San Luis, Peru – Dream route of Cordillera Blanca

The road isn’t even marked on my map. But it turns out to be the best what we have seen on our trip so far. Start early, cross the pass at midday when last night’s snow already melted and the daily rainfall that comes down as snow in these elevations didn’t start yet – that’s the advise we get from locals. We start in Carhuaz, cross the Cordillera Blanca to Chacas, and turn south then – a route rarely used by travellers. The scenery is comparable to the road along Lagunas Llanganuco, but it’s wider. We drive into a green high valley with a blue river between high precipices. Snowline is at 4,600 m, we are now on the level of the surrounding glaciers. A bit further up there is snow on the road, and we traverse two vertical snow walls. The pass is at 4,900 m, and behind glaciers filled some turquoise and emerald coloured lakes with meltwater.

The road is being improved and paved, so there is a lot of roadworks, and a big portion is already widened and gravelled. Just the pass isn’t made yet, the road is in semi-catastrophic condition here – no way without 4WD. Right after the pass conditions improve again. Behind Chacas it becomes very muddy and slippery with adventurous bridges. While we still think if the wooden bridge will withstand our weight, a construction vehicle fully loaded with heavy rocks passes us and the bridge without batting an eyelid.

Further south right behind San Luis we find a small church with a big flat area in front where we can park overnight (S 09°06’43.1’’ W 77°18’45.9’’). It is courteous to inform the neighbours about one’s request. That’s easier said than done. The only inhabitant here is a very old woman, but I can’t make myself understood. It takes a while until I notice: She doesn’t speak Spanish – at least less than I do. She speaks Quechua, the Inca’s language. It is still the mother tongue for many people in Peru although most learned Spanish as well. Not this woman, but eventually we can make clear what we want with gestures – the international language.

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