Views from the dirt road…

Huaraz – Huancavelica: approx 950km (810km dirt/140km paved) and 22,000m ascent

The gpx file of this route is now available on the excellent Andes by Bike site. Additionally, Peru’s online, state by state Ministry of Transport maps are very handy too. 

The more this trip progresses, the more I hanker for dirt roads. I seek them for their solitude, their lack of motorised traffic… and perhaps even for their connection with Pachama, Mother Earth. Thankfully, Peru has them in abundance. Far removed from the chaos and freneticism of the Pan American Highway, these are the real veins of country, revealing the most remote of pueblecitos and the warmest of Peruanos.

After 16 days on the road – an endless bout of high elevation climbing across an unrelenting network of rugged mining tracks – Kurt and I have finally arrived in Huancavelica. Thanks are due to the Pikes for pioneering this phenomenal backcountry route, one that follows what is at times feels like the faintest and unlikeliest of paths. It’s a surefire classic for any cross continental rider craving to experience the heart and guts of the Peruvian Andes.

I still have a tonne of stuff to be done before I can post a full report. Until then, these images reflect a few of my favourite views from the road…
























24 thoughts on “Views from the dirt road…

  1. Skyler

    Beautiful! Did you follow the Inca Royal Road anywhere along the way?

    We’ll be in Argentina/Chile starting in January. I’m google earth searching for 4×4 roads through the High Atacama between Salta and La Serena at the moment. I think it’s possible to bike most of the way up some of the highest peaks in the Americas. Carrying enough food, water and warm clothes might be a challenge.

    You’re headed south no? How far?

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      I don’t think so. Apparently, the route happened to trace the Atlantic/Pacific watershed – Peru’s Great Divide, as it were.

      I’m sure the Pikes will post the gpx file on their site at some point. Their website a mine of information for riding remote roads in Chile, Argentina and Peru. Certainly, they’re great people to get in touch with in terms of logistics.

      I’m travelling south right now, but it’s looking like I’ll be hightailing to Ushuaia in January by bus, and riding north from there, to make better use of the seasons. Let’s keep in touch.

      Sweet looking ECR, btw!

      1. Skyler

        I think we’ll split the trip in half between Patagonia and the high desert. Not sure where we’ll start quite yet. Maybe we’ll run into each other.

        Who are the Pikes and what is their website? Have you got a route planned for Patagonia yet?

        I hiked about 100km along the Inca Royal Road a few years ago. Between La Union (near Huaraz) to Yanahuanca. The road is amazingly well-intact, and I think rideable. It continues, in theory, just east of the divide all the way to Cuzco and then Lago Titicaca. Based on my vague understanding of the route, I think you should be nearby.

        1. Cass Gilbert Post author

          Pikes on Bikes and their sister site, Andes by Bike, make excellent, thorough resources for the area.

          I’ve not given Patagonia much thought just yet – that will be a Christmas project. My initial idea is to cycle back up to the Cordillera Blanca, hitting this area in the dry season and connecting the ride. The rainy season might rule out the route you’re suggesting for now – but I’ll definitely look into it when I make it back here. Thanks!

    2. Neil

      Hi Skyler,
      As Cass says, drop us a line if you like. We’re in internet range for a week or so, then heading to the wilds. pikesonbikes at gmail dot com. Interested to hear your plans for the Puna – we’ll be there soon so maybe we’ll bump into each other? Biking up the Puna peaks? Most of them I’m pretty sure you’d struggle to get that high, though Ojos is an exception…

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author


      I do love the Ogre – it’s like the sweetspot of bikes for me.

      But the Krampus/Knards would definitely devour some of the rockier descents more assuredly. In some ways though, a modified Krampus, with the wheel/tyre setup I have might have been the ideal solution, as it would allow so much mud clearance – very handy in the raining season.

      Of course, Kurt’s setup has got me thinking about Pugsleys too… The advantage of going full fat, with 65mm rims, is that it opens up the option of 26×2.5in downhill tyres (which are readily found in Peru) as a backup option.

        1. stijn

          Great, Harriet, what time of the eyar were you guys there? The weather seems quite different from that which Cass seems to be experiencing.

          1. Cass Gilbert Post author

            The Pikes were only there 10 days before us, but in that time the rainy season had more time to take hold, and muddy the roads that bit more. I know though that they too had there fair share of megastorms in the afternoons. Ideally, we’re all have ridden it at least a month prior. Or from about April/May onwards.

            And… I like to take pics of stormy skies (-:

          2. Neil

            Yep, those 10 short days seemed to make quite a difference. I’ll put up some mud shots in our next post though! I generally put the camera away when the storms arrive, which is probably a mistake…
            May-Sept is your best bet for good weather and dry surfaces.

  2. Daniel


    It looks like I’ll have about a month in January/February to get down there with you and ride. Lets talk about meetup possibilities! Your pics continue to be inspirational. Looks like I’ll have either a Pugsley with either Rohloff 29+ or Marge Lite wheels.

    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Thanks guys. It is indeed a cracking ride. I’ll post more pics and words when I get the chance for a blog catch up.

  3. Pingback: Riding Peru's Great Divide - Part 3: Good Mud, Bad Mud | PIKES ON BIKES

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