In the Cordillera Blanca of Peru – Part 2

Just after the Llanganuco Lakes there is a campground, and a small parking area where buses and collectivos park and unload the people who hike the Laguna 69 trail from here. We pass this parking area at the 2nd or 3rd switchback that begins the climb up the steepest part of our ride in this loop toward the pass high above. It’s a subtle climb at first which belies the rugged road ahead.
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We stop for photos along the way because this place is the most spectacular one I think I have been to on the entire trip so far and I think every view is worth saving and remembering. Glaciers loom above the valley on nearly all the mountains surrounding us. My camera has a hard time distinguishing them from the bright white of clouds and sunlight at times.
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The road gets wetter as we climb, not just from the rain from the day before, but also from glacial melt running down from the snow fields above.
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The road gets a little rougher as we climb, transitioning from gravel and packed dirt to lots of loose glacial rock.
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The Llanganuco Lakes keep shrinking below us as they rise and I can see the thin white threads of roads we have ridden laid out below us.
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By about 14,000 feet we start to see little pockets of snow in the shrubs and ditches….and it’s getting chilly.
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It’s hard to focus on the road with all this incredible scenery but the road is getting to be some serious hard work…so I try harder.
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And finally….we reach the top.
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We park and take a look around and a few pics before riding through the narrow gap in the rock ridge to the other side. It’s incredible. And I’m a little overwhelmed. It’s hard to describe, but it’s a mixture of emotions. I’ve been a lot more afraid of remote rugged roads than I was before my accident last year, so I was nervous about the road today after all the rain. I’m happy to have made it up here…I’m exhausted from my nervous tension…I’m overwhelmed by how beautiful it is here.
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And after a few minutes, it’s time to move on. It’s cold and wet up here and we have a lot of miles to cover, so no time for lingering. Off we go through the gap and out the other side.
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And while we start descend right away, it isn’t as steep or far down as what we came up in the beginning. But it’s still beautiful here.
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We ride down and finally make it to Yanama at about 3pm. We debate about staying here for the night, but really want to make it to Chacas another 22-45 miles up rough dirt roads depending on which way we go. We opt for the longer route which is supposed to be a little smoother and follows a river valley. But if this road is “smooth” I can’t imagine how bad the other one must have been. At least the scenery is good.
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This last leg takes a lot longer than we had hoped because it’s rough, but we finally hit asphalt at San Luis and ride it the last 10 miles into Chacas after dark. What an incredible day.

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