DAY 561 - CAJAMARCA TO CARAZ (4)

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The last two days towards Caraz promised to be easier. Most of the roads would be paved and go down for more than 2000m towards the Santa Maria River.

My stomach had healed a bit. I was able to keep food inside and slowly recovered. The landscaped changed drastically, as it does if you decline in altitude quickly. It was a lot drier and warmer, with brown soil and cacti - beautiful colours and textures. There were hardly cars on this road so it was a pleasant downhill ride with the most amazing views. Many times I had to grab the brakes and stop myself to take pictures.

I met a guy on scooter who was pushing it because the engine had failed. He seemed like on a long way so I gave him some water. When I had a break at the river of the bottom the valley I met him again and he brought me oranges. It was warm and dusty here at 1100m, a complete difference of landscape, vegetation and climate then the day before at 4400m. I felt ragged. I had lost weight and smelled bad because I hadn’t washed my clothes for 10 days. My bags with extra clothes were waiting in Huaraz, a town further down the road. I was longing for a shower and some good international food. The past days were not much more than rice and beans and old bread. I would find it in Caraz, a town with tourist infrastructure. From here tours and hikes were organised to visit the Cordillera Blanca (White Mountains), some of the highest mountains in South America.

 
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The road went gradually up along the Santa Maria River towards Caraz. At Cañón del Pato the valley became narrower and narrower where the mountains almost touched each other. A single lane road goes through 35 small tunnels. They are not lit, which is not a problem if the tunnels are short, but a few are longer than 100m and my light wasn’t charged. Sometimes it was pitch black in the middle of the tunnel and I needed to squeeze against the walls to let a truck pass. Halfway I met Leon, a British traveller who cycled up and down from Caraz on a rented mountain bike.

I reached Caraz on my birthday and had a few drinks with Leon and some other tourists over a proper dinner. I couldn’t stop eating, my body had a lot of calories to catch up. In the east the mountains rose up high with their white peaks. I was looking forward to break another altitude record here, but first I needed a few days off.

 
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