The road from Cuzco to Lima was not easy in many ways. For starters, it would take us over some of our highest altitude mountain passes yet. There would be long, tedious climbs that would last for 60 kilometers or more. We had been off of our bikes for more than two weeks, so we had to get back into the groove of not just cycling, but the lifestyle of cycle touring. And in addition to the difficult terrain, we had to deal with the emotions of saying goodbye to family in Cuzco and being back on our own again.
It was a rough start from Cuzco on May 9, and on our way out of town, someone tried to rob us for the first time in South America. Of course, while traveling (especially in developing countries), we always try to keep an increased awareness of surroundings and people. But while Dave went to an ATM and I was alone with the bikes, a guy came along and tried to distract me telling me he had maps of where we were trying to go. I was confused and not really listening, busying myself with trying to load up my bike. But when I noticed how hard he was trying to get me to look his direction, I turned quickly around and saw another guy fiddling with Dave’s handlebar bag (which fortunately is a real chore to open!). I immediately went over and stood right next to him and surveyed our things… it looked as though everything was still there. Both guys quickly walked away as though nothing had happened, and I was more annoyed than anything. I checked my handlebar bag, which is easy to open, and fortunately, I had stowed my iPod underneath my toilet paper, and apparently the guy had decided not to dig too deep. Dave came back and I reported what had happened, then, sure enough, we realized he had taken something—my “Halt” dog repellent spray! I keep it in the outside pocket of my handlebar bag, and it was probably just an easy item for him to swipe. Ironic, isn’t it? That he stole the one “weapon” that I have? Well, worse things have happened.
So we climbed our way out of Cuzco and got a slow start our first day. It was a bit discouraging, knowing that we had four major passes, all above 4,000 meters, looming before us. We were both ready to get to Lima, where we had packages from home waiting. But it would be a solid two weeks of hard riding before our arrival. On our second day, we started with an awesome downhill that lasted for about two hours. And while that was nice, we knew it was just the beginning of the ups and downs we had been warned about. Another cyclist had told us, “I heard in Peru they run you up and down by the thousands of meters.” Correct. After our awesome two-hour downhill, we went up for a solid nine hours of riding (over two days’ time). And the next eight days shaped up to be more of the same. Up a lot, down a lot. We wished the road wouldn’t have gone all the way to the bottom of the valleys in between the passes, but I guess it was the only option.
Because of our high altitude, we had many cold nights. One day, we stopped in the tiny settlement of Negromayo to find shelter for the night. It was too small for a hotel, but a lady that runs a restaurant has a building where she will let cyclists camp inside. So we took her up on the small concrete room that had a light and set up our tent inside. By the time the sun went down, we could see our breath inside! The next morning we woke up and in the room it was 20 degrees! So we’re pretty sure it was in the single digits outside, especially with the wind. Though it was freezing inside, we were just glad to be camping with concrete wall protection from the cold and wind. We found out the next morning that the altitude there was about 4,600 meters (just over 15,000 feet!), which turned out to be our highest altitude so far on the Tour.
When we finally got to the last pass, we knew we had a really big downhill coming to Nazca. And we were right! Eighty kilometers of nothing but coasting provided one of our most rewarding days of riding we’ve had in a long time! In basically one morning, we went from around 4,300 meters down to 600. Very nice!
We took a rest day in Nazca, Peru, which you might have heard of because of the famous “Nazca Lines.” Perhaps you have seen the latest Indiana Jones movie? The Nazca Lines are the mysterious drawings in the sand in the middle of the desert… no one is quite sure why they’re there or who drew them, but they’ve been around for thousands of years. We couldn’t afford one of the many tours by flight over the lines, but as we rode away from town, we passed the lookout tower where we could get a glimpse of at least a few of the drawings.
And just four days after leaving Nazca, we rode into the outskirts of Lima. With the easier terrain and the altitude still in our blood, we were able to cover 360 kilometers in just three days… a record distance for us in South America. We caught our first views of the Pacific, but it’s been foggy along the coast, so we haven’t gotten the full experience of riding along the beach yet. Not to mention that most of the coastline here is mountainous, and because of all the cliffs, the road doesn’t go right along the ocean. But we’re looking forward to more beach time coming our way in Northern Peru!
Even though the two weeks to Lima was tough, we’re feeling better and have readjusted into our “normal” lifestyle of touring. Through all the changes—terrain, temperature, altitude, surroundings—we are reminded of the reality of the same promise the Lord made to Joshua before he entered the Promised Land: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)