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.

Two Fatties

Whilst moss clings in balls to overhead power cables.

Moss

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.

Backroads 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.

Incan Cobbles

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.

Thumbs Up

El Silencio…

Over a year ago Cass and Kurt followed the Pikes muddy tyre marks in to the start of the Peruvian rainy season and the Peruvian Great Divide was born.

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.

Charky

Leaving the muggy low altitudes of the Lima Nazca Highway behind, the climbing begins in to the heart of the Central Peruvian Andes.

Climbing

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.

Clouds

High up views of dizzying ridgelines and deep complex valleys. A patchwork of fields, settlements and terraces reiminscient of the Himalaya.

Ridgelines

Long descents bring rivers like the Rio Pampa in to view, arching their way through the valley floor.

Deep Valleys

Rickety suspension bridges connect small settlements like Anta.

Bridge

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

Lambs

Moss covered trees line one of the many switchbacks.

Weird Trees

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

Pampa

Late afternoon sun. Interlocking valleys.

Tight 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.

Alfredo

Dirt squiggles.

Roads

Flowers.

Flowers

High altitude wiggles. Views back down Abra Ritipata; 4,950m.

Wiggles

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.

Moody skies

Mineral hues meet me in the morning on the way to Santa Fe.

Tolkein like valleys

Leaving Licapa, Scottish inspired landscapes and vivid moss.

Views

Another triple pass day. A medley of high passes to take me to Huancavellica.

High Passes

Route

Cusco – Poroy – Maras – Ollaytantambo – Kilometer 82 – Ollaytantambo – Huarocondo – Ancahuasi – Abancay – Santa Rosa – Soros – Pitec – Vilcashuaman – Cangallo – Chuschi – Totos – Paras – Licapa – Huancavellica

Info

Salktantay Trek
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.

Kurt’s account and Joe’s original post plus his account of riding to Macchu Picchu

Peruvian Great Divide
The Peruvian Great Divide Part 3 and Part 4

8 Comments

  1. Cass
    15/11/2014

    Awesome, man. Your pics make me really miss that place. Wish I’d been able to ride that missing Divide chunk with you and the fatties…

    See you back out there!

    BO-LI-VIA!!!

    Reply
    • Mike
      15/11/2014

      BOOOOOLIVAAAAAAA!

      Yeah some great riding. The passes keep on coming.

      I kind of feel its best ridden south to north as you save what are arguably the best bits right until the end.

      You were missed amigo!

  2. Andi
    15/11/2014

    Awesome indeed! That landscape is just pure beauty.
    See you in Scotland next Spring hopefully!

    Reply
    • Mike
      15/11/2014

      Yep as you can see the Pugs is getting plenty of quality miles under those fat tyres.

      Scotland! Hell yeah!

  3. Mark Baxendale
    16/11/2014

    Ola..Mikey boy
    I woke up this morning with a ‘full sponge’ but having just read your post my mind feels unclogged and clearer…..made me think about ‘what is really important ‘
    Continue to be safe on your grand adventure x
    Mark

    Reply
    • Mike
      21/11/2014

      Got to love a ‘full sponge’ Marky Marky!

      Glad to be of service.

  4. jamie
    16/11/2014

    Another excellent post old boy . I’m more jealous than ever ! Its a happy jealous as through the posts I’m with you every pedal strike of the way .I could think of few finer places to be but then I am quite please to be couped up on this old tub . Can’t wait to play out on my big blue bike next Saturday ! Ride on full of joy good buddy 🙂 x

    Reply
    • Mike
      21/11/2014

      Glad you along for ride old boy!

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