The uninitiated would suggest going to the local bike shop for a new crank arm and some rental bikes but that doesn't really exist in Cusco…Welcome to Peru, let the adventure begin.
Luckily Sean turned up just as we were departing the airport. We came up with a JB Weld pedal solution for Aaron, grabbed some food and headed off to our first ride…Even though we had traveled through the night, all were perking up at the notion of these Peruvian trails I’d raved about. The trails did not disappoint, winding through wooded areas, past farmlands and even some built jumps, leading us to the outskirts of Cusco. Here the ride turned urban, stairs and narrow alleyways delivered us to the Plaza De Armas in the center of Cusco.
After thorough examination of the plaza, we grabbed some cervezas and began the 2hr. drive to our homebase. We were bound for Ollantaytambo, an ancient Inca city in the heart of the Sacred Valley. At 9,000ft. above sea level, flanked by amazing ruins and towering Andes Mountains, the city itself is a marvel of Inca architecture and ingenuity.
At this point the group had been traveling for over 24 hours. We were all anxious for a real meal, thankfully the Sacred Valley provides. Everything in the area is locally raised, free range and pesticide free, primarily because the concept of pesticides and hormones hasn't taken hold of this area. Puka Rumi is one of my favorite restaurants and provided probably one the best meal we've ever had.
During dinner we found out that local transportation workers are planning to strike in the middle of the week, thus shutting down roadways and local transportation…After a brief discussion, we formed a plan that allows us the same adventure just remixed to work around the labor strike.
It is decided that our first mission will be to deliver a Goal Zero solar power unit to the school of P'antikalle just over the mountain pass of Abra Malaga.
Following a hearty breakfast and some of the best coffee the Andes has to offer, we meet at the Plaza De Armas in the center of Ollantaytambo. Each day begins this way, load bikes on top of Combi vans and pile in for a ride to the top of the nearest mountain pass. Yes, you could pedal up the mountains but the trails weren't built for bikes and you'd do more pushing than riding. We often joke that if you want to ride to the peaks you'd better bring a tent.
After a 45 minutes ascent, we arrive at the pass. At 15,000 feet moisture is almost given, the air is thin and a bit chilly. We prepare the bikes and ourselves for a ripping descent to the school of P'antikalle.
The trail is off the hook! We descend Inca stairways, flowing grassy zones, past horses and dwellings, enthusiasm and stoke are running high! Nothing I’ve ridden compares to Peruvian trail, there are almost always multiple lines to choose from, and you can literally ride anywhere, Peru is a mountain bike paradise!
After 30 minutes of descending we arrive at P’antikalle. Senora Elizabeth and the kids welcome us, despite having no idea we were coming, a secret I kept from my group. Being in a narrow valley far from the pass and only accessible by foot, bike or horse, there is no phone to call.
Nonetheless we are invited to have lunch with them. Boiled eggs and potatoes are prepared and coca tea is distributed. The kids joyride our bikes around the courtyard as rain begins to fall, pero los chicos are having too much fun to stop.
Our gift of solar power was much appreciated, two years prior our friends Kelly McGarry and Eric Porter delivered a system which had since failed, so timing was perfect.
We lunched with the kids, explained operating procedures for the Goal Zero solar and then headed out. We'd descended 1,000ft. to P’antikalle and now had to earn our way back to the pass and our vehicles. Time to shoulder bikes and start hoofing it. Straight up the side of the mountain at this altitude is no easy feat but also there is no other option. After a 45 minute hike we reach the Combis, load up and head back to the pass, 5000ft descending still awaits us. We are headed to the start of the Inca Avalanche race route which leads us back to Ollanta.
The Peruvian trail theme continues, Rocky tech areas, flowing grassy trails and the opportunity to visit Inca ruins along the route. The trail is fast and rocky, despite our DH casing tires, we suffer two flats, finishing out our ride in the dark.
Tonight begins the Trail Fest in earnest, with a welcome dinner for all the participants. We meet our fellow festers, exchanging stories of the day and discussing the prospect of future trail slaying. Our new friends, Barry from Ireland, Nicole an American ex-pat living in Cusco and group who call themselves the Rude Boys, hailing from Colorado. Nicole proved to be invaluable, helping us to reunite Ben and Mitch with their missing bikes. The following day we have our sights set on shredding 10,000ft of vert.
Choose your own adventure – Peru style
Morning begins as the previous, meeting in the plaza, load bikes, start our ascent, this time to the pass of Abra Patacancha.