Back in the saddle: amongst giant bromeliads and nubilous skies.

It’s been a while since I last posted…

Finally, 6 weeks after my unfortunate rapid running incident in the Huayhuash (which, it transpired, resulted in a torn lumbar muscle and trapped nerve), I’m ready to take to the road once more. All being well, I’ll rolling for the next couple weeks with Dirt Dot Kurt and his badass Surly Pugsley; together, we’ll be following a rich vein of remote mining roads en route to Cuzco, unearthed by the intrepid Pikes on Bikes.

I don’t have time for a full blog post right now… so here’s just a few pics from a recent ‘test’ loop, a four day ride from Huaraz to Chiquian, via a world of giant bromeliads, high altitude dirt roads and inky black skies. Although a lingering veil of cloud cover and associated drizzle doused hopes of dramatic glacial views, in many ways the journey was as every bit as satisfying as the Punta Olympica mega-switchback loop – so I’ll do my best to expand this post at some point with more images.

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Kurt and his Surly Pugsley fat bike, complete with bags and racks he fabricated himself. Read about his journey here.


The loop: camping out en route to Pastoruri, with Gary, Patti and Ben. Unfortunately, various maladies meant the others were forced to turn back.


Mexican standoff. An oversized member of the bromeliad family, Puya Raymondiis stand an imposing 10m high.


Each plant boasts as many as three thousand flowers, which are bursting with six million seeds.


More strange fruit.


We come in peace.

There's a storm coming.

Stormy times.


Up, up and up to Punta Huaraspacat, at 4780m. Given this was my first time back in saddle, progress felt good, and my back felt great.


The road to myself. Just Big Birds…


Moody skies…


… and afternoon permadrizzle.


Yes, more Ogre mods… Gary has loaned me a pair of Ortlieb panniers. Although less slimline than my minimal double Carradice setup, they add a little capacity – providing room for extra food and the likes of a yoga mat.


And little luxuries likes this: my new bobble hat.

Little yappers, soon to be big snarlers.

Trail companions: little yappers, soon to be big snarlers.


Nice bit of rammed earth walling.

One more down...

One more notch in the top tube.


The descent to Llamac. When I was last in the area, I lugged my bike over the range seen to the left.


Buckled, squeezed…

... and crumbled.

… and just a little crumbled.


Pedal power put to good use…


Bright Bike + Son 28 dynamo = juice for Petzl headlamp, Boombotix speaker, iPhone 5 and Steripen Freedom.

Styling it up.

Styling it up. Peruvian leg warms and Five Tens.


How did that get there?


The seasons are changing: seeking shelter from the rain. I expect to be doing more of that over the next couple of weeks…

The Loop:

The turnoff to Pastaruri is 7km after Catac. There’s a double dirt road pass to Huallanca (4780m and 4600m), then a 25km descent into town on pavement. It’s 29km on dirt to the next pass (Cuncush), via a 1100m climb, followed by 26km descent to Llamac, dropping 1400m. From Llamac to Chiquian, the road drops 600m for 12km, then climbs back up 800m over a distance of 16km. All on dirt. Thanks to the Pikes for route suggestions and advice.

Huaraz to Huallanca, via Pastaruri: 2 days

Huallanca to Chiquian: 1.5 days

2pm bus back to Huaraz (10 Sol, 6 for the bike).

Cheap digs/food in Huallanca (Hotel Milan, Sol inc hot shower) and Llamac (Los Andenes, 8 Sol).

To extend the loop, you could also return from Chiquian to Catac via Hatun Machay, a rock forest that lies at 4200m, and is popular with climbers.

14 thoughts on “Back in the saddle: amongst giant bromeliads and nubilous skies.

  1. Susie Moberly

    Hi Cass, great to see more photo s though sorry about your injuries…

    PLEASE take care over there riding (often alone it appears) I bet Joannie is worried sick.

    LOVE all these recent photos. Love the colours, dry stone walls, misty mountains…
    GOOD to see you back on the saddle.

    I missed you and was wondering… ? Be careful… hugs Susie

  2. Michael Greer

    Great read Cass, short and succinct. Pictures awesome! You have a glow of sunshine into an old mans day. Thank you.

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Great to hear! Hope to catch up with you there. Let me know your plans at some point. We’re still a ways out from Cuzco, but pedalling hard to get there!
      La Estrellita is said to be the favoured haunt of cyclists.

  3. Mike Howarth

    Namaste from Sikkim.

    Beautiful photos, some of them remind me of the rugged and wild landscape of the Spiti Valley I traveled through a couple of weeks ago.

    Bookmarking for my dash across to South America at the end of the year and ride north.

    Hope you are well recovered, good to see you back on the road.

    Take Care


    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Ah, Sikim… Would love to make it there one day. And as for Spiti…

      I may be dashing south myself at the end of the year, and riding north to fill in some missing blanks. So I might well see you on the road!

  4. robert

    good to hear you’re back on the road. scenery looks amazing! say hi to kurt for me (Chris and I met him in durango way back!!)

  5. James Walters

    Hey Cass, Yet again another fabt set of photos. Hope everthing is well with you. Keep the stories and photos coming. Best Wishes James


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