Salkanty’s relative proximity to Machu Picchu has made it a a popular alternative to the often crowded Inca Trail.
A map I have been working on for some time with popular points of interest in and around Miraflores.
Some of the places I hope to visit in the coming years in Peru
Every time I head down to Peru (or for that matter anywhere) I ask myself the same two questions: Should I pack it? or should I rent it? The answer usually depends on a couple of factors:
- How long is the trip for?
- How much will it cost to rent vs to pack?
If I’m traveling for more than a week to ten days and I know I’m going to ride at least half that time, then it’s a no brainer. I pack it. If the trip is only a short one, and the riding time is limited, then, again, it’s a no brainer. I rent it. There are exceptions though…
Generally, if the trip is specifically to ride I always pack my bike, especially if I know the final destination doesn’t have quality bike shops with good rental fleets. But, if the destination is a cycling mecca (i.e. Sedona, AZ or Fruita, CO) then I may opt to rent.
Case and point: I recently traveled to Sedona, Arizona to spend a week with some friends. Taking my bike was going to cost approximately $300 round trip – give or take. My friends arranged a pretty good deal for our group, and because of our involvement with IMBA and my local IMBA Chapter, MORE, they got me (us) a deal and hooked us up with various high end bikes. I ended up riding a top of the line 650b Pivot for 5 days for roughly half that cost. This gave me the opportunity to ride a top of the line frame on some kick ass trails. It took me a day to get used to the bike, but once I got it dialed in, it was great – not perfect like my regular bike, but pretty darn good…
Now – even on that trip, on a top of the line frame, I often wished for my bike. There simply is no substitute for riding your steed, the mount you are more accustomed to, in a new destination. There is simply nothing worse (I’ve been there) than riding unfamiliar trails on a less than suitable bike. Not having to worry about the bike while you experience a new ribbon of single track is simply priceless.
With that said, however, you must think of other factors that may affect your decision:
- Do you have a Bike Box? If no, then chances are you can get one from various sources. You can rent one from your local bike shop or cycling club. My club, MORE, has two bike boxes on hand that are loaned out to members on a first come first serve basis. If you have a generous friend who would’t mind lending you one you could be set. I do recommend that if you travel often that you invest in a quality case. I’ve used several over the years (burrowed and rented) and when it was time to buy one I went with the standard by which others are measured: Trico. If this is a one time trip then figure out how much it will cost for the box, air travel, etc. and determine if it is indeed worth packing it…
- Do you crash a lot? Seriously. If you do, bring your own bike. When you rent a bike you will be asked to sign a waiver. Both to release the renter from any liability should you get hurt, and to take responsibility (i.e. pay for the bike) should something happen to it. Are you willing, or ready to buy that $5,000 carbon frame you rented? If not, then bring your own. Repairs to your bike may ultimately end up costing much less than having to buy that sweet frame you just damaged on the porcupine rim trail…
- Is the trip for something else other than biking? If yes, then you may opt to rent. I recently went to Italy on vacation and stayed in the Tuscan hills around Lucca. I would have loved to have my road bike with me – it would have been perfect. But, the trip was not a cycling outing, and even though I could have ridden out the door every day out of the 12 I was there it simply would have not been practical for me to have my bike, or even logistically feasible. I, instead, found a local shop in Lucca and rented a bike for a few days for a reasonable fee.
Now that you have decided, here is a quick primer on how to pack your bike. As with anything else, this is not the only way; This is how I’ve done it the past few times I’ve traveled with no issues.
Here’s what I use and my process:
The above process took me about half and hour to complete; Once you get the hang of it you can knock it out and be on your way to better things. Below is a short time-lapse that give you an idea of how the process took place.
For those who don’t know me I’m from Perú. I was born and raised in the coastal city of Lima before making my way to the United States and setting up residence in the east coast in the suburbs of Washington D.C. and Baltimore, MD.
Every year I make the pilgrimage back to the home land; and every year I manage to rent a bike and head out to ride the local trails around the capital city with one or two local guides I’ve come to know over the years. But every couple of years I venture out explicitly with the intent of just riding, and as such, I plan and venture out further than the ribbons Lima has to offer.
Several years ago I put together a trip for a group of friends, and given its success I decided to do it again, albeit slightly different. This time around I didn’t have 10 days to ride in Peru, instead I only had a meager 6 to put wheels to dirt. So I had to maximize the experience, not just for myself, but for the group of friends who would be following my lead. The time constraint was a limit I placed on myself. Even though I was going to be in Peru for a little over 12 days, I had other things I needed to attend to, so that left me with a limited riding schedule. Still, 6 days of riding, 1 in Lima, and 5 in Cuzco was all I would need to get my juices flowing.
I basically coordinated the trip so that my friends would maximize their stay. Even though I would arrive to Lima before they did, and left Cuzco before they would, they would get an extra day of riding and a trip to visit the Inca Sanctuary, Macchu Picchu on their own. The day after I left our band of 12 split up in two with one group taking the train to the Sanctuary while another group hiked the mighty Inca Trail to the ruins. What follows is a brief account of the riding we did while on the trip, hopefully give you a taste of what is available. I plan on returning with more group in the coming years, so if you are interested ping me so I add you to my distribution list…
Day 1 – Pachacamac, The Classic Lima Ride
Pachacamac, just south of Lima is known for various things, the ancient temple ruins along the entrance to the old city, the fertile Lurin river valley and most recently the vast number of trails available for cross country mountain biking, downhill cycling and off road vehicles (much less now). The trails of Pachacamac offer little elevation change, but don’t let that fool you – THERE IS climbing, in the form of short snappy hills that will keep your heart rate pounding. This time around I ventured on a route I had not done in at least a decade. My guide, Jimmy, minimized the initial climbing by crafting a route around all the “chacras” surrounding the base of the Pachacamac hills. My goals was to ride at least 15 miles, and the route Jimmy chose was perfect. We rode the famous “sanja trail,” a trail that follows the path of an irrigation ditch along a ridge line (photo above). Fall to the left and you’ll get soaked in murky water; fall to the right and you’ll roll down to the Lurin River along a not so pleasant incline. After the ride we had a couple of beers at El Mexicano, a local kiosk where virtually all rides begin. All in all it was a great day in the Peruvian desert. I had wanted to schedule a second ride to explore other places I have not visited yet but the logistics of getting everyone in the group situated didn’t quite work out…
Day 3 – Singletrack Heaven! Cuzco Eucalyptus forests
Notice I skipped day 2? well, I had to pack the bike, get on a plane, and try to acclimate to the altitude in Cuzco. For future reference do these rides at the end of the trip! When the altitude is in your system. Start instead in the Sacred Valley and then finish up with the Cuzco rides. Heading out to ride the trails above Cuzco city only a day after arriving was tough – and it showed on the group’s physique. Everyone did rather well considering the circumstances, but I firmly believe we would have enjoyed these trails much more had we ridden them at the end of the trip, like we did on the previous trip. The weather did not quite cooperate with us either. Although we were treated into Cuzco with a phenomenal rainbow (image below), it was also an indication that rain was in the air. During both outings on this day we got dumped on, the second time with hail. Needless to say the trails were slick and muddy and hard to negotiate. A mechanical on my bike forced me to bypass the last couple of miles of single track, but I was treated to a screaming road descent past Sacsayhuman and into the city below. Everyone enjoyed the rides and finished the day with very big grins – little did they know what lay ahead…
Day 4 – Maras Moray and the Slat Pans
This is one of my favorite rides in the valley, the video above highlights only a very short section, the tight switchbacks at the end that deliver you to the river. The bus dropped us off high along kilometer marker 42 along the highway that connects Chincheros and Maras. After a short dirt road descent we took a break to soak in the views of the Huaypo Lagoon before continuing on (along dirt roads) to the ancient Moray ruins. From there we rode a few miles (mostly downhill) to an outdoor lunch spot before hitting the 5 mile downhill from Maras to the Salt Pans. These 5 miles are quite possibly some of the funnest I’ve ever ridden. The trail descends gradually before getting considerably steeper shortly before the salt pans. A section of tight steep switch backs delivered us to the pans. We took a short break at the Pans to get the scoop on the place – after all we are tourists – and then soldiered on on what I think is one of the best sections of trails on the trip (see video above). The last section of trail from the salt pans is narrow, steep, and rocky. It is not overly technical, so you can go somewhat fast, and the views are phenomenal. The last set of switchbacks that deliver you to the Urubamba river are by far some of the tightest, rockiest, steepest and funnest switchbacks you’ll ever ride, hopefully the attached video above does them justice…
Day 5 – Abra Lares – The downhill from Heaven
So good that we rode it twice. These rides were epic! Our guides drove us up to 4,400 meters to Abra de Lares. From there, amidst a freezing rain storm, we descended through very difficult to navigate fields before joining an old Inca Trail. Once we hit the trail we were treated to some phenomenal technical riding. After a couple of miles of riding, the trail made a sharp drop into the Laras Canyon, a narrow gorge that followed the path of rushing water down to the Urubamba River (video above). This gorge was absolutely phenomenal, and the trail everyone enjoyed the most. The attached video snippet (first time down) simply does not do this section of ribbon justice. It is absolutely gorgeous. The second time around we bypassed the fields and split up into two groups, a faster bunch and a more measured set of riders. The speedier group followed the trail to the first spot where we descended the first time. This time around with no hail storm, which made for a much faster (and safer – maybe) descent. After regrouping, the same two groups descended to the town of Calca, with the faster bunch following the last sections of single track before switching gears and flying down a perfect gravel road. Our speed allowed us to break out the chilled “chelas” for the rest of the riders. Our day of riding culminated with our fearless guide, Miguel Lozano, cooking dinner for us (below). The group enjoyed a phenomenal meal prepared by a skilled chef with incredibly fresh ingredients – we washed dishes afterwards BTW…
Day 6 – One Trail to Rule Them All – Huchy Qosqo
If you only have time for one ride in Cuzco (and you’ll need all the time you can get), ride this one. You will not be disappointed. This trail has a little bit for everyone. Smooth Inca Trails, with the occasional steps, drops and irrigation ditches (that must be hopped). Views that are out of this world. Gorge trails with rushing waters racing beside you, steep drops that surely have cost someone their life, and ancient Inca ruins seldom visited by other tourists. The last time we rode this, our guides shuttled us to a little over 14,000′. This time around, the sadists made us climb from 12,600 (give or take) to the top. Those 1,000′ were quite possibly the toughest I’ve ever walked. We did ride a l lot of the climb, but as the air thinned, and the terrain got steeper, one by one our band of riders fell until no one was able to keep wheels rolling. All of us (except Leslie…) succumbed to the altitude and walked the last few hundred feet. If there is one thing to take away from this ride is to be prepared. The weather at 12,600′ was balmy, a comfortable 70 or so degrees. But by the time we reached 14,000’+ the temperatures had dropped nearly 30 degrees, and ALL of us were looking for layers to add to our skin (see picture at the top of the page). Once we began moving, however, we shed a couple of layers and soldiered on on one of the best downhills I’ve ever ridden. I simply cannot wait to get back and do this ride again.
Day 7 – Rafting the Vilcanota (Lower Urubamaba)
I found out from my last trip, that after 5 days of riding, most everyone was a little beat up; especially riding the technical trails of Cuzco and the Sacred Valley. So this time around I asked my outfitter to throw in an alternate activity to work a different set of muscles. So rafting was added to the itinerary. The morning of, and after four days of intermittent cold and wet weather, the group (including myself) was somewhat hesitant to head out early in the morning with the promise of a dip in the chili waters of the Vilcanota. So hesitant, that three of our band of brothers (and sisters) opted to stay behind. We did gain an extra traveler though, in the form of a friend who happened upon us in Cuzco. With no preparation, we dragged her into the bus and had her join us in what would eventually be a phenomenal day on the river. Our guides, Eduardo, Jimmy and Henry, were superb. After a quick safety brief we all suited up and set out for a 2 hour ride along the Urubamba. Along the way we negotiated several sets of rapids, up to 3.5 in degree of difficulty. We finished the rafting trip with a phenomenal riverside lunch, capping off an excellent adventure.
Day 8 and Beyond…
I unfortunately had to bail on this day, but my group stayed behind and rode an additional trail (Milkyway) which I’ve yet to visit. After that the group split up into three, 6 headed back home to Lima and the US, 3 headed to Macchu Picchu along the “conventional” train route, and 3 along the epic Inca Trail hike. All in all the trip was a phenomenal experience and everyone left the land of the Incas with an incredible sense of accomplishment and awe.
Every day, after miles of riding, they would meet us at the hotel and then venture with us into Cuzco to sample some great Andean Cuisine. Their local knowledge played a huge role in our nightly feasts and entertainment selections. The best night, by far was after our Abra Lares rides, when our guid Miguel Lozano showed us his other passion, cooking (photo above). A renowned chef in the city, Miguel fixed up no less than 6 dishes for our band of riders. Miguel marshaled the kitchen like a pro, and put several of the gringo visitors to work chopping, washing and prepping sauces and dishes for the succulent meal that followed.
If I’ve peeked your interest, stay tuned, plans are already on the board for a third installment of this trip…
Ten Days (riding) in Perú:
I wrote this nearly eight years ago after a few friends and I visited Peru. Since then I have visited the Valley with at least two more groups and I’m getting ready to head out on yet another adventure with another group. This is where the idea for Anda Llama was born…
More than 10 years in the making
Every year since I left my homeland I have been going back. Watching the transformation of my third world country as it progressed through the years. At the same time I slowly evolved into a seasoned mountain biker. My love affair with knobby tires started by “accident”, literally. After destroying my only mode of transportation, a shinny 1972 Datsun 240z, in the summer of 90 I was forced to purchase a bike for transportation. That bike changed my life and introduced me to single-track and the joys of riding.
Naturally, every time I went back to my homeland and drove the backroads and dirt paths that litter the Peruvian landscape I always gazed at the distant hillside trails wondering if anyone had ridden them. Each year I returned I searched for someone that had, and finally, in the late 90s I found one who did, George Schofieled of Pachacamac Aventuras. George took me out on what has become a must do ride in Lima, Pachacamac. Each year there after when I went back I tried to ride it again. This pattern went on virtually every year, and with each journey back I couldn’t help but burst with excitement when I told all my cycling friends in the Washington D.C. Metro area about my Peruvian adventures. “You have to come with me!” I said: “Next year I’m going down with my bike and heading to Cuzco for more trails, join me…”
But, as life often does, it always got in the way and the trip never materialized…
…to 2010. Finally I got my ass in gear and started the process. I convinced at least 3 friends to join me in the spring of 2011 in what I promised (based on my Pachacamac and Lima riding adventures) would be the most incredible riding they would ever attempt. Those 3 turned in to 13 and before we knew it it was mid May 2011 and we were boarding COPA flight 357 headed south for the land of the Incas.
So our band of thirteen arrived in Lima with no major incidents and quickly set to unpacking and building our bikes for our “introductory” Andean ride. Billed as the “best” and “longest” downhill in the world we set out to ride what is arguably one of the greatest rides I have ever done. “Olleros”.
Getting “there” was half the fun. We boarded a bus that would take us up switchback after deadly switchback to the nearly 11,500’ high in the Limenean Andes. After a quick uphill single-track ride our group gathered, both for air and to get the quick low down from our expert Guide Diego Alvarado of Peru Bike. “Get ready”, he said in his deep Peruvian accented voice, “What follows will likely be one of the greatest experiences you’ll have on two wheels. We’ll descend some tight exposed singletrack to some loose sandy shale switchbacks before we hit el ‘Huaico’. Then it’s ‘Falso Plano’ all the way to the beach where we can go no further, take your time, enjoy it…”
His brief “explanation” requires some translation:
Tight Exposed Singletrack: Think the most buttery smooth trail you’ve ever ridden and throw some technical features. Then add a sheer drop off on the right or left for good measure. Sprinkle it with the most incredible mountain/ocean views you’ve ever seen and you have what Diego was talking about.
Loose Sandy Shale Switchbacks: Three or so kilometers of hell. Since there is no lung busting uphill on this trail, the Peruvians have thrown what is likely one of the most difficult and technical sections of downhill trail I have personally ever ridden. This steep sandy section of ribbon is littered with sharp baby heads hidden slightly below the the sandy surface. All you have to do here is wipe your ass with the rear tire, apply some rear break and skid (or ski) your way down to the bottom.
Huayco (see above video) is a feared word in Peru. If you ever hear it (unless its in relation to Olleros) get out of the way. Simply put, a Huayco is the rushing fury of water as it makes it’s way from the high Andes to the Pacific coast. Along the way it virtually takes everything in it’s path leaving behind an “instant” canyon. It is the ultimate trail builder. What’s left to ride is the “flow” path, miles of tight trails with multiple lines filled with ledges, rock gardens and concrete smooth surfaces that make Moab’s slick rock child’s play.
Falso Plano loosely translated means “False flats”. If you were on the surface of the moon chances are this is what it looks like. I wouldn’t be surprised if NASA has trained here at one point or another. No words I can use can give this justice. What we road were miles upon miles of slightly descending, concrete hard, desert that virtually ended in the ocean. Along the way were boulders of various sizes littering our path making the ride much more interesting. This natural highway allowed us to hammer the big ring like nowhere else on the planet. Amazing.
Take your Time, Enjoy It: Go Fast!!
Diego wasn’t kidding. What we rode for the next few hours was some of the most amazing trails I have ever laid wheels on and an experience I will unlikely forget on my time here on this planet. My buddy Scott Scudamore, an Xterra ambassador and IMBA representative, quickly proclaimed at the end of the ride, “this is my #1. The best ride I have ever done,” I echoed the sentiments. Little did we know what was to follow…
How could it get better after Olleros?
We packed our bikes up again in the evening before heading out for some Pisco Sours, Pilsens (beers for all you gringos 😉 ) and Anticuchos. Then, early the next day we boarded Star Peru Airlines for a quick hop to Cuzco were our Scottish guide (really), Doogie of Amazonas Explorers, awaited us in the belly button of the world.
Once our group was complete we boarded a bus for the Sacred Valley, our center of operations for the next 9 days. From there Amazonas Explorers would shuttle us up to various points high in the valley so we could make our way down back to the river.
Upon arrival we quickly proclaimed to Doogie that he would have to really give us his “A” game because topping Olleros would be difficult. The Scotsman confidently declared: “no worries mates, we have wee bit rides here in Cuzco that will knock your socks off…” This remained to be seen.
Doogie was right. Olleros quickly became a distant memory once we set wheels to the Sacred Valley trails. Day after Day our expert guides exceeded our expectations. Every ride we did in Cuzco had its highlights, but three stuck out the most for me, Moras/Salt Pans, Chincheros, and the the one to rule them all Huchuy Qosqo.
Moras to The Salt Pans
The Moray, Moras, Salt Pans ride is a Cuzco classic. The “regular” ride takes tourists through undulating dirt trails with spectacular views of the various peaks that surround the Urubamba Valley. Our group did the first part of the ride together then we split up into two groups so that our resident adrenaline junkies (yours included) could do the “alternate” route.
While our less aggressive group continued down toward the Salt Pans on the pre-determined and tamer route, a second group of us veered off on the all wheel drive to climb up to the top of the “hill” where the mega avalanche race course starts. As we climbed the switchbacks we could see our less-aggressive friends enjoying the dirt roads below.
After a rough 4×4 climb to the peak above Moras we began our descent down some fast double track that quickly converted to an off camber narrow single-track. It was hard maintaining focus on the narrow trail with the spectacular views of the valley bellow. The checkered fields that characteristically cover the Urubamba landscape made for an interesting quilt of colors. The narrow trail soon gave way to a technical and steep rock face decent to a mini natural mountain bike park full of berms and jumps. From there it was a non-stop roller coaster ride through the town of Moras and then to single-track trails that descended to the Salt Pans. From there another gnarly section dropped us into arguably some of the tightest and steepest switchbacks I had ridden to date and finally down a flat road to the Urubamba.
I simply cannot do this ride justice with any words. The views, the trails were simply jaw dropping, all I know is that I have to get back…
Next up was Chincheros. We started high above the small town and ruins on some nice easy rollers. The “easy” trail soon gave way to some incredible tight single-track along Eucalyptus forests. After a short break and a set of steep Inca steps the trail turned to slippery shale. Challenging and difficult, yet incredible rewarding. Kim spilled hard on the steep shally slopes before we made our way down to the town of Huallyabamba via some incredibly tight switchbacks. From there we took a fast narrow dirt road through the small village to finish with a nice pic-nic lunch along the shores of the Urubamba river.
Nothing really prepared us for what was about to come. All we were told was that it was going to be a long day and that we were going to be riding some great trails. Our bus and 4×4 (loaded with bikes) set out early in the morning on what would be a nearly 4 hour trip up to nearly 14,000′. Our trusted driver climbed up some incredibly narrow roads that would have been difficult on a bike, let alone a transport. We passed several small villages on our way up until we arrived high above along an Andean lagoon. From there we continued our ascent by bike for another 500 meters or so until we were well above the 14,000′ foot mark. I have to tell you, those few hundred meters of climbing were brutal. All along the grinder we could hear the cries of sheep echoing around us, further above, grazing in what I can only imagine was the edge of space.
We finally reached the summit about 6 hours after our departure from Cuzco. The reward? a 16 mile balls to the wall descent on some of the most incredible trails I have laid wheels on. We started on a pristinely preserved iInca Trail. Not long before we started rolling we were hitting speeds of over 20mph, in a couple of cases going over sets of perfectly spaced steps. The straight and narrow beginning of this trail soon gave way to winding tight single-track as we made our way down the valley. The views and trails were short of spectacular. At one point, nearly halfway down the descent we stopped at an overlook to soak in the view of the valley below, which was still over 2000 meters beneath us. Along the way we saw a herd of llamas galloping ahead of us on the trail, a pair of Condors circling the sky below us, and we got the chance to visit seldom seen Inca ruins.
We rode for 7 more days after Huchuy Qosqo, hitting more trails around Urubamba and the Sacred Valley and topping things off with some incredible Urban Rides in and around Cuzco. This was an incredible trip, one which I’ll unlikely be able to top off any time soon. One thing is certain though, next time I’m in Peru I will definitely make an effort to try and do any one of these rides again.
Finally, to top it all off we stashed the bikes for a day and headed by train to Aguas Calientes for a day visit to Machu Picchu.
I encourage you all to visit Peru, not just for the riding, but because evry single person we met along the way made us feel welcome and appreciated us visiting their home. They all took great pride in there homes, and no matter how little they had they always managed a smile and hello to our strangely looking band of riders.
A Slideshow of the trip
A collection of snapshots form my recent trip to Mountain Bike in the Sacred Valley of Cuzco in Peru. Music is by one of my favorite Peruvian bands: La Sarita, the song: Mamacha Simona from the album by the same name…
The POV Footage
A collection of POV footage from my latest trip to Cuzco where I spent 10 days riding with a dozen friends from the states. We hit all the classic Valley rides and then some. Loads of fun. Most of the footage is from my helmet cam. Some is also from my buddy’s Scott. The really fast footage is with the camera mounted to my buddy Greg and our guide Xavier. If you have not ridden in Peru, you must, it is an amazing place to roll knobbies on. The song is Maldito Bichero by one of my favorite Peruvian bands, La Sarita.