Downhill from Abra Alpamarca

Casapalca to Vichaycocha (PGD part 5)

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Peru Great Divide continues with some stunning lagoon views. And not so stunning views of black clouds chasing me. In the end everything turns out fine though.

September 6

In the morning I am saying goodbye to my second bike stand as it is bent beyond repair. It looks like these weaklings just cannot handle behemoth of a bike :-) Next, when I want to visit the nice restaurant from yesterday I find out it is closed. Fortunately, it opens by the time I am ready to leave.

From Casapalca I have the last few kilometers on the terrible Carretera Central. From there I turn off into a dirt road leading to Abra Antacassa/Sungrar. To my surprise, the road features a bit of big-truck traffic, probably some mining vehicles. Otherwise, the ascent is gentle as I spin towards the top with music blasting into my ears overlooking a rather nice valley.

A bit after Casapalca views open
Local mountains are strikingly black
Looking back from a switchback
More switchbacks open even better views
A bit of grass in all shades of yellow is adding dramacity to the scene

Top of Abra Antacassa opens quite some views. Many of which I am not thrilled about -- not, I am not talking about the beautiful mountains all around. I am talking about suspiciously dark clouds on a direct course towards me. As top of the pass isn't exactly the best place to meet an incoming storm I skip my lunch plan and instead force my way downhill with the best speed I can manage.

Reaching Abra Antacassa I marvel about the views
It wouldn't be perfect views without something snowy and pointy
This is how I imaging Martian scenery if they had too much gold lying around
Peruvian road network is stunning. Also of a stunning quality
The eastern sky is getting nasty-dark

Down from the pass in a valley I already hear lightning playing around the top. This is, however, when the riding gets more difficult. The road is continuously flattening until I find myself just a few kilometers from Marcapomacocha, my tip for the night. From here a real race starts though -- there is a bit of an uphill to Marcapomacocha and the clouds are getting dangerously close. In fact, about a kilometer before the village the storm's vanguard reaches me. Fortunately, this is only a bit of hail. The real storm starts only when I am in the village safely hiding below a balcony. A true hail madness starts with water and ice creating a noticable white cover over the main square. Fortunately, by this time I am housed within a basic but cozy hospedaje municipal.

Last bit to Marcapomacocha starts a race between me and the storm

September 7

Morning view - Marcapomacocha and sweet mountains
Energized I start spinning along the lake
Somehow I manage to miss an opportunity to take a perfect bath
Not too far from the snowline I wonder whether I will see a snow on the road today
The perfect scenery is punctuated by big water channels
Today's road is a real treat -- not much ascent but lots of views

Sticking my head out of the window in the morning could not have revealed a more stunning change of weather. With bright blue sky the mountains around glitter with a tiny touch of snow. Energized with the sight I load my bike and start pedalling along Marcapomacocha lake. The road leads me to a big wall which signifies that there is another dam just a bit uphill.

UFO. I seriously wonder what are these cuts. Are they mini irrigation channels?
After leaving (artificial) lakes it is time to inspect some karst mountains
A small lagoon on the way
More traditional views are also available
There aren't many animals around but these little birds make for it
I guess this is another result of yesterday's storm
Getting closer the karst mountains do not disappoint

The road then continues towards a very nice karst mountains and overlooks a smaller lake, eventually reaching another big lagoon and a little settlement of Yantac. On the way I am meeting a man that claims I am chasing another 4 cyclists who passed through here yesterday or so. I am quite puzzled by this -- if it was 2 then it would be my friends Jeremy and Madeleine. But four? Anyway, a bit after Yantac comes my favourite part overlooking a rather dramatic looking huge mountain. The road then starts climbing to Abra Alpamarca, first part going around some aquaducts. By now I am really stunned by how much aquaducts are present here in a middle of nowhere. My unsaid question is later answered when I learn that this whole business of big water dams, aquaducts and tunnels has only one purpose -- supplying water to Lima metropolitana.

The road leads to small village of Yantac
Knowing where is the east and the west could not be easier
I just wish they built the road straight to the top
This wetland has fascinating color
Around Abra Alpamarca I am again chased by clouds
While the mood is dark-ish, the visibility is still pretty good

Just before Abra Alpamarca the weather situation changes rather dramatically. I am again chased by heavy dark clouds. Not wanting to get into yesterday's downpour I quickly get a bit down from the pass and then find a quick camping spot just when it starts snowing a bit. However, it turns out that history won't repeat. The rain/hail doesn't really get strong and eventually dies completely. By now I am too lazy to move on though.

September 8

I start the day by a short descent on the main road which is apparently under construction -- they are making it wider and possibly even plan to pave it. Then, on a top of a small pass I see a totally perplexing "restaurante" sign. Restaurant? Here, in the middle of nowhere? Well, yes. Although the restaurant is probably a bit too strong classification, you can get some basic food, gaseosas, and sweets so I take a break there.

In the morning the Sun highlights nearby mountain ...
... and a bit more distant ones as well
Ready to go
Peru is an unpredictable mix of nature and human alterations. In one photo you can have 1) amazing mountains 2) aquaducts/water channels 3) nice unpaved road with a random vehicle 4) mining complex (on the right)
A slightly different angle to the morning views

On the subsequent descent I miss a turnoff. I realize this about a (horizontal) kilometer downhill so there is no shortage of swearwords. Returning back I find the correct road which features one of the very few truly flat sections of the road as it goes around a water channel.

One of the few truly flat parts of the route. Mountains start to noticably change color

But flat part doesn't last forever. I quickly find it's end (more precisely, the beginning) where I need to ford a stream before I can take on the climb leading to Punta Fierro Cruz. As the name suggests (note: fierro=hierro), the views gets progressively more iron in them. And a beautiful green lagoon as well.

I pass around amazingly green lagoon
Even truly remote roads can have serious traffic jams
Really alternating lighting.

Hard climb done I am totally happy to know that from now it is going to be only descent. The road first switchbacks until I reach laguna Chungar -- another big water dam -- where it is time for a late lunch. From there I take a shortcut downhill to Vichyacocha. The road isn't on my map but I made a satellite-view research beforehand so everything should be good. Just a bit into downhill I am chatting with local to learn that two cyclists passed around Chungar today. I guess I am gaining on Jeremy and Madeleine.

Descent from Punta Fierro Cruz
Punta Fierro Cruz's iron name is definitely correct
Laguna Chungar

The shortcut from Chungar to the main road is steep. Actually, a lot steeper than I expected. On the way I am surprised to meet a cyclist going up. Poor soul he is pushing the (relatively light) bike on a section which I thought is one of the less steeper. I am quite glad I choose the right direction to ride this section.

Descent from Laguna Chungar
It seems that there is a huge bird party going on here

With the final 15%+ downhill section I end up on the main road. Here I hit a lowpoint and have to start climbing again to Vichaycocha. I arrive to the village a bit sooner than my standard end-of-day cutoff but I decide to stay anyway -- the prospects of camping along the road which snakes through a steep valley aren't too great.

Final part of the descent is really steep
Just above the main road


Loading map...

Download simplified GPX of a route here

Stats by activity:

Activity Distance
Pedal rotations
bike 124 1.9 32
Stats by day:
Date Distance
Avg. temp
(moving, C)
Sept. 6, 2017 43.3 0.87 12.4
Sept. 7, 2017 27.1 0.49 16.3
Sept. 8, 2017 53.2 0.56 13.4

Elevation data

Loading graph...
(drag over a region to zoom in, right-click reset)

The next table is only for cycling activity.

Grade(%)Ascent (km)Descent(km)
< 2 30.0
< 4 8.0 8.8
< 6 9.7 9.2
< 8 5.0 4.2
< 10 1.0 2.5
≥ 10 1.1 5.5

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