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). The first was a Jekyll/Hyde pass with the ascent very cruisy, the road lovely and some big snowy peaks to look at. The other side also had the nice views but the road was the roughest and the descent the worst yet. I even wore my helmet AND I walked some sections. With the lack of traffic on these roads, a spill causing an injury could take a while to sort out. The loose, mixed grade gravels (including fist sized rocks) was thick on the ground, the gradient steep and we felt for poor Waterloo who would have had to push a fair chunk of the 550m vertical. It was just plain nasty!

Our 1 1/2 hour lunch break in the sun at the bottom cheered us and with a strong tail wind we flew up the afternoon climb, finding a magic campsite, with views up a Tolkien like valley to a grand peak, and, as it turned out early sun for the cool start next morning.

Camping so high meant only 430m to the Punta Ushuayca (4930m), and the climb was in pretty good nick. A grader had gone thru reasonably recently and for most of the road made it better for biking. And yes another very stunning pass. The photos tell the story.

It was 1500m down to the very busy highway, steeper and rougher in the latter stages and another descent I was glad to be going down and not up. We donned our safety vests to face the 4km of busy road uphill to Chicla. There were two short tunnels and we made the mistake on the second one of not waiting for a bus to go ahead – my scariest moment of having large bus on one side and deep V-shaped trench on t’other and wobbling in the semi-dark in between.

The best shower in Peru helped me over that, in the hotel at the top of town, where we are now enjoying good food and a rest and evening WIFI. We had a domestic day yesterday, cleaning bikes, clothes, more showers and today we took the cheap local ‘collective’ transport up over the pass and down to the big town of La Oroya to have a wee town hit – couldn’t find limon pie but enjoyed some healthy juices and stall food plus sorted a few shopping jobs.

Tomorrow we have to face 13km of uphill on the busy highway before we can get back to our quiet roads again for the final leg (470km, 11,500 odd vertical metres – just 3 laps up Mt Cook!) to the paved road short of Huaraz.

Tanta – high camp – Chicla

Views on way up to Abra Suijo


Suddenly lots of snowy mountains


Pretty as a picture


Nice views but need to look at the road


It doesn’t look bad but take our word..


On the way back up again, with a good strong up valley afternoon wind


I can feel a campsite about to happen..


Our magic campsite


Lengthening shadows


These critters (viscacha) are the hardest to photograph, very happy when this shot turned out, before this sentinel vanished


A peruano palette


Running out of superlatives..


Jo approaching Punta Ushuaica


The down side


Yet another beautiful lago


Dropping down through the fragrance of miniature lupins on the side of the road. These catchments are too rocky and steep for much agricultural activities. Irrigation channels in the bottom




The battle of the tarmac begins


The mining town of La Oroya, set in a tight valley with dramatic limestone hills


Townscape of La Oroya


Market grains


Waiting for our collective back to Chicla, and consuming another big juice blend


Obviously the restaurant over the road is popular tonight