Monday, December 14, 2015

The Journey to Peru

Leaving Cuenca, I was caught in a bit of a debate. I could bike all the way to Loja and potentially have Kai and Jon waiting for me, or I could try to hitch and save some time and energy. Opting for a bit of both, I rode about 60 miles and found a truck to bring me the rest of the way. Grabbing a hostal near the bus terminal, I waited for my friends and picked up a couple treats to make their arrival more fun, including a new holiday themed bike towel. There may not be snow this year, but there will be Christmas.

Sadly, I ended up waiting a bit longer than expected. On their ride south, a strange man sitting behind them on the bus helped load some of their gear in the compartments above the seats. It turns out he wanted it up there so he could rummage through them and take some of their gear. Losing a sleeping bag, rain coat, phone case, headlamp along with other odds and ends, they decided to get off early. Kai had a family friend in Cuenca he ended up staying a few days with but Jon got on the next bus to Loja after replacing his stolen items.

Thrilled to be reunited, we had some rooftop beers and started out the next morning. Finally, someone else got a taste of Ecuadorian mountains and we slowly rose through high peaks and large valleys. Still feeling a bit shaken up and distrusting of strangers, we were selective with our campsite and found an ideal place. It was on a friendly lady's property, couldn't be seen by the road, was through two fences, and even had a place for water. Score. Tired from the big day of riding, we proceded to pass out.

The next day, the climb continued. We got up high enough that we entered the clouds and visibility greatly dropped. With a combination of wind, rain, mist, and low 50 degree temps, we were bundled up with our underarmour, raincoats, and buffs most of the morning. One of my favorite parts was on our descent to a town when we were just starting to leave the clouds behind. With limited visibility, you could just make out the outlines of mossy trees and tangled vines. It reminded me of how I used to picture scenery in The Pale Green Pants by Dr Seuss when it was read to me as a kid.

Happy to have lunch and a warm cup of coffee available in town, we were recharged enough to push on. Before long, the quality of the road dropped off, as in no more pavement. The road also decided to have stretches far too steep to bike even if it was paved, so much of the afternoon was devoted to pushing our heavy bikes up the slopes. Setteling in a small town after another long day, we asked if there was a place to camp nearby and somehow we got keys for an event center. It was big, echoed, and still had some wedding decorations up but it had a roof and was plenty secure. Planning on meeting up with Kai the next day, we slept through the rainstorm of a century and were very happy to be indoors.

The funny thing about rain and dirt roads is that it suddenly creates an abundance of puddles, streams, and mud. As we rode through more cloud forest, it truly felt like the epitome of adventure. With the misty green trees, stereotypical jungle sounds, and sense of solidarity in the wilderness, I can only say that I think they made a mistake filming Jurassic Park anywhere else in the world. Jon and I were just beside ourselves with the scenery, and if I ever needed a fix for rustic mountain riding, consider that goal complete.

As the day progressed, the terrain only got more difficult. We must have looked entirely worn out because at one point a stranger stopped his car and offered us some fruit called guayabana. Luckily, a short while later we came to the outskirts of the next town and found Kai waiting for us at the gas station. Finally reunited, we got a quick lunch (that came with some sort of mucus textured pink drink none of us could quite deal with), shared a few stories, and hit the road as a trio for the first time in almost two weeks. Although the road remained dirt with occasional streams which slowed our progress, it was great to be back together and continue the trip.

We camped that night and sat under the South American stars for quite some time. Since I had been traveling alone for a bit, I was amazingly content to simply listen to conversation for a change. Up bright and early, our morning was full of rain so we headed out thoroughly wet. Although we only had about 7 miles to the border, the difficult terrain took the better part of the morning to get there.

Crossing into Peru was incredibly simple. For all the hassle we've had at other borders, this one was a bit slow but perfectly straightforward. Once on the other side, we were thrilled to see pavement again and started back into the mountains. After riding all day, we found a man that was willing to let us camp in his yard. I think we may have been doing him just as big of a favor as he was to us since he seemed thrilled to host, even bringing out several bananas as gifts, and got his whole family out to watch us set up camp for the evening's entertainment.

Realizing suddenly how large Peru is, the next morning we held a pow wow and made up our plan. While we would love to bike through the whole country, the huge mountains make progress super slow and we only had a couple weeks to ride in order to stay on track for Argentina. Knowing we wanted to see Cuzco, we decided to make one, big, painful move, we got on a bus in the first time and started to head south. 

Our first travel was literally 24 hours to Lima. Besides the usual feeling of destruction sitting that long provides, Jon and I also got super swollen feet. All we can figure was there were sand fleas on the bus and Kai's tennis shoes protected him. Feeling exhausted and not very excited for another bus that night, we went to a bar to improve morale. On the menu, we saw something called a beer tower and we were simultaneously agreed. Out came a large tube with a tap on the bottom so you could pour your own beer. With a second round ordered, we spent the afternoon playing cards and feeling much happier than while on the bus. Realizing we needed dinner, we felt confident enough to bring our bikes into a mall at food court. We probably should have been turned away, but the only guard that tried gave Kai a large speech in Spanish to which he replied the words "Pizza Hut" and miraculously the guard moved aside.

Back on the final bus, we settled in for another night and were super happy to arrive in Ayacucho. We were all feeling a bit wiped out, but I was especially destroyed so we opted for spending one recovery day and getting a room with a real bed. I spent most of the day napping, only getting up for meal times, but it seemed to be helping my health so I was more than willing to pass the day away.

With only a couple weeks until Christmas, we've set Cuzco as our goal. Still in the mountains and at elevation however, we will see just how realistic that goal is. At least we are done with busses for a while, all three of us are in the same place, and we have a location in mind. Time to explore Peru!


  1. Rock cop, feliz navidad,
    I am doing well and the device is also. Increasing every so often. You 3 have great feliz ano nuevo as well. I will be there all the way to finish line. I cant wair to hear you tell me this tale in the real!

  2. One mre thing your rocktastic cheerer. Rckcp2

  3. One mre thing your rocktastic cheerer. Rckcp2