23 August 2014

Lima, Arequipa, Cusco, Huaraz: Family time on the Gringo Trail

After some days in the Cordillera Blanca we looked forward to some time off the bikes with Alberto´s mom and brother, who came for a nearly three week whirlwind tour of Peru. Hot showers every day, a comfy bed and guaranteed good wifi signal marked a major change from our usual style of travel. On the other hand the touristy trail lacked some of the charm of our time in Peru, such as children shouting ¨Griiiinggoooo!¨and dogs barking at us at all hours of the day and night.

After a night bus from Huaraz to Lima, we were reunited with Alberto´s mom and brother who flew in to Lima to visit with us!

The centre of Lima was more charming than we expected...

...and we stumbled upon an apparently rather famous woman giving an impromptu concert.

Alberto, Rosa, and Alex took a day trip to see the Nasca Lines - Lucy stayed behind because apparently the flyovers are not recommended for motion sickness sufferers! Here the famous astronaut...

Meanwhile, in Miraflores, we got to watch the paragliders (and surfers, see bottom left) at work.

We also got to visit the pre-Inca ruins of Huaca Pucllana, right in the middle of Miraflores.

You can shop for literally anything in calle Emancipación in central Lima, including dentist chairs.

We had a mission to pick up some bike parts -- acting on a tip from the bike shop in Cajamarca we found the area where high-spec stuff is sold on the cheap (Avenida Emancipacion cuadras 8-10).

We also visited the Larco Museum, home to an unbelievable amount of pre-Inca and Inca pottery. Here, a pottery Cuy (Guinea Pig)!

And Alberto ate some great ceviche del día, which does not have anything to do with the Ecuatorian equivalent. For starters, the fish is raw!

Being on the gringo trail meant we had to catch a flight to Arequipa...luckily with some great views of Cotahuasi Canyon (the world´s deepest) as we went. 

Snow-less volcano Misti (5822 m) plays an important part in the history of Arequipa and towers over the city.

Arequipa had really interesting architecture combining local and colonial traditions, but unfortuantely way too many tourists trying to see it!

On a largely pointless day trip to the Colca Canyon we did get to see some cool pre-Inca agricultural terraces
We managed to get a sense of the beauty of the canyon, and resolved to come back sometime (on bikes and on foot) to enjoy it without the hordes of day-tripping tourists like ourselves!

Back in Arequipa we toured the Santa Catalina convent - a walled city within the city that felt just like Spain.

And took a trip to the very calm and surprisingly well-organised central market.
Another flight (we must have used an entire year´s carbon footprint on these three weeks), and we were in Cusco, checking out the fine Inca walls which still line some of the streets in the city.

We visited the impressive Inca ruins of Saqsaywhaman with the biggest stones of any Inca ruins.

An overnight in Ollantaytambo allowed us to see the terraced Inca ruins above the town.

And before we knew it, we were on the ridiculously overpriced train to Aguas Calientes, gateway to Machu Picchu!

The two of us walked up to Machu Picchu from Aguas Calientes, meaning we were there before the crowds and in time to watch the sun hit the site bit by bit.
About an hour and a half later, Rosa and Alex made it on the bus - a moment for celebration!

Later on, some light clouds rolled in to allow us to get the classic misty shot...
...before hoardes of tourists inundated the place
Back in Cusco, we went on a mission to find the famous Inca stone with no less than 12-sides!

In our final night in Cusco we checked out the artsy San Blas neighbourhood...

... and headed back to Huaraz to check out the Cordillera Blanca from a better vantage point (Laguna Wilcacocha here, in the Cordillera Negra).

And a day trip to the surprisingly impressive pre-Incan ruins of Chavin

We took advantage of the visit as a chance to send home some unwanted extra weight.

And had some frame bags made in Huaraz which meant we could ditch our front panniers!

After three weeks off the bikes, we were itching to get back on the bikes and into rural Peru. But Lucy´s immune system had other ideas, and we were stuck in Huaraz for a few extra days while she recovered from laryngitis. Luckily though, there´s plenty of one-day rides to do...and below is just an example of one in the Cordillera Negra that Alberto did while waiting for Lucy´s recovery.


- Machu Pichu: if you intend to visit the site on your own, be aware that tickets sell out well in advance in the high season. However, the Peruvian government will sell you the tickets from the Ministerio de Cultura in Cusco, exceeding the 2500 visitors limit, providing you have train tickets booked. Also, there´s student discounts (50% off) which are not available online or through agencies.

To avoid the bus queues to get up to the ruins, you can walk up (with hundreds others!), but be aware that they only let walkers through from 5 am onwards, so it is pointless to turn up before then. This way, you can reach the entrance before 6 am, and enjoy the site without the crowds for a short while. Lastly, avoid visiting on Sundays - Cusqueños get free entry and the place is even more packed than usual apparently, and transport back from Ollantaytambo to Cusco is a real nightmare due to traffic jams.

- Yuraq Janka is a well-known place in Huaraz, which especialises in fixing outdoor equipment as well as manufacturing some mountain stuff. They too made our frame bags for a fair price (S/. 70 each) but they took their time (more than a month) so they´re only good if you have quite a few days in the area and lots of patience. Best to speak to owner Yuri directly, or else things may take even longer than usual...

- Montañas Mágicas (near Parque Ginebra) is an small but very professional bike and mountain shop with a modest Park Tool workshop. Ivan and Michel did some maintenance on our bikes (hub swap and cleaning) in no time, and for a modest price. They can also source more specific parts from Lima, if you can wait a couple days for them to arrive.


  1. The frame bag looks great ! You'll be flying now with althis extra weight send back to home ! be carreful you might catch us ! Take care Marion and Virgile

  2. Hemos pasado unas estupendas vacaciones con vosotros. Traemos 1400 fotos de estas tres semanas en Perú!! Machu Picchu inolvidable pero aün más el susto que nos dimos pensando que no podríamos visitarlo!!! Perú, eres muy grande! No olvidaremos tampoco la pizzería sin masa de pizza, ni el extra por la leche del desayuno... Cuidaos mucho, besos!

  3. I also had the chance to get to Machu Picchu early and watch the sunrise- inolvidable! Sounds like you guys got a taste of how the ordinary tourist experiences a vacation and are eager to get back on your bikes. Hope you're both well rested and healthy for the next country!