October 18th 2003
An early start leaving Huanchaco to head off to the Callejón de Huaylas, the valley between the two mountain ranges of the Cordilleras Blanca and Negra. The journey took us from the coastal desert to the mountainous landscapes of the Rio Santa Valley. We turned off the Pan American at Santa, just before Chimbote. At first the valley is wide and flat with much agriculture and many Campesinos drying their corn on the side of the road. The road was fairly slow-going - gravel and corrugations - and took longer than anticipated.
But the views were worth the slow progress. As you head further up the vallery it becomes narrower as the mountains close in on either side.The scenary is fantastic with the rich colours and textures of the Cordillera Negra glowing in the afternoon sun.. Along the way we crossed numerous bridges as the road switched from one side of the valley to the other.
We soon realised why the mountain range was most probably called the Cordillera Negra - in the mountainsides we could see what appeared to be coal seams and later at various points along the route evidence of previous mining activity. Although mining seems to have more or less stopped here in the organised sense, we saw a couple of miners along the road, who had just come out of the mine in the picture above. Further on we came to what must have been a busy village once with about twenty adobe huts to house the miners. All but a couple had fallen into disrepair and lacked doors or roofs.
The right hand picture above is a view looking up a scree slope at an angle of about 70 degrees.The slope extended for thousands of feet up to the peak above and stopped perfectly at the edge of the road. You could practically lean out of the Landy window and touch it.
Waterfall in Rio Santa Valley
We passed through a Police checkpoint in a small village about 30 mins before Huallanca. Very friendly and interested to hear where we were from.
The plan was to stop for the night at the small town of Huallanca at the top of the valley and just before the start of the Cañón del Pato. But we changed our minds when we asked a policeman where we could park the car securely for the night and were advised "not in this town". We were better off driving to the next town, Caraz, where there were a number of hotels and secure parking. Caraz was at least a 45 minute drive away and it was already starting to get dark. So we broke our golden rule for the first time of not driving at night. To make matters worse, the road we would be driving was the Cañón del Pato, a very narrow and winding road with steep drops into the valley below and an abundance of tunnels cut through the rock (36 in total). Not the ideal road to be driving in the dark. In fact, the only lighting along the way was near the start at the Hydroelectric power station. We eventually made it to Caraz - after a little longer than 45 minutes.
The hotel we stayed at in Caraz was called "Hostal La Alameda", nice rooms, hot water and the ever important off road parking. Total cost about £11 a night inc breakfast..