I did not realize how beautiful Peru was before I came here. Yet now, I see Peru as one of the most beautiful, open, free, historical, and unique places to travel. The blend of ecosystems from the Andes and the Amazon rainforest gives this place mountains and landscapes that are incredibly unique. I was able to obtain a glimpse of this fantastic country through mountain biking in the countryside and mountains this past week.
The trek started in Cusco, which is a middle size city around the south part of Peru. There were two other bikers on the trip, Doug and Peter. All from various life stages, we were able to bond and have a blast experiencing Peru together. Our guides (Ronald and Sieber) were fantastic as well in explaining the history of archeological sites, guiding us through the villages, and giving us tips to improve our mountain biking skills.
We traveled through so many quaint little villages through our travels in the Sacred Valley. The first day, we traveled to Pisac and it was an incredible first place to open my eyes to the beauty of Peru. Lying at the bottom of the Sacred Valley, Pisac was a fabulous village with an amazing artesian market. We shopped in the market, ate a delicious lunch, and headed down the valley to camp for the night. We camped in front of an ancient Incan temple, which was a little creepy at night. Yet the stars where brilliant this night as there was no light pollution! I captured some great shots of the sky for a few hours as I soaked in the whole experience.
The next day, we woke up to an amazing camp breakfast, which changed my views on cooking while camping. I will never have as delicious of a campfire-cooked breakfast as one of the guides made that morning. We traveled up the mountain and down to Lares valley. This was an intense downhill ride and this day, I learned to have a healthy respect for not smashing down on the disc brakes. Took a few falls to learn… The views were spectacular as we rode through herds of alpacas, llamas, and sheep. A few times, almost hit some of those guys as they darted in front of our bikes as we were riding. Watch out for the alpaca!
This night, we spent in Lares hot springs camping, which was amazing. They are volcanic heated springs that nursed our sore legs and bottoms from riding. Again, the stars were absolutely spectacular to look at. I chose staying up and looking at the stars versus going to sleep; it was a wise choice and well worth it. We woke up the next day and went back over the mountain we had just come from and went down the other side.
This day of riding through the canyons was by far my favorite day. The riding was intense, but thankfully my confidence and skills improved. We raced down this one gorge and stopped many times to take in the views- absolutely stunning. As we were riding down, we saw this local woman walking up while knitting. It was truly incredible seeing her skills in being able to do both. Made me think back to when this land was the Incas and how that was very common to see.
We stayed this night in a hotel Urubamba, which was ran by a very earthy local. His garden out back gave the place a very peaceful feel as we winded down for the night. He made the best breakfast the next morning with homemade bread, the best pancake I have ever had, and fresh mango juice. We continued on for our last day of riding which took us to various Incan ruins. We saw Chincheras, the ruin of Maras, and finally the salt mines at Salineras. The downhill riding was some of the most intense yet and made me truly fall in love with Downhill Mountain biking. Great way to end mountain biking.
Later that afternoon, we took a train to the town below Machu Picchu to rest for our ascent up the next morning. We learned there are two ways to get to Machu Picchu: one is to hike the Incan trail and the other is to take a train to the town below. At times I wished I did the hike, but after finding about how commercialized it was with a massive immigration of hundreds of people at a time doing it, I was thrilled with my bike trip. We were alone the whole time while biking and saw some of the most isolated and beautiful places of the Sacred Valley.
Going to Machu Picchu was magnificent. Stunning views, history, and a place that had a great sense of respect. We got there at 6 in the morning to see the sunrise, which was spectacular. So surreal to stand there and imagine what this place would have been like when it was one of the bustling Incan capitals. We then explored the ruins with our guides before climbing up Huayna Picchu (which is the mountain seen in the background of the classic Machu Picchu picture).
This hike felt like it was straight up the mountain, but was so well worth it as it had the best views of the ruins and surrounding parts. I just could not resist climbing on top of the tallest bolder on the top of the mountain. It was a magical experience as I felt on top of the world in spite of steep drop offs all around.
I feel as if this post touches just bits of this week, but I think pictures speak louder than words. So check out my Flickr account to see the pictures of this week!
Currently spending time in Pisac (the first city I stopped in at the Sacred Valley), and loving it here! I don’t want to leave Peru as I feel as I have just gotten a small taste of the culture, people, and rich history. Yet, as I am uploading this post and the pictures, it takes about 15 minutes per photo, so I don’t have as many as I want. Will upload more to Flickr when I get a chance.
Chao y nos vemos!