Peru 7: Route Cusco, Ayacucho, Huancayo via Lima to Barranca and Huaraz

Our next goal was to drive towards the Cordillera Blanca. Four mountain passes over 4000m taught us a valuable lesson.

Ab Cusco ging es nord-westlich in Richtung Cordillera Blanca. Am ersten Tag in Richtung Abancay schafften wir nur 177km, denn die hohen Pässe nahmen viel Zeit in Anspruch. Auch der Wagen wurde ausserordentlich beansprucht –bei Ankunft in Ayacucho waren die Bremsen mehr als hin, vollkommen überhitzt (Beläge sahen glasartig geschmolzen aus) und wir mussten 5 Tage in Ayacucho verbringen bis Ersatzteile aus Lima kamen.

First day from Cusco in the direction of Abancay only allowed us to cover 177km – slow-going mountain passes and the exit from Cusco took quite some time. We camped wild (S13.588387, W072.833262) and enjoyed the scenery of the Salcantay mountains in the distance.

Similarly we continued next day at a slow pace and covered the next 4000m pass with winding tarred roads (8hrs for 285km), ending the day camping next to the Rio Pampa (near Chincheros), nice and warm at the river +30°C after we had 6°C in the mountains during the day. Unfortunately some small sand flies bugged us during sunset.

Leaving for Ayacucho we drive over 2 more 4000m mountain passes and passed through scenic Puna landscape and saw our first large and flowering Puya Raimondii plant. Finding an orange Taratula along the road was a highlight -beautiful!

When we arrived in Ayacucho the brakes of the cruiser were finished –a grinding noise made us realise that the passes have worn them down completely. Although being a Saturday, we get assisted at Toyota at 12:30pm and the mechanics confirm what we suspected – new brake pads will have to be ordered from Lima on Monday and the discs require skimming down. We had no choice but to book into a hotel in town.I realised that I had to change my style of driving in the mountains: use the gears more and the brakes less. The vehicle being heavy and an automatic made the brakes wear very fast in the mountains – and driving passes in Peru, we could take no chances, brakes had to be 100%. We had them very thoroughly checked every 5000km from then on.

We found the Ayacucho Plaza Hotel convenient as we could park the vehicle safely inside and within 5 minutes reach the centre of town. In the Plaza we were surprised by the number of ice cream shops selling tasty and creamy ice creams. Just in front of them inca women were preparing artesanal ice cream by turning a dish constantly inside a larger dish filled with ice – we counted more 12 ice cream places around the plaza.Heaven after not having any for so long.

Furthermore did we learn that Ayacucho is know for its 33 churches and a beautiful plaza.

After the brake pads arrived and the vehicle was inspected for the repair, it turned out that the discs were already too thin to be skimmed again – new back drums and disc assemblies had to be ordered from Lima, creating another 2 day delay. This was bad news, but at least Toyota in Ayancucho was on the ball and very helpful -also found one person with basic English skills with whom we could communicate.

We used the time to explore more of the area including watching a traditional firework display and music in front of the church next to our hotel.

Finally we left on Thursday morning getting lost for more than 90minutes to find the right road in the direction of Huanta. The road was narrow, mountain passes and curvy and on multiple occasions we had to reverse as trucks had to pass. That evening we found a wild camp side on the banks of the Rio Mantaro on the small campo of farmer Marcelino for Soles20,-. (S12.598943 W074.672082).

Marcellino brought us fresh prickley pears when we arrived and next morning early bode us farewell with a pot of freshly cooked wild papas (potatoes). He only farms with natural products.

The road to Huancayo consisted of more mountain passes, an area with many mines and heavy traffic past la Oroya, large mining operation for lead and copper. The road was congested at a construction section and came to a total standstill. We decided after 315km in 11.5hrs that this was enough at wild camped in the mountains on a stream with temperatures at 5°C at 4485m –not a pleasant night, but we had no choice (S11.596414 W076.247511).

In the morning it was a freezing 2 °C when we got up and continued towards Lima, which we decided to pass on the Panamericana and continued to Barranca on the Pacific coast. At km228 we turned off to the Punta Bermejo where we again camped wild close to a fisherman’s hut (S10.567237 W077.904945). Just up the hill is a scenic point with Pelicans, Comorants, Gennets and Seagulls. Unfortunately a lot of plastic spoils the otherwise tranquil point. Plastic pollution all over Peru is a major problem.

Next day we refuelled at Pativilca and continued across the Cordillera Negra towards Huaraz (4477m pass) through very rugged landscape with large chili plantations where we entered the National Park Huascaran late afternoon although the sign at the turnoff indicated that the park closes early afternoon.

The ranger permitted us to stay overnight in the parking lot and made the baños (toilets) available. The site is at 4164m (S09.888989 W077.305008), not ideal for overnighting but it did not affect us too much as we had slowly adapted through the previous days. However Karin suffered more, especially in the morning at -1 °C.

Author: Dieter

A passionate traveller and photographer with an urge to share the beauty of our planet.

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