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 the trick and we both enjoyed 10km of gradual downhill (finally) to the check post ‘town’ of Canuhuas (4000m). We had to stop to check out our first Vicuñas of the trip and the heavily smoking volcano in the distance.

The town was two rows of side by side wee stalls and small eating places. over a cup of tea at one of them we were told there was no accommodation, nada. We had a great caldo de gallina (broth of guinea fowl) – thin soup with lots of potato, pasta, some pumpkin, corn and a chunk of chewy red meat. At the police post we ask if we can camp in behind and instead we get shown a room with bunks, no bars, to stay in. The toilet?, I ask, just head out into the pampas and pick your spot!

We found the best food in town and enjoyed being in a room, rather than a tent. With our single, warm duvet, we top and tailed on the bunk bed. Next day we were heading to camp at a chilly 4400m. We ended up beside a small shop/farmlet. Warm enough in the sun but figure it dropped to minus 10 or more overnight. The danger we are warned about here by the locals is ‘El frio’ – the cold.

We were biking by 7 the next morning with my solid litre of water – duh. The early start was to beat the wind. Undulating initially,then a generous thermos of hot water at the visitor centre for this beautiful high pampas/wetland which is the source for the water supply for Arequipa. From there we beat into the wind for the long climb to 4900m. A false pass and a descent (scenic but taxing) before the final climb. It was cold and our heads were thumping so quickly down, down and more down on a curvaceous 1300m descent to Chivay – rest, hot shower and only 3600m town. We were stoked.

On one of our many breaks


Three volcanoes over 6000m. The middle one is active and between it and the third volcano runs the Colca canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world and deeper than the Grand Canyon.


Vicuñas, protected and not farmed like their cousins, the llamas. In the distant is Volcan Misti which sits above Arequipa


More Vicuñas, and what appeared to us to be a heavily smoking volcano (right of centre in the background)


Getting cooler up here at 4300m


High camp at 4400m. Warm in the tent by day, frigid at night.
Alan’s face tells his story, he didn’t see a lot of the scenery on the climb to the pass, it was one cycle rotation at a time and maybe wishing he had read the fine print about the trip!
False pass high hopes dashed quickly
The final zag.
Finally, a smile at the summit.
Goofy llamas being herded downhill
Finally Chivay, yay!