A diverse day of cycling: we left Ocongate on a short descent, then had a beautiful, gentle climb through a canyon that really reminded me of California coastal mountain canyons, both vegetation and terrain . . . except at the top are stupendous views with 20,000 ft. peaks in the background. A long, painful climb led to the first of what I think of as these amaaaazing Peruvian descents; from the top you can look down into the valley, in this case 3500 ft below, and see the place you are heading. The beautifully engineered road swept thorough two dozen switchbacks as we dropped at 35 mph from the cold to the heat, the barren to the lush, the rural to the urban. When I hit the top of this descent, I was totally strung out. My legs and my brain had reached an uneasy truce: if I left the legs to their own devices, they agreed to turn the pedals, but if I tried to push even the tiniest bit, there were riots in the streets, burning barricades, and Molotov cocktails going off in my thighs. At the top of Abra Cuyuni (13,800 ft), I don’t think I could have climbed another foot, but by the time I got to Urcos (10,300 ft) all was forgotten and forgiven. We took over a small restaurant for lunch, eating steak and rice, dawdled a bit, ooh-ing and aah-ing over the total amazitude of the descent, then saddled up for the 50K ride into Cusco.
We entered Cusco (11,200 ft.) on the busiest road of the tour, a constant parade of trucks, busses, and cars with a narrow shoulder that was often muddy and only got busier the closer we came to the city—and to top it all off we had a headwind. We were met about 12K out
by Clara’s husband Percy, whose car we followed through town to the hotel. That was kind of an adventure, and was the first time in my cumulative ten+ weeks of touring with Lon that I saw him lose his temper, trying to get Percy to drive slow enough and the group to stay together and close to the car. All was well, though, and our little peloton of 13 riders got a lot of comments and thumbs up from passersby. Peruvians are very nice. Did I say that before? As we came to the center the road turned to cobblestones and we bumped over the final few blocks to the hotel, wher warm rooms and hot showers awaited—it was nice to be warm after two days of cold.
Abandon all romantic notions of Cusco, readers; it is his
toric and all that, but it is a big, dirty, smelly city (1MM+ population) with loads of traffic. The Plaza de Armas bears a vague similarity to Fisherman’s wharf. Every ten feet the legions of tourists are being accosted for restaurants, massage, trinkets, money-changing, etc. I think I wrote more clearly about historic Cusco in my 2012 post, but I looked at these 36 hours as strictly R&R—a vacation from my vacation. I got a single room, ate Italian food at Incanto, a fine dining establishment, went to a tony spa for sauna, Jacuzzi and massage, got the laundry done, spent most of the day working on a writing project, and tried to sleep a lot. Not too successful the first night, so I bought some zolpidem and was out all night last night. I’ll write again tonight in Limatombo, but I’m not sure of the internet situation so it may be a couple days before I can post again.