Cañón del Pato

We chose to drive the Cañón del Pato in Peru, a main road that can be found on the map as PE-3N. It was easily chosen on the map and with the help of internet, but the reality would prove to be different. Why? Because March 2023 was a very bad month for the North of Peru with a Hurricane passing by and an earthquake of 6.9 just North of the border in Ecuador. Especially the heavy rain resulted in a lot of floodings and landslides. It left the the roads, villages, actually all the land in a very bad shape. Quite honestly we were not prepared for that. Read about that here.

Some roads were washed away completely resulting in long term closures. One of them being the access road we wanted to use to reach the canyon. According to locals the road was washed away completely and fell 10m lower into the river. To make thing worse, this section was right after a tunnel, making repair work extremely difficult. So we had to find a way around it.
Since we came from the coast and wanted to drive from north to south through the canyon, we decided to take the LI-123, then take a part of PE-12, before taking a left turn to the PE-3N, heading north to avoid the washed away section. A local truck driver at the fuel station advised us to follow the route Ancos -El Provenir – Santa Rosa – Miraflores, then follow the PE-3NA along Pillipampa – Bambas – Yupan – La Pampa from where we could reach the PE-3N again at the bridge by Huarochiri. A 170 km detour that would take 2 days of extra driving. The entire route from the coast to Huallanca (the north side of the actual Cañón del Pato section) would be 250km. Almost exclusively along narrow asphalt roads, gravel roads and “basic solution” roads. I think with the latter they mean that they have poured a massive 1cm thick layer of asphalt over the gravel…

So, to get to the fuel station that I mentioned before, we took the route LI-123 from the coast. This 47km long road was a mix of asphalt and gravel, but in quite a good shape. Road works were even improving this section. What they also should have done was improve the bridge on the far end. It was missing 5m of solid decking. (If would not passable it means a 146km detour back to the coast and take another road).

Interesting to see was that the mountains close to the coast are arid, dry and very vulnerable to erosion. The first 100km were therefore the worst: despite the fact that this stretch was almost completely asphalted, long stretches of two-lane asphalt were buried under layers of gravel, converting the road into a one-lane gravel track. As soon as we made our way inland, the mountains became greener, our altitude higher, thus also decreasing the effect of erosion (less water higher up the mountain).

When we were on the AN-500 we come across another (fruit) truck driver. Apparently he was a bit irritated because we were oncoming traffic and he asked where we were going. So we explained, He stated that it was not possible to follow the AN-500 to meet the PE-3NA. In this case we decided to ignore him and find out ourselves: it all worked out fine.

This of course raises the question when to follow some locals advice and when not…

After this we had to cross two mountain high passes (3235masl and 3388masl), whereas the original route would not have gone above 2200masl. After the second mountain pass we slowly descended to 1021masl over a distance of 66km to reach the bridge at Huarochiri. That was the point where we could follow the original route along the PE-3N to Huallanca, the North side of the Canon del Pato section.

We saw countless beautiful vistas, had to navigate numerous corners and hairpins between all the narrow stretches of road. Luckily there was not so much traffic. I don’t know if this is normal or that the road conditions reduced traffic. But all in all, during these three days we encountered about 8 trucks, 15 cars and two or three tuk-tuks. Outside of the villages.

It was a long way around, but it was worth it.

2 thoughts on “Cañón del Pato”

  1. Et bien bravo ! Je ne sais pas si nous aurions osé passer le pont 😀
    Bonne continuation
    Claudie et Jean-Michel

  2. He Ilona, ik heb je een mail gestuurd maar die is misschien in je spam terecht gekomen? groetjes


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