Quito to Lima on the South American Epic
The rapidly changing landscapes, scenery, and environments of the South American Epic can be best summarized by the day before the Peruvian capital of Lima. The Panamericana highway in northern Peru snakes through beautiful sand dunes, and arid mountain ranges. It is windy, dry, and nothing grows there for as far as the eye can see. Turning of the highway we ride up a gravel dirt track into some mist – directly into the sandy abyss. Slowly, small specks of green start to appear on the ground, tiny little signs of life. As the mist thickens, the amount of green increases. The air is wet, and the signs of the desert begin to fade. Turning a corner, there is an explosion of life – trees, bushes, ferns, flowers, and wildlife. From a seemingly empty and inhospitable desert emerges an oasis of plant and animal life. This is the Lomas de Lachay National Reserve a eco-system fed by mist rolling in from the Pacific Ocean and condensing in the foothills of the Andes mountains. The combination of mist and humidity creates a unique climate in a dry desert for life to emerge and a stark change from the inhospitable terrain surrounding it.
photo credit: Don Colpitts on Instagram (@dcolpitts)
This is an unique example of how quickly and extreme the changes are on the South American Epic. The stretch from Quito to Lima is full of contrasts. Starting at high elevation in the Andes, we rode through the edge of the Amazon rainforest in hot and humid climates, then emerged into the dry landscapes of northern Peru and arrived in Lima on the Pacific Ocean. The range of temperatures, weather, and ecosystems feels like it is always changing. The one constant is the warm welcome of the Latin American people. Always curious, yet understanding of a dozen riders cycling through their country. The transition from Ecuador to Peru was seamless – even though Peru is less wealthy than its neighbour to the north, the people are just as friendly. The biggest change is suddenly seeing dozens of tuk-tuks whizzing alongside us on the roads!
Peru itself is a country of vastly differing environments and cultures. Many of which we have yet to experience, but will do soon as we ride for Nazca and it’s famous lines, then back into the mountains towards the Inca city of Cusco – the stepping stone to the legendary Machu Picchu. Riders have had a break from the big climbs in Colombia and Ecuador, but this is only a brief respite as we begin ascending to higher altitudes towards Bolivia. The double rest day in Lima is a good chance for riders to rest their legs after completing over a third of the stages of the tour so far!