Another great cycling day. Couldn’t think of a better way of finishing my trip. But still, no easy to appreciate.
I got the start of the day wrong, so I left Huaraz through one of those not-nicest-or-cleanest-or-safest-neighbour-ever, only to find it was great. Yeah, I’m sure the main road is easier (that’s what I would have taken if I hadn’t get it wrong), but this is where “real” people live. I definitively recommend you this way out (look at the map). Still, be careful, as there are long unpaved parts. But you’ll be able to see schools, backyards, buses struggling with the terrain…
The uphill out of Huaraz towards the coast is great. It’s longer than what I expected (some 22 km versus those 15 I had expected and that I read in some maps), and the last part is hard (or is it just me?!?), not only because it’s steep but also for the wind and the menace of bad weather approaching, but it is not too hard. What makes it great are the views: they are SPECTACULAR!! The Cordillera Blanca at its full (the “white mountain range”)!! This route was worth it just for being able to see this mountain range from here. Careful, you might want to stop and look too many times!
To be honest, I had my doubts. I didn’t know whether to stay on the Andes (being at that altitude already, going down didn’t make much sense) or go towards the coast and call it a day. But all the rain that I had had lately made me stop cycling. That plan yo cycle all the way to Cusco will stay for some other time (by the way, from what I was told, the road has been improved a lot but there’re lots of long and hard passes, so if you plan to cycle from Huaraz via Cerro de Pasco, be ready for that!!). Now, this way of leaving the Andes was great and a little bit sad: I realized I didn’t really want to leave. But then rain caught up with me again… and I realized I needed to leave that area.
You’ll find some small towns (no more than a bunch of houses together) as you go up and lots as you go down, but none in those 5 kilometers or so before and after the pass, so be careful.
The downhill is really great as well, but maybe not as spectacular as the one in Otuzco. That’s why I mentioned you need to appreciate the views, since they might not be breathtaking in the beginning. But seeing the flora change, the people as well, the kind of animals, the colours of the mountains… There’s plenty to see there!
Towns are nothing special neither. But you’ll find food and drinks and friendly people in all of them!
The road is downhill all the way to Casma, except 3 hard kilometers before Xxxx and another 3 after YYY. in this last bit, careful with:
A. Strong head winds!!! VERY strong and VERY annoying!
B. A badly paved road! It’s so broken it’s not even funny. It stays like that for most of the way to Casma. The same goes for the head wind, sorry!!
This last bit is the one I liked the best. The desert-style views are amongst my favourite, and probably that’s why. The place is… mmm, it’s hard to put an adjective to it… Wide, big, open, inmense. But also rocky, sandy, wild, even scary.
Careful with traffic here: they drive increadibly FAST here, and it doesn’t feel very safe to be honest. The good thing is there isn’t much traffic (but the head wind doesn’t let you hear cars coming from behind).
There’re some towns and ruins towards the end, but by then I only wanted to arrive to Casma… which it happened to be a dirty and ugly town in the middle of the panamericana. I wanted to keep going all the way to the beach but local people discourage me from doing so saying it was still far away (and it had started to get dark).
My recommendation: GO TO PUERTO CASMA. The town is tiny, small as can be, but the beach is very nice and the atmosphera was great. A truly small and authentic fishermen town. In the beginning it doesn’t feel very safe maybe – give it 10 minutes and you’ll discover its charm. There’s a place or two to sleep or, even better, camp on the beach.
That would’ve been a great way of finishing the trip. Still, I’m not going to complain for what I did. I’d do it again anytime.