Country #11. Below, my typical daily view on this stretch, from Cuenca in Ecuador to Cajamarca, Peru:
Our start in Peru fast paved riding, banana tree surroundings harkening back to the first days in Colombia and every single Central American country. The paved road at first climbs into the hills, asphalt progress incongruous against the slow pace of the villages it passes through. Adults sit on chairs, benches beside the road there, the towns just collections of houses one or two rows deep on either side of the road. Children play in the street around the coffee beans sun-drying on black plastic tarps, village chickens pecking their way among them. Will spend the most time in this country out of any since the US. Mountain roads calling, the highest stretch of Andean cordillera here, thanks to extensive research by other cycle tourists long stretches of mapped out routes await too. Immigration official gives us 3 months visa time, probably just barely enough. A Canadian ex-pat says no problem to stay past the visa date, just then have to pay $1/day for every extra day. Have another reason to maintain southerly progress, in less than three months the transition to the rainy season scheduled to start. So ample external motivation to keep moving.
Still riding with Paul. Since we were riding direct for Peru and kept passing through towns, we forewent wild camping in favor of urban assaults. Camp/sleep spots included: the tiny empty room at a gas station just wide enough for us + bikes, the floor of an old pay phone center where Patricio said “of course when you’re traveling you have nothing, no resources, here’s a place to store the bikes, take your pick of these two rooms to sleep, do you need to use the kitchen? Shower? Well here’s a key to the bathroom and toilet paper, buen viaje!” The next night spent in an actual hospedaje after only a half day of riding, followed by the night pictured above spent on the pavilion floor overlooking the town basketball/soccer arena. Once crossing into Peru, most nights spent in cheap guesthouses.
One benefit of paved road climbs is the opportunity to turn and look back upon the valleys you came from.
Sometimes looking into the valleys ahead.
Exiting Ecuador at La Balsa, smallest border crossing of the trip so far. Ecuador roadworks slowly turning this road to pavement, until that’s complete the final portion is a mudfest. We got lucky and only had one day of mud, then the sun came out the next morning and dried the road back to dusty dirt. Photo from Paul’s camera.
Crossing the bridge to Peru puts us immediately back on pavement. One day in the mountains drops us off into a river valley, starting a long stretch of fast-moving paceline riding. Thanks to Paul and his drop handlebars for the draft!
We may be on a deadline for Paul to meet friends, but we still make time to see the sights! To the pre-Incan ruins of Kuelap, a mountain fortress rivaling Peru’s famous Machu Picchu but seeing only a fraction of visitors.
The ruins themselves perched high above the surrounding valley. The town of Tingo lies down on the valley floor, then to get to the ruins there’s either a very very early collectivo bus, or the option of sleeping in and hiking the 9km path, 1500m ascent. This was our “rest” day, so we took the sleeping in option. Though cycling leg muscles not exactly optimized for hiking.
Sprawling remnants of houses and buildings cover the hilltop, less restored than those at Machu Picchu. Definitely worth the walk.
Llamas up top, typically seen along high mountain herders.
Peek over the edge, down on one valley…
And straight down into another cleft on the other side. This location one of the reasons Kuelap is thought to have been one of the best indigenous fortifications, though the Incans never got a chance to use it against the Spanish conquistadors.
The extremely narrow main entrance and high surrounding walls shore up the site’s defenses.
Post-Kuelap, once the road leaves the river we start cutting up and over the mountains, climbing to passes only to descend to the next valley and climb back out again. Peruvians are expert road builders- from plenty of practice- so roads switchback gently up and then down mountainsides instead of rocketing straight up regardless of grade. This leads to long, extended climbs, 30-60km continuous upwards a norm.
No matter how green or verdant it might be in the valleys, 2000-3000m up is an entirely different colorscheme.
We finally make it to Cajamarca, overdue for a rest. A stomach bug, from questionable food/water/or just overall tiredness catches up to us and ensures that we spend a few days lying in bed recovering.
Meanwhile, there’s plenty of life and marching bands in the Plaza. Once the bug passes it’s a good welcome to Peru. Looking forward to the riding to come!
Hey Sam! congrats on Peur! Can’t decide if you’re becoming a better photographer or the scenery is just becoming more beautiful, probably a bit of both. Love that Llama pic!
Happy to take credit!
Do you have access to medical care when you get a bug? Do you carry medicine? What do you do for money? Do you carry currency for each country or use ATMs?
I have ibuprofen and a few antibiotics. Mostly just a case of resting and waiting for it to pass, but if it gets really bad there are pharmacies everywhere and labs/clinics/hospitals in any city. ATMs are the main money source, but food is cheap so there’s never a need to carry very much.
Hey Sam there is a great short cut which can save you 1 to 2 days ride to reah Pallasca
Just before Huamachuco after getting around a lake take a left to Curgos then it’s a beautiful dirt ride to Pampa el Condor (4200 m) from there after 2 or 3 k take a left again up hill (you’ll have to push ) but not long then it’s all 26 k down hill on a very small dirt road to mollepata. At some point we thought it was not a real road because it was very remote and in very bad shape but it save us a lot of time ! send us a mail if you want more information ! nice travel Marion
Great thanks good to know! I think that’s the road we’re aiming for. Did you go Conchucos to Sihuas after Pallasca? How long have you been on the Divide now?
After palalsca we went on the canon del plato through chucicara, it’s a nice ride ! and very gentle after that all the way to huaraz. We have finished the divide, we are in Espinar right now heading to lago titicaca. Virgile’s parents are coming in Salta argentina in october so we have to rush a little bit !
Wow wow congrats on finishing Divide! You’re making good progress!
Go Sam Go! Love the Pics, especially that llama!
What camera are you using right now?! I love the photos – they are so beautiful!! I want to make the Llama one my wallpaper… Matt says “Tell Sam I like the photos, too!!”
Canon G15… Can you download the full res image? If not I can email it.