As far as we know, Peru is only rivalled by Tibet when it comes to high altitude dirt road touring. Which is why it’s depressed us a few times in Huaraz when we’ve had the following conversation with cyclists going north. ‘How’s Peru been?’ ‘Ah, not much fun – the main road from Cusco’s too busy with terrible drivers and lots of roadworks.’
There is an incredibly large network of small roads crisscrossing the Peruvian sierra (unlike, say, in Argentina or Chile where there are few options) giving almost unlimited route possibilities. We’re excited about seeing what these quiet, high roads will bring.
Having spent 2 months spiralling through southern Peru in 2010, getting no further north than Abancay. the plan this time is to head down from Huaraz to Abancay on back roads. It all depends on the weather though – those high passes won’t be much fun in the snow. We hope the weather will stay fine in October, but know we won’t be able to outrun the snows as far as Argentina, so expect to take buses from Abancay (Cusco, La Paz) to Uyuni and continue on bikes from there to Chile. Most of the time between now and February we’ll be on the Puna in Argentina, cycling to (and hopefully climbing) some big mountains. More about that later.
The biggest task before pedalling off into the wilderness is to plan our route in detail. Paper maps of the back roads in Peru are next to useless, and when we’re on the road in the mountains we don’t expect to find many road signs or people to help us find our way. Where possible we’ve been spying roads on Google Earth – most of the pictures for the Peruvian mountains have improved hugely since 2010 and are now clear enough to spot even small 4WD tracks. For the few areas where they’re not, we’ve been looking at the Peru Ministry of Transport and Communication electronic maps – the most accurate ones we know of on the web. The route planning has been Neil’s job. If we get lost, it’s his fault.
Haz has been in charge of getting our kit/tools/spares ready, and as usual on the road she’ll be in charge of repairs. First job before departure was to replace Neil’s worn back rim:
Then the bikes were spruced up…
Tools and spares….check
Mountaineering kit……err we’ll post that to Cusco…
…leave this stuff here…
…one final pizza…
…a last pachamanca…
…and we’re ready to go!
Will check in again when we find internet, though we can’t guarantee this will be before Huancavelica – the first big town on our route, and some 850km of cycling away.