The Beasts Come Out in Abancay, Peru


Route Urubamba, Peru – Abancay, Peru (28B,28,3S)
Distance 298Km
Travel Time 7 hours
Road Conditions Good asphalt, some works after Cuz., steep descent 55Km after Cuz. (dogs!) , police 80Km after Cuz.
Weather Slightly cloudy, Cold on high passes
Terrain Stunning river gorges, big descent 55Km after Cuz., ascent to Mt. pass before Abancay
Food and Petrol Cuzco, Chinchero, Abancay
Accommodation Hotel Arenas Abancay

Though my heart is broken for not having been able to do my eucalyptus-wood-braai (BBQ), we have had a lovely stay in Urubamba. After about a week it’s high time to move on.

We follow the alternative route East via the village of San Salvador out of the valley and curve back towards Cuzco, because during our excursions we found that this route is more scenic and level. We don’t want to stay in Cuzco because it’ll cost us at least 26USD per night there and it’s not much distance covered. Our next destination is Abancay.


On our way around the back road to Cuzco we have the pleasure of encountering some sort of festival in one of the small ex-Incan villages: the girls are dressed up in beautiful costume, we just have to stop and take some photos with them. They’re surprised to see us but kindly pose with us and invite us to stay longer and join the celebration, but alas we must move on – a mere 20 or so kilometres from our starting point wouldn’t count as having left, would it?


At another village, on the road side there are several BBQ stands selling something very special indeed: the famous Cuy, which is the guinea pig, a local delicacy! Not that I really had planned to try it, but now just looking at that bloated rodent carcass on a stick is enough to put me off. We take a snap and move on.



The way to Abancay is a harder ride than anticipated: 80Km out of Cuzco the road swerves down the mountain-side on a beautiful set of S-bends (with cheeky dogs!) and then lands you in a valley following a large river. Views are excellent! A large section of the road follows along a deep gorge, at the bottom of which we see a crystal river of turquoise-green white sand- and rock beaches. There’s even signs for a natural thermal bath down below. We do see some hostels along the way and we’re quite tempted to stop for the night, but we really have to make some distance and move on.

In a beautiful green spot we stop at the road side for an energizing packed lunch…


The river hits a crescent of mountains and takes a junction into another direction and we are left climbing upward, with views of massive ravines, where the water sheds down in between the mountains in times of rain or snow-melt. On and on it goes, until again we find ourselves navigating a pass of around 5000m altitude, and to our right we glimpse through the clouds the last of the day’s sun-rays hitting some colossal black peaks capped with white. Adding to the splendour, for the first time in Peru, the air is infused with the strong smell of pine trees.


By the time the sun sets we’re descending out of the high cold and winding our way to Abancay, another fulfilling stretch of mountain road. We see Abancay from up high and take a couple of photos of the lights of the town saddled safely between steep slopes.

We don’t know what to expect in Abacay but what we get is beyond our wildest dreams:


We enter the grid-iron streets and find they’re full of activity. People everywhere and police, directing traffic. We can’t get directly on to the main avenue so we have to circle around and enter it from the East side. Soon after that I have to come to a stop again because the street is packed and we can’t move on. Ebru walks from here to check out accommodation.


As I wait, parked on my bike smoking a cigarette, things get noisy and from behind me comes a long procession of large – very large – wood and papier machie beasts, piloted by dozens of young men underneath them. Sharks, dragons, fantastical creatures I cannot name. Fangs, big bloodshot eyes and deep nostrils.


It appears that it’s graduation evening for a/the local college and the boys are out to celebrate in a big way. Most of them are drunk already and ramming into cars and lamp posts despite the efforts of their point-men to direct them straight down the road. They notice me on my own oversized creature and look at me quizzically, but it’s their big night so I try not to take up any attention.

Ebru finds us a clean place to stay at Hotel Arenas (45PEN/dbl, Av. Arenas 186, Tel:083-322107). Safe parking garage below, television with a couple of English channels, comfortable mattress. It’s good. Sadly no food included, so we head out to a pollo asado place on the main street, which is sadly not as good as it could be.


Afterwards, still in our biking gear, we’re sitting in a fancy bar on the first floor of one of the buildings on the high street, drinking beer. The place is decorated all snazzy and the music is pumping, big widescreen tellies all over the place showing the music videos. Then another interesting thing happens:

Some Asian chap is on the screen, dancing around in the most ridiculous way in his tight-fit suit, driving fancy cars and hanging around with uppity asian women. The lyrics are in some Asian language we don’t understand. The only thing we do understand is the refrain of, “Ooooh, sexy lady”. We’re fixated. The song and the video click with us and we think they’re awesome! Some sort of satire it seems – amazingly done – it’s excellent, even I half-seem to understand it! And that they’d be playing this here in this bar, in this small town in Peru, now that is truly a surprise. How … international!


Our good night sleep turns out bad though as the rocking main street seems to be at full steam tonight and we’ve got a front-row bedroom window. By 3AM Ebru can’t take it anymore and I go to reception to ask for a different room, which kindly they give us toward the back of the hotel.