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What we did
For the geeks out there…
- Days taken: 18 (including a few days off in Lima and Trujillo)
- Distance cycled: 713km
- Total elevation gain: 3,855m
- Max daily distance: 135km
- Max daily elevation gain: 830m
- Min altitude: Sea level!
- Nights spend in a tent: None 🙂
After some pretty amazing cycling and trekking in the Peruvian highlands over the past few weeks, what followed was always likely to be a bit of a comedown. And so it proved, with the ride to Ecuador being not quite so memorable. Still, it should make for a shorter blog post – every cloud has a silver lining!
Actually the ride started promisingly enough, with a huge descent all the way from the mountains down to the Pacific coast, through the spectacular Canon del Pato (‘duck canyon’). Around 100km north of Huaraz, the busy highway suddenly changes into an eerily-quiet single-lane road, tracing its way along a precipice above a deep canyon, passing through dozens of tunnels (some of them hundreds of meters long) in the process. The canyon itself divides the Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra mountain ranges, with both soaring majestically above the road on either side.
Unfortunately the ride wasn’t quite the walk in the park that we’d hoped, thanks to a bloody enormous headwind, and for the most part it was genuinely hard to move the bikes without being blown over. Still, with only one truck-stop hospedaje in the otherwise completely desolate road all the way between the mountains and the coast, we did the whole 250km to Trujillo in two pretty tough days.
Being spat out onto the Pan-American highway at the end of a sandy road that wasn’t even on our map was a pretty surreal experience. As was seeing the Pacific Ocean, and realising we’d finally completed a South American coast-to-coast ride(!) But soon enough we, like other cycle tourists before us, got pretty bored by the long, wide, flat road and the baking heat that came with being down at sea level. So it was quite a relief when we downed the bikes for a bit to explore the big cities of Trujillo and, following a long bus ride down the coast, the capital, Lima.
We ate a lot over the next five days. I mean, really, a lot. The Peruvian highlands might be one of the more awe-inspiring regions on this Earth, but the food there really isn’t. And the opposite is definitely true on the coast! The highlight of our seemingly never-ending buffet of ceviche, meat, pizza, cake and, oh yeah, the actual daily breakfast buffet at the (ahem) four star hotel we stayed in in Lima, was undoubtedly our meal out at Maido -supposedly the 13th best restaurant in the world. I’m not about to turn into a food blogger but the nine-course Japanese-Peruvian seafood tasting menu was really quite nice!
There was, shockingly, more to Lima than just the food, and we had a great time being normal tourists for a few days, checking out some churches and museums, and the London-esque districts of Miraflores and Barranco. After such a long time in the hills, it was strange to be back in a metropolis, and was quite hard to tear ourselves away and get back on the saddles.
But – thanks largely to our rapidly-emptying wallets – tear ourselves away we did, hopping on another bus heading a few hundred kilometers past Trujillo, to the northern city of Piura. We chose to do this following a long tradition among cycle tourists of avoiding the city of Paijan – north of Trujillo – where supposedly gangs of bike thieves roam the streets. Scary stuff.
The rest of the ride was pretty dull, although we did stop in a few lovely seaside towns along the way. We’d intended to take mostly back roads up the coast, but after a lot of pushing the bikes through sediment, culminating in the small town of Arenal – which I’m pretty sure translates directly as ‘Sandy’ – we headed back to the Pan American Highway, and stuck on it most of the way to Ecuador.
We did break our journey one final time for a few days in the northern surfer mecca and backpacker town of Mancora, where we stayed in a bungalow at the beautiful beachside ‘Naif Surf Camp’ hostel and indulged in our final rounds of pisco sours and cusquena beers. Both of which will be missed!
Anyway, eventually, on 5 December, three months and three days after entering Peru, we passed through the crap town of Tumbes – clocking up 5,000 miles of cycling in the process – and then shortly afterwards, the Ecuador border. It was a bittersweet moment: on the one hand, exciting to move on to another new country, but on the other, sad to say goodbye to somewhere that became our home and treated us to so many unforgettable experiences. The long Pan-American highway was now stretched out in front of us, and I wondered if the cycling would ever be as much fun as it was in Peru. And was it, I hear you ask? You’ll have to find out in my next post!
I’m migrating our route maps and elevation profile over to my shiny (literally) new app, which you can check out here!