Cusco to Huancavellica: Missing Links and El Silencio
After our riotous arrival in to Cusco following the Ausangate Traverse. We ritefully put our feet up in the historic capital of the Incan Empire. Internet fixes completed and sweet toothes sated Cass and I cook up an equally grand plan to take us north to the large town of Abancay.
Navigating our way out of Cusco’s sprawl we ride asphalt to Poroy with English cyclist Neil who we last saw in Bolivia, before once again saying our goodbyes as we branch off in to the Sacred Valley picking our way through a series of dirt roads.
The town of Maras provides suitably decaying backgrounds for those fat bike shots.
Whilst moss clings in balls to overhead power cables.
Crossing the Rio Urubamba we emerge on historic Incan trails, still used today by horse and mule. Running parrallel to the main road we are deposited in to Ollaytantambo.
Away from the traffic clogged main plaza we wander through Ollaytantambo’s back streets admiring the Incan cobbles, drainage channels and block work. Arguably it seems the Incans knew a thing or two about building grand things.
Lodging in one of the many Incan Stone Houses we put the finishing touches to our plan to hike-a-bike the Salkantay Trek still buzzing from our previous ride in the high mountains. The missing link in Cass’ encyclodepic knowledge of America’s dirt roads, cake shops and WiFi availability.
Two fat bikes hardly makes for a inconspucious arrival anywhere. As we arrive at Kilometre 82, the start of Inca Trail we are immediately stopped and enter discussions with officials. As the Peruvian Government continues to increase security and restrictions around its main cash cow we are eventually turned away. Understandaly disappointed we retrace our tyre tracks, and the previous days riding joining Ruta 3S to the dull roar of tarmac grinding.
Abancay signals the end of Cass‘ 5 year cycling odessey from Alaska to Argentina, leap frogging himself to ride in the best seasons and meeting himself somewhere in the middle. It’s with great sadness I bid farewell to a great friend, cycling partner and all round inspiration. Adios Amigo; Hasta la proxima.
Crossing 20 passes over 4,000 metres, linking mining roads, 4×4 tracks and even singletrack between small Andean settlements it deserves to become classic amongst those seeking adventurous dirt road riding. Here I describe the southern section of the ride.
Down to the meat of the riding…Jerky dries under the Andean sun in the town of Santa Rosa.
Leaving the muggy low altitudes of the Lima Nazca Highway behind, the climbing begins in to the heart of the Central Peruvian Andes.
Riding in the start of the rainy season means days end early. Clouds build, often accompanied by incredible electric storms as fork lightening hits surrounding peaks. Choose your campsite wisely.
High up views of dizzying ridgelines and deep complex valleys. A patchwork of fields, settlements and terraces reiminscient of the Himalaya.
Long descents bring rivers like the Rio Pampa in to view, arching their way through the valley floor.
Rickety suspension bridges connect small settlements like Anta.
Small village shops offer a chance to restock on supplies, along with a glimpse in to Peruvian life away from the large towns. Like many people I encounter along my way I am sent on my way with extra food and well wishes. Feliz Viaje
Moss covered trees line one of the many switchbacks.
High above the valley floor; Pampa. Seemingly distrustful of silence and solitude the average Peruvian shudders at the thought of nights spent camped high. Tales of ghosts, robbers, and organ thefts abound. I
Late afternoon sun. Interlocking valleys.
Progress is often slow, on the way out of Cuschi I spend over an hour chatting with Alfredo. We chat about Campesino life, Peruvian hats, The Shining Path, bikes and finally whether I would be interested in marrying his daughter.
High altitude wiggles. Views back down Abra Ritipata; 4,950m.
The sun sets as I finish climbing the pass under golden hues. With frigid hands I climb in to my tent for a cold windy night high up.
Mineral hues meet me in the morning on the way to Santa Fe.
Leaving Licapa, Scottish inspired landscapes and vivid moss.
Another triple pass day. A medley of high passes to take me to Huancavellica.
Cusco – Poroy – Maras – Ollaytantambo – Kilometer 82 – Ollaytantambo – Huarocondo – Ancahuasi – Abancay – Santa Rosa – Soros – Pitec – Vilcashuaman – Cangallo – Chuschi – Totos – Paras – Licapa – Huancavellica
For those of the mind to attempt the Salkantay Trek by bike, it seems to be more favourable to approach is from north to south from Mollepata to Kilometre 82. Year on year restrictions seem to have heightened so it pays to keep a low profile as best as possible.