2400 km. 6 days. Route: Lima - Puquio - Antabamba – Culipampa – Huarcaya – Calacapcha - Cerro Blanco gold mine - Cotahuasi. - Chala - Lima.
A 6-day trip to Cotahuasi Canyon was a lot of fun. There were some additional challenges. For the first night I reached Puquio which is located between Nazca and Abancay. The next day, I continued on this very good, paved road for another 3 hours or so and then turned right, south or south-west. For the next 4 days I was in the high-altitude area between 4000 and 5100 meters. The skies were clear and the temperature in the highest areas was between -10C during the night and 15C during the day.
For the next 3 nights, I stayed in Antabamba, Cerro Blanco gold mine and in Cotahuasi, respectively. To reach Cotahuasi I had to rely on information obtained from locals living in that very sparsely populated area. My GPS didn't show any roads crossing that area.
One of the locals, Freddy, drew a map for me that contained all the necessary details such as: -after Culipampa, look for a road to the right; -in an hour you will reach Huarcaya; -ask for a road to Selena Mine; -take that road and go for about 15 minutes; -that's when you will notice a blue shack; -turn left before the shack; -don't cross the bridge as this would take you to Selena; -the road will ascend for about 2 hours; -keep going straight under the electric transmission towers; -if you don't, you will end up at one of the service roads for the towers and you will get lost; -you will reach Calacapcha; -once there, ask for the road to Cerro Blanco Mine; -by the time you reach Cerro Blanco the day will be nearly finished; -stay there for the night.
The instructions were very good, and I followed them precisely. Jorge in Cerro Blanco gave me another set of instructions for the next day, and they took me all the way to Cotahuasi. And all of that was over 4000 meters above sea level.
The Canyon itself was stunning in its depth, colours, texture, cliffhanger roads, unexpected descends and ascends, its remoteness and indescribable beauty. See pictures!
From Cotahuasi, it took me a day to get to the coast in Chala, crossing again mountain passes over 4500 meters. The last day was just driving back to Lima. The coast was cloud-covered but the areas 300-500 meters above sea level changed to fog forcing the drivers to slow down considerably.
Day 1: Lima - Puquio, 591 km.
Day 2: Puquio - Andabamba, 304 km.
Day 3: Andabamba - Cerro Blanco, 198 km.
Day 4: Cerro Blanco - Cotahuasi, 159 km.
Day 5: Cotahuasi - Chala, 549 km.
Day 6: Chala - Lima, 604 km.
Total: 2405 km. Cost: $100 gas; $45 accommodation; $70 food and other.