Cusco, Peru to Guayaquil,Ecuador

Please find the photos for this entry here: Google Album - Cusco, Peru to Guayaquil, Ecuador

Apologies for the long delay in entries! We've been on a whirlwind tour from Cusco north to Ecuador and on to Colombia and are just now catching up on our blogging!  This next section will cover the stretch from Cusco to Abancay (in the mountains by bike), busing to Ica, a day in Huacachina on the sand dunes, busing north to Lima, and then to Huaraz, mountain biking outside Huaraz before riding through Cañon del Pato and to Trujillo, and hopping one last (we hope of the entire trip) to Guayaquil, Ecuador.

With a whopping 4,000 ish kilometers to cover in just over a month, we had to prioritize riding as much of the section between Cusco, Peru and Medellín, Colombia as possible. Upon leaving Cusco, we'd decided that we at least wanted to ride through a short section of the mountains of Peru outside Cusco. With that, we headed off towards Abancay, just over 200 km from Cusco. Day one took us up winding streets out of the city. We'd cross paths with kids like those pictured in photos 1 and 2 of the album, kindly heckling us and cheering us on after our longest break of trip. After a quick lunch at the summit of the climb outside Cusco, we continued, descending through a beautiful open valley. We'd then pedal up our next climb of the day, knowing that a small town, Limatambo, would greet us on the other side of the pass. After a steady climb, we were greeted with ridiculous mountain views - we were stunned. Photos 3-6 show the views from the top. After spending some time gawking, we headed down, descending hundreds of meters into the river valley to the small town of Limatambo.

The next day, we'd wake to over 30 km more of descent, before crossing a river to begin our next climb. We'd descended to 1,900 meters, or about 6,000 ft below Cusco. After winding up and up and up (photo 7), we decided that that day would be a short one, landing us in the town of Curahuasi. After getting lunch in town, we found a hidden gem of a place called Casa Lena (Click Here for their Website!), a bed and breakfast, and an NGO focusing on the education of rural children in need. Casa Lena was started by a mixed Belgian-Peruvian couple in 2012. Stefanie greeted us when we arrived and showed us where we could camp - in any spot of the beautiful grassy overlook (photo 8). After dropping our bikes, Stefanie was sure to show us the school and introduced us to the many children in their various programs and classrooms. She explained how the school had started, funding, differences in instruction for the diversity of students, etc. We also met a number of volunteers, mostly from Belgium, who were volunteering at the school, and Stefanie explained how they're always trying to grow this group! So, if you're looking for a unique place to volunteer, consider contacting Casa Lena. That evening, we relaxed, listed to music, cooked, and slept soundly on the softest camping surface we'd had in quite some time. 

The next morning, we'd continue climbing to the top of the 4,000 meter pass. As the long climb pressed on, we were thankful that we hadn't decided to continue the day before... knowing that we wouldn't have made it to the top of the pass without a struggle. Photo 9 shows the view looking back towards Curahuasi, just part way up the long climb. On the way up the climb, we ran into a group of kids who started running after us, asking about our bikes and really excited to hear about our adventure. After grilling us about the number of bicycles we had back in the United States (and Eli and I admitting to owning around half a dozen each), they insisted that we bring them bicycles and asked when we'd be coming back with their bikes - next week? no? Ok, next year? This back and forth bicycle negotiation continued (us riding, kids running) straight to their house by the side of the main road. Though we knew we couldn't promise to deliver bikes to Peru on a certain timeframe, they were sure to show us exactly where they lived in the event of our return :)  After the refreshing exchange with local kids, we continued up the climb and cheered with glee when we reached the summit and saw the descent into Abancay that lay before us.  Check out our Instagram feed from a couple of weeks ago for GoPro footage of part of the descent! After a quick 35 km to Abancay, we headed straight for the bus station, knowing that there might be overnight buses to the coast. Fortunately, we found a 9:00 PM departure to Ica, giving us time for a leisurely dinner and a shower before boarding for the 11 hour ride through the mountains to Ica. 

 Leery eyed, but in good spirits, we arrived in Ica early the next morning and headed, by bike, straight to Huacachina, a small desert oasis just outside Ica. We all agreed that the little town made us feel a bit like we were in a Mad Max film, dunes surround a small body of water, sun baked tourists roaming around - definitely a surreal vibe. After finding a hostal and some coffee, we decided that we'd splurge for the $10 dune buggy and sandboarding tour. We were a little hesitant, but figured we'd better do it while we had the chance. And... it didn't disappoint. The dune buggies were all homemade 8 cylinder, 12-15 seater, monsters. They were loud, dirty, and fun. Our veteran driver screamed around the dunes, scaring the sh&* out of us. But, we loved every second of this sand roller coaster. After a couple attempts (and earfuls of sand) at sand boarding, we headed back into town and joined other tourists for dinner and dancing that evening.  Photos and videos numbered 10-14 show the dunes and our buggy and sandboarding experience!

The next morning we'd head to Lima, again by bus. After a short ride, we were in Lima and headed to our hostel in the Miraflores district. We'd spend the next couple of days walking around Lima, visiting the beautiful coastline, and enjoying the best ceviche we'd ever tasted. We also made it to the famous fountain park and light show and to some of the government buildings and parks in the center of the city. Though some had said that they didn't think Lima was that special, we enjoyed our short time there. Photos 15-19 show Lima's coastline and part of the fountain park.

After a short time in Lima, we hopped a bus to Huaraz, a well known Peruvian trekking destination. My (Cameron's) college outdoor leadership advisor, John Abbott, told us about a group called Galaxia Expeditions (photo 20), and recommended that we try mountain biking with one of their guides. Though we were all a bit weary from the bike ride, we obliged and met one of the many brothers involved in the company, Jean, for breakfast at 8:00 the next morning. After a quick meal, we stuffed the four of us and rented mountain bikes into taxis and headed up to a pass at 4,000 meters, about 1,100 meters above the city of Huaraz (photos 21-22). From there, we descended on single track, open rock faces, sheep fields, backyards, etc. and made it back to Huaraz thoroughly tuckered out, but with smiles on our faces. We'd take the rest of the day to relax and get ready for riding towards Trujillo and Puerto Chicama over the next several days.  

We'd been told that the ride from Huaraz would be beautiful and mostly downhill, but boy were we in for a treat. Cruising at well over 20 km/hr (fast for us!), we followed the river north and towards the coast. Along the way, we took time to stop and admire the views of Huascaran, the fourth highest peak in South America, and the highest in Peru, at over 22,000 feet. Photos 23 and 24 show another peak from the Cordillera Blanca and Huascaran respectively. The river valley flowed northwest, eventually taking us to Cañon del Pato (photos 25-28), or duck canyon. As the walls of the canyon closed in to our right and the road began to wind tighter and tighter, we came upon the first in a series of tunnels along the left side of the canyon. At first we thought we were lucky for the thrill of several tunnels, but soon realized that they seemed never-ending. Tunnel after tunnel wound along the canyon, with guardrail-less, narrow stretches of road in between. Though some of us are more afraid of heights than others, the drop off of the road into the canyon to our right gave us all a thrill - picking our way down the beautiful and foreign terrain. Eventually, the road leveled off, making it feel as if we were climbing away from the river dropping below. Before long, we hit the inevitable switch backs, first passed by a couple of cars, who underestimated our ability to descend as quickly as most cars. After overtaking the traffic over several speed bumps, we arrived in the small town of Huallanca, a community that seemed only to exist because of the hydroelectric dam that was found at the end of Cañon del Pato. After an ice cream search (to no avail) we were lucky enough to find the last can of Gloria (in our opinion, the very best condensed milk), giving us motivation for our nescafe lattes to be enjoyed the next morning. We had decided that we really wanted to camp that night and continued on down the river valley, passing coal mining operations along the way, and taking in the rich colored rocky hillsides bordering the widening canyon. After a bit of a climb away from the river, we reached Yuracmarca, a small community perched on the side of the river valley. After grabbing fresh water in Yuracmarca, we set off once more, in search of a riverside camping spot. Just as the sun was setting (photo 26), we discovered a small dirt road leading to the river, and as luck would have it, the riverside spot was just right (photo 27). That night we cooked over a small fire, told stories, and were lulled to sleep by the sound of the fast moving water.

The next morning, before setting off, Eli realized he'd gotten a flat and that there had been a number of long, sharp thorns on the path to our camping spot. After repairing the tire and checking for thorns, we climbed back to the road to let Noah know about the thorns and to make sure his tires were thorn free. After a cursory glance down, Noah declared that his tires were all set. He hadn't flatted yet and seemed convinced that today wasn't the day for his first... Fast forward an hour or so, and Noah's discovered his rear tire is very soft. Eli and Cameron can't help smirking, immediately knowing the culprit. After 45 minutes or so, 5 tube patches, and some patience, we were back on the road and were all confident that Noah had learned that there was utility to checking your tires proactively. As we continued our descent down the river (photos 28-29), we were met with a stiffer and stiffer headwind, more or less negating any assistance that gravity had given us. We also noticed the temperature rising little by little - we were, after all, descending 10,000 ft to the coast. After lunch in a small town, mostly consisting of simple shacks, we were met with another mechanical challenge... the sole of Eli's shoe had cracked in so many places, that after unclipping from his pedals, the cleat of his shoe was turned nearly 90 degrees (photo 30). Unsure how exactly these shoes would make it to the next town, let alone Colombia, where we'd meet Eli and Cameron's dad's, we were faced with some problem solving and decided that shimming a piece of plastic bottle between the cleat and sole of the shoe might just hold the cleat in place long enough for Eli to keep pedaling. And it worked! (all the way to Colombia) After the shoe mishap, we pushed on, now more parched than we should have been at that hour. Soon after the town, we knew that we'd hit a turn for a small private road that we'd read about as a shortcut. We found the road, crossed to the northern side of the river, and realized that we'd be back on dirt for some time. Several hours and 40 km or so of dirt road later, we'd hit pavement once more and closed in on the next real town - Chao. Before getting to Chao and the last stretch of the ride on the busy Panamerican highway, we hit the longest tunnel we'd seen - this one two lanes and plenty wide for passing traffic. Not long after entering the tunnel, we were caught and passed by a van. We didn't think much of it until the van stopped and started reversing in the opposite lane. Initially we were a little unsure what was going on and proceeded with caution. But, true to our experience thus far, the van driver had decided that he'd back up to us, let us pass, and make sure we had the light from his headlights to travel the remaining length of the tunnel. After again being warmed by humanity, we pushed on, pedaling into the sunset and towards the Panamerican highway (photo 31). After t-ing with the highway, we made sure our bikes were all set with head and tail lights and hit the road one last time, coasting with a slight downhill on the fast pavement towards Chao. After finding a hotel and food, we hit the sack, tired from the epic day. 

The next morning, after finding breakfast, we hit the Panamerican and headed north towards Trujillo. After the long couple of days we weren't moving too quickly and decided that it might be nice to cut our intended destination of Puerto Chicama a little short... so we did. Not realizing that the beach town right outside Trujillo, Huanchaco (photo 32), was also a well known surf spot, we decided that spending a bit of time there instead of trekking out to Puerto Chicama made sense. We knew that we'd have to be busing north from Trujillo to Guayaquil, Ecuador, and it also made sense not to have to backtrack too far. 

After doing the surf town thing and enjoying the nice city of Trujillo for a couple of days, we were Ecuador bound and hopped a late night bus for Guayaquil (fingers crossed that this would be the last bus of our whole trip). One note before wrapping up the Trujillo area is that we regretted not finding the Trujillo bike house (casa de ciclistas) - apparently the original location in all of South America. The casas de ciclistas are basically warm showers style (look up Warm Showers if you don't know about them!) houses where people offer their homes for traveling cyclists. Though we haven't been able to take advantage of many of these houses, we're excited to meet more people through Warm Showers and casas de ciclistas as we roll north.

We'll pick up the story in Guayaquil, Ecuador!

-Cameron, Eli, and Noah

Please find the photos for this entry here: Google Album - Cusco, Peru to Guayaquil, Ecuador