A day on the dirt – Huamachuco to Cachicadan (58k/17,270k, +2800ft)

(July 10 – written by Nancy) (posted on 14/7 due to being off the grid for the last 4 days)

We woke to cold temperatures this morning.  It’s hard to get out from under the covers when the air temperature in the room is almost as cold as outside.  I lingered as long as I could until Dave asked me for the third time whether I was going to get up.  Okay, okay, okay – but how again is this a holiday?

We were going to try for a relatively long day today so we tried to get out early and managed to leave the hotel a bit after 7.  There was a nice steep climb out of town that warmed us right up, and we were quickly at the turn-off to our planned short-cut south.  From other cyclists blogs we knew that the series of roads that made up the short-cut were all dirt roads of varying quality.  We had mapped the junctions and where we should turn.  Our first turn onto road No. 116 showed up right on schedule.

Nancy and the traffic

Morning traffic

Andes view 6

Morning view

Andes scene

Andes view

The initial road was fairly rideable – a bit rocky so slow but we could at least keep moving forward.  We wound our way through lots of farmland and farmhouses, with many folks out working in the fields or sitting on their porches or in their yards.  Almost everyone says hello to you if you say it first to them – and we often get a nice ‘buen viaje’ (good travels) back from them as well.

We came to a junction where road 116 appears to fork into two different roads.  From our mapping tools and other cyclists blogs we thought the right fork was going to be a rockier road so elected to take the left fork, though it was longer and had more climbing.  We watched several cars come down the left fork so it appeared to be more travelled.  Well, that probably turned out to be a mistake, as the road was very sandy in many places.  Nothing like riding through quicksand uphill to ruin your day!  Dave took one spill and I jumped off a few times when the sand was too thick and grabbed the tires.

Our road

Smooth, tire grabbing sand

Nancy crossing on foot

Nice road eh?

Andes view 5

Andes view

We hit the junction where the other fork of 116 came in and started to see some other tire tracks.  We figured then that Philipp and Kathrin had probably taken the other fork and were now ahead of us.  We didn’t see any fat tire tracks so figured that Andy, the German bikepacker, had kept to his plans to ride up to a laguna to spend a couple of nights camping.  We later learned that Philipp and Kathrin left 45 minutes after us and passed us – take note future cyclists – take the right fork at the gate and thus the right fork of 116.  It is shorter, less hilly and faster.

We made the next junction to road 115, which was much less sandy so we made better time as we made our way downhill.  Then we hit the final junction and road 117 – and pavement!  Wow, what a nice change from the 24k of dirt roads.  We stopped for a sandwich and to take in the views.  That’s one of the things that I find frustrating about riding on dirt roads.  It is very hard to take in your surroundings when you have to be so focused on the road and the line you need to take to avoid big sandpits or rocks.

Our road 1

Our road

Middle of nowhere church

Church in the middle of nowhere – if you look up

Anyway, the ride down 117 made up for much of the bad dirt road.  It was very narrow but there was really no traffic and we had nice views out across the valley to the high mountains on the other side.  At one point we came around a corner to find a very large lama coming up the road at us.  We stopped, he (?) stopped and we stared at each other.  Then another two smaller lamas came up over the hill and they all walked across the road to a field, all the while watching us carefully.

Llama 4

Boss man llama (we think)

Llama 2

Mother and baby llama

Llama 1

Just strolling along our road

There were lots of eucalypt forests along this route – they appear to farm these trees heavily here.  We saw lots of small plantations and many that had clearly been cut multiple times, with huge tree bases and new growth coming out of them.  They seem to get nice straight wood out of these trees and use the round logs for ceiling beams and many other things.


Wild Grevillia – we think

By this time we had pretty much given up on the initial plan to ride to Angsamarca today as it was another 30k with a decent hill and it was already after 1pm by the time we reached Cachicadan.  The road we intended to take around the town was blocked off so we headed down into the town proper and came upon Philipp and Kathrin’s bikes outside a little restaurant.  We stopped to say hello and eventually decided to check out the accommodation options in town.  Philipp and Kathrin had intended to go further and camp but decided to see what was on offer.

Cachicadan church

Cachicadan town square

After looking at 4 different ones we all ended up back at the first one we looked at, the Hostal Cachicadan.  We looked at the ‘nicer’ hotel in town but it was pretty rough, with green carpeting in the rooms and no toilet seats, and they were asking as much as we had paid for much nicer rooms elsewhere.  So, back to our first option – nothing too fancy but Philipp and Kathrin kindly let us take the one room with a private bath – and it even has a toilet seat.  The best thing though is that there are thermal baths, which makes up for a lot!  We both had a nice ‘shower bath’ with nice hot water and the strongest water pressure we’ve had in forever.

Our bath

Our tub

Dave was starving so after getting a restaurant recommendation from our hostel owner we had a decent meal, and then spent some time wandering around town finding supplies for tomorrow.  The plan now is to go beyond Angsamarca tomorrow and camp with Philipp and Kathrin down by a river that we need to cross before making a big climb up to Pallasca.

Door of the day 1

Door of the day

8 thoughts on “A day on the dirt – Huamachuco to Cachicadan (58k/17,270k, +2800ft)

  1. Everyone is so happy you are back in an area with wifi. We are looking forward to more posts from the last few days. Keep up the great writing and photos!

    • It felt a little weird being off the grid but we still made notes/posts everyday. If we don’t do it nightly, everything sort of blurs into one long hard day and we forget the bits that made us smile.

  2. That’s a great pic of Nancy riding behind all the animals! I’m very happy to be reading about your adventures again!

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