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Cañón del Pato

Every_so_often, Bound South embraces its wild side.  We leave the ease and surety of pavement for the uncertainty and doubt that coincides with the road less traveled.  When we do, we get lost, fall off of our bikes, and endure steep climbs and rotten roads.  Adventure is always available in the Andes.  Leaving Trujillo and the north coast of Peru, we surrounded ourselves with it, wall to wall.

Oatmeal on the plain

Winding our way to the Santa River

Cañón del Pato, translated “Duck Canyon”, is the product of two Andean ridges in Peru, the Cordillera Negra (Black Range) without snow to the west and the Cordillera Blanca (White Range) with snow to the east.  The valley between contains the Santa River, which winds its way to the coast through the canyon.  These two ridges parallel each other from Huaraz to Caraz, where they converge to form the canyon.  Near the canyon’s narrowest gap, a mere six meters across with walls rising up to Cordilleras’ crests, the raging waters of the Santa River power the turbines of a Duke Energy hydro electricity plant.  The Cordillera Blanca consists of hundreds of glaciers, lagoons, and hot springs.  Eight of its peaks rest over 6000 meters, with its highest, Huascarán Sur, sitting at 6768 meters.  Its nature is colossal which gives reason for the canyon’s grandeur.

Part of the hydro electricity plant

The beginnings of the canyon

Incredible rock formations were common on each canyon wall.

Even more impressive is the road that winds its way through the canyon.  Carved into the cliff walls, at times hundreds of meters above the river through tunnels and under overhangs, the road climbs gradually from barren desert at sea level to green mountain valleys above 3000 meters.  Beautiful, yes.  Easy, no.  To this day, the inverse rule has held true.  Established in Alaska, the rule reads: “The difficulty of the ride will be inverse to the beauty of the scenery.”

Rocky road

Mud and water substituted rock in some sections.

Isaiah in action

And challenging it was.  Mango-sized stones and mud holes covered the single-lane canyon road.  Dust coated our sweaty skin as drivers passed by.  Shade was in short supply.  Simply pedaling wasn’t easy; maintaining contact with each pedal over the bed of rocks was an unexpected challenge. It wasn’t the grade of the road that slowed our pace to 80 kilometers a day; it was exhaustion from riding through a bone-jarring sea of loose rock day after day in the heat.  The conditions were tough.  A different approach to riding was absolutely necessary.

Canyon walls of contrast

Switchbacks led us away from the canyon momentarily

Goliath, equipped with fat and knobby Kenda tires, was put to the test on this road.

Three in a row

Each watt of energy we apply to our pedals is work.  Slick tires and smooth surfaces allow us to easily build speed and maintain momentum.  On rough roads like the one described above, however, each rock or imperfection resembles a hill we must climb, which significantly slows our progress.  Pedaling from Alaska to Argentina isn’t easy.  I sometimes wish that there was only one  mountain pass between Alaska and Argentina (unfortunately, the road south of the equator does not gradually descend to Tierra del Fuego) or that it could be done with a single pedal-stroke.  These are impossible, though; I know that.

Tunnels were a great place to sing.

At the heart of Duck Canyon

We were all exhausted after this day

Spilled fuel meant no cooking for a few days.

And I know the realities of the road.  Challenges and pitfalls are everywhere.  Jagged rocks will puncture your tires and give you a sore butt.  Caps will come loose leaving you with no cooking fuel.  Tunnel darkness will surround you.  The road isn’t perfect.  Yet I have learned to embrace all that shapes this experience – both the discomforts and joys – and ride with purpose knowing that what we ride for is good and just.

Mango celebrations were to be had after reaching pavement once again.

The snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera Blanca in sight.

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. Janet Albers #

    Amazing!!! Thank you so much for showing us places we’ll never go via your pictures. I can’t even imagine how tiring your biking must be at this point. Makes Alaska look like a piece of cake, right?

    March 26, 2012
  2. This is an incredible blog. -Great photographs.

    March 26, 2012
  3. Jim and Elizabeth Berg #

    Give Goliath a pat on the seat for bravely carrying his rider and enduring all the stones flung across his path!
    Another phenomenal look (words and photos) into your joys and struggles.
    Much love,
    the other 1/2 of bfamily6

    March 26, 2012
  4. Rebecca Ellenson #

    I haven’t commented in a long time– but I follow your journey consistently and am moved by your determination and persistence. Thank you for sharing the beauty and the struggle with those of us who watch from a distance. I often find myself thinking of my grandfather, your great grandfather, and his brothers who journeyed to this foreign land, about my uncle Chris, and about you three– adventure runs strong in Bergs.

    March 27, 2012
  5. Ann & Ed Ellenson #

    Amen to Rebecca’s last post. We check for your posts daily and share them with others here in sunny Arizona. AND we pray for your safe journey. Thank you for your great words and extraordinary pictures!

    March 27, 2012
  6. krista #

    Those canyons are intense.

    How often have you guys switched tires?

    March 29, 2012
    • We bought new tires for our South American leg (our original tires lasted us through Guatemala!). We now have two sets of tires, one for pavement and the other for dirt.

      March 31, 2012
  7. Hi there,

    I hope you don’t mind me commenting. I’m sure you’ve heard it before but your trip looks epic (from what little I’ve read so far), I’m inspired by your pictures and the trip in general.

    I’d love to do something similar one day but I think the girlfriend may need some persuading!

    Anyway, good luck and enjoy the rest of your trip fellas.


    An extremely jealous Englishman

    March 30, 2012

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