Bike and Hike Peruvian Style
Trip Start Dec 29, 2012
88Trip End Aug 15, 2013
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When we first started planning our Round the World Trip, one of the stops we all wanted to do was a visit to Machu Picchu in Peru. Being the adventurous family we are, we also figured it would be good to hike into Machu Picchu on the Inca trail just like the Inca's did 500 years ago. Unfortunately, after setting our dates we found out that the Inca Trail is shut down for the month of February for maintenance. So...no hiking into Machu Picchu like originally planned. However, our host in Cusco, Edy, had a contact for a tour guide who organized a four day trip to Machu Picchu. It included a down hill bike ride the first day, a 24 Km hike the second day (parts of which were on the Inca Trail), and then a 8 Km hike the last day along the train tracks to Machu Picchu. The last day would be a trip to Machu Picchu for a guided tour around the fabled Inca Ruins. Perfect we thought!!! The boys seemed to be keen and we booked it right away.
The adventure started bright and early day one with our guide Kenny picking us up at the hostel at 7 am in our fifteen passenger van, fully loaded down with mountain bikes. After a few stops to pick up our travelling companions for the next four days we began the drive up the mountains to embark on our downhill bike ride. Our group consisted of: two girls from Finland (mid 20's), a group of four Chileans (early 20's), and a family from Australia (mom, dad, and two boys 18 and 21). I wonder what they were thinking when they saw this young family from Canada. I'm sure they were a little concerned about two young kids doing this extreme adventure and possibly holding the group back.
Our bike ride was to begin at the top of the mountain range at about 4500 meters above sea level (that's really high) where we were to bike down hill along the highway / road to just outside our stop for the first night in a little town called Santa Maria. Of course, like all our adventures so far, the adventure began just driving to the top. It is the beginning of the rainy season here and there had been a fair bit of rain up in the mountains recently. As we climbed higher, zig zagging up the mountains, switchback after switchback, ear pop after ear pop, the rain started to come again. Kenny had mentioned that we may have to bike across the "odd river" coming down and may have to cross a few going up in the van. I took this as a translation issue. River? Really? Maybe a little stream of water.
Nope...you see during the rainy season these "rivers" down the mountain, over run the drainage system and come up over the highway and actually make a knee deep river flowing across the high way.
Alas we made it to the top and unloaded the bikes. We were fitted with shoulder pads, elbow pads, shin guards, bike gloves and of course helmets. Safety first!!!
It actually was quite a bit of fun and despite the rain and possible certain death falls on either side we managed to enjoy the ride down quite a bit. I was a little worried at one of the "river" crossings as we had to hop off the bikes and walk them across. The water here was flowing very fast and was just about up to my knees. Not a real problem for me, but for Aiden the water was approaching his hips. But like usual he trouped on with a big smile and made it through no problem.
Three hours later we loaded back into the van for a short drive to our first stop and our first "basic" hostel in the town / village of Santa Maria. This tiny little dirt road town was just off the highway and our accommodations were quite "basic". We had a small family room with one door going out onto the small dark side road. In order to get into the middle court yard where the bathroom was located we needed to exit our room onto the road, walk up the street, and enter another door / corridor. This was ok during the day but at night the door was locked, so...we had no access to the bathroom at night. Thank god I'm a boy and it's not that big a deal to pee on the side of the street, just have to watch out for the stray dogs.
Most in our party spent the afternoon relaxing and sleeping. The boys had to get out and explore though and found some local kids to play with. It was kind of interesting to me as the kids had set up a volleyball net across the road and were embroiled in a boys vs. girls v-ball match. Small town Peru and we are playing volleyball.
Early the next morning (5:30 breakfast and on the trail by 7:00) we were up to start a 24 km walk to our next stop at Santa Theresa. I was worried about this day as I figured the boys would be whining and complaining the whole way. How much further? How much longer? Are we there yet? This could not have been further form the truth. They were incredible!!! Carrying more and out hiking most of the people in our group. The hike itself was also incredible. Parts of it were along a dirt road and fairly flat, then at times we were on trails through the jungle with quite extensive up-hill and down-hill climbs. The weather cleared and we had unbelievable views of the sacred valley and parts of the Inca Trail. Very magical to be walking through this very spiritual valley and mountain range.
Along the way we walked by several small houses and villages. Unbelievable how these people live. I found myself wondering how the managed to get all the supplies to live up there. How does one get a fridge up that road and trail? The folks who lived here were very hospitable and came out to greet us with snacks and water for sale as we stopped for breaks. Before one of the first stops, our guide Kenny, warned us that the family we were going to see has a pet monkey. While it is tame and should not hurt you, please try not to pet it or touch it as it may nip at you and bite your fingers looking for treats. Of course as soon as they brought out the monkey, the boys are right in there holding it and petting it.
This 15 minute "walk" became much more of an adventure than our guide made it seem. You see by now it was dark, still raining, and the road was knee deep mud. The only way to get to the vans was to walk right by the raging river along huge boulders and mud bogs. Oh and Aiden was in his flip-flops so I ended up giving him a piggy back ride. This was the scariest thing I have ever done. Dark. Rainy. Huge boulders. Mud bogs. Aiden on my sore tired back. A huge tumultuous river right beside us. I don't know how I made it, but several times I was looking at the river figuring one tiny miss step and we are goners. We made it though, all be it very wet, muddy, and tired and actually had big smiles about making through another crazy South American adventure.
The final day of our bike and hike was just a small 8 km walk along the train tracks to Aqua Calientas the town at the base of Machu Picchu. Never thought I would say that...an easy small 8 km walk with full packs. But first we spent a couple of hours ziplining across the raging river, traveling from mountain to mountain. On the hiking trail again, the boys blew me away with their ability to keep on trucking along. This day was considerably easier than the previous day though as it was basically flat and still quite beautiful walk through the jungle. Aqua Calientas is a very beautiful town along the river looking up at Machu Picchu. It is also very commercialized with lots of fancy hotels and restaurants. We however, were not in the fancy hotels. Once again, we were in a "basic" hostel accommodation but quite nice compared to our first night. We did take advantage of one of the fancy restaurants the next night when we paid for the full buffet. I don't think the restaurant realized how much the boys could put away when they charged them half because they were considered children. After all the calories they burnt off biking and hiking they definitely ate more than the average ordinary bear.
Next up the hike up to Machu Picchu!!!