Cordillera Blanca to the Carretera Central – Peru’s Great Divide

Conococha – Cajatambo – Oyon – Parquin – Chungar – Marcapomacocha – Casapalca

This fantastic route is an excellent choice for getting from the Cordillera Blanca to the Carretera Central (the main road from Lima to the mountains) on quiet unpaved roads.  The route passes through villages, so it’s never necessary to carry more than a couple of days of food. There is also plenty of water, so you don’t need to carry much of that either, but watch out not to take it from downstream of a mine.

There is almost no traffic on this entire route, apart from a few trucks near Alpamarca and the traffic madness of the Carretera Central.

As with all routes in the Peruvian Andes, we can’t stress highly enough how important it is to go light – there are many high passes to cross and many thousands of metres to climb. Here is a list of kit we took for the ride – around 15kg each.

Check out our blog post for this route on our Pikes on Bikes site, and for a slightly damper version of events, here are Cass and Kurt’s impressions of the route – they were a fortnight behind us.

Total Km Altitude (m) Description
0 4110 Junction in Conococha where paved road leads off to Chiquian. Take the paved road towards Lima.
2.3 4100 Go L onto dirt road. Signed Ocros.
6.6 4230 Junction and pass (Yantahuain). Go L to Ticllos (R is for Ocros).
16.4 4150 Junction. Go straight. L goes to Roca.
26.7 3700 Ticllos. Village with shops.
36.9 3400 Corpanqui. Village with shops.
42.4 3190 Ignore junctions off L to Llaclla. There’s no way from Llaclla to Oyon by road – the old road along the valley floor has been destroyed.
46.3 3080 Junction by Carhuajara (village below road). Go R/up.
51.4 3380 Village.
55.8 3570 Junction by Cajamarquilla. L goes to this village – go R on a track that is briefly unmotorable.
56.6 3620 Go R on motorable road.
63.3 3740 Junction. Go L to Rajan. R is for Ocros.
67.6 3640 Rajan. Village with shops and possible to find accommodation. Huayhuash views.
74.6 3090 Llipa Viejo. No facilities.
80.1 2780 Llipa. Village with shops, possible accommodation. Get water – there’s none except in the main river until at least an hour’s climbing from Cañon.
98.7 1630 Cross bridge over main river.
106.8 1390 Cross bridge over Cajatambo river.
107.1 1390 L on ‘main’ road to Cajatambo.
115.5 1750 Water from side waterfall (if running).
117.5 1800 Tumac. 2 houses, and a very basic shop. Also a junction – L goes to Mangas. Go R.
125.4 2240 Baños Termales de Uñoc. Food, and maybe camping possible.
130.3 2480 Junction – go straight for Cajatambo. Palpas is R.
134.9 2690 Yocchi. Village with shops.
155.5 3450 High point before small descent to Cajatambo.
159.8 3400 Cajatambo. Accommodation, restaurants, shops. No internet or ATM. Start climbing again on road to Oyon.
168.5 3880 Junction – go R for Oyon.
170 3960 Junction – go R for Oyon. L goes to Huayllapa on the Huayhuash Circuit. Stick to main track to the pass.
185.3 4540 Paso Pacomayo.
191.6 4360 Cross bridge at low point.
193 4380 Go L at junction in Pacomayo (R is a far better road, but this leads to Gorgor, not Oyon). Pacomayo is just a few houses, no facilities.
196.4 4450 Junction – go L to Mina Chanca and Oyon. R is to Mallay. Pass Karina’s bodega (basic shop, sometimes open) before the mine.
198.7 4540 Junction by Mina Chanca. Go L, then immediately R at fork.
203.8 4850 Punta Chanca.
217.1 3960 Meet other road on a hairpin. Go R. (L goes north, to the east of the Cordillera Huayhuash – ask locals about the current security situation in that area if you are considering going that way.)
221.8 3650 Hit larger road in a village. Go R to Oyon. L is to Raura.
225.7 3540 Junction. L to Oyon. R is for Lima.
228.5 3630 Oyon, Plaza de Armas. Shops, accommodation, restaurants, internet. ATM didn’t work when we were there. Leave town on road to Cerro de Pasco.
230.2 3640 L on paving which soon ends.
233.1 3640 R – signed Mina Iscaycruz – leaving the main road for a mine road to Rapaz. Mine traffic.
236.7 3870 Stay R (L to mine). No longer any mine traffic after here.
238.5 4020 Straight.
244.1 4420 Straight (L is a shortcut).
245.6 4490 Straight (shortcut rejoins).
245.9 4520 Junction. We went L and the distances to km261.2 reflect this. See comments below though – it now appears you have to go R, signed ‘Rapaz’, over a 4990m pass, and join the description again at km261.2 below.
247.5 4490 Cross bridge.
252.8 4870 High point. Slight descent.
256.9 4940 Abra Rapaz.
261.2 4640 L. Signed Rapaz.
271.3 4020 Jn in Rapaz (shops). Go straight. R goes to the plaza, with a nice old church. Possible to buy nice woven goods – ask around. Also the largest quipu in Peru is apparently here.
280.9 3320 Entrance to the canyon.
282.6 3260 Huancahuasi/Picoy baths. Possible amping.
283.6 3230 Huancahuasi. Shop, accommodation, restaurants.
287.1 3000 Picoy. Go L to Parquin. Going R descends to the Oyon – Huacho (on the coast) road.
294.9 3550 Parquin (well stocked shops). Stay straight – R goes to Jucul.
305.5 4440 First water since Parquin.
307.4 4460 L at junction, just after crossing river.
313 4860 Punta Chucopampa.
321.5 4360 R at jn.
329.6 3710 L on main road to Cerro de Pasco over Abra Antajirca. R goes to Vichaycocha (a few km away downhill).
346.9 4560 R, off main road. Signed Minas de Chungar.
352.6 4760 Abra Mio.
359.1 4460 Chungar. A few houses by the Lago Chungar.
359.3 4450 Go L, under the dam.
364.4 4650 R.
366.6 4760 L.
368 4820 Punta Fierro Cruz.
368.2 Straight/R.
372.2 4640 L.
373.4 4660 Straight.
373.7 4660 R. Follow water channel after a while. Flat!
379.9 4640 R on main Abra La Viuda-Huayllay road (L goes to Bosque de Piedras 43km away, apparently).
382.4 4710 High point and junction. Go straight. L to Chalet/Mina Alpamarca.
384.4 4670 L. R goes to Mina Alpamarca.
389.2 4560 Go L, to Canta. R is to Mina Santander.
390.9 4560 R.
394.9 4710 Abra Alpamarca.
395.8 4680 L to Yantac. R is main route to Canta and Abra la Viuda.
397.2 4560 L.
398.2 4570 Straight.
399.6 4520 R.
405.3 4650 Yantac. Hat statue, shops, restaurant.
407.5 4640 Straight.
410.8 4550 L.
419.8 4440 Marcapomacocha. Accommodation, restaurants, shops.
425.4 4280 Straight, for Casapalca. L goes to Corpacancha. (If you’re headed to La Oroya and want to avoid the Carretera Central, see route update below.)
430.6 4300 Straight. L goes to Sungrar.
433.2 4340 L/Straight. R to Obelisco which marks some battle.
443.2 4710 Go straight. R is for Milloc and Huanza.
447 4880 Abra Antacassa.
459.6 4340 R on the Carretera Central. L goes to La Oroya. Be very careful – the traffic is heavy, the road narrow, and the driving appalling.
462.9 4200 Casapalca. A hole, which has accommodation, shops, restaurants.
472.9 3700 Chicla. There is a hotel before the village, by the main road (but no accommodation in the village). Shops and restaurants in the village.

Distance (of which paved) 473km (16km)
Time taken 8 days
Amount climbed 11,200m
Traffic Very little, except for the few kms on the Carretera Central which is very busy.
Best time to cycle May – September
When we cycled Early October 2013.
Difficulty 4
How much we had to push on this route Not at all

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Huaraz-Rio Blanco

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