October 22nd - 23rd 2003
So much for our assumption that we would be able to drive back along the same road through the Cauish tunnel. When we asked around in town about the times we could travel back, it was confirmed that you could only go through the tunnel after 18:30 and that the workmen would start work around 4:00 - 5:00 am. That would have meant either driving the horrendous road in the dark after 18:30 or leaving the hotel at about 3:00am to get to the tunnel before work started again. This would also be in the dark, which we did not fancy. Added to this was the fact that we were unsure just how the traffic would be managed when we got to the tunnel.If the workmen weren't there, how would the flow of traffic from either end be controlled? All this lead us to the decision to take a different route back in daylight - a route that took us around the east side of the Cordillera Blanca, along poor gravel roads.
It was a long rough but enjoyable drive that took us from Chavín to Huari, San Luis, Yanama and then back across the Cordillera Blanca via the Lagunas Llanganuco where we had camped a few days ago. We had no proper maps but managed to ask various people along the way whether we were on the right roads and eventually we reached the entrance to the park again. The road was a pretty good graded gravel track until we turn up the road to Yanama. Here the single track was pretty steep with no turnouts for passing traffic. We were dreading meeting one of the few buses that plied the route.
As we climbed higher the and the valley grew wider the road grew better. During the afternoon we passed another landy - a series pickup. We pulled over as he came down the track towards us. The diver was obviously paying more attention to his girlfriend next to him as he was still travelling pretty fast when he saw us. Finally he braked too hard, locked the back wheels and started to spin. He ended up hitting the bank straight on and almost rolling over. With two wheels on the road, one on the bank and the one rear wheel about 2 foot in the air, his girlfriend wasted no time in getting out and giving him an ear bashing.
Luckly there appeared to be no damage to the pickup and he was able to reverse off the bank. We moved on before seeing if his girlfriend was prepared to get back in.
We climbed up to the pass, the Portachuelo de Llanganuco at 4700m before dropping again to 3800m at the campsite . This side of the Lagunas was far more spectacular and interesting than the route on the other side of the lakes. The views of the surrounding snowcapped peaks and glaciers were amazing, especially from the pass. The descent into the valley below was made by a tortuous number of switchbacks. It took about an hour and a half to get down to the lake where we were to camp that night. Along the way we encountered a minibus with a flat tyre and we had to inch our way past on the outside. At least being right hand drive Ed could stick his head out and watch the wheels on the edge. We also came across a truck which had turned over on one of the tight bends. Nasty!
It was a 10 hour driving day and we were happy to get into the roof tent that night.
Next morning we drove back down the valley and out to the Panamerican to Pativilca, stopping over at Barranca for the night, where the Weasel got another wash and we bought some new speakers to replace those taken by customs in Ecuador. The hotel in Barranca was called "Hotel Chavin" and was on the main road through town. This was one of the best hotels we have stayed in, great showers, pool, parking, cable TV etc and only cost 65 soles. Worth a recommendation. In fact although there is not much mentioned for Barranca in the guide books it had quite a good feel to it with plenty of bars and restaurants.