Yes, I admit that I’m a sucker for real mountains. To me, it’s one of the most beautiful landscape forms on earth. Real mountains – with rocks, glaciers and snow. Up to this point the Andes were disappointing. But now, we were headed for real mountains. Into the Cordillera Blanca – 180 km (112 mi) long and with more than 50 peaks over 5’700 m (18’700 ft) the highest mountain range in the Americas.
Already the ride there was quite something – first through the desert,then the “Duck Canyon” (Cañón del Pato).
Built on an old railway base,
the road climbs from 500 m (1’640 ft) to over 2’000 m (6’561 ft) – through 35 unlit one-lane tunnels.
With a mutual goal, ehm destination, – even if the mode of transportation varies as greatly as the origins of the overlanders – a companionship develops/exists.
First, it was Mandi’s and John’s “fault”. Then, we actually met a motorcycle on our excursion to Laguna Parón – Michelle and Craig from Australia, two up – on their way North.
Of course, after this, we simply couldn’t leave!
Laguna Parón: an exposed,sometimes a bit steeper and often one-lane, track. On 4’185 m (13’730 ft) a shimmering mountain lake surrounded by glaring white mountains under a brilliant blue sky.
The sky alone is something to rave about: never as blue as above 4‘000 m (13’000 ft). No need for a filter or picture editing. The lake: an expanse of luminous turquois. The mountains: jagged rock covered with snow and ice.Most of these peaks are over 6’000 m (19’685 ft); nothing gentle or inviting but of an exclusive majesty.
AN-106 and AN-107 form a nice 253 klicks (157 mi) loop, crossing the Cordillera Blanca twice. An intoxicating
variety of narrow curves,exposed single lane roads,
and shimmering lakes
under an increasingly cloudy sky. Higher and higher,lower and lower
– a change in altitude of over 2’000 m (6’561 ft).
Then ascending up to the Punta Olímpica tunnel.
On 4’735 m (15’534 ft) it’s the highest road tunnel in the world and with 1,4 km (0,86 mi) the longest in Peru.
In Huaraz, right in front of our hostel, my cooler “exploded”.
The fan, which had made some strange noises for a while already, had finally given up working.
My precious cooling liquid shot out like from a fountain, dousing the street. With the help of Paul – an American rider – Thomas succeeded in obtaining replacement. First a small ventilator from the “cheap” motorcycle brand Pulsar, which fitted the frame.
Concerned by the amount of air transported, he finally but the old fan wheel on the ventilator motor of a KLR.
Experiment successfully completed, he even found some suitable cooling liquid.
For a cultural stop
we crossed the Cordillera Blanca again– from Huaraz to Chavín de Huantar
On a road with no name
we headed out once more – for the fourth time across the Huascarán National Park. In the freezing cold, on 4’852 m (15’918 ft), we met another rider – Gabriel from Ecuador, on his way to the Guayanas. Buena suerte para tú viaje!
Even though the peaks were covered in clouds, we enjoyed the ride.Again this intoxication through curves,narrow roads and mountains…Descending into lower altitudes (below 4’000 m/13’000 ft) a strange plant appeared beside the track. It looked like a gigantic candle growing out of a bush. They gained in numbers beside us, but sadly disappear more and more all over the world… The Puya Raimondii, adorning this scenery so fantastically, is threatened with extinction.
After a cold, very long day (261 km/162 mi) on an average of 4’000 m (13’000 ft) we were quite annoyed to discover that the promised secure parking of the hotel was over 4 blocks away. Sending our guide away, we listened to the recommendation of a friendly old man. Thanks to him we ended up in a nice hotel room, secure parking directly behind the house, with a real hot shower AND a HEATER!!! One of the best and cheapest rooms (12 USD) in South America up to now 😉