Looking back at El Silencio.

The amount of photos I take is always a good clue as to how much I’ve enjoyed a particular road. Looking back, it’s clear that the journey from Huaraz to Huancavelico was a roughly cut gem – and one of the very finest quality. Duly, I went completely overboard in my attempts to record this 950km stint of mud, sweat and toil. Below are a few of those images that didn’t make it onto these pages at the time – with links to the other posts too.

The journey proved to be everything I hope and strive for in my travels. It was an indelible highlight of Peru; even the Americas. Certainly, the unrelenting sense of remoteness that captured my imagination. The traces of dirt road that rolled and curled and twisted ever into the distance. The stark, stripped and buckled landscape so pocked with mines. Its forlorn and forgotten mountain villages, upon which we descended with such excited anticipation. The moments of heightened clarity and awareness of where we were; the sense of being.

And above all, it was those storms that seeped across the sky like ink blots across a crumpled page. They brought with them darkened clouds that chased us tirelessly, as Kurt put it, like a pack of grey wolves…

More images from the ride can be seen here:

Into the guts of Peru…

Still plugging away…

Views from the dirt road…

Kurt and the Fat Bike…

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El Silencio, such an apt, poetic name for this sound muffled region.

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Silent. Bar the scrunch of tyres on dirt. Rarely did we encounter a vehicle all day.

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In this land so rich in minerals.

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… and scarred by mines that pillaged the earth. Without which, we knew, these roads would never exist.

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Occasional villages, like Rapaz with its peeling, crumbling church, marked the way.

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And clefts of improbably farmed land.

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Otherwise, it was high elevation flora.

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Haughty llamas.

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Abandoned mines.

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Friendly shepherds – and shepherdesses.

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And shy, curious children.

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Who sometimes took chase.

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Oh yes. And those endless climbs.

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Yoyo-ing up and down, 2000m at a time.

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Relentless.

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And steep.

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Always, one ridge after the next.

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One view after the next.

One sunset after the next.

One sunset after the next.

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One trail after the next.

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And one mountain after the next.

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In between, abandoned buildings…

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Even shacks…

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Or half-built churches…

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…formed welcome refuges for the night.

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Shielding us from storms that sweep in each afternoon, dousing the mountains.

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With hail and snow.

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Or permadrizzle.

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Between bouts of sunshine, that warmed our souls and refreshed our smiles.

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Indeed, this was a hard and unforgiving land, where roads are etched into bare rock.

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Or draped across mountains.

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Always rugged.

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Always remote.

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Always dramatic.

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And, always our own.

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Twisting ever this way…

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… and that.

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Up…

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And down.

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Such a barrage of raw elements made riding hard. So we ate…

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… and ate.

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… and ate.

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And then ate some more.

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Such a sight for sore eyes.

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Unlike this one.

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Then we rode…

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And rode.

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And toiled.

... and just kept riding.

And then rode some more.

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Almost there. Sunbaked. Drenched. Tired. And utterly elated.

Thanks again to the Pikes for so expertly conjuring this ride from the satellite imagery of Google Earth. This is dirt road touring at its best, with a 21st century flavour. A gpx file and route notes will be available soon on their Andes by Bike site.

More images from the ride can be seen here:

Into the guts of Peru…

Still plugging away…

Views from the dirt road…

Kurt and the Fat Bike…

27 thoughts on “Looking back at El Silencio.

  1. oli

    hi Cass,

    i have seldom seen such nice pictures of adventure travel as yours. I have been following (in silence) for close to 2 years, but being a fan of exploring the andes (well, a junior fan) the arrivals of your trip reports (following closely to the Pikes ones) have each time been like triggers for moment of delightment…. Quality of pictures, cool text, exploration, food, sportive challenges… all excellent inspiring ingredients! Thank you for this, and eat more these andinas tracks…. que rico!
    from belgium, Oli.

    Reply
  2. Mike Howarth

    Yet another great set of shots, Cass you are one man photography machine!

    Buenos Aires bound on Saturday, looking forward to getting back on the dirt roads and sampling some of these routes you keep tantalising me with.

    Catch you on the road!

    Reply
  3. Cass Gilbert Post author

    Thanks for the comments guys.

    Mike – In January, I plan to ride from Puerto Montt to Ushuaia, then take the boat back up from Puerto Nogales to Puerto Montt (4 days) – and continue north by bike from there, via the Lake District. That way, I’ll be riding in the ‘right’ direction for the windiest part.

    I’m planning to allow 2 months for the Carretera Austral/Patagonia section, which should lend itself to plenty of time for side trips, by bike and foot. Can’t wait!

    Reply
    1. Skyler

      Interesting, I thought I had just made up my mind to go the opposite way (same time line). Didn’t consider wind though. That’s really a concern for the W-E travel at the south no?

      Reply
      1. Cass Gilbert Post author

        The general consensus is that it’s better to be riding north to south in Patagonia. But plenty of people do otherwise. I expect the winds will howl no matter what.

        Logistics-wise, both work out the same for me, as I’ll be catching the bus to Puerto Montt in any case, to meet friends there. Riding south will give me the opportunity to take the boat back up north, which is meant to be a stunning journey in itself.

        Reply
        1. Richard McLaughlin

          Wow – Cass – still going eh? Amazing route here – looks incredible, and sooo remote. Good to see you are still exploring…. best wishes to you wherever you are now… and keep up the great pics – they’re really evocative…

          Reply
  4. Liv

    Cass, you’re giving me wanderlust. It looks fantastic. Gruelling. Uplifting.
    Right now I live vicariously through this blog, so easily done with these beautiful photos! Training the fledglings up for future pedal powered adventures – they’re trailer-bound for now but very keen nonetheless. Purbeck on our doorstep, reminding me of halcyon days :-)

    Reply
  5. Derek

    I’ve just discovered your site in the past few months and can’t get enough enough of it. I would love to one day get to experience those roads for myself, but for now it’s a pleasure to just see the beauty via your great photography and well written blog. Keep them coming!

    Reply
  6. Joanne Joseph

    I am well past the age of taking on a trip as physically demanding as this, however, I can certainly appreciate the amazing photography and I applaud the job you have done in recording your trip.

    Reply
  7. Phil Norris

    Great post as always Cass. I have been looking forward, in anticipation, for at least the last two years for your journey, description and photography of the Carretera Austral/Patagonia section. As an aside, we have all seen a million photos of Machu Picchu however, your ‘take’ on it was unique and like I was seeing it again, through new eyes.

    Reply
  8. Cass Gilbert Post author

    Thank you Joanne.

    Phil – I’ll be hitting the Carretera Austral in January, all being well. It’s been a long time coming!

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Valentine, I hope to make it to Brazil at one point, but it’s won’t be for a while longer. I’ll be in Patagonia in Jan/Feb, then cycling north to Bolivia, most likely.

      Reply
  9. Ginger Jui

    Holy shit Cass! Mining roads are just the most don’t give a fuck because we’re just gonna drive big trucks over it so let’s just pave it in boulders…something I experienced on the road to Cuale mine in the Sierra Occidentale. I can’t wait to ride El Silencio myself.

    I’ve been running into Daniel around town and am hopelessly jealous of you guys teaming up for the sprint to Patagonia. Que le vaya muy bien.

    Reply
  10. Juan Carlos Pilco

    Que tal, un gran favor, crees que me podrías enviar el kml de la ruta de Huaraz a Huancavelica. Cuando tengas listo el articulo sobre la Reserva Paisajística Nor Yauyos Cochas me avisas. Un gran abrazo.

    Reply
  11. Mark_BC

    Wow, amazing pictures. I was thinking that you would be the perfect person to come along on my second attempt to get down Salsipuedes Canyon in Baja, Mexico. It is about 50 km of wash going through the desert out to the Sea of Cortez. No one except the original natives have gone down it from the land side, they instead enter from the sea with quads and only get so far up. Today I just got out from scouting out the eastern approach and it looks do-able. The western approach was foiled by steep canyon walls. But next time I want to go with other people and bring some real climbing gear in case any rocks need to be scaled. It is amazing in there with palm trees lining the wash. I’ll post up a blog report soon and maybe a movie, I got lots of video. When I’ll try again, I don’t know. There’s only a couple months left before it gets too hot, then it’ll have to wait until next year.

    Reply

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