Amazing, wonderful and challenging.
This is how I would define the landscapes and mountain biking trails around the city of Cusco, from where innumerable adventurers leave daily to explore the world-class trails with heights that exceed 16,000 ft.
The city of Cusco is 11,400 feet above sea level. The first thing you must do when arriving is acclimatize to the altitude. I recommend spending at least 3 days on the trails near the city while your body acclimatizes to pedaling over eleven thousand feet.
The route that I recommend Huayllarcocha, You start pedaling next to the famous Plaza de Armas of Cusco where you climb for about 4 miles on asphalt up to the archaeological complex of Sacsayhuaman. From there you will take a very fun downhill trail and then some urban rock stairs to get back to the city center
After an introduction to the local trails of Cusco, it is time to go to hit the routes outside the city and advance to the famous Sacred Valley of the Incas. The Sacred Valley houses several of the most famous mountain biking routes. We start with “Lares” and “Lamay” which are two different single tracks, full of paths and stone stairs of Inca origin. We start at the top of the Lares pass, at 14,800 feet for a descent of 11 miles to the town of Calca at 9,800 feet above sea level. In addition to pedaling along rivers and through canyons we have a traditional lunch, with a soup of beans, potatoes and noodles accompanied by a rice with baked chicken and a refreshing Inca Kola. Next, the transport took us to the Lamay trailhead, starting in the town of Sapaccto at 14,800 feet. We descend 9 miles to the town of Lamay at 9,000 feet above sea level, in the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Another amazing route that descends into the small town of Ollantaytambo, also know as, the living Inca city, is Patacancha. The Patacancha enduro trail is the home to one of the highest enduro MTB races in the world. Personally it was one of my favorites, both for its technical level and it’s landscapes. You cross through the highest moors of the region and on roads and trails full of stone stairs, curves and natural jumps. If you are lucky you will also pedal next to the ruins of Pumamarca.
Maras is a community in the province of Urubamba that is famous for its salt mines. Here tourists from all over the world come to take pictures. Maras and the salt mines can be reached by bus or on tours from Cusco. We decided to reach that place from Chancadora which lies at 11,800 feet! After 20.5 miles of pedaling, between climbs and beautiful descents with amazing landscapes, we crossed by the salt mines on single track. We were able to observe these amazing salt pools from a perspective other than what the normal tourist is able to see. We continue on through the valley riding next to the Vilcanota River where our transport was waiting for us.
One of the most amazing and demanding routes is definitely Huchuy Qosqo, Here we rode an Inca trail that crosses through the highlands with beautiful lagoons and finally arrives at Huchuy Qosqo meaning “Little Cusco” in Quechua. This was an Inca city located in the Sacred Valley across from the town of Lamay. It should be mentioned that from the entrance to the archaeological complex and within it, it is not possible to enter pedaling, you have to get off the bicycles and cross pushing them until you leave. The entrance cost is $20 soles (about 3 dollars). After visiting the complex, we rode our bikes descending through a steep canyon with tight switchbacks testing our technique on the bike.
After having spent several days enjoying routes around the Sacred Valley of the Incas, it was time for an MTB expedition around the snowy Ausangate. We spent 3 days on the mountain, pedaling, pushing our bikes and riding technical descents. We were always at en elevation of about 13,800 feet to 15,700 feet. This expedition tested us physically, mentally and often tested our technical skills on the bike. However, the beautiful landscapes we had around us were enough to motivate us to continue. Arriving at camp there was always a hot drink ready or a delicious traditional Peruvian meal like “Pachamanca.” The pachamanca is prepared using hot mountain stones to cook different ingredients within them, such as alpaca meat accompanied by different varieties of potatoes and beans. All of this is cooked in the heat of the fire with hot stones. The nights were amazing! In the absence of light pollution we could observe the stars and the Milky Way dancing on the snow-capped mountains that have heights above 19,600 feet. While we were in the community of “Pacchanta” in some hot spring that only cost 5 soles we enjoyed a wonderful night watching the stars!
To continue with my experience in the mountains of Peru, I want to show you a little of what you see in the southern valley of Cusco, where there are several routes, among them are: Brujo, Radar and Chipta, which are other of my favorites, since they have several lines with different terrains, even in Radar, so called because it begins at 14,400 feet high next to one of the approach radars of the Cusco airport and ends next to the Vilcanota river, in the town of Andahuaylillas at 10,490 feet above sea level.
To finish my experiences doing photography and pedaling in the mountains of the Cusco region, I want to show you one of the “cross country” routes that I liked to do, it is about “Inca Legends”, which is the equivalent of the Death Road in Bolivia, but definitely much better, since we cross different terrain and landscapes. This route is ideal as to relax your legs or during the acclimatization process before the most complex routes, are 31 miles, which begin on a high plateau at 13,800 feet high, and then a long descent with short but steep slopes, in the that we cross high canyons, valleys next to mighty rivers, and in the end we will enjoy pedaling next to natural waterfalls that will accompany us until we finish the route at 8,500 feet above sea level.
Peru is one of the most diverse countries in South America, and the third largest in the region, and personally, after knowing almost all of South America, I can say that the most beautiful part of the Andes mountain range is definitely in Peru, thanks to its topography, as it has high mountains, side by side, allowing it to have an ideal relief for adventure sports, with many routes, for which we would need a lifetime to finish knowing them, in this photo report they are not all, and perhaps not the most commercial, but they are the ones that can give us the most satisfaction, especially if you are an adventurer who does not feel comfortable with tourist-filled trails, who seeks to see Peru that is not in the photographs of tourism magazines, these routes are for those who want to test their skills and live closely the true adventure, the one in which you choose the track where to go, where you get out of the road in search of new sensations.
This photographic work came thanks to the wonderful logistics of Haku Expeditions, by Nicole and Bill Koch and their entire team of guides, carriers, chefs, muleteers and office workers. As well as I thank all the cyclists that appear in my photographs, which are from different countries, managing to show that mountain biking brings people together, regardless of nationality and language.
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That the pedal, health and adventure never lack.