Communal building in Condorama

Chivay to Yauri/Espinar

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Going out of touristy Colca canyon I now head to Yauri (sometimes called Espinar) over two high passes. As usual this is story about a tough but rewarding ride.

July 1

My day doesn't start very well. It seems that my stomach trouble weren't completely solved in the end and the restaurant food in Chivay did not help either. So I settle on an easy day. I head towards the upper part of Colca canyon on a paved road which is surprisingly undulating -- I hopelessly look at every descent which follows bigger uphills.

Incredible mountains around Chivay
Upper Colca canyon is covered in gold grass
The canyon itself is a bit hidden though

At least the weather cooperates. In a sense that it is cloudy, without much Sun and with strong gusts of winds sometimes. This suits me well because after my prolonged stay at the altiplano the 3600 meters of Chivay seem to be too hot.

The canyon itself is reasonably interesting. While this isn't the lower part with sheer walls there are other things to observe. In particular, this part of the canyon is used for agriculture and thus I can see tons of terraced fields while at the same time have "wild" grass in the backdrop.

Walls of the canyon feature interesting rock formations
Any usable space is turned into terraced fields
Colca is supposedly one of the deepest canyons in the world. This is just a small demo of how deep it is.

And as if I was too bored with views my bike brings me another excitement -- during the day I am observing that my front derailer starts to be somehow miscalibrated. A few more gear changes and I now why -- the cable which shifts the derailer was slowly, wire by wire, splitting into two. In the afternoon it splits completely and I am left with derailer set into its base position. Fortunately, it is not too long towards Callalli -- a village I decide would be good place to stay for the night. Which turns out to be a great idea -- in the evening a heavy storm comes and makes me wonder whether I should be watching out for the forecast more closely.

The canyon slowly changes into a valley
Even here you can see the origins of the canyon
Views from Callalli

July 2

I wake up into an icy morning. Quite literally as all the water from yesterday's storm is now frozen around everything it touched. This also affects mountains I am heading towards and there is certainly snow in the pass. My hope is that by the time I reach the pass the Sun will melt any potential obstacle. This certainly is quite a lot of time as the ascent is over 900 meters up to 4800m.

Morning view from Callalli promises some snow in passes

As I slowly bike around I get a chance to view some nice rocks around Callalli. These are quite impressive.

Callalli lies just below these fancy rocks
This could very well be a tower from Lord of the rings
Callalli is really worth visiting just for this

The ascent is quite brutal though -- there are some steep gradients on the switchback curves and the rest of the road isn't flat either. At least I didn't have push so far.

For a while I have a feeling of being transported to Switzerland ...
... until this big plain takes me back into the Peruvian reality
I am being observed

After a sugar-resupplying lunch break at about 4400m I resume finishing the pass. In the meantime the weather starts to be a bit split. While there is a Sun above me I get chills just looking at the next valley which seems to be full of rain/snow. So I try to upgrade my speed but at this altitude my motor legs just aren't working.

I am slowly battling the steep switchbacks
It is time for a rest
I am slowly hitting the snowline

I celebrate the top of the pass by taking a bit of a rest and then preparing for a real chilly descent -- by now the Sun is gone and I even saw a few snowflakes falling.

Alpacas near top of the pass
This is how a cyclist looks after climbing to 4800m high pass on a steep road

When I am ready I begin the medium-length descent to the Codorama dam. As predicted, the descent is really chilly so I stop a lot just to warm a bit. But eventually I arrive to a village next to the dam. Or, a bit more precisely a small settlement. I am actually quite surprised to find a shop there. And even more when I ask for a hospedaje and they offer me to camp on the floor of the communal building.

Condorama dam
Descent is beautiful though quite chilly
Damn, the dam is nowher nearer
Oh well, finally there

July 3

My "house" for the night

After the last 100 meters of descent to a bridge I am again up for a 4800m pass.

The morning starts with a descent ...
... past some interesting scenery ...
... until a bridge

Today's ascent is much nicer than yesterday's -- the average seems to be about 3% grade compared to 6% of yesterday (with 10%+ bonuses) so I am not even totally breathless. I get some nice pictures of the dam but then it goes off the scenery. Instead there are some pointy rocks to observe.

Condorama dam
The terrain is more leveled today which also reflects on the gradients
I don't know if these have a name but "shark teeth" would be quite appropriate
Another rock tower

As usual there are lots of animals around. Apart from big alpaca hers I even spot a nice bird.

Captain fly'em'all
Alpaca herd
Herders' huts

On my way I am also meeting a nice lake. After a brief consideration I decide it isn't exactly the best time to swim so I continue further on towards hills which are still a bit snowy.

I pass by a nice lake
I am surprised that there are still lots on unmelted snow lying around

Distance-wise this is a short day. Just before I reach the pass I decide to just try my luck in Codorama village which is just a few kilometers off the route. Sure enough, there is a hospedaje there which is a good thing as I am not particularly inclided to camp at 4600m.

Codorama village is trying to mask as some rocky ridge
The road to Codorama village is quite muddy. I wouldn't want to go here in the rainy season
Monuments at Codorama main square quite precisely tell you what you can see around

July 4

With 80km to Yauri this is going to be a long day. Fortunatrely, with only 100 meters of ascent to the pass and about 700 meters of descent it should be doable. At least I thought it is 100 meters of the climb until I realized that the descent isn't going to be so straight down.

In the morning I am quickly finishing last meters to the pass
Road is surprisingly paved and so far not very heavy with the traffic
Around top of the pass it is surprisingly flat

From Codorama I follow a paved road. To my surprise, this slowly joins with the original route just after the pass (I was expecting to take a short connecting side-track but it seems that OSM just might reflect state before the pavement). In either case the paving just ends here. Instead the descent is all on a dust road. Which wouldn't be that bad until the mining traffic hits. There are long convoys of trucks which just spit dust all over the place. But the dust isn't the worst thing I am facing -- because of the traffic they are trying to mitigate the dusting by regularly watering the road. Which is to say, turn the dust-road into a mud-road. While this nasty material isn't dozens of centimeters deep it is very sticky and just gets everywhere. It is mostly the drivetrain which takes the most of the mud-damage and my chain starts skipping until I properly re-oil it.

It is time to prepare for a descent
Which is on a dusty road ...
... with rolling hills all around

One would think that reaching Mina Tintaya -- the ugly sore of the scenery -- would help with the mining traffic. Nope, apparently there is a lot of mining traffic afterwards as well. So I am more than happy when in the evening I finally reach Yauri/Espinar. It is a bit bigger town than I expected. Hostels even have a WiFi here. And while there isn't a real supermarket at least the main market is decent.

Route

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Download simplified GPX of a route here

Stats by activity:

Activity Distance
(km)
Ascent
(km)
Pedal rotations
(thousands)
bike 182 2.9 50
Stats by day:
Date Distance
(km)
Ascent
(km)
Avg. temp
(moving, C)
July 1, 2017 37.8 0.57 17.5
July 2, 2017 35.6 0.98 11.8
July 3, 2017 29.0 0.69 13.1
July 4, 2017 79.3 0.64 13.1

Elevation data

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

The next table is only for cycling activity.

Grade(%)Ascent (km)Descent(km)
< 2 43.7
< 4 13.8 16.9
< 6 18.2 14.4
< 8 7.6 5.7
< 10 1.2 1.0
≥ 10 0.4 0.9

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