Cuzco to Lima
Since leaving Cusco, it´s been tough! We've been cycling well over 3000m and 4000m reaching our peak of 4600m. We have camped alongside altiplano lakes where the temperatures have dropped below zero and there have been up to 4 days with no showers! So I find myself in Lima, initially shocked by the traffic, grime and size of the city, it was an easy decision to check in to a grand old colonial hotel, enjoy a G&T with ice (without thinking I would get sick), and a comfortable taxi ride to the San Isidro area. I enjoyed a delicious sushi meal (London standards) washed down with a chilled chardonnay, and followed by a session at a hair and nail salon, I feel like I deserve it!! So one might say but that is not the real Peru! Well we have been immersed in the rural life of Peruvians for 2 weeks and I am quite enjoying some western comforts right now! Dammit!
So less about my indulgences and more about the riding in Peru – the ups and downs!
We climbed out of Cusco and cycled through farmland, overtaking pigs being herded on the road, and enjoyed a stunning scenic descent with a brief stop for lunch and then dropping over 1000m into a wall of heat in an isolated river canyon. After crossing the Apurimac river (for the first time) we climbed a further 1000m to our basic hotel (bucket of cold water for a bath)…. a tough day with hills, heat and a huge feeling of accomplishment to finish the full 130kms!
The trend continued with ascents of over 1000m, a summit of 4000m (pity the view from the summit was cloudy) and a cool descent through mist and clouds, extremities of hands and feet frozen, and then peeling off layers of clothes at lunch in the sunshine. A further ascent in the afternoon was a gradual and relaxing ride up river (crossing that Apurimac river several times) and a green campsite and cold beer to greet us at the end of the day!
We continued cycling upriver, it felt like a casual ride enjoying the canyon and river, a langorous lunch and stop in one of the larger villages for refreshments. We escaped the worst of a storm, riding through rain for about 10kms, whilst other cyclists had rail, hail and sleet! It was chilling but with a climb ahead, we were soon warm. Camp was at a Toll booth where the guards challenged us to a game of volleyball (closing the one lane in the process) which detracted from the horrendous litter and cold of the exposed camp at 3500m.
One of the most rewarding days for most of the riders was a horrendous day for me. I was motivated and feeling strong, but a few kms into the 14km climb to 4300m, I was exhausted, stopping many times to get my breath, take photos and it was hard to push out the negative thoughts knowing the day ahead had plenty more climbs. I was determined to overcome the exhaustion and after the monster climb we had rolling hills, reaching our peak of tour at 4600m (earlier riders got a taste of whisky left by the crew to celebrate). It felt like the longest and hardest morning and after crawling into lunch late, I called it a day, missing out on further peaks but also strong headwinds in the afternoon. The reward was a stunning campsite next to some lakes at 4400m – there wasnt going to be any relief and disturbed sleep from the altitude – and only stunning once the wind died down, and the flamingoes appeared at sunset. It was also bitterly cold with frost on our tents in the morning!
Our route continued past lakes, descending over 1000m in 50km which entailed some amazing switchbacks, down a scenic river valley and then the road climbed up again – I enjoyed the afternoon section from the truck not wanting to relive the previous days experience – quit while you're ahead was my philosophy! An overnight stop overlooking the valley with vicunas grazing in the distance was peaceful and beautiful unitl the road work vehicles parked next to our tents!
The next day we descended from 4200m down to Nazca at 600m – an awesome day of cycling (okay, cruising) with farmland, desert and river valleys, stopping at times to look out over the clouds with mountains peaking above them. The fertile Nazca valley and petroglyphs were our reward – best viewed in Cessna 6 seater and then rest at the Nazca Lines hotel pool for the rest of the afternoon! Tough life!
The Nazca to Lima stretch took us back to the Pacific Coast, first passing the Nazca lines (not so easily appreciated at ground level), fertile valley, desert mountain crossing and Pisco grape growing regions. The actual coastline is barren desert terrain, and quite polluted with rubbish dumped on the side of the road, an unidentified smell I call dead dog (sad but true), and an unbelievable number of chicken farms, hence the Peruvian speciality – Pollo y Fritas (Chicken and chips – good healthy grub, unlikely to give you any stomach bugs!)
We stayed at some beautiful places – Paracas – a nature reserve where you can appreciate marine life from boat trips (I was saving myself for Galapagos).
Cerro Azul – rather depressing in rainy conditions but we were treated to a delicious fish bbq and prawn and salsa dinner by resident chef, Miles ably assisted by Hatitia and Alfonso, followed by a few Pisco sours (Peruvian national drink) in town at the smallest bar in the world (well, in my limited experience of bars)! Pucusana was a welcome sight after the dusty, dirty highway ride, a colourful fishing village where we enjoyed fresh ceviche (another Peruvian speciality and so fresh our stomachs would be safe) on the docks!
And then Lima, where I started this epistle and where I choose to experience the wealthy Peru life – shopping, restaurants and even a bit of salsa!!!
Posted By Natasha Barker