From Huaraz to nowhere and back
PERU | Wednesday, 23 July 2008 | Views  | Comments 
Views of the Cordillera Blanco.
An incredible mountain biking trip to the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. WHAT A TRIP. I was invited to go on an exploration mountain bike trip with a friend of a friend who owns a mountain bike agency. Using horse trails and ancient Inca trails, they wanted to develop new mountain bike trails to offer tourists an "off the beaten path" biking experience. The team consisted of the owner of the bike agency in Lima, a mountaineering guide from Huaraz, a trekking guide from Huaraz who would give us support with his horses and transport our bags, and myself. Our journey would start in Huaraz (3090m) and the near by town of Carhuaz (2650m) and connect with the pueblo of Chacas (3360m), Huari (3150m)and other small towns along the route. Riding our bikes, would need to cross over the Cordillera Blanco (White Mountain Range) at the peak of Portcchuelo de Honda (4750m). The first leg of the trip we would need to carry food, water, gear and clothes for the ride and one night in Chacas. Everything else we would need would be transported by our support team member who would be assisting us along the rest of the trip. For the first hump, we would be alone.
From Huaraz, we rented a transport to get us and our bikes up as close to the summit as we could, but the roads were so bad that the van could not go as far as we had hoped and the trip took longer than we had planned. We had to bike the rest of the way. The road was sooo steep and full of loose rocks that we had to push the bikes most of the way. It was impossible to ride most of it. Again, not part of the plan. The temps were warm where we started our ride but soon started to get colder the higher we climbed and the later it got in the day. Hours before we reached the top I was having major problems with the altitude. We were close to 5000 meters. To make the ride more complicated, I was going through the first stages of hypothermia. My friends said my face was yellow, I was not thinking clearly and I was like the walking dead. They really saved my life with fast action and by working together we finally made it to the top of the peak. Not an experience I want to ever repeat. Quickly, we made our descend over the peak and down the other side of the mountain, in the dark and cold. We were so close to the snow. The views were amazing! We had the luck of a very bright moon. Once we got to a lower altitude I was feeling better. We still had a long way to go before we would reach the first town. We lost the trail many times and had to ride and push our bikes through some difficult terrain until we could find the trail again. Our descent took us about 6 hours. Towards the end we found some really good roads and trails that we were able to ride our bikes on with speed. Even after our insane day we all really enjoyed that part. Spoken like true mountain bikers:). We finally reached our hotel at 1:30 in the morning (in the town of Chacas). Dog tired, hungry, cold and muddy, we realized how lucky we were to have actually arrived safely. There was no hot water or food available until the morning. But we did have clean soft beds to crawl into. I ate sooo much food the next morning.
The next morning we thought that we would be back on schedule, but we discovered that our transport support never arrived with our bags and with the horse we would need to assist us for the 2nd part of the bike ride (to the town of Hauri). We decided to rest that day and to figure out what our next plan would be. In the mean time we were invited to a local party. More good food, cultural dances, music and lots of beer, of course. We managed to secure a local guide who would carry our extra weight by horse. However, next morning he decided he did not want to go. So we wasted a lot of time trying to find another person with a horse. It was important to have this support and to have the least amount of weight on our backs. It was very difficult to negotiate any business so early in the morning and at last minute. An incredible waste of time as in the end we found our original guide and offered him more money. A typical Peruvian move.
So we started out for Huari. The trails soon became difficult and the climbs very steep. Again we found that we were pushing our bikes more than riding them. Exhausted, we stopped for lunch. We still had another 4 hours to go before reaching the top and then about another 2 hours of riding on unknown terrain down the other side. It was too late in the day to continue. Our spirits were as disappointed as our bodies were tired. We were forced to return to Chacas. The ride down was really fun and lifted our spirits quickly. All that climbing and bike pushing we did on the way up was like a roller coaster ride on the way down. Great fun and some good trail. It is amazing how some good trails and descents can change the spirit of a biker. We also realized that maybe the tours could be run in reverse of the original idea. So maybe the time here was not a total loss. We spent the night back in Chacas and headed back to Lima the next morning early. We never found out what happened to our other team member who was supposed to meet us in Chacas with our bags and his hourse. Our contact in Huaraz bused our bags to us in Lima the next day. After wearing the same clothes, both biking clothes and relaxing clothes for 3 days, I was so happy to be back in Lima to have a hot shower and fresh pajamas to put on.