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 the town of Vinas and then drop again to our destination of Huancaya in time for lunch and a shorter day. Our accommodation was right beside some of the river cascades that this river should be world famous for.

The next morning we climbed high above the river again to get stunning views of the unusual lake, cascade, lake pattern that this river seemed to follow. We wonder if the combo of limestone and the steep sided canyons is the reason behind it. Some of the cascades seemed to come from underground channels. Another half day got us to the tourist hamlet of Vilca. It seemed deserted when we arrived but after investigating some live music early afternoon we found ourselves surrounded by the whole village celebrating their Annual village patron saint day (San Juan de Bautista).

The festivities involved dancing in the streets to a live saxaphone band (from out of town), then walking around town with the music following, stopping and dancing some more in big group circles, passing around bottles of beer and then culminating in gathering in a courtyard and enjoying four courses of food circulated on large wooden trays and then more dancing and beer. We were fully welcomed into the whole crazy affair.

The next day we took the ‘shortcut’ to Tanta. By motorable road it is 50km and two high passes away, by 4wd and single track it is 20km and you follow the river. Harriet and Neil (aka when they linked up the route and completed it Oct 2013 chanced the shortcut and rated it. The first section from town is the single track and we enjoyed the bike hike, some biking and some pushing. Our low front carriers tended to catch on deeper ruts but the pushing was mostly easy AND we met our first cyclist of the trip so far – Waterloo from Japan. Waterloo was halfway through a 4 year round the world trip and was loaded up so finding it tough going. Great to sit and share tales. The last km was the trickiest – exposed and narrow tracks. A fall or letting go of the bike was not an option!

Nearing our destination of Tanta the unique Rio Canete is damned (for hydro storage), a little sad for such a special river, and one of the highlights of our trip.

Laraos – Huancaya – Vilca – Tanta

Enjoying some quiet paved road alongside the lower Rio Canete


The river starts to show it’s incredible beauty


High above the river


The unusual cascades in the town of Huancaya


These streets weren’t designed for the modern truck


View down to the cascades above Huancaya


Falls between two lakes, note the cascade on the left coming out of the rock 


No shortage of trout on the menu as most lakes here have fish farms set up on them


Dressed up and dancing in honor of the Vilca village Patron Saint




Looking down on Vilca and it’s Plaza


Celebrating in the plaza


The procession around town with the band bringing up the rear


First course of the patrons day feast being handed out


Time for more dancing and hat twirling


Alan gets in on the dancing… And why is the wee girl crying?


Everyone enjoying the music and dancing


The peace of the trail the next morning


Smaller cascades in this upper section


Bike-hiking the Canete




The friendly Waterloo


Climbing above the river


Having to be more wary here, but the road is in sight


Enjoying the 4WD section, with a few challenges of its own


The village of Tanta – unique for its red corrugated roofing on all the buildings – lakeside of the subdued Rio Canete