We are camped literally in a mountain tonight. We entered the Cañon del Pato a little late in the day and realized partway through that we weren’t going to make it out by sunset.
Considered one of Peru’s most exciting roads, its impressive path curves along an enormous rocky gorge cut into solid rock. Sheer cliffs rise thousands of meters on either side while the road passes through 35 tunnels in about 10 miles. At some points the canyon is so narrow it appears that the two sides may touch.
To add to the excitement of riding it by bike, the road is a single lane with bi-directional traffic. And they drive like lunatics! From what we gather, the faster and/or larger vehicle has the right of way. And we think they’re honking something in Morse code because there’s a mad amount of honking going on.
The tunnels are unlit, making the longer ones dark, scary holes. Some are slightly curved and long enough so we can’t see the opening at the other side until we’re midway through. We’re reminded how spoiled we were riding on the US west coast with the tunnels that had blinking signs notifying drivers when cyclists were passing through. Here, we just hope the drivers have functioning headlights.
Within the canyon (and the reason behind engineering such a crazy road) is one of Peru’s most important hydroelectric powerplants. Most impressive is the powerplant is entirely within a huge manmade cavity 100 meters inside the rock of the mountain.
We’re camped in a defunct tunnel. Our tunnel leads straight off a cliff. The traffic passes through another tunnel built further inside the mountain. Thankfully, traffic has died down, because a drawback to camping in a tunnel is it sounds like a train is passing each time a vehicle goes by. Surrounded by all this rock, there’s a lot of echo in here.
The day in photos:
Tunnels of the Cañon del Pato: