After 2 days where our schedule had been decimated by weather, construction, and road conditions we were bagged and hoping for an easy day. Not so for ADV riders. After actually not a bad night sleep we decided to get an early start and were out the door at 720 and headed 45 min to Huancayo for breakfast and gas.
Then we hit construction again and the road was actually closed, but they said the motos could make it. This said there was very rough “road” (more like a washed out river bed), several sections of mud, and twice we had to wait for the fresh deep gravel to be flattened for us by a machine so we could make it at all.
Then we had 2 mountain passes over 4200 m to arrive at Junin, which is at 4000m for some lunch. This red stuff is quinoas. There is an amazing number of different kinds of potatoes here.
In Peru many towns have these elaborate squares with crazy cartoon like themes.
Farther up the Carretera Central we drove thru Cerro de Pasco, which is one of the highest cities in the world and the highest city in the world with over 50,000 inhabitants at 4330 m.
Here is where our GPS led us astray again. We had lost our good paper map of Peru and so were relying on the GPS on the road. We should have made right at Cerro de Pasco on the 3N to get to Huanuco in 100 km, but instead we ended up on a private dirt road to a mining site.
Leaving this first mine site there was one of the deepest mud puddles we have seen and in fact the water was half way up the doors of the car in front of us. Luckily there was a dry patch to the side “blocked” by rocks that we could get over. The dirt road then got even rougher and narrower. After this we were on a mud “goat track”, which eventually became a dirt/mud track up the mountainside. We ran into some locals at the mountaintop who asked us where the hell were we going. They did confirm however that we could keep going this way to get back to the highway, so we did. Farther down the road got much better and we ran into a mine worker who said if we keep going down all the switchbacks several thousand feet to the valley floor there is a gate thru which we can access the route to the 3N. Some of the hairpin steep curves were a bit much with large rocks and deeper dirt to negotiate. Once the road was dry it was no real problem.
The guard at the gate congratulated us for getting down the “road” and said that we were the first bikers he had ever heard of or seen there! Hey maybe we were the first to do something! After leaving the mine property there was about another 10 km down the mountain to the 3N. The first few km were 4 tunnels basically bored thru the mountain. We were so happy to have our Rigid lights for the pitch-black riding on the rough road inside the tunnels.
Arriving at the 3S 2 hours after we had left it we were now still 80 km from Huanuco. This stretch of the 3S north is in the worst condition of any road we have seen. There is intermittent dirt/gravel with a very few patches of good pavement. It is mostly very badly pot-holed pavement requiring total concentration. Our poor bikes! That and there are tons of trucks and locals driving like maniacs all over the road and at speed. We finally managed to break free of the pack after a town crowded with people in the street market and were able to pass a bunch of trucks. Again we were fighting the sunset and arrived just after dark and another 400 km. We spotted a hotel right away with good parking and hot water for 16$.
I know I said this yesterday, but we do need a break today. The first plan was to get to La Union 130 km away on the 3N. This took 4 hours.
The very curvy road up the mountain was again mostly 1 lane and a lot of it in very poor condition with wash outs and potholes. There was several water crossings too. It takes a lot of mental and physical strength to drive the curves, avoid the holes, not get hit head on in the tight corners, and pass trucks on the verge of the narrow road for 4 hours.
The last 25 km of the road is full of mud sections for an added challenge. Arriving for lunch at la Union we were bagged at 1 pm, but we had 260 km to go to Caraz.
We finally got a break! The 3N north of La Union is smooth pavement and two real lanes wide. The views are awesome and we crossed a pass at 4600 m. The road heads southwest until Conochoca where it finally goes north.
From here we had 111 km to go at 415 and we decided to go for it. The road from here is smooth, two lanes, with actual yellow lines down the middle and everything. That said with more civilization there is more traffic and more towns with speed bumps and so we again were arriving at dusk at 6.
We punched hotel in to the GPS and a lodge came up. Feeling like we deserved a break we headed there. Ahhhh comfy bed and hot water for 2 nights is heaven. Caraz in a picturesque little town with nice restaurants.
We also had some time to look over the bikes and Dan found that his pannier rack was broken. This was either too much rough road or one of the deeper mud patches had a big buried rock. The hotel owner went with him to a local welder who fixed it up in no time. These are the bare wires he put in the socket to weld.