Nazca to Cuzco, Peru

June 27 – July 8, 2012

This stretch was much more difficult than we thought, with long remote sections and several long climbs to passes higher than 4000m.  In total the route is 650km, including 12500m of climbing (nope, not a typo).  That being said, it is a pretty ride, especially from Puquio to just before Abancay.  The pavement was excellent the entire way and there was little traffic except for Abancay and from Anta to Cuzco.

Leaving Nazca (500m) the road starts to climb gradually to the first pass.  The road is well graded at 3-6%, but it stays that way alllll the way until KM86 with only a few short downhills near the top.  Then the road dips to Galeras before gradually climbing to the 4150m summit at KM96.  Hidden camping is generally available pretty much anywhere after the first 25km.  However, there are very few services along the way so bring plenty of food.  Even worse, there are very few water sources for the first 65KM or so.  Services along the way:
  - Absolutely nothing until Huallua.  There is a little shop at KM43 and restaurant/shop at KM44.
  - Several restaurants and little shops at around KM54.
  - Two restaurants at Cruce Galeras at KM86.
  - Another two restaurants at Galeras at KM89.
This section took us almost two full days of climbing at 7-10kph.  We left Nazca at 9AM after a brief stop at the aqueducts and reached the summit at 4:30PM the following day.  During the night we found a reasonable campsite at KM47 just off the side of a switchback.  We had to buy water the first day in Huallua since we did not find any streams along the route and were not able to find any fresh produce during these two days.  There is a Vicuna reserve at Galeras, and both sides of the road are populated with Vicunas, Llamas, and Alpacas in the pampa.

The road drops steeply from the pass all the way past a toll booth to Vado where there are several small shops and restaurants.  From Vado it continues to drop for several kilometers until a bridge across the Rio San Juan.  From the river there is a gentle climb of 20km (past the larger town of Lucanas) and then a steep descent to Puquio (~2700m) at KM154.
It was getting late when we started dropping down from the pass, so we found a campsite just after the toll booth up on some rocks.  Unfortunately it involved lugging the bikes up a steep hill in three trips.  The next day we were able to buy a couple of oranges in Vado and some nice truckers gave us bananas and a papaya.  We ended up taking the afternoon off in Puquio and stocking up on supplies for the coming days.

Elevation chart from Nazca to Puquio.  *Note that the distances are slightly off due to Google Maps not being able to follow all the switchbacks ;)

After Puquio there is another high pass of around 4300m.  The road starts climbing at a nice grade immediately after leaving the town until the summit at KM201.  The only thing along the way were two restaurants at KM192.  Outside of town the roadside is populated with farms, so finding a campsite would be difficult.  But once the scenery turns to pampa campsites are widely available again.  After the summit at KM201 there is a large plateau which extends until KM250.  There are two towns on the plateau at KM230 and KM246 where it may be possible to find some food or bare bones supplies.  The road climbs and drops many times but the riding is very beautiful.  After the summit at KM250 the road drops about 300m into a valley to the town of Pampamarca at KM259.  There are restaurants and shops here in Pampamarca which may close in the afternoon.  From Pampamarca the road climbs back up 300m, slightly more steeply than before, to the 4550m summit at KM269.  The road drops from the summit past some neat rock spires at KM280 into a cold canyon.  Then there are a few small climbs and drops past several small towns until KM297.  Camping spots after the pass until KM297 are hard to come by.  From KM297 the road drops steeply past a number of long switchbacks into a beautiful river valley. The road continues to follow the river slightly downhill for 35km to Chalhuanca where there are hotels and shops.
We left Puquio and reached the restaurant at KM192 at around 1:30PM.  After the summit we found a very nice sheltered campsite in a gravel pit at KM208.  The next day was very cold with lots of headwind.  We stopped for tea in Negro Mayo at KM230, and lunch in Pampamarca.   After the pass we had trouble finding a hidden campsite until a dry creek bed opposite some rocks at KM290.  The next day we dropped quickly down and arrived in Chalhuanca late morning.

From Chalhuanca the road continues to follow the river downhill for over 100km until about 1800m.  After the junction with Hwy3 the kilometer markers change, and the road starts to climb at KM760.  There aren’t so many services in this section until Pichirhua.  Campsites on the river are possible for most of this section but might require some searching.  After KM760 the road climbs into Abancay at 2400m at about KM774, by far the biggest city on this stretch.
We continued from Chalhuanca and flew along the river until the wind started to pick up late in the afternoon.  We managed to find a campsite just before Pichirhua on a sandbar by the river.  It was quite warm here at 1800m.  The next day we continued to Abancay where we took a rest day and a day off sick.

Elevation chart from Puquio to Abancay. *Note that the distances are slightly off due to Google Maps not being able to follow all the switchbacks ;)

In between Abancay and Cuzco there are two more long climbs.  From Abancay (2400m) the road climbs steadily until a 4000m pass at KM810.  There is a switchback road through the suburbs which is far easier than the steep straight road that looks more obvious.  Then from the pass the road drops all the way past Curahuasi to the Apurimac River (1800m) at KM870.  Then it climbs (steeply from KM873 until KM889) past Limatambo at KM889 up to a pass of 3700m at KM917.  Hidden camping is possible just before the pass and before Limatambo along the river.  After the pass the road drops slightly through populated farmland to Anta and Poroy.  Then there is a small hill of 6km before reaching the edge of Cuzco and dropping down into the city.
We stayed the first night in Curahuasi where there were ample supplies, and then rode a long day to Anta and a hospedaje.  From Anta it was only a couple hours to arrive in Cuzco and find a hostel.  Most cyclists stay at Hospedaje Estrellitas at 445 Av. Tullumayo.

Elevation chart from Abancay to Cuzco. *Note that the distances are slightly off due to Google Maps not being able to follow all the switchbacks ;)

You can also find more information on this section of the route here.

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