After taking an altitude sickness pill, having lunch, and drinking coca leaf tea, I was feeling back to (somewhat) normal, and was ready for our afternoon ride in Cusco.
We climbed from our hotel in Cusco up the road for about an hour to meet the trailhead.
I have become the chooser of restaurants for this group on this trip (which is fine by me, because I am a bit of a food snob!) – My method is to use Trip Advisor, and filter to see only the three and four dollar sign restaurants. It worked amazingly in Lima, and Cusco was no different. We had a delicious meal (and amazing coca leaf infused pisco sours) at Museo de Pisco restaurant.
The next morning we drove an hour and a half outside of Cusco where we started our ride. It was a very small town in the hills at about 14,000 ft. The local women sold us some bracelets and toques, and this is where we had the option to hire a porter to take our bikes up the first very steep climb. Since we were nearly at 14,000 ft, (and of course I wanted to support the local economy ;)) I jumped at the chance. Most of the group decided to pedal up (but I think those folks were jealous of my decision).
Once the steepest part of the climb was over, we paid our porters, and hopped on our bikes with the rest and continued our climb (at a much gentler incline) to the highest elevation we’ll reach during the whole trip (14,600 ft). It was incredible to try and ride a bike at that altitude. I felt extremely exhausted and had to constantly stop to catch my breath.
Finally we start our decent on an old Inca trail! This trail doesn’t take us to Cusco, but instead we are riding down to the Sacred Valley (gateway to Machu Picchu) where we stay for 4 nights. This downhill ride had some amazing views. We couldn’t ride all of the sections (very steep old rock stairs with major exposure) but the views made up for it!
We checked into our hotel in the Sacred Valley, and went for dinner near the train station (train that goes to Machu Picchu) and had a fantastic meal at El Albergue Restaurant (best meal in all of Peru in my opinion!). During this dinner, we were informed that the locals, as well as the people of Cusco were planning a strike for the following two days (we had tickets to go the next morning!). Our guide was able to switch our tickets for Friday, so next day meant more biking!
The protest / strike is because the Peruvian president (Ollanta Humala) wants to privatize the concessions for all of the archeological sites in Peru (including Machu Picchu). Currently, I.N.C., which is a public institution, takes care of all the archaeological sites and the profits from the tourism goes to the Peruvians.
So, we won’t be going to Machu Picchu as planned tomorrow…. we will see what the protesters are up to, and plan a ride accordingly!
Next blog post: Riding in the Sacred Valley of Peru