Racing the Rains – Return to Cuzco, Peru


Route Lima, Peru – Urcos, Peru (3S, 3)
Distance 1242Km
Travel Time 27.6 hours
Road Conditions Good asphalt, road damage before Cuz., dogs on Cuzco ascent
Weather Windy at desert, Cold on highs, Rainy before Cuzco
Terrain Desert to Altiplano, Amazing river valleys!
Food and Petrol Frequent
Accommodation Paracas Backpackpers House, Hostal Montes – Nazca, Hotel Arenas – Abancay, Hostal El Amigo – Urcos


Our first night stop is again at Alberto’s hostel in Paracas. Our departure from Paracas the next morning is not as timely as we planned but we at least have a decent breakfast and get some good tips from a fellow traveller there. We can’t help stopping for a coffee at our friendly cafe in Ica.


The bike is performing fine and the road is excellent, so we motor on at highway speed and cover a lot of distance with ease. About 50Km from Nazca we pas through Palpa, a village renowned for its sweet oranges, and at a road side cafe of sorts we see three packed bikes parked up. I U-turn and we go to meet them over a refreshing glass of orange juice.

It’s an interesting mix: Joachim (German) and his Peruvian wife are here on a day trip from Lima. Georg and his wife/partner/friend are each on their own bikes, headed South along the coast on a trip started in Chile to central America via the mountain routes. It’s only a short meeting but they’ve all got interesting stories to tell and we exchange contact details. The food they’re having, by the way, looks divine and I regret not having stopped for lunch. I don’t know what it is but it looks like beef or chicken slow-cooked on an open fire in banana leaves. MMMMH!


By the time we leave it’s 3PM and it looks bad for making it to Puquio. Near 4PM we arrive in Nazca and book into a hostel there (Hostal Montes, 40PEN) – it would take us 3 hours minimum to get to Puquio, it’ll be high altitude riding above 4500 metres, and with the cloud we see moving in over the mountains it’ll likely not only be cold but snowing, too! We decide to try and manage Abancay tomorrow.


From Nazca we leave at about 07:30 thenext morning, making Abancay will prove a challenging day. Tracing back the 80Km of curves up the dry desert mountains to the Pampa Galera National Park, it becomes more real to us what a crazy route we had come down. Don’t get me wrong, the road is excellent. However the never-ending curves and switch-backs take you past aggressive rock walls, cliff edges and, eventually, awesomely high views, especially of that huge 2000 metre giant sand dune.


There are two high mountain passes (one before Puquio and one immediately after), both rich with animal life – Alpaca, Vicuna, Llama, large birds of prey and even one or two dogs that might fly out at you in the settlements. After the Puquio pass comes a valley of incomparable beauty, following along a most delightful river gorge, splendid with colour and insect life. Large Tarantulas cross the roads here frequently; at times we even find ourselves stopping and U-turning to prevent an unwitting tarantula suicide.


We noticed a stow-away on board…

We arrive in Puquio by 10:40. Our well deserved 2-hour lunch stop there serves us another great Caldo de Gallina and gives us enough sense to notice the thick clouds over the mountain pass and buy a decent rain poncho at the local hardware store for a mere 25Soles – a good thing because we get to use it soon!




After Puquio the petrol definitely gets a Sol or two more expensive. The whole ride to Abancay takes us until 18:40 in the evening, about 12 hours and dark at arrival, yet the beauty of the ride (and perhaps a couple of Red Bulls) has kept us in good spirits and energized. Knowing where we’ll find accommodation (Hotel Arenas (45PEN/dbl, Av. Arenas 186, Tel:083-322107), we settle in quickly and head out for to a steak house type restaurant which serves us up a large meal and refreshing beer. Truly, we reflect, this has to be one of the most beautiful routes we have found on this trip.




The following morning we return over the high mountain pass from Abancay into the next beautiful river gorge leading us up toward Cuzco. The rivers are this time a brown-red colour, as opposed to the blue-green of before. This implies rains have started occurring in the highlands and this evokes my first nervous thoughts about whether an Amazonia crossing will still be manageble for us in time.




As we arrive on the plateau leading to Cuzco there’s thick could cover and soon we do get rained on, thankfully not too heavily. A good opportunity to try out that heavy duty Poncho we found in Puquio at a bargain price. It seems to work well; only at 60Km/h it blows up like a sack and I can’t see behind me in my mirrors. At least I have the blind-spot mirrors to help.


Just before Cuzco, in Poroy, we stop at one of the unmissable roadside restaurants. Ebru has a Caldo de Gallina which is good but not as good as that in Puquilo. But I try the chicharron, a dish of pork chunks, which are pan fried and boiled in a rich herby juice sauce. Also there’s a crunchy pork crackling. It tastes excellent. I just hope my stomach fares better than the last time I had pork at a road-side stop.


To avoid the high costs in Cuzco we drive on another 25Km to Urcos, which is a small town, pretty run-down but yet very friendly and interesting. More about that in the next post.