When the Bus Goes the Wrong Way

Planning to go off the beaten track can be a bit tricky sometimes if you have to rely on public and local transport. The road less travelled is always interesting but what happens when you leave the road less travelled as well?

Mid-July I was planning on going north in Peru from Huaraz to the Ecuador border to renew my visa via a central route used very seldom by tourists and even by Peruvians; unless travelling specifically to a little village. Information on most of the little villages and towns were limited to a mere reference on the internet or an intrepid traveller bemoaning their fate at having to use various modes of local transport between them.  The route north usually entails following the PanAmerican Highway along the coast of Peru to the north.  This was fine for me as I wanted to spend time in the less touristy parts of Peru. 

Caraz to Huallanca

North of Huaraz the route passes through Yungay, Caraz then the hydro-electric project village of Huallanca and on to the tiny village of Yuracmarca, all of this through the incredible, yet sometimes nerve-racking Cañón del Pato. Although still on a fairly main route as far as local travel goes, this was very clearly not a very busy route. The road then starts curving through the mountains to the west and Chimbote. This is where it gets interesting as I spent my night in a tent next to some truckers at a snack/food stop called Huarochiri. This was about 40km from Chuquicara where I had to get off the main route and head north to the village of Pallasca. The policeman at Chuquicara asked me why I was going that route and not via Chimbote - he just couldn’t comprehend why I didn’t want to use a main route that everybody used. Anyway, he mentioned that the route went via a village/town called Cabana so when a bus turned up going to Cabana, I hopped on.


After 30 minutes of more grand panoramic and mountain views, the bus turned up the mountain and I saw the road sign showing Pallasca straight ahead and Anso to the right, the direction we were going. I was thinking of stopping the bus and getting off when I realised that out here in the desert mountains that would be rather stupid and that the route might just curl around back to Pallasca and we were going the long way. 

Chuquicara to Anso

Granted, the scenery was spectacular and the road winding back and forth through the mountains
was brand new tar-seal as well. After about two hours we pulled into a village called Tauca (I had to ask the name of the village) and my jaw dropped! I was speechless - we seemed to have travelled back in time at least 100 years with old mud-plastered buildings and red clay tiles. On the Plaza del Armas, the main square, there was a church with incredible artwork. Still trying to work out where I was in relation to my planned route, I was just flabbergasted at what how I seemed to be back in time somewhere in colonial Peru.

Tauca Plaza de Armas

The road from Tauca then became dirt road although continued its winding and twisting way down the mountain (Tauca was at 3,000m+ altitude) and then after about 30 minutes, we started ascending again. Eventually I caught sight of another village that seemed bigger than Tauca and certainly a more grand “official” entrance. Into the village the road still twisted and turned upwards and through some narrow streets we ended up on the Plaza del Armas. It was certainly a bigger place with a large municipal building and a lovely blue church next to that. This was Cabana.


Getting my backpacks off the bus, I asked where I could wait for/get the next transport to Pallasca. People looked confused/flustered at that and all asked why I wanted to go there. It was 3pm and there was no more transport there for the day, apparently the next vehicle would likely only be the next morning at 7am. Ah, so now I had to stay in Cabana for the night; might as well find a room and explore this lovely village. I was still not sure where exactly I was in relation to my planned route and only remember seeing the name of the village on the map but it wasn’t referred to anywhere online when I researched the “route”.

One of the guys at the little shop where the bus had stopped, showed me into the reception of the adjacent hotel when I asked where i could find a room for the night. The rooms were reasonably priced at 15 Soles for a room with a shared bathroom and then prices up from there for en-suite rooms. I then headed off to explore and find something to eat. All the people I passed were just incredibly friendly and even chatting a bit, this was like another world! This was over and above the zillions of photo opportunities with the colonial buildings and streets against the steep slope of the mountain which made for stunning backdrops for virtually any shot. 

Late afternoon in Cabana

I eventually decided on a tiny little restaurant opposite the Comisario (Police). My Spanish at this stage was still fairly limited but I managed to order a meal. It was a large bowl of soup with a chunk of meat(beef) and then followed by another large plate of rice, fried chicken, potato and some piquant onions. Oh yes, and a huge glass of juice. This totalled 6 Soles (so just over $2) and I wasn’t eating again in the next few hours, that’s for sure!

During the meal, the lady told me that a very large festival commences the next day and asked whether I’d be staying for that. Sadly not, I replied - only one night and then on further north. Mario at the Imperial (hotel where I was staying, also asked whether I’d be staying and asked what I did etc etc. I asked and we chatted about the apparent lack of tourists in such a stunning area during which he took me to the roof terrace to show me the views. 

View from one of the streets of Cabana

Mario could speak pretty good english so this made my introduction to Cabana a bit easier. He explained about the festival in honour of the Patron Santiago which is one of the biggest festivals Cabana has. It commences on 17 July and ends on 25 July. The hosts/coordinators would be the family and relatives of the ex-President Toledo and food and drinks would be freely available to all during the festival; this in addition to a variety of bands and lots of dancing. He was trying to convince me to stay for the duration of the festival and then take the “quick” coastal route to the Ecuador border. Eventually I relented and said I’d stay for maybe 3-4 days. 

Standing on the roof with a 360 degree view of mountains and a beautiful village steeped in culture, tradition and history, it was difficult to imagine that this was a bad place to be “stuck”. I was already falling in love with the place. 

Fiesta time!

As the festival commenced the next day I was drawn into it and meeting loads of new people all the time and the tranquility and friendliness here was just overwhelming - I ended up departing on the 25th with a long journey to rush through to get to the Ecuadorean border.

(Next post: Exploring & the Festival in Cabana)


Expedition Logistics, Travel Planning And Tourism Product Development

Discover a comprehensive suite of services anchored in the tourism and hospitality sector. My offerings span travel planning, expedition logistics and support, tourism and hospitality product development, and strategic product and destination marketing.