Our start in Peru fast paved riding, banana tree surroundings harkening back to the first days in Colombia and every single Central American country. The paved road at first climbs into the hills, asphalt progress incongruous against the slow pace of the villages it passes through. Adults sit on chairs, benches beside the road there, the towns just collections of houses one or two rows deep on either side of the road. Children play in the street around the coffee beans sun-drying on black plastic tarps, village chickens pecking their way among them. Will spend the most time in this country out of any since the US. Mountain roads calling, the highest stretch of Andean cordillera here, thanks to extensive research by other cycle tourists long stretches of mapped out routes await too. Immigration official gives us 3 months visa time, probably just barely enough. A Canadian ex-pat says no problem to stay past the visa date, just then have to pay $1/day for every extra day. Have another reason to maintain southerly progress, in less than three months the transition to the rainy season scheduled to start. So ample external motivation to keep moving.
Still riding with Paul. Since we were riding direct for Peru and kept passing through towns, we forewent wild camping in favor of urban assaults. Camp/sleep spots included: the tiny empty room at a gas station just wide enough for us + bikes, the floor of an old pay phone center where Patricio said “of course when you’re traveling you have nothing, no resources, here’s a place to store the bikes, take your pick of these two rooms to sleep, do you need to use the kitchen? Shower? Well here’s a key to the bathroom and toilet paper, buen viaje!” The next night spent in an actual hospedaje after only a half day of riding, followed by the night pictured above spent on the pavilion floor overlooking the town basketball/soccer arena. Once crossing into Peru, most nights spent in cheap guesthouses.
Exiting Ecuador at La Balsa, smallest border crossing of the trip so far. Ecuador roadworks slowly turning this road to pavement, until that’s complete the final portion is a mudfest. We got lucky and only had one day of mud, then the sun came out the next morning and dried the road back to dusty dirt. Photo from Paul’s camera.
Crossing the bridge to Peru puts us immediately back on pavement. One day in the mountains drops us off into a river valley, starting a long stretch of fast-moving paceline riding. Thanks to Paul and his drop handlebars for the draft!
We may be on a deadline for Paul to meet friends, but we still make time to see the sights! To the pre-Incan ruins of Kuelap, a mountain fortress rivaling Peru’s famous Machu Picchu but seeing only a fraction of visitors.
The ruins themselves perched high above the surrounding valley. The town of Tingo lies down on the valley floor, then to get to the ruins there’s either a very very early collectivo bus, or the option of sleeping in and hiking the 9km path, 1500m ascent. This was our “rest” day, so we took the sleeping in option. Though cycling leg muscles not exactly optimized for hiking.
And straight down into another cleft on the other side. This location one of the reasons Kuelap is thought to have been one of the best indigenous fortifications, though the Incans never got a chance to use it against the Spanish conquistadors.
Post-Kuelap, once the road leaves the river we start cutting up and over the mountains, climbing to passes only to descend to the next valley and climb back out again. Peruvians are expert road builders- from plenty of practice- so roads switchback gently up and then down mountainsides instead of rocketing straight up regardless of grade. This leads to long, extended climbs, 30-60km continuous upwards a norm.
We finally make it to Cajamarca, overdue for a rest. A stomach bug, from questionable food/water/or just overall tiredness catches up to us and ensures that we spend a few days lying in bed recovering.