With our tires wearing thin and our bikes in need of some TLC we decided to mix a series of dirt roads with paved highways in order to make it to Huaraz in a timely manner. Still on the heels of rainy season we were getting pretty fed up of the constant muddy wet roads and the difficulties of camping in this weather. From Celedin we rode the highway south and took an easily missed left turn just past the township Pampa del Torro, carrying on to Huanico were we spent a lovely evening with some locals, camped up in a garage. Rain was a prominent feature on this ride and the following day, to San Marcos, we were treated to the same conditions. From there we b-lined it to Cajabamba, keen to make some distance. In the next city, Huamachuco, we met Marko who works at the tourist office in town and invited us to camp on his property and have a dinner with him prepared by his wife. We got chatting and he informed us of a small stretch of Inca Trail that starts off at nearby laguna Cushuro.
We started by climbing a steep dirt road to Laguna Cushuro, which was beautifully located with rocky mountains as a backdrop. We tried to find the trail entrance, and after a few misdirected attempts we were on the right track. After an hour of pushing our bikes up a steep hillside, we finally got a short stretch of cycleable singletrack. The trail sidled around the mountainside and plunged down steeply to then climb back up. Half way up our second climb, we noticed some nasty clouds moving in. Gina and I discussed our options, and decided that summiting might not be a good idea. Five minutes later and hail started to fall without end in sight. We pitched the tent quickly and began the 3 hour wait as our tent got pelted. We noticed too late, that the hail had melted and formed a swimming pool all around us. Luckily the hail/rain had subsided, and we shifted our tent and gear to a drier area.
Gina and I had real trouble sleeping, I suspect much of this was due to the elevation, but part of it was the thought of the steep climbs to follow the next morning. We were awoken by beautiful sunlight, and amazing views. We took our time getting ready, and decided to carry our gear separately in lieu of the steepness of the ascent. It took us an hour to finish the climb, and absolutely exhausted we stumbled to the summit, only to see the final summit we would be attempting. There was a real fear for a moment, that we might not be able to carry on. The final climb looked insane, but we couldn’t return having come this far. We clumsily rolled our bikes down the steep trail leading to the dreaded climb, hoping that the illusion of steepness would be broken as we approached. But the closer we got, the more we realized we were fucked. We started the final climb at 10:30, and got to the top two hours later. It was only a 200m climb, but it was basically broken rocky stairs built at a 50 percent grade. Shaky and low on energy, we were euphoric as we reached the saddle and saw the dirt road we would be taking 200 meters below. When we finally got to the dirt road, I realized that my camera wasn’t with me. I remembered putting it down at the saddle and figured I’d forgotten it. Gina kindly offered to go back and get it, I didn’t say no. After all, that’s why travelling with a partner is great!
From Celendin you can either go on the highway for about 50k until you pass Pampa del Torro (ask for a dirt road to Huanico), or take a dirt road to Sucre to then either merge back onto the highway for roughly 20k or ask your way to Oxamarca. The dirt road is pretty straight forward, after Huanico you continue up a hill and follow the road towards San Marcos. Following one ~200m downhill you have to take a right turn, back uphill for a few hundred metres, rather than continuing going down to Venecia and San Isidro. A long downhill follows into San Marcos.
Back on the highway until Huamachuco. You can get helpful route advice in the tourist centre in town. We did the inca trail section from the Laguna, very rough, and then merged onto the highway Ll-115 towards Pelegatos – a very beautiful ride with hardly any people around. Unfortunately, despite it being magnificent riding, we can’t recommend taking this route as we were robbed just before the downhill into Hongos (see next blog post).