A Huayhuash Intro to Peru’s Great Divide.

Spend time in Huaraz and the trekkers flocking to the mountain city namedrop Huayhuash, that snowy peak filled range just to the south. The trekkers go out for a 10+ day hiking route there. Cyclists tend to spend some time kicking back and then setting out for Peru’s Great Divide route, a high altitude remote dirt road network effectively linking Huaraz to that other mountain capitol farther south, Cusco. But before you know it, you’ve spent a month staying put sleeping in a bed, resting from the exertions of the last leg and working on side projects.

A month off the bikes calls for a little something something special to get going again. Maps record a thin black line leading to a red one ending with a dotted black line offshoot. So theoretically a route exists, dirt roads to the start of the Huayhuash trek and after getting over a short section of trail, mining roads should link up the villages on the eastern side of the range before coming back west to the main Divide route. Uncommon sense says this would be a good idea, a bikepacking opportunity to test new bike setup iterations and a chance to explore even more of Peru’s back roads. The Divide route promises the latter too; in the mere year since the Pikes pioneered the route it’s well on its way to becoming a Panamerican classic. But the size and scope of Peru’s mountains means that however many cyclists ride through, there will always be more unexplored dirt roads taking you wherever you want to go. So Paul and I set off looking for some.

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Hay gente buenos y malos. Son malos.

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Things started ok. Two shepherds watching their flock came running up to ask who we were, what we were doing. Normal. Less normal was when they wanted us to accompany them to meet unknown-spanish-word up the road, to the point where one put a hand on the bike’s handlebars to stop me from leaving without him. Suspicions rising.

Northern Peru, Cajamarca province. The Spanish came to the Andes in the 1500s looking for gold. Whatever they found, they shipped back to Spain. 500 years later, mining rights to Peruvian gold, silver, copper, plus many more mineral deposits are sold to foreign companies who come in to extract as much as they can. Peru the country might profit from this, but less so the people living in the immediate vicinity. Cajamarca, one of the richest states in terms of mineral resources, is one of the poorest states in terms of personal wealth.

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