Peru part 8: Back to the Ocean: The Cañon del Pato, Lima and the Coast Roads to Ecuador

Previous post: An Andean Summer

What we did

For the geeks out there…

  • Days taken: 18 (including a few days off in Lima and Trujillo)
  • Distance cycled: 713km
  • Total elevation gain: 3,855m
  • Max daily distance: 135km
  • Max daily elevation gain: 830m
  • Min altitude: Sea level!
  • Nights spend in a tent: None 🙂

Blog post

After some pretty amazing cycling and trekking in the Peruvian highlands over the past few weeks, what followed was always likely to be a bit of a comedown. And so it proved, with the ride to Ecuador being not quite so memorable. Still, it should make for a shorter blog post – every cloud has a silver lining!

Actually the ride started promisingly enough, with a huge descent all the way from the mountains down to the Pacific coast, through the spectacular Canon del Pato (‘duck canyon’). Around 100km north of Huaraz, the busy highway suddenly changes into an eerily-quiet single-lane road, tracing its way along a precipice above a deep canyon, passing through dozens of tunnels (some of them hundreds of meters long) in the process. The canyon itself divides the Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra mountain ranges, with both soaring majestically above the road on either side.

Unfortunately the ride wasn’t quite the walk in the park that we’d hoped, thanks to a bloody enormous headwind, and for the most part it was genuinely hard to move the bikes without being blown over. Still, with only one truck-stop hospedaje in the otherwise completely desolate road all the way between the mountains and the coast, we did the whole 250km to Trujillo in two pretty tough days.

Being spat out onto the Pan-American highway at the end of a sandy road that wasn’t even on our map was a pretty surreal experience. As was seeing the Pacific Ocean, and realising we’d finally completed a South American coast-to-coast  ride(!) But soon enough we, like other cycle tourists before us, got pretty bored by the long, wide, flat road and the baking heat that came with being down at sea level. So it was quite a relief when we downed the bikes for a bit to explore the big cities of Trujillo and, following a long bus ride down the coast, the capital, Lima.

We ate a lot over the next five days. I mean, really, a lot. The Peruvian highlands might be one of the more awe-inspiring regions on this Earth, but the food there really isn’t. And the opposite is definitely true on the coast! The highlight of our seemingly never-ending buffet of ceviche, meat, pizza, cake and, oh yeah, the actual daily breakfast buffet at the (ahem) four star hotel we stayed in in Lima, was undoubtedly our meal out at Maido -supposedly the 13th best restaurant in the world. I’m not about to turn into a food blogger but the nine-course Japanese-Peruvian seafood tasting menu was really quite nice!

There was, shockingly, more to Lima than just the food, and we had a great time being normal tourists for a few days, checking out some churches and museums, and the London-esque districts of Miraflores and Barranco. After such a long time in the hills, it was strange to be back in a metropolis, and was quite hard to tear ourselves away and get back on the saddles.

But – thanks largely to our rapidly-emptying wallets – tear ourselves away we did, hopping on another bus heading a few hundred kilometers past Trujillo, to the northern city of Piura. We chose to do this following a long tradition among cycle tourists of avoiding the city of Paijan – north of Trujillo – where supposedly gangs of bike thieves roam the streets. Scary stuff.

The rest of the ride was pretty dull, although we did stop in a few lovely seaside towns along the way. We’d intended to take mostly back roads up the coast, but after a lot of pushing the bikes through sediment, culminating in the small town of Arenal – which I’m pretty sure translates directly as ‘Sandy’ – we headed back to the Pan American Highway, and stuck on it most of the way to Ecuador.

We did break our journey one final time for a few days in the northern surfer mecca and backpacker town of Mancora, where we stayed in a bungalow at the beautiful beachside ‘Naif Surf Camp’ hostel and indulged in our final rounds of pisco sours and cusquena beers. Both of which will be missed!

Anyway, eventually, on 5 December, three months and three days after entering Peru, we passed through the crap town of Tumbes – clocking up 5,000 miles of cycling in the process – and then shortly afterwards, the Ecuador border. It was a bittersweet moment: on the one hand, exciting to move on to another new country, but on the other, sad to say goodbye to somewhere that became our home and treated us to so many  unforgettable experiences. The long Pan-American highway was now stretched out in front of us, and I wondered if the cycling would ever be as much fun as it was in Peru.  And was it, I hear you ask? You’ll have to find out in my next post!

Elevation Profile

I’m migrating our route maps and elevation profile over to my shiny (literally) new app, which you can check out here!

To the Coast.png

The elevation profile of our route. It looks easier than it was!



The beginning of the Canon del Pato (‘duck canyon’). We’d read that the road was unpaved, but this must have changed in the past year or so. Still, it was completely deserted – and absolutely stunning


Perfect cycle touring!


Soon began a series of a few dozen tunnels, bored right through the rock face. We weren’t bored.


Don’t look down!


The high-vis jacket comes on as Charlie enters one of the longer tunnels


It was pretty dark in there. And very scary when the odd truck was coming the other way!


The canyon follows a river almost the whole way to the coast


After a night in the truck stop hamlet of Chuquicara, we turned off the main road onto the dirt. Shortly before the end was this new tunnel that wasn’t on our map, complete with new asphalt!


It wasn’t to last long. The road looked like this for the past few hours of our descent to the Pan American Highway


Where we were unceremoniously spat out onto a huge highway


It felt very weird to be riding on a wide, flat road after so long in the highlands


This is classic ‘counting down the kilometers’ territory. But at least the beautiful weather comntinued


Evening shadow on the road to Trujillo


And just like that, our coast to coast ride was complete! This was the spectacular sunset over the Pacific from the surfer town of Huanchaco, just outside of Trujillo


Next we headed to Lima where we decided we’d earned some luxury, so we stayed at the four star ‘Dazzler’ hotel in Miraflores. They were very surprised to see two cyclists turn up! This was the beautiful rooftop pool where we spent many happy hours


Enjoying a light meal!


But this was the culinary highlight of the trip – and probably my lifetime – the 10-course tasting menu at Maido. Brilliant photo of nine of them courtesy of Charlie!


After leaving Lima we headed north to Piura, where the long, wide, flat roads continued in earnest


Still, the evenings were pretty good. This was the terrace outside our room in the Hospedaje Vivi in Colon. The two owners had bizarrely spent a few years living in Brighton before opening this place!


We decided to turn onto the dirt roads towards Mancora, further up the coast. At times, the riding was pretty incredible


Getting up close and personal with the Pacific ocean


The road was slow going with a lot of pushing through the sand, but views like this made it almost worth it!


Not a bad lunch spot setting


The rest of the ride on the Pan American highway wasn’t particularly inspiring, and the camera mostly stayed in  my pocket. So now we fast forward to our beautiful hostel in Mancora, the Naif Surf Camp.


Charlie enjoying a stroll on the beach


Mancora sunset view


After leaving Mancora, it was just 150 flat kilometers to Ecuador. On the way, we passed the 5,000 mile mark for our trip. Time for a quick selfie!


And before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye to Peru and hello to our penultimate South American country, Ecuador. Definitely a bittersweet moment, but it felt good to be moving on.


2 thoughts on “Peru part 8: Back to the Ocean: The Cañon del Pato, Lima and the Coast Roads to Ecuador

  1. Pingback: Peru (03 Sep – 05 Dec 2016) | Long Way Up

  2. Pingback: Peru part 7: An Andean Summer: Trekking in the Cordillera Blanca | Long Way Up

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