The descriptions below were written by Alissa Bernstein, my hostess in Bolivia, and by Lon Haldeman, promoter of the Peru trip. Lon, with his wife Susan Notorangelo, are long distance cycling legends and owners of Pac Tour, the touring company I have done both of my cross country rides with. Lon has been doing philanthropy in Peru for fifteen years to benefit both general development matters and cycling–you can read about it at www.pactour.com. The bike I’m riding on the tour, a 1986 Schwinn Tempo, is donated to Lon by a PacTour rider, and will be left in Peru at the end of the tour to support a promising local cyclist.
Most of my readers know who Alissa is, our dear family friend, best friend to Eva and Sophie, Eva Foundation Board member and all around terrific person. Alissa is getting a Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology and has been in and out of Bolivia over the past two and a half years, doing her field research.
My first big challenge will be to see how I do with the altitude, going from sea level SF directly to La Paz at 12,000 ft.I’ve been armed with a diuretic by my physician, and Alissa promised to meet me at the airport with a thermos of coca tea and some other mysterious local remedy
10/15: Arrive La Paz American Airlines flight 922, 5:15 AM. (by Alissa) I pick you up at the airport and take you to the Hotel Osira, on Plaza San Pedro, which is two blocks from my house. – you can rest a bit, we’ll have lunch at Namaste Cafe which is at my place and has a great three course almuerzo. We will walk around town this first day, see the sites (mirador, Iglesia San Francisco, Plaza Murillo, etc). Dinner at La Coca.
10/16: We leave in a private car at 7am to Copacabana, get there around noon, check into La Cupula hotel, have lunch, get a private tour by Angelo of the city- Basilica, mountain, Inca trail. Dinner at La Cupula (really yummy).
10/17: Early morning boat ride to the Northern part of Isla del Sol. 45 minute local tour of ruins. Lunch. Hike across Isla del Sol (about 2.5 hours). Boat back from Southern side of Isla del Sol to Copacabana. Check out of La Cupula and take car back to La Paz. Dinner at Hotel Rosario.
10/18: Open day– either Valle de la Luna (valley hike to see canyons), Chacaltaya (1.5 hours up to an old ski resort, amazing sweeping views, 18,000 feet so we’ll see how you are doing with altitude), or Tiwanaku (1.5 hours to see ancient Incan ruins tour and museum). We can decide then, but if you have a preference let me know. Dinner/music and dancing show at Peña Marko Tambu.
10/19: Mark leaves La Paz TACA Flight 1 at 8:15 am.
Friday, October 19 (by Lon Haldeman) Everyone is arriving in Lima before midnight. Some people are arriving on Thursday night and they will have an extra day in Lima. As a side trip we are planning to go to the Chosica Girl’s Home and take 15 girls shopping on Friday afternoon. We will pick-up Aracely and her mother Nayda, and bring them back to Lima. We will be able to get back to Lima by 8:00 PM to start meeting the rest of the group which is arriving from 9:00 PM to Midnight. Riders who arrive with bikes should leave their bikes at the airport storage area. They should take all their race prizes out of their bike box and bring the prizes to our hotel for storage during our tour for the next 12 days. Another option is to pack your race prizes in your gear bag and put your cycling clothes and helmet in your bike case that you will take to Cusco.
Saturday, October 20 We can eat breakfast at the hotel. We need to start heading to the airport by 7:30 AM. We need to get all our bike cases and luggage together and do a group check-in. Sara has the plane tickets. Our flight to Cusco departs at 10:00 AM. We will arrive in Cusco by 11:30 AM. Clara will meet us in Cusco. We will go to our hotel in the historic area which is downtown about 6 blocks from the main square. We will store our bikes in the hotel for the next 3 days. After lunch we can have a van tour of the SACSAYHUAMAN ruins from 2:00 to 4:00 PM. We are having a dinner at Clara’s house which is near the ruins. We will help make dinner so we will have an assortment of errands. Some of us will need to buy the food in the market or go to the bakery. Clara has lots of sisters who speak English and they will help us find our way around the city. Dinner will be served later at about 7:30 PM. This will be a busy day and we will be back at our hotel by 10:00 PM.
Sunday, October 21 We have a leisurely morning with breakfast at the hotel. If you get up early it is worth visiting the cathedral on the main square and seeing the Sunday church service. At 9:30 AM we will drive to the Salt Mines at Maras and make a tour of the Sacred Valley. We will have lunch in the early afternoon. We will drive to Ollantaytambo which is an historic town with many craft shops. We need to be waiting for the train in Ollantaytambo by 2:00 PM to go to Aguas Caliente. We have a 3 hour train ride to the base of Machu Picchu. After we get settled at our hotel we can have dinner in Aguas Caliente. Most of the town shuts down by 9:00 PM so we will be ready for bed after another busy day.
Monday, October 22 This is our day to visit Machu Picchu. We can divide into 2 groups depending on how active we want to be during the day. One group will have Clara as a guide and one group will have Aracely as a guide. Some people might want to go to the mountain top at Machu Picchu and watch the sun rise. Others might want to sleep in and visit Machu Picchu later in the morning. It is about a one hour hike up the stairs to Machu Picchu. If you want to take a bus, you can board a bus every 5 minutes for a 15 minute ride to the top (these bus tickets cost about $5 on your own). At Machu Picchu each group will have their own official guide who speaks English. The guides are waiting at the entrance gate. Be sure to interview your guide and make sure they speak English. We can tour around Machu Picchu until 1:00 PM. Then we need to start heading toward our train. We need to get our luggage from storage at our hotel and be at the train by 2:00 PM. Our train departs at 2:30 PM and we will be back at Ollantaytambo by 5:30 PM. We need to take a van shuttle back to Cusco whish takes about one hour. Back in Cusco we will go to dinner and have the rest of the evening to walk around the main plaza.
Tuesday, October 23 We can sleep in at our hotel and have a leisurely breakfast. After breakfast we should assemble our bikes and make sure they are ready for the tour. The remainder of Tuesday is a free day to visit the historic areas near Cusco or go to Pisac and Tucsan and look at the water well project we are making in the mountains. This trip is optional but you will get a chance to meet local people where tourists don’t usually go. In the evening we will return to Cusco and have a group dinner.
Wednesday October 24 Limatombo 44 miles 70 km The next morning we will begin our bike ride. After we ride about 7 miles across Cusco we will be on the main road and only road to Nasca for the next 400 miles. Navigation will be pretty easy following the only paved road. There are cement Kilometer Markers along the road counting down from #959.
Our route card will use these Kilometers markers to locate sites along the route. Our only navigation concern will be locating our hotels in the center of town each night. Peru Hotels usually do not have a big Best Western type sign out front. It will be necessary for us to regroup at the edge of town and ask our guides to give us our final directions to the hotel. Some of the hotels are located off side streets without street names. Today We have a 1,000 foot downhill and then a 1,000 foot climb. We end the day with a 3,000 foot downhill over the final 17 miles. It should be an easy day. The hotel in Limatambo is basic and rustic but comfortable enough for one night. Part of the fun each night will be eating at the local restaurants. Maybe we can find a Karaoke Bar some night and Alessandra will sing for us.
Thursday October 25 Abancay 120km 75mi The next day leaving Limatambo we head downhill, dropping 2,000 feet through a canyon that could have avalanche damage. Be prepared for 5-10 miles of rough roads depending on recent landslides. Fortunately this is the only bad pavement on the route. We should have nice pavement the rest of the tour. Our next 60 KM will climb over 5,000 feet to 13,000′ elevation. Bring warm clothes for the summit. The next 33 KM will go downhill again dropping 4,000′ into Abancay. Abancay is a big town with a lively market area. Our hotel is in a nice tourist type resort area.
Friday October 26 Chalhuanca 123 km 77 mi Our third riding day will descend 2,000 feet during the first 28 km into a valley and then climb 2,000 feet back up to another ridge. Our ending town of Chalhuanca is another good size town. We will need to go shopping here for all our supplies for the next two riding days. We will buy wool blankets in the market for our stay in Pampamarca the next night. All the extra supplies we buy we will give to Aracely after the tour to take to her Chosica Girl’s Home.
Saturday October 27 Pampamarca 105km 65 mi When we depart Chalhuanca we will have one of our longest climbs of the tour. We will gain about 1,000 feet every 10 KM until we reach 14,500 feet elevation at the 70 KM mark. Above 14,000 feet we will be feeling the elevation. We end the day with a nice 1,000 downhill into Pampamarca. In Pampamarca is where we will be staying with a local family that owns a small store. They are excited to have us stay with them and they are already preparing for our visit. They are making more beds for us and getting more blankets. We will need to be self contained and bring more blankets just in case. It will be cold at 13,500 feet elevation during the night (water freezes). Tonight we will prepare our dinner on a wood burning stove. Our cook (Nayda) will make us a nice meal with the help of the local family. We can all help get things organized. This will be the most rustic accommodations of our tour. There are no showers at the house and we will wash with a bucket of water. The bathroom is an outhouse type toilet. We have stayed in similar houses on past tours and these places end up being some of the best experiences of the tour.
Sunday October 28 Puquio 85 km 53 mi Our ride leaving Pamaparca will stay along the high prairies above 13,000 feet most of the day. Except for the lack of air, it is easy to forget we are so high. Most of the terrain is rocky with a few grazing cattle trying to share a sprout of grass. The area has its own beauty in a barren sort of way. The final 40 KM into Puquio we will descend over 4,000 feet. Puquio is a nice town with an active plaza area. The nights will still be cool at 10,400′ elevation.
Monday October 29 Nasca 156km 97 mi Our 6th cycling day will go up and down over several ridges for the first 100 KM. The highest climb gains about 2,000 feet. This will be or longest riding day so far but the final 50 KM (35 miles) are down hill into Nasca. We will be entering the desert region of Peru and the temperatures will be warmer. We will want to save some of the coolness from Pampamarca. Nasca is a big tourist area and we will stay here for two nights. We will be at a nice tourist hotel with good showers, beds and toilets.
Tuesday October 30 Our stay over day in Nasca will focus on visiting the Nasca Lines. We have the option of viewing them by small airplane or driving out into the desert and seeing the lines from an observation tower. The view is much better from an airplane. If you don’t like small planes or get car sick, you don’t have to go in the airplane. We will buy our airplane tickets when we arrive in Nasca and we can decide what everyone would like to do. There are several good museums in Nasca with mummies and other artifact from 3,000 years ago.
Wednesday October 31 Pisco 185 km 115 mi Our final riding day goes from Nasca to the coastal town of Pisco. This will be a long day over 100 miles with a few long rolling hills along the coast. The biggest concern will be the desert heat. It could be 100 degrees. We should start this day early and try to ride most of the distance in the morning. Lon will be scouting this section of the road again before the tour to get a better view of the services and terrain along the way. Pisco is a beach community famous for the Pisco Sour which is the National Drink of Peru. The ocean is suitable for swimming here. We will have a good celebration after completing our bike ride from Cusco.
Thursday November 1 The next day we will pack our bikes in a transport truck and then we will take the bus back to Lima. It is about a four hour bus ride to downtown Lima. We will be staying in a nice area of Lima near the best part of the city. Lima will be a contrast to the areas we visited during our tour.
Friday November 2Our final day in Lima is a free day before your flights home in the evening. There will be time for shopping and buying gifts from Peru. There are several really good traditional markets near our hotel. If you would like to go on a Lima City Tour we can arrange a bus tour at 9:00 AM in the morning. Depending on your flight time we will make sure you get to the airport at least three hours before our flight home in the evening. You will go home with many new experiences from Peru.