October 19th 2003
Having driven through the Cañón del Pato in the dark the night before, we had not really seen the views, so we got up early to travel back along the Cañón and enjoy it in the daylight. A lot of the tunnels are fairly short but a number are very long and are not the types of places you want to meet a big mad bus! You are supposed to sound your horn before you enter each tunnel - the tunnels are all single track - pretty much like the whole road. We didn't meet too many vehicles along the road, although we did meet a bus which tried to enter one of the long tunnels just as we were about half way through; luckily he saw us or heard Ed tooting the horn before he got too far in.
Not as much water flows through the Cañón now due to the Hydro Electric Dam which is worth a look as well. It looked pretty neat at night with the floodlights on but we were in a hurry and didn't stop to take a picture which we regret.
At the side of the track you can sometimes see a hanging basket suspended from cables which gives access to the other side, sometimes to a little door in the rock face or steps that disappear up out of view.
We are a bit lacking in photos due to using the video camera too much..
The Cañón was spectacular and the tunnels certainly added to the interesting drive, but the views of the ride through the Rio Santa Valley up to the Cañón were just as amazing and it is well worth doing the whole route from the Panamerican to the Callejón de Huaylas and the Cordillera Blanca.
Returning to Caraz we then made our way down the west side of the Cordillera Blanca. The weather was fantastic - clear blue skies and very hot - and we could start to see the snowcapped glaciated peaks in the distance (very different from the Cordillera Negra of the day before).
First stop was Yungay, about 12km south of Caraz. There are two sites to this town - the new town and the remains of the old town devastated by a mudslide. Old Yungay has now been consecrated into a "Campo Santo" (cemetary). The mudslide was caused by an earthquake that took place on 31 May 1970. At 3:26 in the afternoon 15 million cubic meters of granite and ice were loosened from Huascaran. The alluvion sped down towards Yungay - 14 km away - at speeds of 300km/h and completely buried the town, killing all of its 20,000 inhabitants. Nothing much remains of the town today. The old Plaza de Armas is marked, together with signs indicating where the bank and school were. You can also see the top of the cathedral tower sloping to one side just above the ground, whilst the remains of a crushed bus lies close by (see second picture below). The whole site is very peaceful, with flower gardens and odd gravestones scattered around. On a knoll overlooking the site is a huge white statue of Christ commemorating the loss. New Yungay has been built beyond the alluvion path.
After looking around the site we then drove up to the Lagunas Llanganuco in the Parque Nacional Huascarán. A dirt road leads up to the lakes, 28km from Yungay. After about 19km (over an hour's drive!) we reached the park gates and having paid the expensive park entrance fee of 130 Soles (about £23) we continued the rest of the drive up to the lakes for a relaxing afternoon in the sun. This entrance fee covers you for mutiple entries into the Park at different sites for one week. There are fantastic views of the surrounding snowcapped peaks on the drive up to the lakes and we had plenty of time to enjoy them at an average speed of about 18 km/h!
The Lagunas Llanganuco consist of two bright green/blue lakes - Orconcocha and Chinancocha - at an altitude of about 3800m. We camped just beyond Laguna Orconcocha at the Yurac Corral. We tucked ourselves into a corner and cooked up a veggie chilli to ward off the cold. It was a quiet night apart from a cow in the field that decided to rub itself against the bullbars and woke us up with a start!