This ride comes from the passion of Lon Haldeman, one of the great ultra-cyclists in the history of the sport. Pac Tour’s main line of work is high mileage cross country tours in the U.S. (www.pactour.com) For fifteen years Lon has led tours in Peru to help support both Peruvian cycling and several charitable projects.
Across the Andes traverses 1200 kilometers in 11 days, from Puerto Maldonado in the jungle, close to the Brazilian border, to Nazca in the western desert—the driest place on earth. Most of the ride is above 10,000 feet. There are 13 riders on the trip, ten American men (including Lon) ranging in age from 49 to over 70, and 3 young Peruvian women; Alessandra, her sister Samantha, and Angela. All are in university, and all are members of the Peruvian national cycling team, riding primarily on the track, although Alessandra is a past Peruvian national road race champion. The crew are Clara, from Cusco, the trip coordinator, who is travelling with Sarabeth, her 7 month old daughter; Viorica, who managed the group departure from Lima and has come along to coordinate the food in the restaurants we stop in for lunch and dinner; and Fabricio, who drives the support van (which he owns) shleps bags, and enjoys waving riders in to the various stops—snack, lunch and at the end of the day. All of the women are happy to pitch in with Sarabeth. All the Peruvians speak some English; none of the Americans speak Spanish, which to my great regret makes it impossible for me to communicate with the locals.
As I write this I’m sitting across from Clara, who is on the phone coordinating with tomorrow’s hotel. Sarabeth is sleeping in a blanket that is wrapped over one shoulder and tied at her chest. Sarabeth is invisible; her head at Clara’s left shoulder and her feet at Clara’s waist. After a while the baby’s awake, but Clara still has work to do; she rocks back and forth, stands up, sits down, trying her best to finish the work and care for the child; not so different from the lives of women I know!