by Sara Dykman
If we had taken the highway we would have arrived here, in Cerro de Pasco, in about a week. Instead, just miles into the highway with the insane drivers, the constanthonking, the trash lined streets, and the boringness of it all, we turned off the paved road. Thus to cycle from Huancayo to Cerro de Pasco we needed more than a week. We needed two weeks. But looking back, those two weeks went faster than a week on the highway. Those two weeks were full of stunning views, crazy roads, and aLOT more ups and downs.
We left the highway immediately in Huancayo and headed for a giant loop that we thought would lead us back to the highway a bit north. We figured we would ride north on the highway and then leave it again just a few miles later. This was not to be the case, because some of our planed roads didn't exist.
Really, It was for the best. After learning our road was not a road, we headed almost south, then curved north again in a National Reserve called Nor Yauyos Cochas. It was an incredible surprise. Besides climbing to over 15,000 ft twice, we sailed through deep canyons on our bikes, gawked at lakes bluer than I thought possible, and camped with shadowy views of huge beasts of mountains. The roads were half paved, a quarter bad dirt, and a quarter REALLY bad dirt.
The bad thing about REALLY bad dirt is that bikes creep along at an embarrassing rate. One day of climbing we hit the 9 mile mark before calling it a day. The good thing about REALLY bad dirt is that cars creep along too. The 9 mile day, biking all day, we saw 5 cars. Three of those cars stopped to ask me directions. That means 95% of the time we have the roads, cut through hillsides, valleys of twisting streams and hungry cows to one side and steep walls of rock to the other, to ourselves. It is worth the short days, the days where we look at the map and go nowhere, for the fun of feeling like you are on your own adventure.
Looking at the map in the National Reserve, we thought we could continue North towards the National Park called Bosque de Piedras (Forest of Rocks). At the junction we learned that road didn't exist either, and unlike the last time, there was no other option but to return to the highway. We coasted (as much as you can when the road feels like it is trying to destroy your bike and kick you to the ground), and braved the highway for a day. We took advantage of the highway to eat more food, and lots of fruit and veggies.
When it was time to turn off the highway again, we didn’t look back. There was no reason to. We had plenty more to keep us occupied. Vicuñas numbering hundreds raced around us, confused but alert. We watched the distant mountains reach for the low and threatening clouds. We waved to the one car an hour that would pass, and the more frequent sheep herders. It was worth the extra days of riding.
When we reached the Bosque de Piedras, we found a nice family with a small hostel, and took a rest day to explore the incredible rock jungle. It is truly an adult playground. There is enough land to walk for days, enough rocks to climb up for views or rest in their shade. We looked for animals in the rocks, like kids look for stories in the clouds. Test your rocky animal awareness in What's That Rock, a family friendly game we put together that rocks.
Then it was a short ride back to the highway, and a few hours on busy pavement to Cerro de Pasco. Here, we do what we do in towns. Eat, clean, and watch bad TV. The good life as long as it only lasts a day or two, and plans of more adventures, more roads that might not exist, and long days we won’t be able to forget are our future.