Peru Motorcycle Diary, Chapter Three: Caraz to Chicarhuapunta and Huaraz

9 May

On Day Six you’ll recall that we deviated from the itinerary slightly with the overnighting of our motorcycling colleagues at Chacas instead of them returning to Caraz. Another free half day for us wouldn’t go to waste. A quick late call to Alberto at Pony’s Expeditions and we were set for a downhill mountain biking adventure!

But first up on Day Seven we visited the Wednesday morning flower market in town. As we’d discovered passing the campesinos on the previous day as they prepared their flowers, this market would be huge as it was held just prior to Mother’s Day. Bulk buyers from Lima would be there to snap up red and white carnations. Flowers are mainly women’s business. Alberto had told us that from midnight they would have marked out their sales’ spot on the road with rocks. We got there at 6:30am and it was already in full swing.

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Mums were multitasking feeding school kids their breakfast, braiding hair, selling and swapping. It was too early for some, we saw a few sleeping kids on mothers’ backs.

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Our walk back to the hotel for breakfast took us through the regular market which was just starting to come to life. I admired this elderly woman for her vigour.

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Those are guinea pigs in those nets, destined for the dining table.

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Alberto collected us promptly at 8am with the two mountain bikes, helmets and gloves in the car. The route to Chicharuapunta col at 4,314 metres was a superb, sealed mountain road past a couple of small scale coal mines and a very old Bromeliad Forest.

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It was especially quiet since the bridge in the valley was being rebuilt after an illegal truck wiped it out. The wooden temporary bridge only takes cars and minibuses so we were guaranteed not to have heavy traffic.

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Alberto followed us down in his car which was fortunate as Stuart got a puncture half way.

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Did you spot the women sitting in the pasture?

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We were back at the hotel by midday but still no sign of the bikes so we had time for a great lunch in town.

It was 1:30pm before Mark, Richard and Franco returned. David had ridden pillion with Franco. Richard was a little paler than usual and when we learned he’d had an encounter with a concrete drain beside the road we understood why. How he managed to keep the bike upright was unbelievable but since he had three eye witnesses I take my hat off to him!

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Once they’d drawn breath and we’d repacked the truck we all headed south to Huaraz.

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This was an unremarkable road. So unremarkable Sñr Groves went soundly to sleep.

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We encountered just one brief rain shower and no other hazards so all parties made Hotel Santa Cruz, Huaraz, well before sunset.


Carlos on gate duty.
A short walk into town for an excellent dinner at Cafetaria Los Andes in Plaza de Armas accompanied by pan pipes, voice and ukelele made for a pleasant evening to mark our first week on the road in South America.

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Day Eight heavy rain started in the night and continued through the morning. We’d arranged a taxi pick up early to take us to the start of the Churup Lake walk and wait for our return but as it was a strenuous seven hour day and the rain didn’t stop until 10:30am (and started again in the late afternoon) we aborted that plan.

Instead we all went in convoy for afternoon tea at The Way Inn, a mountain lodge and retreat at the foothills of the Cordillera Blanca and on the border of the UNESCO Heritage Listed Huascaran National Park (the lower starting point for the Churup Lake walk). This is the perfect spot for couples or singles looking for quiet natural beauty and healthy food. http://www.thewayinn.com On the rocky dirt road up we passed hill farms but none as smartly organised as in Caraz. The riders coped well with several aggressive dogs that chased them.

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First of many dance bands.

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Franco has perfected the art of relaxation.

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Possibly the highest croquet lawn in the world.

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I wasn’t alone in thinking how much the mountains here resemble parts of Wales’ Brecon Beacons.

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We carried on up the valley together until Franco, Richard and Mark turned off for a higher glacial lake and we continued on a different route to another lodge, the Lazy Dog Inn, run by north Americans, Diana and Wayne. These are friends of David’s so we were there for him to catch up with Diana and for Stuart to learn about their home made composting toilet system (his business in Australia).

This ranch-style property has everything you could imagine to make for a fantastic family holiday with horse riding, home grown food, adobe cabins, fireplaces, sauna and guided hikes.

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Red quinoa.

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I was particularly interested in hearing about Diana and Wayne’s efforts over two decades to establish an income neutral school, crafts and cafe enterprise for the local hill farming community on a piece of land they had donated. http://www.thelazydoginn.com

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Diana and Stuart
It was 5:30pm and starting to rain so we loaded Stuart’s bike on the truck and Carlos drove down a pretty dodgy dirt road in the dark back to Huaraz. Given Stu had only had one day of off road motorcycling in Llandovery, Wales, he rode well and said he thoroughly enjoyed the excursion. He’s hoping for more roads just like it!

Our compañeros didn’t return until after 8pm when we were already at dinner downtown. They’d achieved their goal of skinny dipping in the lake but it was 6pm before they started back in the dark on even worse roads than we’d driven down. There was talk of dropping bikes but no real harm was done and they expressed a great sense of achievement.

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Best way to dry sodden jackets.
In town the Cinco de Mayo dancing groups were competing to see who could be the loudest and most colourful. We counted seven different groups, many with plastic covers on their headress feathers to protect them from the rain. For the month of May celebrations Huaraz has an almost constant din of drums, pan pipes and barking dogs.

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Day Nine was blessedly sunny with more rain forecast from midday (so much for Peru’s dry season….) so Stuart and I quickly mapped a walking route up the mountain behind our hotel and set off straight after breakfast. We reached the giant cross at about 3,600 metres with a view of the town and some of the mountain range but cloud cover obscured the most spectacular peaks.

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Ready to add a second story.

We are still not acclimated to exercise at altitude so two hours hill walking plus the stroll down to the town centre and back for meals was plenty for us today. We hope to be fitter by Cuzco.

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The rest of the group sans James, who was having a day on his own, travelled back down the road to the glacier Lake LLanganucco. It’s now 6:30pm and no sign of them. Fingers crossed all is well.

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