the Rio Pampas through wheat harvesting scenes and small villages till we finally dropped to Chushi.
Via the Pampa gorge it is only 20km ish to Vilcanchos, but 5km of road is not completed, so we were forced up high on an 80km route. We broke it into 2 days with a camp. We made our first wrong turn off our route, but ended up on a great road for the 1100m climb and we think saved a few precious hundreds of metres climbing overall. We had our first weather – well 10 minutes of hail – just after cresting the pass. The massive descent back to the river started off sweet but deteriorated big time. It would have been a nasty climb in reverse.
Of course after every honest down there is an even more honest up, this time 2000m up to the Abra Ritipata at 4900m. We camped at 4150m on the dry ridge, having carried water most of the way. It was a very scenic pass and we were pleased to be acclimatised. The day was stunning. It is election year so I helped a couple of ARA supporters with their campaign on the way (see pics).
The descent from the pass was sweet and took us to the paved east/west Libertadores paved highway, before a 400m climb on dead legs and a fast descent to Licapa and the completion of stage 1. Tired but happy!