Going down the Canyon del Pato
Today we will ride another of my personal highlights of the trip. After reading dozens of blogs and seeing thousands of pictures, this time it will be us riding along the Canon del Pato.
This canyon is created by the river Santa, which forms the Callejon de Huaylas, and separates the Cordillera Blanca on the east with the Cordillera Negra on the west. Sometimes, such separation is just barely a few meters!
The ride was meant to be easy, as we will be following the river so most of the way will be downhill. However, short after our departure in Caraz, we are being told the road is closed due to a “paro”.
This is a very typical thing in South America, and specially in Peru and Bolivia, where whenever there is a protest, the group affected will close all major roads, sometimes violently, until their demands are met.
In this case, it is coming from the transport sector, complaining about the high prices of petrol. When we arrived at the barrier, a woman wants us to stop. Luckily her colleagues feel sympathy for us, in bikes and with children, and they quickly let us go with a smile.
This is great news for us, since that means we will have no traffic coming from behind us. However, we quickly notice there is no traffic against us either. After a couple of km we understand why. There is another barrier made up of stones and a burning tree, but they also let us get through. We have to get out of the road and ride along an old track to pass though.
And now, finally, we can resume our ride without interruptions, and without traffic! The valley at first is relatively wide, although surrounded by massive mountains.
Those mountains start to close in on the river, while the decent asphalt starts to deteriorate. Soon we start passing the first tunnels, we are starting the Canon del Pato!
One after the other, we crossed the 35 tunnels, some longer than other but all without light and one lane only, so we need to stay alert in case a vehicle comes in the opposite direction.
After the canyon we arrived at the little village where the dam workers live, and directly after that to the village of Huallanca.
We decide to continue, the valley opens up a little and we need to do a small climb before arriving in Yuracmarca. It is getting late so we need a place to sleep.
The Hostal by the road has stairs which are not great to park the bikes, and the conditions are pretty poor. We are being told by some locals, and denied by others, that further up the road there is another accommodation. We push the bikes up the very steep street to the main square, and someone confirms there is a woman, Kety, that rents rooms behind the church. Excellent!
On the meantime, we enjoy the life of small-village Peru. Everything happens in the main square. We eat several filled potatoes from a woman, homemade and delicious, they are quickly sold out. Then another woman mounts her kitchen on the street next to the local shop and serves freshly cooked chicken with chips, also quite successful and cheap. We are the highlight for many local children, they all ask questions, want to try our bike trailer and tag-along, and Simon and Thomas had a great time playing with them until it is bed time and slowly everything gets quiet again.
Our room is nice and clean, although Simon complains because there is no TV and they “forgot” to put a bathroom. Tomorrow we will keep going downhill following the river.