Peru, Close To Heaven With David Cachon
Join rider David Cachon along with his photography buddy Fernando Marmolejo in this great escape to Peru, Close to Heaven…
Close to heaven
Before making this trip, when I heard something about Peru, a typical picture always came to mind: Machu Picchu. It is normal, it is one of the most important tourist attractions in the world and is located in the south of the country. In the south there is a different tourism to what we were looking for, we were thirsty for adventure, challenges and action. The north was our destination, Huaraz was on our map and would be our center of operations to move freely between the Cordillera Blanca and the Cordillera Negra. Now I can say that I have discovered a new image of this country, a country where the mountains touch the sky, where nature is brutal and where to practice mountain sports is a totally incredible experience.
The adventure, as usual, began at the airport. An 11h flight was waiting for us ahead. After landing in Lima, the capital, a shuttle picks us up, two young boys will take us to our hotel, two guys very coiled and hooked to extreme sports, we spent the whole trip chatting about skateboarding, bmx and fmx. During the journey of approximately 1: 30h to the department of Miraflores, one of the wealthiest areas of the capital, is when we began to realize the magnitude that this city reaches, it is very large and that we had not seen anything yet. During the trip we were struck by the new facilities that had been built for the Pan American Games, next to the beach we could see a complete complex formed by several skateparks and a powerful bmx race circuit.
The truth is that I am an guy who, when he goes on a trip, gets carried away, or what is the same: he had not yet taken a look at the trip planning. When we happily arrived at the hotel and my brain was about to get into “maximum nap” mode, the boys told us to settle for two hours and that they would come to look for us later to head for Huaraz, an 8-9 hour walk ( about 400 km) heading north with roads loaded with mountain passes. Well, adventure is adventure and what awaited us upon arrival was well worth it.
Leaving Lima was interesting, it is a very, very big city. According to the data that we have approximately 9.5 million inhabitants, which is 30% of the population of the entire country, it is brutal. It is certainly an experience worth living. On the outskirts of the city we can see gigantic extensions of houses that reach as far as the eye can see, all located in an orderly disorder.
On the way we could enjoy incomparable landscapes across the coast and also the Ancash mountain range. The first 4 hours passed along the coast along the Pan-American Highway, the main road linking Peru. In the Paramonga district we take the detour to connect with an alternative route, there we noticed a change in the landscape, we went from the coast to a landscape of Sierra Altoandina. There we took the opportunity to taste the local cuisine, I got carried away by the guide’s recommendation and I put a chicken Tacu-tacu between my chest and back that I almost did not finish, here the food is always abundant and delicious. Tacu-tacu is a typical dish of Peruvian cuisine and specifically Creole food, an example of cooking. The dish consists of cooked rice, stew from the previous day and a stir-fried yellow pepper mixture mixed to form a homogeneous dough under the heat of a pan. The legumes used are usually beans, pallares and lentils. Towards the end of cooking the dough is usually fried to make it crispy.
A little further on we arrived at the highest point of the day (4,100 m) Conococha, where the famous Cordillera Blanca and the Callejón de Huaylas begins, there we could observe the first snow-capped peaks. From there we continue to the city of Huaraz located at 3,092 m. Our hotel was waiting for us to give us a well-deserved rest until 6 in the morning the next day.
The night had not been very good, some nightmares, sweats and problems falling asleep indicated that the day would be hard. The height adaptation was being slower than I imagined. For the first time in my life I did not attack breakfast in a Viking plan, I had no appetite, I was dizzy and my head did not allow sharp turns. The waitress recommends me take a tea of coca, I accept delighted, anything that helps me with this bad being will be welcome.
Jean our guide picks us up at the hotel, I tell him what happens to me and he smiles. It’s normal, he tells me, we’ll go through a pharmacy before climbing the mountains. In the pharmacy I tell him what happens to me and automatically after describing the first symptom I was already giving myself some pills that I had prepared, he tells me: calm is only soroche. This is what altitude sickness is called in Peru.
I load the bike in the pick up and we head towards Laguna Wilcacocha, a paradisiacal oasis located in the Cordillera Negra, about 50 minutes from the city of Huaraz, heading southwest at about 3,470 m. It is a strategic point that allows us to appreciate almost the entire Cordillera Blanca, among the main peaks: Huandoy, Huascarán, Chopicalqui, Hualcán, Copa, Vallunaraju, Ocshapalca, Ranrapalca, Palcaraju. From there Jean gives me some indications and we begin a vertiginous descent of singletracks that let us appreciate the majestic landscape, mountains with peaks of 6000 m surround us and hug us to make us feel tiny. The descent is long but the trails are very fast and fun, I can not stop, although my head is not 100% in place. The plan was to get down, eat something and end the day, but Jean realizes that I am leaving and decides to speak with the driver to take us to Huaraz, but not to the hotel as planned. Jean takes us to the trails that some of his friends have built around the city. A couple of years ago they made a competition in the mountains surrounding Huaraz and some jumps are still in good condition, in addition the trails in the area have a good maintenance. We spent the whole afternoon riding there, finally exhausted we decided to end the session.
At night I decide to go for a walk with my compi and photographer Fer, we realize that the people here are friendly and kind. We are looking for a place where they have typical food and although I am still annoyed and with little appetite … I decide to eat something.
Portachuelo 4,765 m
The next day we woke up early and after breakfast we headed to the mountains. We leave the city of Huaraz by the north of the Huaylas alley, we arrive at the city of Yungay (2,500 m) approximately 1h, from where we begin to ascend towards the Cordillera Blanca by a meandering dirt road. A little later we arrive at Llanganuco, an incredible glacier gorge that is located within the Huascarán National Park, a natural area protected by the state. There we visited the turquoise lagoons Orconcocha and Chinancocha and headed to the highest point of our goal: “Portachuelo de Llanganuco” (4,765 m) where the splendid views of the mountains are truly impressive: Huascarán Norte (6,650 m), Huascarán South (6,768m), Huandoy (6,395m), Chopicalqui (6,345m), Pisco (5,752m), Yanapaccha (5,460m).
When it seemed that I was recovering from the soroche I realize that pedaling at this point costs me more and more, we take some photos where Fernando demands me to do some springs and literally my heart and lungs seem to explode. Fernando also feels the same, at this point things are not as easy as they seem, at least for two people who live practically at sea level (Zaragoza and Seville). It is time to go down to the base camp, the boys get off in the pick up and I decide to descend by bike through some incredible and technical mountain trails. I enjoy a lot but I get tired easily, so I stop to rest, my body is not bad but my head is slow, somewhat clumsy.
Upon reaching the lower area I discover that our camp is already set up, tents, a tent to rest and eat something, even a tent-bathroom, this is already a lot of luxury to be in the mountains. The camp is installed in a pleasant and wide Andean meadow, surrounded by queñuales forests and on the banks of a glacier stream. We had dinner early because at 4 in the morning we have to start an ascent on foot to lagoon 69 located at 4,400 meters. As we eat dinner the first drops of water begin to fall, a storm is approaching. Gradually increases its intensity, we decided to go to sleep but the noise of the water hitting the tent and the humidity does not help to fall asleep. 4:30 in the morning and the rain begins to stop.
Yuraccorral – Laguna 69 (4,400 m)
It’s 4.30 in the morning, it seems that the weather starts to improve. We had breakfast, we took an infusion of coca leaves that our guide recommends and we set off for Laguna 69, located at 4,400 meters of altitude. Despite not having an eye all night it seems that my body is adapting to the height and I do not feel so much fatigue, at least for now. Seeing how the sun rises while we are ascending is an indescribable sensation. The sunlight begins to illuminate the mountains, the snow begins to shine on the peaks and everything takes an incredible color and textures. For a moment I can feel that I am in a special place, the home of the gods, something big, magnificent, indescribable. The night has not been easy but this is worth it.
As we ascend the fatigue becomes more intense, it is as if my lungs lose capacity, my heart beats hard, I have to regulate my breathing and slow down. I must confess that the last meters before reaching the lagoon made me hard, but it was worth it. I can’t imagine what a mountain climber can really experience, but from today I feel even more admiration and respect if possible for that sport. The landscape was brutal, overwhelming, it is as if those imposing white mountains were keeping a treasure. Looking down there she was, Laguna 69, calm and impassive, seemed to be waiting for us. After a few minutes of relaxation and recreation for the senses, we decided to go back, alerted by dark clouds that were approaching at high speed.
The descent we managed to do it at a very fast pace, the truth is that it has nothing to do to lose height to climb, now I am going loose. Although the effort has left us touched, it has been many hours without sleep, traveling and continuing to do activity. We are touched. When we arrive at the camp we eat something and return to Huaraz. We are really tired, tired and with a headache. After a shower we decided to go to dinner in the city, the appetite has returned strongly, that is always a great sign of improvement. We had looked at a somewhat special pizzeria, they make their pizzas with local products. Lemon juice and some pizzas that left us pointless made us automatically set course for the bed.
A new day dawns, early as always. Today we wanted to return to an area that we loved but we couldn’t explore all of its trails the first day. These are the trails in the mountains near Huaraz, almost all of its trails reach the city and the views and quality of these trails are incredible. We decided to climb with the pick up to the highest area and start the descent through some ravines that we had seen in the distance. The landscape is incredible, we wait a bit for the fog to dilute, as soon as the first rays of the sun begin with the descent, a narrow canyon makes me go surfing the interior of this, the firm is quite slippery since it is formed by small stones that make you lose control as soon as you brake, but it’s too much fun to stop. Very technical areas with large ravines on the sides begin to arrive, some sharp curves and other impossible where I have to use my trial technique to be able to pass without dismantling the bike make a great smile draw on my face. God, I’m enjoying too much. The intermediate part increases speed but you have to be careful as some ravines of more than 50 meters high appear again. A small slope and the speed is multiplied by two, you can see Huaraz in the background, some cracks force me to keep 100% attention and jump from one side of the road to the other to avoid them. I finally reach the end and appear in a suburb of Huaraz. Soon Jean reaches me and we continue our descent, although this time urban, through the streets of Huaraz, people look at us strangely but smiling, the atmosphere here is great.
Upon arriving at the hotel we take our things and immediately and without changing our clothes we head towards the city of Chavín, there is the archaeological center of Chavín de Huántar. It was the administrative and religious center of the Chavín culture, built and occupied approximately between 1500 and 300 BC. Chavín de Huántar is considered the most important pilgrimage center in the Andean world.
We head south of the Callejon de Huaylas, taking the detour of Cátac, we go to the Querococha lagoon, then cross the Cahuish tunnel and reach the Conchucos area. On the way we stop to eat something in a restaurant that is located in the town of Catac, it is well known, it is called Mel´s and in addition to having the best trout cebiche in the area it is decorated with traditional motifs. A little later Chavín appears, there we will rest until the next day.
Back to the past
Today would be our last day in the north. First we would visit the archaeological complex that has an incredible historical legacy such as: the gallery of the Lanzón, the gallery of the labyrinths, the double corbel, the sunken circular square, the square square, the nail heads, the Tello obelisk or the portico of the falconid
This ancient place of worship is one of the first and best known pre-Columbian sites. Its appearance is striking, with the complex of terraces and squares, surrounded by carved stone structures, and mainly zoomorphic ornamentation.
The Chavín Culture was a society of classes, priests and warriors accumulating resources, while people were exploited to produce more.
The majority of businesses that stood out in the community ended up becoming leaders, bosses, officers. These leaders forced the community to produce more and end up imposing themselves on others through the knowledge of nature “Priests”. The ingenious systems used to channel the water and its ability to play with it in order to create sounds and mystical atmospheres that could induce visitors to think that this place was in contact with the gods are surprising. We assume that the great scenery used would help the peasants succumb to this religion.
A fantastic, interesting and very enriching trip that makes us think about how they were and how they thought these ancient civilizations, although many unknowns remain to be resolved.
It is time to leave Chavin and head for Lima again, our plane would leave the next morning and we still had 11 hours of long roads. Late at night we arrived in the capital, there we discovered a lively city of Lima, with people everywhere, shopping, dining, playing sports … The truth is that at night I felt very alive and full of activity.
Peru has treated us very well, has shown us some of its treasures and its people. Friendly and welcoming people. Its cuisine is rich in every way and its mountains are incredible. A fantastic destination to practice all kinds of mountain sports, at the level you want, from the initiation to ambitious and professional projects.
If you are looking for more information about Peru: https://www.peru.travel/es-es/
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