July 22, 2008: Leymebamba to Celendín by potato truck

We had decided not to ride this because we'd read so much about it. It is big. We got to Leymebamba and inquired about transport and it turned out the next combi (besides one in the middle of the night that would have had us missing the excellent museum) would be on Friday, 3 days. Poking around a bit found a driver of a potato truck leaving the next day, so we signed on. Had to wait a long time for them, but it was a lot of fun. Finally left about 4:30pm and took us until 2am to get to Celendín. Details:Steady and apparently gentle climb from Leymebamba (2233 meters) to the pass, Abra Barro Negro, at 3600 meters. Then descent all the way to the Rio Marañon and La Balsa at 900 meters. Gentle and hair raising. Then a climb back up to 3100 meters before the descent to Celendín at 2600 meters. There are houses on the way down into the canyon, and services at La Balsa. We stopped for dinner at a place that was a restaurant at about 2500 meters. I don't know if it had a sign. Everybody on this route seems quite hospitable though, and I expect there would be a lot of informal lodging or eating opportunities. They also have seen quite a few gringo cyclists. There are services at the bottom, at La Balsa. It was dark on the way up the other side, so we don't know about houses or services on that climb. All in all, it was great in a potato truck and would make a good 2-3 day bike route also. Like most of the roads we've been on in Peru, it was more gentle (and rideable) than so many places in Ecuador.