The roads here are pretty nuts. Leaving Lima was an ‘every man for himself’ experience with cars, vans, buses and motorbikes all weaving in and out with no idea where the lanes were.
Double yellow lines mean nothing.
Overtaking on bends happens a lot, and at night too..
In Ollantaytambo the paved road turns to cobblestones. I don’t know what it’s like riding in a tuctuc yet bit even in our van it’s a real bone shaking experience. Not good when you need a pee!
They love their car horns here. Beep if you are passing someone – another car, a pedestrian, bikers, at the oncoming car overtaking on your side of the road – which happens a lot! Beep beep beep at every opportunity.
It’s totally acceptible to ride a motorbike with a sheep strapped on the back…
Most of the roads are dirt roads and the higher you get the more erosion you see, thankfully they seem to be on top of maintenance. There are plenty of river crossings and almost every road had a traffic jam of some sort – be it other vehicles, llamas and alpacas, sheep, cows or horses.
It’s totally normal for three or more cars to overtake three or four other tightly packed cars. An interesting experience at night…
Everywhere we ride there are locals in traditional dress. Each town or village seems to have its own style, with the women looking the most impressive. They have different hats in different places, some flat dinner plate styles ones, some worn off to the side of the head that look like small bowls with large embroidered chin straps. All of them are so colourful with beads, bobbles, embroidery and brightly coloured materials.
Their skirts are short here, I’m told because it’s quite muddy. Apparently in other places they’re longer as it’s drier. All of them are worn with loads of underskirts which gives them a really boofy shape and on such small women they really seem to stick out!
The kids are cool wherever we go. They’re keen to look at our bikes and helmets, and sometime have a ride or just touch them. Sometimes they just look on as we ride past, a little bemused at why a bunch of gringos on bike are on their home trails.
And the kids love our bikes. Every time we stop they want to try out our helmets and ride our bikes. Today they turned out in drives to clean them for us, and they loved it. Then Ali the race director jumped over me and about 6 local boys, they loved it!
There are a LOT of dogs here. Some of them friendly, some will chase you down the street or more scarily on the trails whilst you’re biking. But some are super cute and friendly and like to dance like this one!
Thankfully the streets are kept really clean though..
There are a lot of unfinished or part built houses and building projects lining the streets everywhere you go. Some remind me of a trip to Greece where houses have metal rods poking up from the second floor, ready for the next floor to be built, but never get finished. Lots of the rural homes and buildings have stone foundations with adobe bricks on top, but again they often look part finished, or so delapidated that they might fall down at any moment. There are builders in some places but I think I’ve only counted two or three places where they were actually working on anything.
The poverty in rural villages is really apparent. The pigs and donkeys are tied up in the garden, or more often on the roadsides. Tumbledown houses with sometimes plastic sheeting for doors or windows are what most villages seem to be made up of, especially the higher up the mountains you go. Every little patch of ground is farmed, it’s real subsistence living, the hard way.
The only posh looking homes we saw were on the way up to the trail at Lamay. They looked palatial, with neat roof tiles, nicely finished walls, beautifully kept gardens and lots of windows. We asked our guide who lived there, and we should have guessed – they were holiday home for tourists!
Tips I’ve learnt so far
Always ask the price in advance before getting in a taxi. (See my post on arriving in Lima).
Factor 55 sun cream is good for about 2 hours. The sun at altitude, especially this high is a killer, as my new tan lines on each arm testify. Apply every few hours.
Stick to ordering pasta as it’s super cheap and you need the calories doing biking up this high.
Always drink bottled water. It’s not the cleanest of places, so you should always make sure food is washed properly before eating it.
Embrace the adventure – yes it’s a little daunting travelling by myself, especially when I know my time in the lodge for week one is almost over. Getting the bus to Nasca from Cusco fills me with a bit of trepidation, but if I meet some people to travel with like I’ve done this week it’ll be great!