I’m not a morning person by any means, but some of the 100 mile days have meant getting up before sunrise in order to make the distance so when I’ve been on the edge of a city I’ve had the pleasure of seeing the city wake up which is a relatively new experience for me. It’s also the best time to see a big city as far as cycling goes as there is far less traffic.
Wanting to get to the bottom of the Sacred Valley from Cusco in a day meant riding across Cusco very early in the morning which was a pretty nice experience. The quiet squares lined with amazing colonial churches and Incan walls were nice to have just to myself but the action was where the early morning market traders were. The markets were in sections so if you wanted to buy a Duck or a Turkey, you would head here (picture 1) or if you wanted a barrow full of fruit from a very young entrepreneur and her dog, you would head here (picture 2).
The route to Ollantaytambo was pretty nice but longer than I thought so I found a cheap hotel there and rose in the to a pretty wet day. On a trip like this you can’t have days off for bad weather so I set off up the sacred valley in the rain knowing I had to climb from 2,792 m to 4200 m with a weight of about 50kg. Cycling doesn’t get any harder than this so fueled on about 4 cups of coffee, eggs, a large smoothie and a Banana sandwich I headed off up into the sky, literally!
You can see from the shots that this was one hell of a climb, it took about an hour to get to the bottom and about 3 hours to get up the thing. the shot at the top looks like Scotland but at 4200m was probably wetter and colder so I slept in the shelter you can see to the left of those awesome little kids. They lived at the top which must have been a really hard existence as their house was just cold damp stone walls not really much warmer than outside but at least free from the wind which was a pain for me during the night.
The next morning the weather was even worse, sleet and relentless so I asked if I could have a quick backside warming on their fire in the morning before sticking all my wet stuff back on at lunch time and reluctantly heading down the mountain.
This wasn’t like descending a mountain in the alps though, it was so so long and so so epic. OK the rain made it bad, but it also gave it a certain atmosphere you can’t feel on a nice day. also that nice feeling of danger can make you feel really alive. Some of the views pretty much reduced me to tears too if I’m honest.
Dropping from 4200m to about 1000m was a whole new level for me and took pretty much all afternoon. Cruising down from freezing cold snowy peaks to hot steaming Jungle made me feel like I was REALLY travelling.
The road builders had built concrete shoots to take overflowing rivers straight across the road. If you’re in a heavy car, then they we’re just about do’able but on a bike it was a bit sketchy because you could feel the water taking the wheels sideways with it and if the power had been enough to sweep me off my Tyres (maybe another 10%) it would have just washed me straight off the edge and some were like cliffs.
Having had the most epic day riding down through the clouds like levels on a computer game, I ran out of daylight and was far too wet to camp so ended up staying with a lovely family In a village for the night which was a cool experience and an eye opener to see how real Peruvians wake up in the morning…. Go getters is the word!
Arriving in the dark and then waking up in the morning to see Palm trees and tropical stuff all around was crazy as it was the first time on the trip I had been in this type of climate, I didn’t have breakfast, Instead just headed off on the bike to check out this new tropical jungle world I had landed in. The village had their own home made sign next to the Doctors which made me chuckle then I was off feeling great and a lot dryer. Shortly after leaving though I suddenly saw that the road was lined with stalls selling every fruit you could possibly Imagine, this was Indeed a very nice sight for a cycle tourist who’s just skipped breakfast.[click on Image to view in ‘gallery’ mode]