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 not often viewed, except by a few locals. Yet another day of far more animals on the road than wheels.

We had a balmy camp by the river at the foot of the intimidating 2000m climb we thought we could take in one hit – yeah right, both of us on in our second half century, very warm temps and the gradient on the steeper side of comfortable for a lot of it saw that idea quashed – the nail in the coffin was another Fiesta Patronal at the small town of Llepa, half way up. Who can turn down a free lunch, cups of fermented maize, 3 bands, dancing, the town drunk and some bizarre costumes?

We were fresh for the rest of the steep climb to Rajan. Like our predecessors, Harriet and Neil, we were warned about the people of Rajan. The first people we met were waiting to go to church, then we met the pastor. In the plaza we met a policeman, and then a schoolteacher who helped us get some cooked food – not a dodgy character amongst them, maybe we were lucky..

We pushed on a bit further to camp, our last before Huaraz. Next day we were treated to good views of the Cordillera Huaywash range of mountains and Peru’s second highest peak (made more famous by the Touching The Void mountaineering book/epic). Over our last pass we were overwhelmed by the flat Mackenzie Basin nature of the landscape, with large mountains to the east – the beginning of the Cordillera Blanca range.

We almost got rained on (God forbid) approaching the highway and Conococha, where we stayed the night. Our last day to Huaraz was 80km of paved and mostly downhill with stunning vistas of Huascaran (Peru’s highest mountain). We were pretty pleased with ourselves reaching Huaraz and completing Peru’s Divide route that we had been following. On a Wikipedia search we found that the stratosphere is 50km deep so we worked out that to date we had cycled vertically 90% of the way to the stratosphere edge – interesting trivia!

Huaraz is spectacularly sited with large glaciated peaks to it’s north and east. We are staying at local mountain guide Aritza’s hostal and from the balcony we can see maybe 10 mountains over 6000m high.

Our second low came with us both being flattened with diarrhoea on arrival in Huaraz (we blame the last town). We are coming right now (we hope) and we can start exploring the big wide world outside the bathroom in the two short weeks that we have left.

Oyon – Cajatambo – river camp at bridge – Llepa – camp – Conococha – Huaraz

The road is about to steepen for our last high pass


Alan is looking forward to getting this pass behind us


The remains of an abandoned mine – not quite Inca ruins


Storm clouds brewing before our big descent to Cajatambo


Why are the zigs so looong.. at least we are going down them, so it saves on brake pads


Hoof traffic is way more common than wheel traffic on all these roads


The scrawl on the landscape


Getting drier as we get lower


Entering the Gran Canon – our road earlier in the day high above, cutting across the brown hillside


We were buzzing coming through the gorge. Hard to get a sense of scale but the river below on the right is quite a big one.




Alan watching a bus of locals starting up the big climb out of here (above and right of green bush in the centre)


A feature of the lower part of the climb was all the cacti


Climbing into the sun


Curvaceous road and river


Our first Llepa resident welcomes us to town


Pots big enough for cow head soup!


Getting into the swing of the fiesta – I used to think I was short!


The dancing begins with the captains and their swords dancing with the women in unusual costume


One of the three bands competing for air time


The representation of the village patron Virgen de Carmin being bought from the church to the plaza


Don’t forget your hat


The steep zigzags thru and above the deserted village of old Llepa. We didn’t know at the time we were going to end up on the ridge behind by the end of the day.


Looking back at new Llepa, old Llepa is on the ridge just above and Rajan just coming into view


Views of the Huaywash range


Our last kms on ripio


Mañana Huaraz


Last views of the Huaywash behind us


And first views of Huascaran ahead


Alan on the outskirts of Huaraz


View from Aritza’s balcony of Huascaran