Huaraz to Huancayo

We finally managed to leave Huaraz after being based there for 38 days. Santiago’s House was beginning to feel like home. Due to the trekking, rest days and research days, we had been off the bikes for 31 days. Still, Badge’s new hairless, aerodynamic face was sure to improve his cycling performance.

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Huaraz is a great place to base yourself for cycling and trekking. It has a good vibe with interesting sights around every corner.

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From Huaraz we headed southwards and back into the Huascaran National Park where we would cross the Cordillera Blanca range again to enable us to begin our journey southwards to Cusco. This part of the Park is special for the Puya Ramondii, the largest species of bromeliad and the world’s largest flower.

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The rainy season is beginning to catch up with us and sometimes it’s necessary to seek shelter in unusual places.

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The valley we rode up had many interesting features, such as an unusually deep pool….

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…. and ancient rock paintings.

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We were heading up towards the glaciers again and towards a pass of 4800m.

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The ride down the other side was stunning and we had good early morning weather to enjoy it in.

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We had excellent views through to the Cordillera Huayhuash before we finally left the Huascaran National Park.

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And then we were back onto tarmac roads for a short while. We passed the ‘Corona del Inca’.

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Roadside entertainment.

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The landscape was varied, as well as the weather.

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Shrines and tunnels popping up unexpectedly.

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We are constantly amazed at where the farmers manage to plant their crops. Every available space is used, despite its gradient.

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We passed through Cerro de Pasco, famed for being the highest city in the world (4330m). It could, also, have the title of ugliest city in the world due to the enormous mining pit in the middle of it. I may be biased due to entering the city through its rubbish dump being chased by a hail and thunderstorm. Thankyou to google images for a photo of the town to help you form your own opinion –

We quickly moved on from Cerro de Pasco and visited the Bosque de Piedras, (Huayllay National Sanctuary), noted for its incredible rock formations.

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We camped next to a small holding within the Sanctuary….

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…and awoke to some furry friends who had spent the night hunkered down next to our tent.

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We headed out back on the dirt roads to meet the road heading westwards around Lake Junin. We also met Ben and Tina, another cycling couple, who we had bumped into in Huaraz and Cerro de Pasco. Finally we met up on the bikes and rode together for the next few days. It was fun to have company and formed our own mini peleton. We had a stop enroute to help this man build his wall.

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Lake Junin is home to flamingos, which was a first sighting for us.

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We also saw vicunas….

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… and visited the largest subterranean cave system in South America (or so they claim).

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Most importantly we shared time and helados with some good friends.

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From Tarma it was back to the two of us and we struggled out of town up the hill that is famous for being the world skateboard championships venue.

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The signpost says it all.

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It has been different cycling through more inhabited areas but it does have it’s positives, mainly the availability of juice bars.

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We have reached Huancayo,which is roughly halfway through our journey south to Cusco. It has been 7 months of travelling now and we realise that we have been in Peru for 2 1/2 months. This country just draws us in. December tomorrow which has crept up on us. Time to start humming the carols whilst pedaling.

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Trekking: Santa Cruz and Alpamayo circuit

Many people have asked about ‘Puppy’ so I will put your minds at rest. At the end of the trek some local people took him on. He did try to escape and come with us so they had to cling onto him until we were well into the distance. They knew where he had come from and would return him, however, I don’t think they were in any hurry to. Last seen tickling him behind his ears and feeding him a hearty meal. It was tempting to take him with us but the responsibility of a hamster weighed greatly on us so I think a dog might just be beyond our capabilities. At the end of that trek we had a conversation that went along these lines: ‘I think the Huayhuash trek would be too much. I’m hurting after 5 days and one pass. That trek is 12 days and 8 or 9 passes. The cycling body is just not ready for it.’ ‘I agree. Would be nice to do another trek though. How about the Santa Cruz one? It’s 4 days and one pass.’ ‘Sounds great. Yep, let’s do that one.’ So it is with great bewilderment that we find ourselves embarking on a 10 day self supported trek, with 8 passes over 4000m, linking the Santa Cruz trek with the Alpamayo trek. Who came up with this idea? Finger pointing at each other. Noone prepared to take the blame. Yet again, in the Hyne household, the enthusiasm is high and the ability is low. Gets us into trouble every time. So, what does 10 days worth of food, that you will have to carry on your back, look like: IMGP1242

After being used to propelling ourselves by bicycle it was quite a change to be taking local transport. Our journey would involve 2 collectivos and a tuk-tuk to get us to the start of the trek. The first collectivo was the usual type of Hiace van that you see buzzing around the valley. They wait until they fill up with people and then depart. People then hop on and off along the way. Always packed full and always driven at breakneck speed. Was it a good sign that the driver crossed himself before we set off? This took us from Huaraz to Caraz. To get to the next collectivo spot we needed to take a tuk-tuk across town. Not quite sure its engine was beefy enough for us and our heavy packs. The final collectivo was a Toyota Corolla (standard vehicle here) to take us up the steep dirt road to Cashapampa. Given how we have seen plenty of Corollas still alive and functioning after being tested over the dirt roads here, Badge now has a new respect for them (expect to see one parked outside Ivy Cottages on our return!). Motorized transport survived, we headed off up the valley and were treated to a stunning camping spot right in the heart of some 6000m peaks….

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…. with a beautiful alpenglow evening….

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..and a frosty start the following day.

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The first pass was Punta Union. This is the only pass tackled on the Santa Cruz trek. This trek is very popular and many backpackers include it in their itineraries. Therefore, we saw several groups on this section and there were even signposts.

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Most of these groups are not self supported. They have a guide, a cook, a donkey driver and several ‘burros’. With heavy packs and cycling conditioned bodies we looked enviously on but our stingy cycle touring ways would not allow the expense (got legs, use them!) and it just, somehow, didn’t seem right. We concluded it might be something we could think about on our 60th birthday years (or could we stretch it to our 70ths?!). We were, therefore, surprised to see that the majority of the people using the burros were in their 20s. Time to toughen up, youth!

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Pass number one tackled, we moved on to pass number 2. A steep climb upwards, with a path that was so hidden you couldn’t see it unless you were on it.

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Small woodlands clinged to the sides of the mountains.

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At over 4000m, when the life seemed to start slowly seeping out of me, it was thriving all around us:

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It may appear that Badge is making a Winston Churchill V sign in reference to Remembrance Day, however, he is also celebrating summiting Pass number 2. IMGP1313

We were treated to a condor sighting on this pass which just completed the climb perfectly. From now on we saw no more gringos (tourists) for 5 days. It was just us, the wildlife and some shepherds.

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Before we knew it we were over Pass number 3 and the bad hair/headware was setting in.

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Perilous river crossings were teetered across… IMGP1330

…and beautiful camping spots were found. It was at this sunny spot that I realised, when Badge stripped off for a wash in the river, that he had become more hair than man. His head hair had become so out of proportion with his skinny body that I thought he may topple over.

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We trekked up some beautiful hidden valleys, full of woodlands, pastures, waterfalls and flowers. At the end of each valley there was always a pass to climb. Each one was different in difficulty, geology and landscape.

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Pass number 4 took us close to the glaciers.

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Several times we awoke to a frosty start. Much thought is given to tent pitching in the evening with reference to the likelihood of the morning sun. We fully understand the worshipping of the sun gods.

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Badge had some serious competition from the locals when it came to hairiness.

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This sunny early start rewarded us with a lovely view of Alpamayo ‘the world’s most beautiful mountain’. Can’t disagree with that claim.

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We were fortunate to keep the sun for a while and it stayed with us for Pass number 5. However, this was a ‘double pass day’ so we had to head onwards and upwards.

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The sun did not stick around. Everything looked, well it looked rather Scottish to me. Or am I starting to miss home…

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No time to stop and play games on this interesting pond feature,

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we had to tackle Pass number 6. Bit chilly on the top.

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The scenery was stunning when we crested the top. We were surrounded by 6000m peaks.

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We were heading down into the Alpamayo valley and hoping for another glimpse of the mighty pinnacle.

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You could almost touch the glaciers.

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The mountain goddesses were kind and let us have one more sighting of Alpamayo before we left the valley…..

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…. to climb over our final two passes of the trek. These last two were big ones, another ‘double pass day’. The packs were weighing less but the fatigue was kicking in. It can’t be easy carrying all that weight on your chin….

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Pass number 7 was greeted with joy. We were nearly to the end of the climbs. There were signs that people had travelled this way before.

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We had one final pass to conquer and it certainly kept us on our toes. There were at least 4 false horizons. It tested us and found us wanting.

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However, somehow we managed it and were delighted to be at the top of Pass number 8. Chocolate and toffees may have something to do with it.

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Then it was down into the murk.¬†Everything looked, well it looked rather Dartmoor-like to me. Or am I starting to miss home…

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November is the start of the rainy season here and it has begun in earnest now. We have been lucky enough to not be too effected by it so far but there seems to be no escaping it now so we shall be heading southwards very soon.

We dropped out of the murk and into the patchwork fields of Hualcayan. Back into civilisation and the promise of chicken and chips for tea. We managed to catch a lift with the bus that goes to Caraz with the Hualcayan teachers in it. Unfortunately, a few other villagers wanted to as well. This did not seem to be a problem as 16 people can fit in a 12 seater van no problem……

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So, back into Huaraz for Badge’s birthday. How does a newly 45 year old celebrate his birthday……. beer, curry, cake……and……a……..hair/beard cut!

*WARNING: the following images may offend some poeple*

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I appreciate the beard had quite a following and some of you may be devastated at this news. Tough! You didn’t have to sit opposite him at every meal and be followed by small children pointing at his chin! Have no fear, there’s another 6 months growth on its way….