Bike and Hike Peruvian Style

Trip Start Dec 29, 2012
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Trip End Aug 15, 2013


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Flag of Peru  , Sacred Valley,
Monday, February 11, 2013

Ok. Ok. I know we are way behind and I, Jim, haven't done an entry for a while.  It's tough to sit down and type out an entry when there are so many things to do and see.  I figure we are about 3 weeks behind on our entries, but believe it or not the internet here in Australia (where we are now) is almost worse than it was in South America.  Anyway, pics are loaded and I'm ready to type one out. Here goes our Sacred Valley 4 day 3 night jungle bike and hike trip to Machu Picchu.

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.   At one point on the way up we came to a part of the road that had been washed out.  No problem in Peru though.  Just unload the tourists and have them walk across.  Then drive the van across.  I guess that way, if the van flips over and is washed down the cliff on the other side all the tourists are safe.  Craziness!!!

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!!!   Then we started the bike ride down.  Oh...did I mention it was pouring rain by now.  Visibility was limited and we were riding along the side of a highway.  It was a twisty turny down hill road with cars, trucks and busses passing us South American style (horns a honking and going a wee bit too fast).  On one side  there were cliffs dropping off 100 feet or so, on the other side were drainage canals carrying water down the mountain until the corners, where they would overflow and create rivers across the road.  So much for 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.  I would have never guessed.  Language barriers were overcome and smiles were all around.  I decided to join in on the girls team.  The girls quickly became interested in these little gringo boys and had to get lots of pictures of them and have them pose for pictures with each of the older girls.  Why do these boys of mine seem to find girl friends every where they stop?  Must be the stunning good looks they inherited from their dad.

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.   I can't believe they made it out of South America without rabies or flees from all the animals they were petting. 

  After over 12 hours of hiking with several stops along the way for snacks, water, lunch and talks about the history of the area we made it to the next village and our stop for the night, Santa Theresa.  This village was significantly larger and our accommodations were a little less "basic".   Of course we were all extremely tired and sore after a gruelling day.  Luckily just outside the village and down close to the river there are some beautiful natural hot springs.  Just what the body needed.  A driver and our van picked us up at our hostel and drove us down to the hot springs along a dirt / rock road beside the river.  Now this river was amazing.  We had been walking by it all day long and every time I saw it, I was left breathless.  It was the most treacherous, violent, white water I have ever seen.  As we were driving to the springs the weather turned and we ended up swimming in the rain.  No problem at first, but about 15 minutes before we were supposed to be picked up by our van, one of the guides showed up and informed us that the road had become a mud bog, washed out and the van could not make it to pick us up.  We would have to walk about 15 minutes to where the van could safely get us.  My first thought was, oh man more walking...ugh.

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!!!
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Comments

shirlee pollock on

i suspect it is tricky to keep your blog up to date, please continue to do so
we truly enjoy reading your details and of course seeing the photos.
these are countries to which uncle and I probably will never get to visit So
thanks for sharing with us. Wished for safe travel go with you.

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