We were afraid that returning to Peru would be a disappointment after our long distance trip back in 2013-2015. Back then we were in such a great place, since it was our biggest adventure so far. This time, we only have four weeks… how would we be experiencing this? Well, here we are, sitting on a balcony of a Peruvian restaurant, overlooking Plaza de Armas in Cusco. Drinking the much missed Inka Kola and having ‘Lomo a la pobre’ for lunch, and we just can’t get rid of this huge smile on our faces! Sure, the altitude (somewhat 3400 meters) is playing tricks with us and the first day we can’t even walk up the stairs without gasping for air, but man oh man, we just love it here!
The first couple of days it’s just nothing more than getting used to the altitude, (re)visiting restaurants and coffee places and get a driver to take us to a couple of Inka sites in the area, such as Sacsayhuaman, Q’enko, Puka Pukara and Tambomachay.
Cusco to Espinar
After three days of being the tourist and assembling our bikes, it’s time to move our lazy bodies. Our plan to directly hit the mountains is flushed down the drain (what else are plans for?), because we are both still trying to get used to the altitude. We give ourselves two extra days to adjust by backtracking the same route we rode back then; to Sicuani. Paved and not much altitude to gain, an easy start. Slowly we start feeling stronger and are ready to leave the boring highway to Puno behind us and start climbing to Espinar. Still, a paved route, but the first high altitude pass (4316m) is a fact! We reach the pass just in time, a couple of minutes later and the sky turns black: thunder, lightning and hail.
Espinar to Chivay
We find shelter in a tiny town called El Descanso before we ride the last couple of kilometers to Espinar, where we leave the asphalt behind us and hit the dirt road. Now, the adventure really begins! Immediately we have to cross a couple of streams on this quiet track at an elevation around 4000m. We reach the Apurimac river and dive into the canyon that is surrounded by amazing rock formations.
We pass tiny villages, but traffic is very low. No more than a couple of motor cyclists.
Unfortunately we see dark clouds rolling in again; a daily routine as we will find out in the next couple of weeks (rainy season starts in December).
We put on raingear and keep riding towards the next pass, but at 4200m we’ve had enough for today. I spot a woman and a couple of kids and we ask if it’s ok to camp on her land. No problem! We even get a guard dog for free. 😉
Last night it kept raining, but lucky for us, skies are always clear in the morning. At 5.00 am it’s still pretty cold, some ice on our tent, but as soon as the sun is up, temperature rises dramatically. We continue our climb and soon reach a 4500+ pass, before we start descending on a bumpy road.
In Pusa we buy cake, tuna and drinks and next to the shop we have lunch. It’s really hot as we continue towards another high pass. We can’t make it to the top today, so we are in search of a place to pitch our tent, which is pretty difficult since we are riding in another canyon with no place on either side. Then, after another corner, we spot a grassy spot next to a tiny stone house, surrounded by alpacas and lamas. The farmer sees us and he is happy to let us stay on his land; tonight we sleep at 4500m.
Last night was a terrible night… the altitude kept us awake, gasping for air everytime we were about to fall asleep. We can’t wait for the sun to rise to start riding to the pass and descend a bit. I have a headache and need to throw up. Elmar packs our stuff, I just sit and wait… we wave goodbye to the farmer and start walking with our bikes. It’s still pretty cold at this time of day and I have no strength…
As we start to warm up, we get rid of clothes and I start feeling better. We start riding and it doesn’t take is long to reach the 4700+ m high pass. We descend no more than 100meters and keep riding up and down at around 4600m.
The road is pretty dusty and we have to share it with a couple of trucks and buses. Our GPS gives us an alternative route, where we leave the ‘main’ route to Sibayo and go straight to Tuti. We decide to give it a shot, even though it means a bit more climbing. But there is absolutely no traffic on this alternative track and well, we are in for some adventure. The nausea is gone and we feel strong enough, so why not!
We have some amazing views on volcanoes as we ride towards Tuti and the Colca Canyon, but the descend takes a while. Then, all of a sudden, we have reached the top and a huge descend lies ahead of us.
No buses on this track, not even motor cyclists… only one curious alpaca.
We have reached the main paved route to Chivay and have a tuna lunch in the tiny village of Tuti. We see dark clouds rolling in again as we ride the remaining 20 kilometer to Chivay, unfortunately we can’t keep it dry and hide for the rain and thunder in one of the bus stops. One more climb and then a nice and fast downhill to Chivay. Time for a rest day and a visit to the condors.