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Mon 24 July: rest day

Rather cloudy. We tried to buy bus tickets for Lima for the Sunday, but the Friday being a national holiday this was impossible, so we had to book a taxi.

Notes: although Huaraz has all tourist facilities it also has many inconveniences: noise, crime, begging, ugly buildings, homicidal taxi drivers.

Tues 25: morning ride to L. Llaca (55km, 1460m ascent)

The day broke under a cover of thick cloud. Our plan was to ride to L. Llaca which might have been worth while if there had been any views, but which simply added to our exhaustion. There are two approaches to the lake from Huaraz. We took the tarmac road to El Pinar which there turns into bad (and occasionally very steep) gravel until it meets the alternative through Wilkawain. The Wilkawain road is in lovely condition, and was still being worked on higher up. The road splits at a junction. The lovely new stretch (complete with earth-mover) was on the turning to Q. Cojup, while the route to L. Llaca was worse than anything yet.

We got there in the end (4470m), scraped our heads against the clouds, and descended, this time taking the Wilkawain leg. We had lunch in Huaraz.

We met Harald on the main valley road, and he told us how he, Gregg and Wauter had fared.

Tues 25 afternoon: Huaraz – Olleros (3450m) (24km, 480m)

The road climbs gently on tarmac along the Rio Santa as far as a junction, and then climbs steeply on gravel to Olleros. We were staying at the Altas Montañas, a little way beyond the village, and had to bang rudely to gain entry.

Note: we left our camping gear at Huaraz.

Weds 26: Olleros – Chavín (3150m) (93km, 1350m)

In the morning there is partial cloud. We descend to the main road and follow it upriver. The valley becomes shallower as the river gains height and the hills drop down to meet it. We pass through Recuay which is quite nice and continue to Catac where we buy supplies.

We are now in the pale green puna.

Puna

Querococha

The road climbs gently, still tarmac, and the hills close in a little. We pass L. Querococha (3970m) attractively situated in front of rock spikes. There are cafés here serving food. The road then climbs some rather lazy zigzags to a false pass with a high valley behind it. We begin the climb towards the true pass and hail starts to fall. We put on such clothes as we have and keep climbing. A tunnel cuts under the pass at 4510m. We had had thoughts of lugging our bikes over the pass – which would have been quite hard work – but in the conditions, and with one of us feeling ill, there was no question of it.

On the other side is a descent down a valley. The road was supposed to have been paved by now, but only about half of it has received any tarmac, and some of this has already been washed away. We descend with bitterly cold hands. Eventually we arrive at Chavín and check in to our hotel.

Notes: we stayed at the R’ickay and ate most of our meals at the Chavín Turístico. Both places are very friendly. The weather remains unsettled for the rest of our time in Peru.

Thurs 27: rest day

Chavín

We visit the ruins, which to tell the truth are nothing special for the layman.

Fri 28: Chavín – Huaraz (76km, 290m)

A cheating ride: a shared taxi takes us and our bikes to the tunnel and we freewheel to Huaraz for lunch. Average speed 25·8km/hr to the Plaza.

Sat 29: rest day

Sun 30: taxi ride to Lima

The journey was surprisingly interesting. Beyond Catac the road climbs slowly through the puna. It is completely empty here, and there are views across to the southern extensions of the Cordillera Blanca,

Nev. Caullaraju

including Cordillera Huayhuash. It would have been enjoyable cycling.

At the head of the Rio Santa is a lake, Conococha, and a small town. An almost imperceptible climb leads to a pass at 4090m. The road now plummets 4000m to the coastal highway. We were kicking ourselves for not having found a way to cycle this part. At first the road clings to a steep-sided fertile valley, but lower down the land turns into desert; the hills at the bottom have the appearance of slagheaps; and inevitably the garúa extends over them.

Pativilca is the first town on the coastal road: it is not pleasant and not safe. Beyond it the road makes its dreary course to Lima.

Mon 31: Lima – England

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