Cycling in Peru

Peru is a very diverse country, with landscapes from sea level up to 5000masl, that can be ridden with a bicycle. The mountains however reach even higher, above 6000masl at some places. So, lot’s of challenges for cycling around!

At first, I didn’t do as much cycling in Peru as compared to the other countries in South America. partly this was because of the big climate change compared to Ecuador (we came from the mountains straight down to the hot and humid coastal planes), and partly because a disaster had struck the north of Peru; excessive rainfall caused flooding and washed away complete roads. We were mainly busy keeping ourselves safe and find a proper and safe route to the mountains. Cycling was not an option at that time.

However, I did use the bicycle once during this time because we stayed at a wild camp site that was cut off the day after we drove in, because the newly (one day before) constructed road was washed away that same night. The next day I used the bike to scout for a different option the get out of our spot. Luckily there was a different off road way over private land to get out.

After that it wasn’t until Luguna Paron that I used the bike again. But this was a very nice opportunity to ride down from the Laguna (4200masl) to our camp spot at 2600masl, over a distance of 26km. Easy! And the scenery was magnificent. Almost at the end, I found myself in a wedding, taking place on the street. But when you’re on a bike there’s always sympathy and time for a chat, and some alcohol. some of them had enough already…

Then in Lima I accidentally discovered a very nice bike area, just east of Lima, in Parque ecologico La Molina. Afterwards I found out that it was specifically build for downhillers (only black routes going down) but the way up was constructed in a spectacular way, all rideable but still technical (mind you, downhillers have to be able to ride up) through countless hairpins and single track, carefully chiselled out of the barren mountain slopes.

During the ride up the weather changed: clouds came rolling over the mountains, reducing visibility drastically, so given the fact that the routes down were black, combined with the weather, I decided to go back the same way I got up, but this was not a bad thing. From a central point en route I decided to scout another trail which was even more suitable for a cross country rider like me! Luckily I was here on a weekday, and I was the only one. Not that I am shy of meeting other bikers, but later I found out that they would have refused me on the trails, since I don’t have arm-, back- and leg protectors. Maybe a full-face helmet was obligatory too!

Then it took some time but I rode again close to Nazca, up into a random valley. Distances in combination with altitude gain were too big to make a loop, so I got up and down the same way, but again, not a bad thing because the ride was interesting enough. Going down I was able to take an shortcut between the corners every now and then to make things more interesting. I ended up doing 900 meters up over a distance of 15km. Despite the fact that the terrain looked dry, with mostly brown colours, there were still al lot of flowers to be seen.

From there we travelled to Cusco, where I did some errands on the bike. City biking in any south American country is interesting, to say the least: no rules, just ride along with the other traffic and stay alive. Generally I must say that it isn’t too bad. In general car drivers seem to respect cyclists, and as a cyclist you can usually go with a group of motos (strength in numbers). Close to Cusco is the Sacred Valley and the way to Machu Picchu. Although touristy, and mountain biking is offered as day tours in this area, I did not find it particularly more interesting than other parts of the country. I guess mountain biking is popular here only because lot’s of tourists come and go in this area.

After that I rode along the lago Titicaca.
Titicaca lies at an altitude of 3800 masl. The nights were (almost) freezing cold, but the days were nice, with clear blue skies and moderate temperatures. Ideal for a ride around following small trails between tranquil farm fields, along the lake shore with every now and then a pier with some small fishing boats, and the occasional sleepy village to pass through.

All things considered, Peru was an interesting but also challenging country to travel and to bike.

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