La Paz to Cusco: The Mountains

By Checacupe we finally branch off the rail trail linking Cusco and Juliaca. A veritable feast of narrow singletrack, railway sleepers and dirt roads. 200kms of riding, hefting bikes across rails and occasional buskwhacking our way across fields.

Leaving the towns main plaza we branch off toward Pitamarca and the Ausangate valley, home to the mighty Nevado Ausangate (6384m).

Fast dirt roads take us through sleepy settlements gearing up for the regional and provincial elections.

Roads

Before we ride through Tolkeinesque middle earth landscapes. Deep red dirt and terracing.

Road

Small settlements nestle in the valley below, with high contrast green fields.

Road

Roads carved deep in to the hillside.

Edge

Llamas outnumber local residents in the villages we pass through.

Village

Eventually the dirt road peters out. Taking us to the head of the valley home to a number of small agricultural settlements of Llama and Alpaca herders.

Valley

As clouds roll in, so too does hail. Finding a solitary piece of plastic we huddle under it sitting out the worst of the weather.

Cass

A series of herders tracks takes us to the tiny hamlet of Ausangate. Low cloud hanging over the Ausangate glacier.

Valley

Picking lines across the boggy pampa when the herders tracks eventually run out.

Singletrack

A cluster of small adobe huts scattered across the valley defines the hamlet of Ausangate. A cold stiff wind blows down the valley and with it sleet and snow we camp in the lee of one of the basic huts. Frost coasting bikes and tents by morning.

Pugs

Our hostess treats us to a handful of boiled potatoes and then straps a sheep to her back and grabs a lamb by the scruff of the neck. Striding off in to the distance to tend to her Llamas.

Lady

Goodbye White dog. Having sat by our tents all night guarding us, he receives what seems like his first ever stroke and bit of affection. Pity I couldnt bring him with me.

White Dog

Following faint trails we head toward the looming Ausangate glacier.

Descending to the hike a bike

Before a heinous hike a bike has lungs heaving, and calves pumping.

Hike a Bike

Fast flowy trails.

Descending

Hanging glaciers over our shoulders.

Descending

Time to take in the views.

Views

Quite possibly one of the most amazing places I have ever ridden a bike.

Descent

Abra Apachita way off in the distance, and more hike a bike to look forward to.

Cass

After a couple of hours we eventually crest the pass as once again the weather closes in by afternoon.

Abra

A Scottish style descent replete with drainage ditches and plenty of rocks has up looking back up to the Abra and the enveloping cloud. Just in time to miss the worst of the weather high up, we are treated to stinging hail in the face.

Cloud

Traverse of the Ausangate range complete. We ride on to the town of Tinqui at the road head. Cusco just 100kms away.

22 Comments

  1. Andi
    20/10/2014

    Awesome photos! A pity I ran out of time ..

    Reply
    • Mike
      20/10/2014

      Yeah! Truly awesome riding in the big mountains.

      Are you telling me you didnt enjoy the Salars πŸ˜‰

  2. Nic
    20/10/2014

    more excellent pictures, but lets see some of you and the long platted beard with beads in it. The girls haven’t seen the funky hair do recently. What does lama taste of? Keep the pedals churning.
    Nic, Kath, Olivia and Holly

    Reply
    • Mike
      20/10/2014

      Platted beard, Pony Tail, and Birkenstocks got it all going on!

      Llama is well tasty. See if Baxy will throw one of this on the barbie for you!

  3. Federico
    20/10/2014

    Greetings from Buenos Aires! I hope I can follow your steps riding there in the near future πŸ˜‰

    Saludos,
    Federico
    PS: GREAT potos!

    Reply
    • Mike
      20/10/2014

      Thanks Federico.

      Likewise great shots on your site!

  4. Rick McCharles
    21/10/2014

    Seems your route bypassed the hotsprings. πŸ™

    We trekked there in 2005 out of Tinqui.

    Reply
    • Mike
      21/10/2014

      Yeah we missed the hot springs only found out about them later.

    • Gina
      21/08/2015

      where exactly are those hot sprigs located? Currently stuck in cusco waiting for gear but as soon as all is here we’re off to do Ausangate…

    • Mike
      24/08/2015

      Sorry for the slow reply Gina.

      We didn’t know of their existence until afterwards, but as I understand it they are close to the settlement of Ausungate.

      Any trekking guide book should be able to point you in the right direction.

  5. Aurora
    23/10/2014

    Love it! Ausangate is so AMAZING! Thanks for sharing these awesome photos!

    Reply
    • Mike
      23/10/2014

      Thanks Aurora!

      Ausangate is indeed AMAZING!

  6. Cass
    28/10/2014

    ‘frikin awesome!!!

    Reply
    • Mike
      30/10/2014

      Awesomeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Compadre! What a highlight of the trip!

  7. Michael Dammer
    29/10/2014

    Hermoso!, inspired to go ride Ausangate some time soon. Do you or Cass have GPS file for the ride?

    Reply
    • Mike
      30/10/2014

      Thanks Michael!

      Sadly we dont have a GPS for the ride. We used Kurts notes and compared this with the notes in Hiking and Biking in the Sacred Valley guide. Basically you connect Tinqui – Ausungate – Ayaviri in a straight line it is actually fairly straightforward.

      Hope that helps!

    • Michael Dammer
      30/10/2014

      …Thanks Mike, I was just curious to take a look at your ride on google earth. I have done the Ausangate hike in the past so I wanted to see if you follow a similar route or just made one of your own. Iam glad there is no GPS involved…
      Good luck on whatever adventure you are heading next and thanks for sharing those awesome pics.
      Saludos

  8. Neil
    30/10/2014

    Waaaah! Not that I needed another excuse to return to Peru, but you’ve given me one! Looks incredible!

    Reply
    • Mike
      30/10/2014

      We said at the time that Ausungate had the Pikey’s name on it.

  9. Cusco to Huancavellica: Missing Links and El Silencio » Mike Howarth
    21/11/2014

    […] 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 […]

    Reply
  10. paul
    20/12/2014

    Mike,

    Truly epic route, cheers for the intel. Also thanks for the bolivianos, the equivalent of 100 cheese empanadas it turns out, should see me through to chile…

    Paul

    Reply
    • Mike
      25/12/2014

      My pleasure!

      Good luck finding those cheese empanadas on the Altiplano πŸ˜‰

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