05 October 2014

Huancavelica to Ayacucho: switching from alpacas to goats

A few days resting in Huancavelica was much needed after the rewarding but challenging Great Divide route. The town provided all a cycle tourist can hope for: all types of Peruvian food, yummy desserts, fresh fruits and a very laid-back atmosphere. 

There are mainly two routes going down to Ayacucho: the faster Panamerican of the mountains, which would involve a bit of a detour and the usual peruano way of driving, or the more relaxed, yet unpaved, route through the town of Lircay. No doubt we took the latter...

Leaving Huancavelica for the unpaved road to Lircay was not an easy affair. Everyone we asked seemed to point at the main road, so we took it...then had to turn around once we realised we were going downhill as opposed to uphill like we knew it should be....If you intend to take this road, ask in town for the road to Lircay as it is not on the usual online maps...
Even though the traffic was relatively busy at times, mostly due to the many pueblos along the road close to Huancavelica, it was pleasant, and the gradients much more gentle than those of the Great Divide. 

Unfortunately, those grey skies delivered loats of cold rain once we reached the summit...and got us totally drenched and shivering on the way to Lircay...
...where after some negotiation with the gerente, he kindly let us sleep in the basement of the municipalidad, next to the government program Juntos´office.

The following morning the sun came out, and we hit the road to Ayacucho, cycling past this Gaudí-inspired park...

...before some heavy road works slowed us down...Mostly all "main" roads we´ve cycled in Perú had some sort of road work going, showing how quickly the road infrastructure is changing

After dealing with some more road works, we soon gained more elevation. Buenavista (3800 m) was the only sizeable town before the big pass. Its plaza the Armas looked a bit "unfinished" though!

Once at 4300 m we got hit by the usual afternoon storms...which forced us to divert to what looked like a small town...Ccochatay. As it turns out, there were only a handful of kids and no adults...so they invited us to take shelter in the old church until the president of the community arrived

The adults turned up at 4 pm for their weekly community meeting. Victor, the president, kindly opened the community hall for us...which came with a few mattresses and blankets. What else can you ask for in a cold miserable storm, at 4300 m?

After the heavy rains, the next storm lined up towards us, as light started to fade. With a dry shelter and the luxury of the mattresses, we did not have anything to worry about!
From Ccochatay we took the long way to Secclla, passing a handful of Alpaca haciendas. As often happens in Perú, the owners and their kids quickly came out of their hut to see the passing gringos on bikes...

...after the last few haciendas only another 400 m separated us from the last big summit before Ayacucho

Half way down on the descent to Ayacucho we hit Julcamarca, a small colonial village with a few facilities and a much needed almuerzo. 

We stocked up on the usual fare of galletas and other junk for the remaining km ahead...

...and then switched from alpacas to goats - the "lowlands" of the Ayacucho area (2400 m) were so incredibly hot that we felt out of place after so many days riding in the cold. A cold beer did the trick

The grifo (gas station) owner Victoria kindly let us camp in her back yard, where we enjoyed a night without the need of sleeping bags

In the morning, as we were leaving, Victoria gave us some aguaymantos and avocados from her garden (she just about grew everything imaginable!)

...and finally, after some dodgy km on the busy 3S, we reached colonial Ayacucho
Buildings by Spain, electrification by Peru
After we settled into a cheap hospedaje, we visited the Santa Clara market, and ate too much fresh foods...

...before enjoying the hustle and bustle of the rush hour traffic...

...and noticing that we are not the only machacas in South America!

Ayacucho was off-limits to tourists in the 80s and 90s because of the conflict between the Shining Path and the Military. Nowadays, apart from being a lovely quiet town with barely any tourism, it has a very interesting and informative museum set up by the victims of the conflict´s families - Museo de la Memoria

And of course, Alberto had to sample the local ceviche - freshly prepared or instantaneo

After a few days, it was to leave town, heading East through the Arco del Triunfo

Route notes:

- Huancavelica to Lircay: it´s a good unpaved road with a fair amount of traffic going to the local villages. There´s plenty of villages to stock up with food and water. Ask around town for the road to Lircay, as it is not obvious otherwise.
- Lircay to Ayacucho: there are currently (late September 2014) heavy roadworks along the road from Lircay starting at 7 am. Some may not let you pass until the only break (noon till 1 pm), so best to plan accordingly. Also, near the top of the pass, we were advised to take a diversion via Ccochatay to Secclla, which adds some 20 km to the ride but guarantees no delays.

The dirt road meets the main road (3S) with about 12 km left to Ayacucho. We found this section to be very dangerous to cyclists as there is no shoulder and plenty of erratic driving. We believe there are ways to continue on trochas all the way into Ayacucho via its mirador to the North of town - we would suggest asking locals or planning using online maps (openstreetmaps, Perut, or the government maps) to avoid the 3S.


  1. It's cool that you guys got to learn a bit about the local history in Ayacucho, and most importantly, I'm glad to hear you overate!

  2. Overeating is one of the many skills we have developed while on tour! Ayacucho definitely ranks as one of our favourite cities in Peru.