Trekking: Quebradas Quilcayhuanca, Cayesh and Cojup (con perro!)

The perros (dogs) in Peru have harassed us in many different ways. When we are on our bikes their ears prick up at the sound of our wheels and they brace themselves ready for the chase. As we pedal on with the perros in hot pursuit, many snap and snarl at our panniers and ankles. With the fear of rabies and loss of leg, we have to arm ourselves with stones to fend them off.

When we headed off trekking, the perros trotted up to us, keen for a pet on the head and then followed us as we walked along. The larger dog below followed us for three days. He appeared to be a seasoned mountain dog and sensibly headed homeward when we headed up and over the 5100m mountain pass. However, the smaller dog (‘Puppy’) followed us for the full 5 days of the trek and even skittered over the top of the pass.

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We took a small minivan packed full of people and shopping up to a village near the end of the Quilcayhuanca valley. The first day we headed up the valley, staggering under the weight of our packs. The cycling conditioned legs were shocked into trekking mode and the shoulders and hips were suffering. That first evening involved a lot of stretching and feeling old!

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The day was dry but the night was wet. This did not deter our furry friends who stationed themselves near our tent, ready to fend off the cows and horses that were grazing nearby.

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As we continued our journey up the Cayesh valley, Spring was in evidence with flowers breaking through.

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A quiet camp spot with a view of the mighty Cayesh.

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We explored further up the valley and watched seracs tumbling down from the glacier above.

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A condor had his beady eye on us.

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Back into the Quilcayhuanca valley, heading up towards the start of the pass over into the Cojup valley.

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Big snowy peaks popped in and out of the clouds.

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At 4600m, this was a high camp spot and it went very cold at night. So cold, we had to haul the Puppy into the tent porch before he froze overnight.

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Leaving the camp spot for the climb over the pass.

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Near the top we were walking through pockets of snow. At 5100m we were gasping for breath….

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… and ready for the descent into the Cojup valley.

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The following day started gloriously, awarding us fantastic views of the 6000m peaks.

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We lingered over breakfast, soaking in the scenery.

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Uncertain friends.

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Back in Huaraz we could see the valleys we had been to from the roof terrace of our hostel. A sunny day allowed us to relax and enjoy the view…… before planning the next trek.

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The Huascaran Circuit

Huaraz – Carhuaz – Punta Olimpica – Chacas – Yanama – Portachuelo de Llanganuco – Yungay

We decided to torture ourselves with further high mountain passes but treated ourselves by leaving some of our kit behind in Huaraz. The lighter loads were much appreciated and we even received some help from local schoolchildren.

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We entered the Huascaran National Park and found ourselves in a classic u-shaped valley. We camped near the Ranger Station and were entertained by a night full of fireflies.

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The following morning we headed up the valley towards the many hairpins bends we would have to climb to reach the top of the pass at Punta Olimpica. For a change, we were riding on tarmac.

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Up and up we climbed, passing the ‘Lonely Mountain’ (no dragons here).

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Taking time to reflect on the metres climbed. Mum and Dad; I definitely went up zig zag, the clock striking one…… only there were no sweets at the end of every zig and zag to encourage me!

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Nearly touching the glaciers.

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At the top we braved the tunnel to the other side.

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And then followed a pathway…

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..that snaked around the mountainside…

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..to shelter for the night.

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At 4600m it was a chilly night. Good job I’d bought those alpaca leg warmers in Huaraz before we set off.

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We awoke to a sprinkling of snow and ice.

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Soon enough it was time to leave our little stone hut and to hit the road again.

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The weather turned on us a little..

We descended into Chacas, a town on the east side of the Cordillera Blanca, famous for its church and architecture being influenced by the Italian, Don Bosco.

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From Chacas we went north to link with a road to take us back over the Cordillera Blanca. The tarmac had ended and we were back on the dirt roads again. We found a lovely camp spot.

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A smaller pass (4050m) was climbed to get us over to the next valley. Time for Badge to get a new T-shirt?

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We tucked in for the night at the bottom of the valley ready for the final mountain pass the following day; Portachuelo de Llanganuco.

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It was a steady climb up but the hairpins were at a thoughtful gradient for the cyclist so we pedaled onwards happily. The views weren’t too bad!

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A self timer moment.

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Badge trying to create his own Danny MaCaskill ‘In Pin’ shot.

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And through the narrow pass at the top…

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.. to the sight of the squiggles and wiggles for the journey down.

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A zig and then a zag. Or is it a zag and then a zig? Or for our American friends, a switchback?

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Peaks were popping in and out of sight.

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So we had to stop and watch the swirling clouds.

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An idyllic camp spot near the Llanganuco lakes…

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.. which are a brilliant turquoise blue.

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And down into Yungay to finish. Back in Huaraz now for some R&R. I am 40 now, you know. Off to eat some cake.

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Peru: Lima to Huaraz

The coastline north from Lima had a permanent sea mist which kept us cool and provided good cycling conditions. The roads were busy and we were pleased to turn inland to head towards the mountains. Unfortunately we left the sea mist behind and entered a very hot and dry part of the country. All greenery was clinging to the rivers and streams along the valley bottoms.

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It is always useful to have a little knowledge of the country you are travelling in before you get there. It would have been useful to know that in cheap Peruvian hotels (in towns and cities) you can also rent a room by the hour……

From Sayan to Churrin there was some major road construction occurring. The road surface was variable: anything from sand to marbles to large pebbles. Interesting pedaling conditions. This was offset by the very friendly and good humoured  folk working on the roads. It took us a couple of days for this section and word had got out amongst the construction workers and they were eagerly awaiting our arrival.

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From Churrin to Oyon we had tarmac which helped the climb up to 3600m. We were in the mountains now and found ourselves grinning.

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After Oyon it was dirt roads, minimal traffic and mountains. Life was good and the Hynes were back in their natural environment.

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It was so good to be wild camping again….

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…even if it involved a small stream crossing to get there.

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As so began the steep climb up to Punta Chanca, a pass at 4850m.

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The altitude was beginning to effect us so we had to stop and admire the view on a regular basis. The legs were holding up well but the lungs and heart were really suffering.

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Eventually the top was nearly in sight and we were rewarded with spectacular views.

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The descent from the top went past a mine and then round into a valley before the next pass, Paso Pacomayo. We found a good spot for camping but at 4200m the altitude was high. We puffed our way around the camp spot but the bright moonlit night and glow worms kept us distracted. We had a very frosty and icy start to the next morning.

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Our world was quickly transformed when the sun made its way over the mountain

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The descent from Paso Pacomayo afforded us our first glimpses of the Cordillera Huayhuash.

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We were amazed at the villages clinging to the mountainside, centred around a water source.

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We had many hairpin bends to negotiate on the way down. We felt very small in this vast landscape.

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In the bottom of the valley we entered a different climate that was hot, dry and full of cacti.

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The valley became a gorge and then a canyon.

 

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What goes down must go up again… We began the long, steep, hot, dry climb out of the valley and up to Llipa. We scuttled into the shade at every opportunity, however small.

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Not much motorised transport on these roads.

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As ever, the rewards for the tough climbs are the views at the top. We had many opportunities to see the Huayhuash range and to wonder at Siula Grande, of Joe Simpson fame.

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We made friends along the way and practised our very basic spanish. The people in these small Andean villages are extremely friendly and always quick with a joke. The main joke seeming to be Badge’s beard! Due to the steepness of the climbs we were on the same road for a few days and therefore saw the same drivers several times, in particular the local police who were present due to the general election on the 5th October. The final time we saw them they even put the ‘blues and twos’ on for us. A local guide befriended us and took us to his mother’s house for a breakfast of mutton soup; much appreciated after camp food. The house was like an old Dartmoor longhouse so, naturally, a thatching conversation then began.

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Over the final pass and we then had our first views of the Cordillera Blanca.

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After an 80k mainly downhill ride, on tarmac, into Huaraz we headed to the luxury of walled and roofed accommodation. Much needed washing and eating are top priority whilst we plan our next journey, into the Cordillera Blanca.