RTWPaul: Huascaran National Park - A Dream Ride In Peru

Leaving the small market town of Caraz where the ladies in the market have hearts as big as their hats, it’s just a short ride south the park entrance just outside the town of Yungay.

A nominal fee to enter, from the ticket booth you have no idea of the majesty that awaits you around the corner.

Sheer walls of granite surround you etched away over millennia by the reducing glaciers of the park; and then all of a sudden you’re next to the Llanganuco Lakes, Chinancocha and Orconcocha that are amazingly blue, fed by the glaciers high above at the top of the Andean Mountain range.

The track by the lakes is used by a small number of tour buses moving tourists to specific spots to get ‘that photo’, but when you ride further than the tour buses dare to go you’ll find much better views around each corner as you climb; the track will have you stopping to take just another photo every few meters.

The higher you climb the rougher the track gets, sharp hairpin turns, baby head rocks abound; it is worth the struggle to get to the top and the pass. Once there you will be happy you made the extra effort. The view down the valley is easily one of the more memorable sights in the whole country.

Through the pass and it’s downhill all the way to the Yanama District, a collection of small Pueblas; as I rolled into the first little Puebla I got a flat. In minutes the local school emptied and I had more ‘help’ than I could have ever asked for.

As you ride through small little settlements you’ll be watched by ladies sitting on the front step of their small houses knitting with local wool; they nod and wave as you ride by.

Head to the small town of Chacas for an overnight stop and one of the nicest colonial squares in this area of Peru. At this point you’ve only ridden 140km but there’s a good chance this could have taken all day. Unless you are in a rush, settle in and wander around the small town.

As you are on the east side of the Andes the sun will be setting earlier than expected and the temperatures will drop dramatically.

The ride back east is all paved and arguably more spectacular than the day before, it’s going to be all pavement which for some will be a nice change of pace.

The road westbound is the 107 and within minutes of leaving town glaciers are facing you; if you are lucky and have a clear blue sky they radiate the blue hue off their angular faces.

Slowly climbing on a perfectly paved road, but be cautious for overnight landslides that can leave rocks strewn across the road on blind corners, the locals haven’t had the time to move yet, but they will.

Take your time on the ride up, it’s a short ride today, just a mere 110km back to Caras, marvel at the Laguna Yanarraju, the glacier that hangs above it and feeds it and the view back down the valley you just rode up.

As you peak out around 4700 meters you will ride through the Olimpica Tunnel and have just ridden the highest paved vehicular tunnel in the world. Climbing slightly towards the exit, be prepared to stop immediately on exit to take in the majestic view. There is a dirt track that was used prior to the tunnel being completed for those that dare to take the ride a little higher.

The first major left-handed bend just a hundred or so meters later is a great place to stop for a snack or lunch. The view will encapsulate you for a long time, looking down the valley you are about to head to, and the dozens of hairpin bends that await you.

From here enjoy the ride down and head back to Caras and see the ladies in the market again; tell them where you’ve been, they love to talk about the local areas around their Andes. If you’re lucky they might give you a few tips where to head next.

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