Climb from Pichibamba

Cotabambas to Abancay

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The last stretch to Abancay brings in climbs, amazing scenery, fast descent on a pavement and an additional bonus of an unfixable tire puncture.

August 1

The potatoes strike back! At least, in my breakfast which apart from them also includes a boiled egg. Full of energy I thus launch into a headfirst attack on 800m climb to 4200. The views are decent with hilly mountains covered by golden grass and green bushes. This slowly transitions into a more golden pampa-like scenery at the top of the pass.

Starting the day from Cotabambas ...
... I slowly climb higher
Birds are watching me. And also hiding good -- did you notice the second bird (just a beak) in the picture?
Golden grass and green bushes are the color theme of the morning
It is good that my bike is yellow and not red. And also that there is a fence between us :-)
I already covered some distance today

With the climb done I now enjoy a damn slow descent to Coillurqui. This is because the road has a noticable problems in the quality department. With my hands hurting from the braking madness I am happy to reach Coillurqui which is bigger than I imagined it. I find a hospedaje at the main square and proceed to fill my stomach. In the evening I am stopped by a bus driver who says he saw me yesterday at Cotabambas.

Top of the pass is more pampa-like
Pass is quite flat
It is time for some real descent
Breaks from breaking are the time to enjoy the scenery ...
... and then I resume looking at the road

August 2

When getting out of hospedaje in the morning the main square is bustling with people. Apparently they are setting up a market. Unfortunately, even marked can't address my jamón deficiency and thus I am left with (overly sweet) marmelade for the lunch.

Coillurqui lies above a deep canyon ...
... so I start the day by going down

The day starts with a long descent of 900m during which the temperature shoots up. I end up crossing a river on a bridge and subsequently dealing with steep 300m high climb. A brief respite of 100m downhill and the road ends up going along a river. Here I decide to take lunch in a bit of a shade. Despite the shade and my presence by a river my butter thermometer registers "almost liquid" temperature reading. Chocolate cookies aren't much better.

Closer to the bottom the walls are getting quite steep
I finally get down ...
... so that I can start steep climb
Soon the lowpoint bridge is a memory
Last views of the canyon before I switch into a side-valley

With lunch done I resume my climbing which will last for the whole rest of the day. The road pretty much all the way goes along or above Rio Sarconta in a decent-sized valley. This changes a bit at the end when the valley becomes rocky canyon and the road finally gives up on following it and climbs on one side.

Side-valley is somehow more green
The road goes along a river
Views such as this would melt even the strongest hearts. And if not the views then there is the heat
Similarly to Swiss, Peruvians manage to build houses everywhere

I am in a bit of a tricky situation here as I would like to find some camping spot but there are human settlements around. And there is no good space anyway. I am rescued from my camping problem when in small village named Pichibamba I ask for a hospedaje. Obviously, they don't have one here (the village being only a few houses anyway) but they offer me to stay in a communal building. I even get a matress on a floor and while there isn't any restaurant around a lady from the (probably only) shop agrees to cook for me. In the meantime I am taken by her son on a touristy adventure of visiting nearby cave. The cave isn't very long but it is very high and quite impressive. There is only one problem -- the access "trail" isn't exactly best fit for my old shoes.

The valley is changing into a real canyon. After the rocks the road will finally leave the river and start climbing up
Shadows are slowly lenghtening so it is time to find some place for the night

August 3

Because yesterday I wasn't very fast due to heat today I am left 50 km ride with 1100m of ascent. Fortunately, my planned destination Lambrama is big enough to guarantee a hospedaje and I thus can afford to ride until sunset.

Despite the pressing need to start early I somehow manage to delay my departure while getting unexpected breakfast (I am practically forced to eat despite already having my standard breakfast). With my move away from tropical parts of Peru into drier mountains the morning clouds disapper (though I can see them hovering in the next valley).

Morning brings in fresh colors to the mountains
Yesterday's evening road seems so far below
Tops of mountains seem to be so close now. But this is only a perspective trap, there is still a lot to climb
Roads cut into the steep hill are my favourites. Besides scenery they also have great bike-parking capabilities
My climb is too often interruped by photo-taking breaks
The climb goes on and on
Looking back The road goes under some nice rocks
A bit of descent before the final push
The mountains around are getting curvy shapes ...
.. well, there are some exceptions though

It takes me quite long to reach the pass but the rewards is beautiful lagoons. I can even spot some flamingos. With the late pass-checkpoint time I do not hesitate much (ok, I do. The place is just a perfect camping spot) and launch into the descent. This is slow at first but over the time the road gets better and allows more reasonable speeds. For the last 6 kilometers I even get to ride an old paved road (which is a bit surprising as this is only a narrow single-lane road). The pavement however saves me from some trouble as by now the time is really ticking. In fact, I am reaching Lambrama with the sunset (and because I am in a valley the Sun didin't really shine for me for the last hour or so which was thus quite cold).

Top of the pass brings a view of nice lagoons
I cycle past them
For a while I am pondering whether I should forget about the descent and just camp here
There are even flamingos
It looks that the descent will be a lot of fun
The road snakes a lot
Unsurprisingly, there are rocky mountains on the other side of the pass as well

August 4

In the morning it looks like my throat problems are getting back. Not wanting to rely on the modern medecine too much I am making a total contraption of a potion I call "KR-limón-onion" (KR limón is a popular soda here in Peru).

Lambrama is quite warm even in the morning. This isn't such a great news as my plan is to descend further 1000 meters before I can take on the final climb to Abancay. Fortunately, the descent is very fast being on a paved road. It first goes inside a nice valley.

From Lambrama I whizz down on a pavement
Looking back the views are stunning
Looking straight the views aren't worse
The valley gets deeper with steep walls
Still zooming down ...
... there is no end to the valley

A bit of climb before the valley joins another and I can already see the river which is a lowpoint for today. However, here I am winning a full jackpot. As I zoom by on the pavement I suddenly have a feeling that my back wheel is floating over the surface. Sure enough normally hard tire is now totally soft. I must have caught the puncture back up when I was taking a picture and drove a bit off the road to have better views. In the meantime I collected a nice set of spikey plant bombs.

A short climb before the valleys join
This place is surprisingly dry. That is, except near the river
Canyons everywhere
I can finally see the bottom of my descent. And it is due to this photo that I end up with a mother-of-punctures flat tire

So I end up fixing the puncture, getting the rear wheel back and ... getting it off the bike again because it is still leaking. I find another two holes, fix them and try to continue. But the damn thing is still leaking (though slower by now). It takes a few pressurizing stops until I finally reach the junction with the main road and a gas station a bit further. There I get an access to water so I can find the leaks. Another two holes. This brings the total to 5 punctures in one event! Unfortunately, the fifth hole is just impossible to fix. I kind of run out of patches and the last one just doesn't want to stick correctly (the hole is too close to an extruded seam). I try to do it a few times but it just doesn't work.

By now you surely ask if I don't have a spare tube. Sure, I do. In fact, two of them. But here is the problem -- so far I used Presta valves but my spares are of a car type (Presta is somehow impossible to buy in Peru). Nothing wrong here except for one fact that I overlooked -- car valves are thicker in diameter than Presta. You can guess my level of surprise when I took a new tube, tried to put it through the hole in the rim and ... it did not fit.

With all my attempts to fix the puncture failed I try to do some hotfixing using a tape and get to finish the 15km with 200m of uphill to Abancay. On flat sections I ride the bike, on uphill I push it to remove the load from the wheel. And about every 5-10 minutes I pump in the air to keep me going. As this becomes less and less fun (and also becomes more and more clear that I won't be able to get to Abancay before sunset) I try to hitchhike cars with one hand pushing the bike and other holding the thumbs up sign. To my amusement Peruvian drivers are either dicks (ok, this is probably true anyway given how they drive) or they are too confused about a cyclist pushing bike and trying to hitchhike at the same time. By some miracle I am saved about 8 kilometers before Abancay. A moto-taxi (e.g., three-wheeler) stops just a bit before me and the driver goes for a chicha drink. I use the chance to load my bike and the ride can start.

In Abancay the taxi driver gets me off just next to a busy bike shop. It takes a bit of a time to get the attention but in the end I end up with big drilled holes in my rims and a new tube as well (of course, they did not have Presta type).

August 5 (Abancay)

My program for Abancay is quite busy. In the morning I am visiting Cruz del Sur to get my shipped things but there is nobody at the counter (Peruvian sense of opening hours is sometimes quite weird). I anyway forgot my passport (which is needed to get the package) so I switch my attention to another desperate need - laundry. I find one lavanderia just as they are opening it and deposit my clothes there. Back to the hostel for the passport and then Cruz del Sur. This time I have my package.

Next I need to change the chain. On the current one I have only about 360km but the next shipping segment is over 1000km so I want to change it now and use the rest of the current one later. Being in a big town also means getting food supplies, working on all "need-Internet" things (e.g., geotagging photos, processing GPS tracks, updating blog, etc.), preparing plan for the next few days (and printing it) and more. Basically, an average super-busy non-cycling day. On top of this, I am finishing writing postcards and sending a whopping batch of 30 of them. It costs me a little fortune!


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Download simplified GPX of a route here

Stats by activity:

Activity Distance
Pedal rotations
bike 191 3.6 39
Stats by day:
Date Distance
Avg. temp
(moving, C)
Aug. 1, 2017 42.0 0.80 25.3
Aug. 2, 2017 43.0 1.14 27.5
Aug. 3, 2017 61.2 1.31 17.3
Aug. 4, 2017 44.5 0.39 22.9

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 22.7
< 4 5.9 10.6
< 6 14.1 17.1
< 8 12.0 13.7
< 10 4.0 5.0
≥ 10 2.3 6.9

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