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Posts tagged ‘trujillo’

Cañón del Pato

Every_so_often, Bound South embraces its wild side.  We leave the ease and surety of pavement for the uncertainty and doubt that coincides with the road less traveled.  When we do, we get lost, fall off of our bikes, and endure steep climbs and rotten roads.  Adventure is always available in the Andes.  Leaving Trujillo and the north coast of Peru, we surrounded ourselves with it, wall to wall.

Oatmeal on the plain

Winding our way to the Santa River

Cañón del Pato, translated “Duck Canyon”, is the product of two Andean ridges in Peru, the Cordillera Negra (Black Range) without snow to the west and the Cordillera Blanca (White Range) with snow to the east.  The valley between contains the Santa River, which winds its way to the coast through the canyon.  These two ridges parallel each other from Huaraz to Caraz, where they converge to form the canyon.  Near the canyon’s narrowest gap, a mere six meters across with walls rising up to Cordilleras’ crests, the raging waters of the Santa River power the turbines of a Duke Energy hydro electricity plant.  The Cordillera Blanca consists of hundreds of glaciers, lagoons, and hot springs.  Eight of its peaks rest over 6000 meters, with its highest, Huascarán Sur, sitting at 6768 meters.  Its nature is colossal which gives reason for the canyon’s grandeur.

Part of the hydro electricity plant

The beginnings of the canyon

Incredible rock formations were common on each canyon wall.

Even more impressive is the road that winds its way through the canyon.  Carved into the cliff walls, at times hundreds of meters above the river through tunnels and under overhangs, the road climbs gradually from barren desert at sea level to green mountain valleys above 3000 meters.  Beautiful, yes.  Easy, no.  To this day, the inverse rule has held true.  Established in Alaska, the rule reads: “The difficulty of the ride will be inverse to the beauty of the scenery.”

Rocky road

Mud and water substituted rock in some sections.

Isaiah in action

And challenging it was.  Mango-sized stones and mud holes covered the single-lane canyon road.  Dust coated our sweaty skin as drivers passed by.  Shade was in short supply.  Simply pedaling wasn’t easy; maintaining contact with each pedal over the bed of rocks was an unexpected challenge. It wasn’t the grade of the road that slowed our pace to 80 kilometers a day; it was exhaustion from riding through a bone-jarring sea of loose rock day after day in the heat.  The conditions were tough.  A different approach to riding was absolutely necessary.

Canyon walls of contrast

Switchbacks led us away from the canyon momentarily

Goliath, equipped with fat and knobby Kenda tires, was put to the test on this road.

Three in a row

Each watt of energy we apply to our pedals is work.  Slick tires and smooth surfaces allow us to easily build speed and maintain momentum.  On rough roads like the one described above, however, each rock or imperfection resembles a hill we must climb, which significantly slows our progress.  Pedaling from Alaska to Argentina isn’t easy.  I sometimes wish that there was only one  mountain pass between Alaska and Argentina (unfortunately, the road south of the equator does not gradually descend to Tierra del Fuego) or that it could be done with a single pedal-stroke.  These are impossible, though; I know that.

Tunnels were a great place to sing.

At the heart of Duck Canyon

We were all exhausted after this day

Spilled fuel meant no cooking for a few days.

And I know the realities of the road.  Challenges and pitfalls are everywhere.  Jagged rocks will puncture your tires and give you a sore butt.  Caps will come loose leaving you with no cooking fuel.  Tunnel darkness will surround you.  The road isn’t perfect.  Yet I have learned to embrace all that shapes this experience – both the discomforts and joys – and ride with purpose knowing that what we ride for is good and just.

Mango celebrations were to be had after reaching pavement once again.

The snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera Blanca in sight.

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Trujillo

Feeling_at_home on the road is a rare thing.  We have certainly grown accustomed to the rhythm of riding and camping that we established since Alaska.  This is the life of a traveler, however, and it makes us thankful for spending time with a new family when we get the chance.  In Trujillo, the great northern coastal city of Peru, we were blessed with some time to rest with a new kind of family: the Casa de Ciclistas.

La Casa de Ciclistas en Trujillo

Vintage

Founded more than thirty years ago, the Casa de Ciclistas of Trujillo is one of the cycling world’s best-kept secrets.  Nestled just outside the Avenida España in Trujillo, it is a hostel for bicycle adventurers of all shapes, sizes, ages, genders, and adventures.  Come as you are and stay as you are for free.  Since its founding, over 2,000 cyclists have walked through its doors and rested here for a night or a few days; once many encounter the splendid comfort and community here, they are tempted to stay for weeks.  Lucho D’Angelo and his family take care of the Casa and the cyclists that pass through it.  Lucho, a famous Peruvian bicycle racer, was invited to the 2000 Tour de France as a guest of honor and is known the world over by bicyclists for his decades-long work at Trujillo’s Casa de Ciclistas.

Lucho

"The time is not important"

In the course of the past few days, we have met a remarkable Englishwoman named Judy who has bicycled from England to China and is now finishing her second Alaskan-Argentinan leg in July.  She is riding alone, tough as nails, and some of the best lunch company that one could ever ask for.  We have met another Italian named Matias who is taking an extended tour of the Americas for over four years; the duration of his travels perhaps explains the 70 kilos of gear that he is carrying on his bicycle; we suspect that his Italian supermodel girlfriend is hidden somewhere in the rear panniers.

Time to shave

Journal entries from other touring cyclists dated back to the 1980s.

Stories, photos, and so much more filled the journals - a true treasure.

I volunteered here in Trujillo two years ago as a volunteer teacher in a barrio outside the city called Delicias.  This time in Trujillo was a wonderful homecoming to me; many things have changed in this city in that short time, but the good things are the same.  The sparkling central Plaza de Armas, the spotless colonial architecture, the narrow streets of the Centro and Pizarro and the countless bakeries with the best tres leches we have had since leaving Alaska…all of it was as it was for me two years ago.  This was home for me then, and now for us for a few days as well.

Our ride to the beach

Beachside in Huanchaco

To the ocean!

Ouch.

We rolled in on our bicycles to little local fanfare, except for the usual shouts of gringo that emanate from every corner of the Peruvian towns and cities that we ride by.  We leave to the same chorus, a reminder that we are full-time travelers and students and strangers of the places and peoples that we visit along the way to Argentina.  But when we’re lucky, even gringos get to feel at home for a while.

Away from the Andes

I_like_mountains.  Having grown up on the flat, windswept Upper Great Plains, the mountains always captivated me growing up. I’ll never forget the first year I ever saw the Rockies, when I was in 7th grade, after sitting in our family’s Suburban and driving 12 hours to reach Bozeman, MT.  Sitting in a bucket seat and looking out of the window, it seemed otherworldly to see majestic, snow-capped peaks rising out of the Earth.  To this day, the scale and grandeur of mountains has that effect on me.

One of our last high altitude views of the Andes in Ecuador

Low lying clouds and dramatic light are the cause for this other worldly scene.

Needless to say, the Andes of South America have certainly impressed us.  Yet we have left them for a time, trading long climbs through alternating cool rain and blistering heat for the consistent headwinds of the Peruvian coast.  The gateway to Peru from Ecuador in Macará brought us to a new country and people but also to a new climate and terrain.  Lush mountain vegetation turned to a lowland jungle of sorts, flat as a plate of glass aside from the ominous spine of the Andes that stretches beside us to the East.  Moving south of Tambo Grande, the soil soon turned to sand and the trees to sagebrush and chaparral.  Soon we were in Peru’s long coastal desert, fighting strong headwinds from the south and with no apparent end in sight.  It is amazing how quickly a bicycle can transport you between different natural environments.

At face value, it doesn’t seem like riding through a flat and windy desert would hold much appeal.  Why trade the cool mountain air and spectacular mountain vistas for a hot headwind?  A simple answer would be: “it’s easier”.  We fought all day, every day to maintain our pace through the mountains, climbing over consecutive mountain passes and breathing a sigh of relief if we managed to get 100k done in a day.  In the flatlands outside of Chiclayo, even with a headwind, we got a 9AM start and rode in a motivated paceline throughout the day, with the front rider rotating and breaking the wind for the others.  We had nearly 100k done by lunchtime, and 180k done by the time darkness fell and we found a cheap hostel to shower and sleep through the desert heat.

Terraced rice patties in northern Peru

The desert flatlands are conducive to a different kind of bicycle touring.  It’s about more than just how easy the miles are.  Mentally it is almost a totally different riding experience with my brothers.  In the mountains, it is as if each of us are fighting an individual battle against gravity and wind.  We are thoroughly alone with our heavy bicycles and the sound of rhythmic breathing and the feel of sweat and exhaustion.  It is as if the mountains put your mind and body in isolation, not only from the world but also from one another.  In the mountains, Bound South is an ensemble split into rooms of overworked soloists, working alone, together.

Straight, flat, quiet, and calm conditions equate to new speed records. 180 kilometers

We had to leave the mountains to regain that feeling of a choir again.  Suddenly the miles come easier, and the hum of the tires and the whistle of the wind molds three bicycles into one organic whole.  The effort of one on the front is the shield of the two behind, with each pull an individual strength that is sacrificed to move the group forward more quickly than we could ever accomplish individually.  It’s kind of cool and a luxury that most bicycle tourists cannot afford.  Yet the flatlands are about more than the speed of the riding as well.  We are afforded more time to talk by the loosened constraints of miles and time.  In Tambo Grande, we met a wonderful and gregarious woman named Gloria who soon introduced us to her accomplished nieces and nephews, all studying a variety of engineering at the local university in Piura.  We had time to sit and talk for hours and over lunch the next day.  She begged us to stay another day so that we could meet her other niece, the one with “strong, muscular legs and a thin waist who made all the men go crazy when she danced the samba (and her overprotective mother).”  Unfortunately, the time had come to go.  The experiences we have with people are made richer when we can afford to spend more time with them.

The desert around Trujillo

We won’t be here long.   A remarkable canyon road to the highest mountains of the Andes will take us soon to Huaraz from the coast.  But for the time being, we relish the togetherness and the speed that comes from bicycling through lowlands.