Huarochirí -

My brother's take on an excellent bicycle

Prior to my arrival late on Saturday night, my brother had
arranged for a driver and 4x4 to pick us up early Sunday morning
at our apartment in Lima .  Unfortunately, my brother failed to
take into account the idea that on Saturday night we might (just
might) veer from our path to the grocery store and wander into
our favorite local bar, where the music was excellent and the
scenery even better.  We rolled out of there around 3:30, hit the
grocery for the next days’ provisions, and headed home for a few
hours’ precious sleep.  Our driver arrived on time (unusual in
Peru ) at 8:00 AM sharp (ouch), loaded & lashed our bikes &
gear, and off we went.  We picked up another enthusiast on the
way out of the city, and headed for an arduous, 8-hour drive,
almost entirely on dirt roads.  Did I mention which direction we
were going?  Simple answer: up.  We rounded literally hundreds
of switchbacks on the way to Huarochiri, a town of about 1800
people, mostly farmers, nestled in a valley at 3200 meters above
sea level, near the source of the Rio Mala.  This place was
gorgeous, with green everywhere on the mountainsides, colorful
houses & buildings, and people dressed in traditional Indian
attire.  A Mother’s Day celebration was going on, and a troupe of
local kids in colorful costumes was out dancing on the main
square, as the adults sat in a stone amphitheatre and watched.  
We got bored after a little while and found ourselves a hotel,
where we paid 10 bucks for our room, which included hot
showers.  I snagged a bottle of red at the local bodega, and we
settled in early, in spite of all the noise coming off the square.  
Believe it or not, 8 hours of just riding in a truck can be
exhausting when the road is that rough.

In the morning, we got the bikes ready and took test rides, only to
discover that our 3rd companion would not be able to ride.  
Jackie’s experience level was way too low, as she apparently
expected a nice, level pavement cruise, and could not ride over
any of the multitude of obstacles that were present in town, let
alone some of the crazier stuff we encountered on the way.  So
she stayed with the sag wagon, and didn’t seem at all unhappy
about it either.  Mark & I took off for the next pueblo, which
according to the mayor of Huarochiri, would be a short ways
downhill, using the other road out of town, not the “highway” we
had come in on.  Before long, we were hitting speeds of 30+, and
burning up brakes in order to slow in time for the switchbacks,
where a miss on the inside would hurt; a slide-out on an outside
turn would almost certainly cost you your life.  Potato-size rocks
littered the road, with occasional sandtraps, but a few bigger,
embedded rocks enabled us to get some air every so often on
the straightaways.  We occasionally came upon herds of cattle
or goats being shepherded along the road by elderly senoras,
and had to hammer the brakes in order not to run into these
beasts.  The most interesting obstacles, however, were the
drainage ditches.  These came up with almost no warning, and
many of them were pretty wide.   But, it was pretty easy to gap
them if you saw them in time, given the speed we were carrying.  
I did case one landing and thanked the stars for my full sus, as I
barely held it together while going about 25 mph.  Anyway, over
the course of the day, we rode down almost the whole 3200
meters with just a few breaks to give our hands a rest.  There
was only one significant climb (looked like about 2000 feet) that
had to be taken in order to get over a scree field that marked
where the river ate through the mountain & the mountain had
been crumbling ever since.  I puffed my way over that one, and
rocked the downhill on the far side, but by then it was 3:00 or so,
and I’d seen enough.  As the elevation had dropped, the
temperature had increased, and by then it was dang hot, and all
the green I was telling you about up high had turned into gray and
brown desert.  Only a narrow strip along the river had anything
living in it.  I pulled into a shaded spot and waited for my brother,
who showed up in the sag wagon about an hour later.  In the
meantime, a local lady had invited me to her hut to chat and drink
some cold bottled water (she’d hauled it up from her river fridge
an hour or so before), so it was not a long wait.  On the way
home, we stopped for beers at a bar with a nice balcony
overlooking a place where the river widened out and a lot of stuff
was growing.  The bar owner sold us 8 bottles (actually 2 big
jugs) of homemade wine, which was delicious, and off we went
for another hour or so on the dirt road until we reached the Pan
American highway & blew back to Lima at high speed.  We gave
the driver a bottle of wine as part of his tip (he was excellent, by
the way), and dragged our sore butts upstairs to start planning
the next adventure, namely dinner at Astrid & Gaston’s, an
amazing restaurant in our neighborhood that serves jungle-fruit
cocktails made with pisco, and fresh food from all over Peru.  My
kinda ride…    
D. Mark Kennet, Ph.D.