Finally back on the bikes
Our ride today should be manageable. Nearly 70 km, but mostly downhill from Huaraz at 3100 meters to Caraz, at the lower side of the Callejón de Huaylas, at 2300 meters.
We started at a decent time, although in the mountains we don’t need to hide from the heat, quite the opposite. The first part coming out of Huaraz is quite busy, with way more traffic than anticipated. The colectivos are specially aggressive, beeping the horn and driving carelessly. We get some occasional glimpses of the mountains, but it’s really so quick before the clouds cover them again that we barely have time to take pictures.
Once we pass Carhuaz, the traffic gets slowly quieter, but the downhill is now less pronounced and we need to pedal stronger, finding even the occasional climb. In Yungay, famous because an earthquake in the 70’s took away most of the inhabitants of the village, we stopped for some empanadas in a cake shop. I am still struggling with my food poisoning so I just had a soft drink.
The traffic now gets even quieter, as Caraz is the last big town in the valley. After that starts the Canyon del Pato, a very narrow road where big buses don’t fit and the surface is pretty bad, so most people choose other roads to go down to the coast.
Caraz is surprisingly active, with many flower plantations in greenhouses and all kinds of vegetables. Despite being surrounded by big mountains and lying above 2000 meters, the climate is very mild and conducive to all kinds of farming.
We stayed in a hotel from the same owner as the hotel in Huaraz, as he offered us a deal. In Perú, all cities, towns or villages have a central square called Plaza de Armas, which is usually very nicely appointed with greenery, a big church, and nice houses all around. If you want to find something central, first look where the Plaza de Armas is.
We took a couple of days in Caraz as we wanted to do some tours and I also needed to recover from my stomach problems. Unfortunately there’s only a small agency with a not very competent salesman so there were very few things on offer and quite expensive. In the end I decided to go on my own to the Laguna Parón, at 4200 meters, but a strike meant the bus coming from Huaraz could not make it.
Trying to find alternatives, I met a taxi driver that would take me for a reasonable price there, since the lake is directly above Caraz. I found Susanne and the kids and we all went together as the taxi would take us up, wait for us, and take us down.
The ride was a bumpy one. First climbing on a decent dirt track up to the entrance to the national park, but then the last kilometers on a terrible track. I was feeling bad for the driver as he was going to destroy his vehicle, but he seemed to be used to this kind of surfaces.
The lake was beautiful, but again we could barely see the imposive peaks above it due to the heavy clouds. If you want to see them yourself, just click on the link above.
I wanted to cycle the loop of Carhuaz-Punta Olímpica-Yungay, a classic for many cyclists which climbs to 4800 meters and goes around some of the most important peaks of the Cordillera Blanca. Unfortunately, between the fact I was only recovering from my food poisoning, the annoying clouds would not let me see anything, and Susanne had no interest in waiting in Caraz the 4-5 days I would need to cycle the loop, we decided to move on and start cycling towards Chimbote following the Santa river.