Tag Archive for 'canyon'

Of culture shock, friends, and dirt roads

Kilometers with bikes since last post: 272 biking
Kilometers withOUT bikes: about 14000 in a 4 planes, 1336 in 4 buses, and maybe a hundred in taxis.

View Larger Map

Don’t worry, we haven’t spent much of our long lapse biking. We’ll write this post in three parts: one about our trip from Trujillo to Colorado, one about our awesome stay in Lima, and one about our return to bike touring.

Part I: Well, we won’t dwell too much on this part, because this is, after all, a blog about our bike travels through Latin America, but we’ll say this much: Flying back to the US was initially indescribably overwhelming. Did we have the proverbial meltdown in the cereal isle? Yes we did. Denver, Colorado is just so sprawling and clean and fancy. Our two-night stay in the Crowne Plaza especially blew our minds. We slept in a king-sized bed with eight pillows and bedside lamps and our bathroom had hot water in the sink and a bathmat and a toilet seat. Plush. We slept so much. From the hotel, we moved to Aran’s cousin Mike’s and his wife Brigid’s beautiful house. Hanging out with friends and family was very good for our souls. We miss being around people who’ve known us a while. Aran’s friend Olivia was a beautiful, happy bride. She and Nick provided their friends and family with lots of fun things to do, including a tour of the construction of the next Mars satellite at Lockheed, where they both work. After the wedding, we took a short jaunt up to Ft. Collins to visit friends Sara and Spencer. We cooked and walked and laughed a lot. Good stuff.

Part II: Back in Lima, we definitely did not hurry away. Instead, we spent a terrific week with our friends Ana and Javi. How we came know these two is a marvel of bike touring. Way back in Colombia, we stumbled right into the home of Ana’s sister Laura in Barichara. One of those lucky moments out of which an excellent friendship is born. Only this time, three were, since Laura put us in touch with her sister Dea in Bogotá, whom we visited when we were there. And it so happened that their big sister Ana was visiting from Lima, Peru, so for several months we’ve had a standing invitation to her and her husband’s beautiful home. For a week we hung out visiting city parks and other sights, eating amazing food, planning a bit for the next leg of our trip, and feeling generally pretty lucky.

Part III: Here’s where we slip back into our adventure like a pair of comfy jeans. We took a night bus back to Trujillo, expecting to spend one day fixing up our bikes with some spare parts we’d brought back from the USA, and then to be on our way. However, upon arriving, we learned that just a week earlier, a 31-year-old woman from Belgium who was bike touring with her husband on their honeymoon was run over and killed by a truck driver on the Panamerican highway. Lucho asked us to participate in a bike demonstration through the streets of Trujillo, broadcasting the tragic story and raising awareness about bikers’ rights. We agreed, of course, empathizing an enormous, indeed an uncomfortable amount with the Belgian couple. A last visit to the market in Trujillo (one of our favorites so far) for supplies for the upcoming stretch on a remote road away from the coast, and we were on our way.

We grumbled and swore through 80km of the Peruvian Panam, and finally turned east for what we knew would be a tricky but beautiful several days of dirt road through mountains and canyons toward the Cordillera Blanca. It was all of these things, but with crappier road and more stunning views than we had imagined. Luckily, the loose rocks, gravel, washboard, and sand in the road gave us plenty of excuses to take breaks and ogle our surroundings. We spent the better part of five days along the Rio Santa, camping once next to a rice field, once by the river, and once next to a miners’ “campamento.” Our last night we made it to the town of Huallanca that had an hospedaje. There, we paid too much for a room with two saggy single beds where dogs barked all night outside our window. The next day we set off up the dirt road once more, not particularly well-rested.

While it was the most remote leg of our trip so far, we weren’t completely out of reach of civilization. The area was a fascinating combination of a vast expanse of natural beauty and the uses people make of such surroundings. As we wound our way along river after river, we passed from agricultural areas to scattered mines to huge hydropower projects. In the Cañon del Pato which we rode through on our last day, we were amazed to find that Duke Energy had succeeded in diverting the river through the mountain in order to power a generator at the base of the canyon. Andrew says this is not something he’s seen in the US. We’re not sure how much energy or what kind of resources they used for this enormous undertaking, but it seems that they now have a clean source of energy that will last as long as the river does, and probably powers most of the coast of Peru north of Lima. Riding the Cañon del Pato (Duck Canyon) was pretty neat. Again, the road was not ideal – one lane of rough dirt with the sheer mountain wall rising to our right and a sharp drop off to the river below on our right, but the views were breathtaking, and we got to ride through 35 tunnels carved into the mountain.

Can’t say we were sorry, though, when we finally reached the pavement in the mid-afternoon. Exhausted though we were, we decided to push on for 25km more to the small city of Caraz, where we knew we could find a comfortable bed and a badly needed hot shower. We found an AMAZING room (ok maybe it seems more amazing for all the roughing it we’ve been doing) in the friendly Hotel San Marco, and are taking the day off to rest our weary bones and take advantage of the delicious bakeries in town. We’ve been able to get on the internet and chat with our beautiful niece Emma and answer some emails. Yes, we love biking away from civilization. Also, returning to it. We are considering another hiatus in the form of a 4-day trek through the Cordillera Blanca before we head farther east toward Cusco. Stay tuned.