Jan 10, 2009

Cordillera Blanca 27/12/08
We were dropped at the bus station in Huaraz, and waited for our bikes, hopefully arriving on the next bus. There are always problems with putting the bikes on a bus, a stressful operation. An hour later they arrived; no harm done.
We quickly found a nice hotel room, with fantastic views of the snow white mountain range – the Cordillera Blanca, from our window and from the rooftop.
Nothing special about Huaraz; just a good place for business & info. We bought a thousand Magi instant noodle soups. The weather was perfect, so we decided to leave on the following morning, even though Gal’s throat was sore.

Huaraz, from our rooftop.
A cute puppy in the market.

The next day was embarrassingly short, only 30km, paved & flat. Gal was suffering. Carhuaz was not the ideal place to recover: no running water… we missed the luxurious hotel in Huaraz.
We spent the afternoon watching CNN Latin-America, reporting the new Israeli-Palestinian war, or, as the pro-Arab TV called it: “The Israeli attack”! The following months we felt uncomfortable saying we were Israelis, even though we never felt any hostility.

Leaving Huaraz.
The Cordillera Blanca, from the west.

Sunset from Caruaz.

Climbing 29/12/08
Gal was feeling a bit better, so we hoped for the best and set off.
The unpaved road immediately started to climb. The first 20km were gentle, even easy. Then, the dirt road deteriorated to terrible loose rocks, very difficult for cycling.
We were going barely 4 km/h. Gal was stressed of the coming climb.
We reached the national park entrance. Gal wanted to camp near it, on the river bank, but Rami was dazzled by the impressive concrete house (donated by the Germans). The lonely, national park ranger invited us to sleep inside. We joined forces to cook dinner (not too many cyclists take their huge spice box with them to the mountains) and had a lovely cozy evening.

Writing to our blog.

We woke up at 04:30, ready to attack the nightmare road and the 2,000m climb to Punta Olimpica Pass (4,850m?).
The first 10km were supposed to be the easy part of the day – flat. But, the mess of huge loose stones, called a road, made cycling almost impossible. Gal was on the verge of tears, desperate of the paste and of the coming climb. We slowly continued.

The national park entrance.

We started the million serpentine climb; the road and the weather were good.
Somewhere in the middle of the climb, huge gray threatening clouds arrived. The road was not as good as before.
It started to rain and the road turned to a river. We repeated the usual mistake of waiting with our winter cloths…optimism.
The last 3 hours of the climb were in snow, pushing the bikes in the road/river.
The climb was endless. Every ‘last’ turn revealed another serpentine. We were exhausted, but there was no place to camp, just a cliff and glaciers. The last 2 km Rami was pushing both bikes, one at a time, running back and forth. Gal barely carried herself.

Crazy Peruvian serpentines.

Looking back down.

It was almost dark when we finally reached the pass. We were freezing. Gal was too exhausted to enjoy the triumph. Visibility was terrible, but at least it stopped snowing. We barely saw the laguna, 3 km from the pass; hopefully our campsite. Rami rode quickly to find a good place for the tent before it gets totally dark. Gal followed slowly. At some point Gal could not see Rami in the dark, so she shouted his name. After shouting “flash light!” it was easier for her to find him.
The camp spot was just off the road, in a turn, the grass was very wet, almost swampy, and there was cow shit all around. It was perfect, under the circumstances.
We had to take off our ski gloves (finally, gloves that do the job in cold, wet weather) in order to build the camp. We were freezing. It started snowing again, so we covered the bikes and gear with our blue tarp and hid in our tent, lying inside our amazing sleeping bags, still with all our cloths, resting and trying to defrost.
An hour and a half later it stopped snowing, so we gathered the strength to go out and cook a quick dinner: instant noodle soup. But, first, we had to find water! We were surrounded by swamps, so, finding water should have been easy. We started wandering in the darkness with our flashlights, searching for a clear stream, but the only streams we found, went along the road – muddy. We called out to one another to return to the camp, but, where was the camp?
Walking among the cows (what are cows doing in this altitude and weather?) we finally found our tent – what an embarrassing relief…
We decided to take the swamp water from one of the swamps above the cow shit and cooked dinner.
It was 21:00. We quickly did what was necessary (locking the bikes, etc.) and fled to the tent.
It snowed all night, till 14:00 the following day. Even though we enjoyed the serenity of our camp (2 cars all morning), we decided to get out of there – chances for clear sky were low.

Bad road!
Our cam spot?
Gal, tired.
Another laguna.

Washing dishes. Cold...
Our camp.

We descended about 1,500m on our way to Chacas. It rained again, towards our arrival, and the hilly entrance to town was like a big mud wrestling ring, making cycling impossible. We were very tiered.
We found a shitty room, in a beautiful, traditional adobe house. We rested a day in this charming colonial village, trying to dry our wet cloths.

Gal, looking back at the glacier.

Happy New Year 2009!
Exhausted and hungry, we attacked Chacas, barely aware it was New Years Eve.
The only food we found was grilled/fried chicken with rubbery French fries, a favorite Peruvian holiday dish.
We celebrated with cheap Chilean wine (reminding us that Chile is not so far away) and fried chicken and chips.

Our guest house - Check out the horse!!!
New Year in Chacas.

The climb back to the western side of the Cordillera Blanca, via Laguna Llanganuco was much easier, with a slightly better dirt road. Waking up at Yanama, and seeing all the surrounding white peaks was exciting after3 cloudy, winter days.
Crossing a village, annoying children escorted us, asking: “how much this cost?”, “how much that costs?”, later throwing small rock at us, increasing our hatred towards the Peruvians.

Finally, Gal's new gloves.


View from Yanama.



The pass...

We had relatively fantastic weather when we reached the beautiful pass. We rested there, with a feeling of catharsis; it is down hill from now. We ate the rest of our sweets – dried fruit and cookies, hoping we will not need them anymore.
Reaching the lagunas, we decided to camp another day and enjoy the quiet away from the Peruvians. We had only 6 packs of instant noodle soups for dinner and breakfast, not a lot, but we will reach a village tomorrow.

Gal, arriving to the pass.

More Peruvian serpentines.

And another laguna...

Laguna Llanganuco.
And a small waterfall.

Caw parking - ha-ha!
Camping on the river.
Taking a shower.

Leaving Par National Huascaran.

We had a long discussion, whether to pay another entrance fee at the park exit, a few kilometers ahead. Gal was against cycling quietly, ducking under the gate, but when seeing the gate, she zoomed towards it, ducking, thinking of the unmentioned roads she had to suffer.

Cañon del Pato 08/01/09
After resting a day in Caraz (a small comfortable market town) we set off towards Chimbote, through Cañon del Pato. We were excited, after hearing a lot about it, mainly from motorcyclists.
The next 3 days, we were trapped inside the steep, narrow canyon, with mountains 4,000m above us, fighting the famous constant strong pacific winds and the worst dirt road ever (Peru has an interesting selection of dirt roads).

Last look at teh Cordillera Blanca.
Entering the desert canyon.
First tunnel.

Longer tunnel.


Another nice night with a family.

Crossing a river.

A settlement?

Finally, reaching the perfectly newly paved road, we were fighting winds of 54 km/h, averaging 9 km/h… downhill…

Beautiful, red chili.

Despite the difficulties it was one of the most beautiful roads we took Latin America.
2 months earlier, at Calarca, Colombia, when Rami was still scared of dirt roads, Andres, who’s traveled around the world on a motorcycle and has been 12 times in Peru, highly recommended us this road. Muchas gracies!