The Rio Santa Road

On the advice of a fellow overlander, JF, I take a back road up into the mountains following The Rio Santa. For anyone driving through this area, absolutely take JF’s advice and drive this road.
Spectacular is an understatement.

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The start is nice and mellow...

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With a wide, rocky canyon

About 10 or 20kms North of Chimbote on the PanAm the turn for Huallanca is (surprisingly) very well marked from both directions with huge green signs. Fumble your way through the little town here (ask directions), and leave on the asphalt road, which  is horribly torn up in a few places. After about half an hour the pavement ends at a police checkpoint, tell them you are headed to Carez/Huaraz (where all the tourists are going) and the friendly guys will tell you to continue straight ahead, not turn left over the bridge. You can safely follow that advice for the next 3-4 hours, always staying near the river, on the major road. Keep your eyes out for some great camping spots right down by the water, a couple of which are very well hidden from the road.

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The water is 'sliding' down the smooth rocks, not 'falling'

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One of the many hand-cut tunnels

The road is gravel, and extremely corrugated and dusty, which is fine because you’ll want to drive slowly to take in the views anyway. The canyon walls climb higher and higher and you are soon passing through tunnels that were hand-cut through solid stone. After the town of Huallanca, things get really crazy at Cañón del Pato. The huge hydro plant is wedged into the narrow canyon which rises over 1000 meters in a few places and the road gets narrower and the tunnels get longer making you wonder just how this is all possible.

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Daybreak at my campsite in the canyon

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Spectacular morning views

When all is said and done you’ll wind up driving straight into Carez, which is exactly where you want to be simple smile

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The views continue...

An amazing road, well worth a look. Thanks JF!


4 Responses

  1. Julia says:

    Hello Dan,

    nice to read from you that you have a good time traveling down Peru. I would have liked to post you a comment in the Thanks section, though, I don’t really get to the comments section there. Therefore, it has to be done here.

    I arrived home last week and I have let my trip passing revue – and therefore, I wanted to drop you a message thanking you again for the rescue-hike off the waterfall in cotopaxi. Finally, I have seen a doctor concerning my knee, and had to learn that that day jumping off the waterfall, I have torn my cruciate and inner ligament and had a small fracture in my joint head….. I was quite astonished after being able to hike up Pasochoa and then even Machu Picchu, that this had happened.
    But well, the truth is that I am a little glad that I didn’t know at that time, because otherwise I would not have continued my trip in Southamerica and would not have been able to see so amazing things.

    I promised you to send you that pic of you, but I don’t really know how to post a foto here – if you want to have a look, than just tell me how and where to send it to.

    thank you again for your help and reassuring manner,
    keep on having a fantastic trip and enjoy your time in Buenos Aires for Christmas – its a wonderful city :)
    Cheers mate

    • Dan says:

      Hey Julia, great to hear from you.
      Wow, sorry to hear about the bad news on the knee. Unreal that it did not slow you down one little bit.
      I wish you a speedy recovery so you can get out and do it all again, well, maybe not all.
      with regards to the photo… can you stick it on facebook please?

      Thanks so much for the message, and all the best,

  2. Marg says:

    Hi Dan! Just came across your amazing trip – what a great life adventure you’re on! We are 60 year old recently retired Canadians (1 teacher;1 photographer/writer/media/”forerunner”(motivated to build, create, innovate, reform/out-of-the-box-guy) who love to travel and want to see the most beautiful places and people in the world. Last winter we crewed on a sailboat from the States to the Bahamas and the Exumas and then to Cuba…this summer we crewed on another sailboat all along the St. Lawrence River from Lake Ontario to Nova Scotia…(Our blog is Right now we’re looking into Central or South America for this coming winter. We think we’d like to stay in one great (sunny!!) place and then take trips out from there. Any suggestions?? Our friends, too, say, “Oh, we’d love to do what your doing…BUT…” and we say, “Then DO IT – it’s do-able and it’s fantastic!!”
    Keep on your journey!!
    “A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.”

    • Dan says:

      Unreal Marg, absolutely unreal. So, so cool.
      Ummmm, a nice warm place… Cartegena in Columbia is very cool, and tons of boats sailing all over the place from there… maybe around the Galopoghas islands.. I am told you can crew on a boat and not pay much… or maybe down to Easter Island off Chile.. I do not know much about it, other than it is well worth a look..
      So many places…. I will be checking out your blog for sure.

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