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Weds 15 June: Huaraz–L. Rajucolta (4280m) (34km, 1280m ascent)

Macashca

A few km of smooth riding to the bridge crossing the Q. Pariac, then leave the tar to follow the stream upwards and eastwards. We’re slow on account of illness. The road makes its way to the true left bank to pass through Macashca, the picturesque town of the valley, and then back to the right.

The valley veers north and we stopped to cook lunch by a sidestream, watched by a campesino family. We resumed the climb, following the valley back round to the east.
 

On the way to L. Rajucolta

After a while we came to the locked gate we’d been warned about. Negociating the wall was harder than we’d expected since there was a long drop on the upper side. The guardian, who lives in a rather attractive adobe house, came out and asked us to sign his register.

The road continues through an uncultivated valley with lupins all around: it’s a joy to ride. Before the lake are some derelict buildings and a camping area. A little further is an occupied house whose resident presumably looks after the dam, and by the side of it a footpath climbing to the lakeside.

Note: the lake is also known as L. Tambillo.

Thurs 16: L. Rajucolta–Huaraz (34km, 180m)

Great views at dawn. We began the day by walking back up to the lake to take photos. While we were there we saw two minbuses approaching along the road: they carried a party of Japanese photographic tourists, equipped with tripods and expensive kit. However L. Rajucolta is a difficult photographic target: the sun rises behind it, and by the time it’s high enough to shine down on Huantsán, the mountain at the head of the valley, clouds may have started to form.

       

Views at L. Rajucolta

Then we bombed back down the valley. It looked like it might be possible to follow a footpath keeping to the right bank rather than follow the road through Macashca, but we didn’t try.

Finally tarmac, Huaraz, and ice creams.

Chapel

Fri 17: Huaraz–Carpa (4160m) (63km, 1280m)

We now set off on the final leg of our journey to N. Pastoruri at the southern end of the Cordillera. It was 44km and 800m climbing along the tarmac to the junction at Pachacoto

Near Carpa

where we met the only cycle tourists we saw during the trip: a group of 3 young Brazilian round-the-worlders. Then slower going along a good gravel road through the characteristic landscape of the area: pale green puna.

There’s a checkpoint at Carpa with a visitor centre. We asked about camping and pitched tent on the other side of the road protected by a raised bank.

Note: our lunch stop was at Catac.

Sat 18: Carpa–Pasto Ruri (4950m) (21km, 830m)

Shaving brushes

A hard and hungry day along a middling dirt road through barren scenery. No facilities short of Pasto Ruri visitor centre.

At first the gradient is gentle enough, and what vegetation there is has interest: Puya Raimondi and other bromeliads (presumably) not unlike man-sized shaving brushes.

Then the road starts climbing a rather harsh set of zigzags, with some cave art visible at the top. It continues, still climbing; a footpath leads to Pasto Ruri but you ignore it. A tour minibus passed us along here, and the solitary gringa passenger looked amazed to see us riding.

At 18km is a well signposted junction to Pasto Ruri. You look askance at the stream here, which is rather minerally. After two kilometres along the turnoff we reached the car park surrounded by a number of stalls, only a couple of which were manned. We bought a snack meal of potatoes and cheese from friendly Inca ladies.

A footpath leads to Pasto Ruri glacier, but we wanted to ride and we wanted to camp. A continuation dirt road was pointed out to us: it leaves the car park near the sign to the ‘servicios hygienicos’, and is barred to traffic by a log.

We made our way through, still climbing steeply. Hunger attacked us again, and we stopped for a desperate camp lunch in a howling gale. Refreshed we resumed the journey, crossing a brow and pitching tent by the side of a shallow lake.

     

Pasto Ruri

Pasto Ruri glacier

Note: there was a reasonable camping spot 6km beyond Carpa.

Sun 19: Pasto Ruri–Yanash Allash camp (4500m) (35km, 480m)

It was of course a cold night, but it dawned clear and we made a sunny touristy trip to the glacier. Then we packed, rode back over the brow, down to the car park where we had another snack, and back to the junction.

 

5000m

 

Huarapasca

From here it’s just a short climb to the pass, after which the road traverses through more striking barren scenery roughly following the watershed between two valleys.

Horseman

The Yanash Allash pass is at 4880m. From here you drop down slightly to the tarmac road where we turned right (and so south), climbed slightly to a lower version of the pass, and then descended giddily.

We stopped at the bridge where the road crossed a stream, made ourselves lunch, and then beat our way up through poor tufty grass to a spot where we felt we could pitch a tent.

Notes: we had had some apprehensions about the route-finding, but these were unjustified: there was only one road. We had heard that the road was damaged, but although a few small rocks had fallen onto it there was nothing to trouble a cyclist.

It would have been possible to ride on further to Chiquián – quite a long way, but all down hill. We think that the roads connecting Chiquián to the Conococha–Huánuco route have recently been tarmacked.

Mon 20: Yanash Allash camp–Hatun Machay (4300m) (72km, 1150m)

Yerupajá

We beat our way back to the road and began the ride with a long fast tarmac descent, covering 25km in 40mins, zooming through a couple of mining villages. The low point is where the road separates from the Chiquián turning which follows the Río Pativilca: the direct route to Conococha climbs 700m to the Puerta Mojón (4300m), affording fine views to Yerupajá and the Huayhuash to the east.

Conococha

The road now crosses a windy (as in headwindy) plain, dropping gently to L. Conococha and springing a nasty short climb to gain the road town above it. There are several places to eat and an hospedaje; the shopping experience lacks diversity.

We had lunch and moved on. When we’d asked in Huaraz, no one had been sure whether we’d find anywhere to stay at Conococha (though we were told we could camp by the lake), but we’d been given directions to a climbers’ refuge at Hatun Machay.

The turnoff to the refuge is 7km along the road to Huaraz, at km131. You head west along a dirt track, climbing fairly steeply. After 5 and a half km you bear left on a fork; you cross the Cord. Negra at the Abra Hatun (4350m) soon after and descend to the refuge, which is a few hundred metres from the rock forest which is the attraction for climbers.

Rock forest

Notes: the route-finding to Hatun Machay is not difficult so long as you don’t lose your nerve. There are a number of false turnings before the true one due to the road crossing its previous course. The ascent from km131 to the pass is 290m.

We believe that the refuge is run by local people, but one of the tour operators in Huaraz acts as its agent and runs a daily bus connection. Unfortunately the refuge’s lavatories were out of order (we assume temporarily) during our stay.

Abra Hatun

Tues 21: Hatun Machay–Huaraz (3120m) (half day – 80km, 380m)

It was an easy climb back to the pass (accompanied by the dog from the refuge) followed by a slowish descent to the road, after which we sped along to Huaraz and arrived in time for lunch.

Notes: we had booked a bus from Huaraz to Lima. An alternative means of return would have been to descend the 4000m from Conococha to the coast at Pativilca on a good tarmac road and catch a bus from there. Unfortunately the buses can’t be booked from Huaraz.

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