The Backroads of Peru to Cuzco: Part IV

Andahuaylas Travel Blog

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Unauthorized photo of the dam on the way to Ayacucho

Leaving Huancayo, again in the early morning to finish the 10 hour bus ride before darkness, I was rather ready to get to Cuzco after such a long time spent on the buses on abysmal roads. The road to Ayucucho was paved until the town of Izcucho and thereafter a winding dirt path skirted the walls of the canyons as it followed a river downstream. In the beginning the railroad tracks followed alongside the road but these diverged here too, towards Huancavelica. A section of the tracks continued onward, obviously little used, towards a small town who´s prosperity had long since been eclipsed with the passing of the railroad era. The road continued to follow the briskly flowing river, which had lots of rapids, for quite a while before it eventually turning into a stagnant brown pond for some distance, a sure indication of a dam lying ahead.

A monkey chained to a building where we stopped for lunch on the way to Ayacucho
Soon enough we approached some fenced in offices and you could see the edge of the dam. As we rounded the bend there was a big fence topped with barbed wire on the side of the road and a large sign that said it was prohibited to take unauthorized photos of this dam in the middle of nowhere. I´m not quite sure why and I don´t think this applied to bus passengers so I took a few unauthorized photos of said dam, perhaps the first ever glimpse the outside world has ever had of this engineering marvel. As we proceeded on it was warm and dusty inside the canyon, and the scenery was nice, but I think that I had certainly been spoiled by the more amazing things that I had already scene. Eventually we reached Ayacucho about 30 minutes before dark and I walked the streets, which had a nice two block pedestrian zone, and unfortunately the cathedral in the main plaza, which had a splendid gilded altar with multiple tiers (prohibited to take photos), was not ¨brilliantly illuminated¨ as the guide book said it would be, it was in fact, un-illuminated.
Lunch-time traffic in Chumbes
I did manage to see a few other tourists, maybe 5, I had seen three in Huancayo, but other than that I had not seen any since entering Peru except for two in Huaraz, two in Cajamarca, and one in Pedro Ruiz.
The next morning began early again for a 6:30 bus to Andahuaylas, about a 10 hour ride which started with a climb out of the valley and out of hazy layer of pollution sitting over the city.  The climb continued gradually up to the unihabited highlands before descending into a dust bowl of a canyon that was very hot and dry.
The main plaza in Chumbes
The heat was stifling in the bus with the windows closed, tempting you to open them, upon doing so you would be promptly greeted with a cloud of dust. The bus stopped for lunch at Chumbes, it is apparently the place to stop for anyone on this route as there were a total of 4 buses there and two combis. Continuing further through into the canyon, eventually, the dust prevailed over the afternoon heat and with some windows open I arrived in Andahuaylas with a thin coating of dust. I promptly bought my ticket for the bus to Cuzco at 6:30am the next morning and went to clean up before my return to civilzation tomorrow.

The ride to Cuzco was rather uneventful, we made good time because the driver was driving the bus as it were a Formula 1 car, flying around corners and passing everyone on the road. From high up on the mountain the town of Abancay came into view way, way down below. After seeing it I think we were on the bus for at least another hour before we finally reached the town to stop for lunch. Onwards from Abancay it was easy going on the well paved road all the rest of the way to Cuzco. Shortly before Cuzco in some small village the lane into Cuzco was blocked off by people protesting something and all the incoming traffic had to detour through the village on a narrow dirt road with numerous switchbacks too sharp for the bus to handle in one pass. The police were on the scene of the protest but were just sitting there watching and refused to do anything. Despite this small delay we reached the limtits of Cuzco with views overlooking the city below, a sea of red brick buildings and red-tiled roofs with some ancient churches interspersed here and there. At about the same time as our bus pulled into the terminal it started to rain, heavily. There was a mad rush of people from the three buses that had just arrived as people stampeded towards the shelter of the roof. Under the roof people pushed and jockeyed to get to the exit while the rest of the people waited for the rain to let up so that they would start to unload the luggage. Not exactly a fine welcome to Cuzco.

So after some 95 hours on a combination of buses, cars, and vans, I have arrived in Cuzco by traveling solely through the Andes. It was a long journey, and quite arduous at times, with poor roads and poor buses requiring much patience and endurance. But in traveling this route I have seen some truly amazing things and it has certainly been an experience inequivalent,and in my opinion, superior to traveling down the coast and visiting the more established tourist destinations.

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Unauthorized photo of the dam on t…
Unauthorized photo of the dam on …
A monkey chained to a building whe…
A monkey chained to a building wh…
Lunch-time traffic in Chumbes
Lunch-time traffic in Chumbes
The main plaza in Chumbes
The main plaza in Chumbes
photo by: AndySD