Around Vilca

Laraos to Baños del Inca/Tanta (PGD part 3)

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Peru Great Divide continues with spectacular canyons, lagoons and terrace-like waterfalls. But before that I need to do some business in Huancayo so I take a bus/minivan there and this turns out to be an adventure on its own.

August 27 (Huancayo visit)

My plan for today is to visit Huancayo by car -- the city is just too far off the route and I need to get there for a single reason -- I sent my stuff there and now I need to get my backpack plus some things and resend the rest to Huaraz.

Getting to Huancayo is however a surprisingly tricky business. Yesterday in the evening when I was asking around the best solution was to go with a guy owning a car. This however proves to be complicated -- in the evening he calls me that we go 4am if he calls me in the morning. If not then well, tough luck. Of course, I wake up before 4am just to hopelessly wait for a call.

My next option is a collectivo which goes at 8am. Except that it doesn't show up. By now I am getting a bit desperate and while I wander around I visit a toll-guy (right, there is apparently some toll on this crappy road) who tells me that seguro there is something at 10am. Fortunately, this turns to be true and I find myself getting into a car a bit before 10am. We then honk quite a few times driving through the village but nobody else seems to be joining.

Here I should describe my experience with Peruvian transport. I make a greenhorn mistake of sitting just next to the driver. This gives me a full view of what are we doing and in no time I make double sure my safety belt is secured -- after we descend from Laraos we start climbing a narrow winding road inside a beautiful canyon. This being a paved road we are making quite some speed on the narrow bends and, as it is tradition in Peru, we honk before every curve in a hope that oncomind drivers will do the same because Peruvian drivers are cutting corners liek crazy. I mean, from time to time I have to clutch handle above the door otherwise I would be moving around my seat. We pass some villages, some people get in, some people get out and the road starts climbing up into a beautiful plateau.

If you ever wondered about how to transport sheep in a car, wonder no more. I am getting a firsthand lecture on it. As we zoom around the plateau a herder with a sheep stops us. Before I can figure out how we would put the sheep into the back of the car the herder puts the sheep on the back, takes all four legs and ties them together. And then the main point comes -- with the driver they take the sheep and put it on the top rack, as if it was some kind of a sack. I have a big feeling for the poor animal as we resume riding -- the driver doesn't adjust his driving habits and as we rattle through by now an unpaved road I have problems keeping in the seat, it must be downright uncomfortable to be tied to a steel rack.

To further top up my passenger experience, we are stopped by an old lady. As there isn't much traffic the driver decides to take her even though we don't have space. In practice, this is solved by me moving just behind a grearbox so that the granny can fit on the front seat. Needless to say, we continue cutting corners like crazy and I am really clutching the seats around me for the support. I just hope that we won't brake too heavily...

The final part of the travel experience is that the driver buys an icecream. Ok, an icecream is better than talking to a mobile but still, you shouldn't be licking an icecream while trying to steer and change the grear with the other hand. Fortunately, the driver realizes this. That is, only around a police checkpoint -- I am asked to hold the icecream for a minute or two until we pass around. Then it returns back to its owner.

With the crazy ride finally done I find myself in Huancayo quite later than expected. In fact, it is so late that there basically isn't any regular transport going the opposite way today. Fortunately, there is a minivan going at 4am tomorrow so I get a reservation.

Next I move onto my main business -- visiting Cruz del Sur agency to pick up my things. It turns out that there are two agencies and of course I picked up the wrong one first. But in the meantime I found out a big shopping mall (wait, what? A shopping mall? Here in Peru? No way...) and a huge shopping spree begins (well, send hungry cyclist to a big supermarket and you know the result...) Loaded with my backpack and few kilos of food I search for a hostel. After visiting a few overpriced places I suddenly go across a decent-priced place. Happy that all is done I work on a laptop until it dies (I assumed I would return today so I did not bother to take a charger with me).

August 28

I wake up 3:20am and quickly move to the transport agency. The minivan is already there and we leave by 4am. Compared to yesterday there are many people in the van. I guess this might be because it is Monday today.

The car makes it to Laraos by 7:30. This is much faster than the outward journey which would be nice except that I feel quite dizzy and nauseous. Fortunately, the fresh air and huge portion of coffee clears my head. In Laraos I am meeting again with Jeremy and Madeleine -- they arrived yesterday and we agree on getting a breakfast and then pooling together again.

View from Laraos
Laraos is built on a quite steep hill
Descent features a few switchbacks
The road goes down to the valley
They have quite lively statues around the junction with the main road

My shopping frenzy in Huancayo is quickly announcing itself once I start riding the bike. With the few kilos more I suddenly feel sluggish and steering is quite heavy as well. In fact, even objectively I am quite slower -- while in the past few days I was slightly faster than my friends, now I struggle to keep the pace on steep uphills.

We go upstream around this beautiful river
I catch up Jeremy and Madeleine
The crystal blue water is just amazing
Vegetation forms a narrow corridor along the river
The valley opens a bit before Tinco ...
... and Peruvians use every bit of space for agriculture
Looking up the valley isn't that green

Our plan for today is to reach Huancaya (Note: this is quite differt from Huancayo). We first have a fast paved descent from Laraos until we hit the main road. This happens to be inside a beautiful canyon I was observing yesterday from the car. Doing it again with a bike brings back memories. We slowly climb the road to Tinco where we turn off the pavement into a deep side-canyon. The canyon is actually so deep and narrow that it even confuses my GPS which starts locking off and some 500m higher (the GPS track below is heavily cleaned up and adjusted with guesstimates so do not expect too much precision).

After Tinco we get into a narrow side-canyon
The river booms somewhere down below
It is time for a GPS to give up on a correct position

I climb a bit until I decide it is time for a lunch. Jemery and Madeleine thus have time to overtake me but I am soon racing to catch up with them. The ride continues with a short but very steep section where I stop by to observe crazy rapids on the river.

I usually prefer big cascades but these little guys are so cute
Water around here has tough but beautiful life
Looking at the river I almost forgot I am in a deep canyon
Anybody in a rafting mood today?

After the steep section the road flattens and goes around beautiful Laguna Piquecocha. The water is so crystal clear I can't believe my eyes. From Piquecocha the road leads me upstream where I find Jeremy and Madeleine in a discussion with another French cyclist going the opposite direction.

Laguna Piquecocha
Peaks above the laguna

After exchanging road info and some highlights we finally resume cycling just in order to tackle the final 200m worth of steep-ish climb to Vitis. From there it doesn't take long to reach Huancaya (not to be confused with Huancayo) -- a small but apparently touristy village. For such a small place there are several hospedajes and restaurants around. I decide on Hospedaje Municipal which also surprisingly has WiFi. Jeremy and Madeleine seem to be on a tighter budget so they decide to move a bit out of the village onto a place which locals say is a free campground.

Upstream of Piquecocha the river is in a less of a rush
We climb above the valley, ...
... ride through Vitis ...
... and enjoy a bit of flat/descent to Huancaya

August 29

Just out of Huancaya there are beautiful water cascades. The road then starts climbing up one sode of the valley. As I get higher I get a birds view of small lagoon . A bit more climb and the road starts skirting around two huge lagoons with some cascades in the middle. These are beautiful but I wish I would be a bit lower to see the cascades in more detail.

Church at Huancaya
Just out of the village there are beautiful cascades
There are really lot of these terraces
An old bridge is another lovely view
The road climbs up ...
... and reveals another beautiful place
I would really like to know how these terraces were formed
The views continue with two big lagoons ...
... with this waterfall connecting them

With the road finally starting to descent I have a chance to see Jeremy and Madeleine, who apparently started sooner, going down in the distance. I am trying to catch up with them but I am too late to meet them in Vilca. I skip the main plaza of Vilca and instead go around impressive Puente Centenario. The road then starts a steep climb and in a while comes to an end. From here it is a nice singletrack.

Old colonian bridge in Vilca
Of course, there must be terraces here as well
Vilca is definitely a small village
I found a new Alpaca friend
"Grrr, so I really can't eat your cycling gloves!!??"

I did not know what to expect out of the singletrack part of the road. As it goes, it is really easy. That is, until the singletrack meets the newly built road. And "meets" is in quite relaxed sense -- the connection is mismatched about meter and half vertically and with steep side. As I am too lazy to dismount everything from the bike I start a particularly sketchy manouver of trying to get the bike down. In retrospect, this seems like a real stupid idea because if I made a single mistake my bike (and hopefully only it) would be plummeting a few dozens of meters down the hill. Fortunately, nothing dramatical happens as I am centimeter by centimeter lowering and sliding the bike down the steep section.

Soon after Vilca I start a fun singletrack part
Looking back
First part of the singletrack was easy to ride
Singletrack overviews a nice lagoon

Back on the road I start a small celebration, unfortunately quite prematurely. The road goes only a few hundred meters when another mismatch happens. This time it is a mismatch between two segments of the road with steep scree on one side -- a levelling machine apparently just put all the rocks from the upper section of the road to the side. This means a very miserable scree I need to tackle. I slowly walk the bike holding the brakes until I relalize the scree is becoming steeper. In fact, it is quite bad to just stand still. By some miracle I manage to slide down the bike, sometimes "braking" by leaning it on panniers. If I ever go this part again I would definitely get the kilos off the bike as these two manouvers were quite risky.

Ehm, what is this? I mean, sure there is singletrack. And there is a road. And there is about a meter and half vertical distance between them!
Was I really that crazy to slide fully-loaded bike down this?
Another sketchy part. Guess what. I again did not unload the bike

Again on the road I still have quite some way to go to Tanta where I am planning to start a nice trek. The road first follows a river but eventually starts climbing a bit above the valley. I am getting last views of cascades. A bit of a downhill later I am crossing river that looks quite dry -- I have no idea where the water disappeared but it might be related to a water dam a dozen or so kilometers upstream.

Meeting a few road workers I continue further upstream with a bit more "ordinary" views. My plan to reach Tanta is however foiled when it starts raining. Fortunately, I am not too far from Baños del Inca -- an apparently closed basic hospedaje with hot springs just next to it. Fortunately for me, there is a wooden shack which is open and just big enough to host my tent. I thus make myself home here and even get some mildly hot mineral water as a bonus.

Finally on a road the life is again nice
While not as frequent as downstream terracing seem to happen here as well
The road continues climbing up
Probably the last cascade of the day
End of the day is a bit less exciting but that is quite ok


Loading map...

Download simplified GPX of a route here

Stats by activity:

Activity Distance
Pedal rotations
bike 70 1.8 25
Stats by day:
Date Distance
Avg. temp
(moving, C)
Aug. 28, 2017 31.8 0.71 21.6
Aug. 29, 2017 38.4 1.09 16.5

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 15.6
< 4 6.2 3.2
< 6 4.7 3.3
< 8 3.5 2.8
< 10 1.9 1.4
≥ 10 3.7 1.9

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