Riding With Gravity Peru … What a Blast!
My wife set up a tour of the Galapagos and Machu Picchu. After receiving the itinerary I decided to duck out of a half day of touring and spend an entire day on a bike. How could miss my first opportunity to mountain bike in South America?
I found Gravity Peru after reading a review on Singletracks. After emailing Gravity Peru I got a reply within a few hours. Bill spelled out exactly what I needed to do to reserve a spot and a list of items to bring (he would provide most everything).
I sent my $50 reservation fee (Paypal) and quickly received confirmation.
I took a taxi to Bill’s house (in Cusco) on the day of the ride (3/29/18) and he quickly got the bike set up for me (a Kona Process 153). Soon Ralph (another rider from California!) arrived and after setting up his bike, and paying the balance of our fee ($130) we loaded up his mini-van and headed east.
A Market in Calca
After driving out of Cusco we did a short little warm up run (maybe a mile long).
We then drove to a small town (called Calca) at the base of the Andes Mountains. Calca, a town with about 9,000 residents, sits at about 10,000 feet in altitude in the Sacred Valley of Peru.
Bill stopped at the town market to buy some rolls and fruit for the mountain kids. Bill, Ralph and I visited the market while our driver (Caesar) stayed with the van. In the market we found every food group represented, including large hunks of meat and huge sacks of corn and potatoes.
After leaving the market we headed up into the mountains. Well above tree line Caesar pulled to the side of the road and honked the horn. All at once several mountain girls came out of a pasture covered with Alpacas. The kids were dressed in homemade clothes and hats. Bill handed out most of the rolls and fruit and the kids were real excited.
A little farther up we came upon a group of mostly boys and Bill finished handing out the goods.
The wind was gusting and cold probably due to the snow covered peaks surrounding us. Bill told us we were starting at 13,800 feet. We all put on our windbreakers. Ralph and I took several photos, at least one in every direction … including one of the Rio Jochoc.
INTERACTIVE MAP FOR LARES TRAIL
- Click the green balloon for driving directions to the trailhead.
- Click Tracks or Icons for More Specific Information.
We rode down through a green valley, passing some hikers and local Peruvians along the way. Alpaca begrudgingly moved off the trail and allowed us to pass.
Soon we entered a canyon with steep sides and the trail got a lot more rugged.
We crossed the Rio Jochoc several times as the trail alternated through open valleys and rugged canyons.
While riding we passed dozens of locals along with donkeys, pigs, chickens, alpacas, llamas, and dogs. Locals were working in their fields (mostly potatoes) perched on the sides of mountains or tending to their livestock. Many waved as we passed. Most looked tired.
The entire trail was downhill, luckily, since I was not acclimated for riding at such high elevation (I was panting hard due to the effort necessary to control the my bike and my excitement … not from pedaling)!
Meanwhile, Caesar followed us on the road in the van, providing a pump for Ralph’s burped tire and taking our jackets once we had descended to warmer altitudes.
End of Ride #1
We finished the ride in town (where we had visited the market). I checked my GPS … 11 miles of downhill. Where else can you get that many miles of downhill? In such a beautiful place?
While Caesar drove to another town we ate snacks (provided by Bill) and drank water (which we had brought). We discussed the highlights of the first ride and Bill told us many interesting things about the Peruvian people. On the way up the second canyon Bill pointed out some difficult parts of the trail … most were stone staircases.
The Second Ride … LAMAY CANYON
- Click the green balloon for driving directions to the trailhead.
- Click Tracks or Icons for More Specific Information
The second canyon ride was similar to the first … starting at nearly 14,000 feet and returning to the town of Lamay (after about 8 miles of glorious downhill). Once again we rode across green valleys and through a rugged, steep canyon. The staircases were challenging, but totally ride-able as long as one kept up his speed and hung their bottom over the rear tire.
I did fall during this ride … and I wish I had a video of the scene … while following Ralph down a rugged switchback. At one point the trail made a sharp right turn. Ralph ran into some trouble just past the turn and I was able to stop just as my front tire made contact with his real tire. I sat atop my bike, balancing, hoping Ralph would move on. But before he could I toppled over down the hill into a huge bush. Using the Peruvian Handshake Ralph was able to pull me back onto the trail. Once up I looked back down and was real thankful for the bush, for just beyond the bush the land dropped off abruptly for maybe forty feet!
A bit farther and we passed a pig staked out next to the trail. I have worried about animals roped near trails since my Jamaican Guide (Sanchez) hit a a rope and slid into a donkey a few years back (http://mountainbikediaries.com/jamaican-singletrack/).
Gravity Peru … Climbing?
The last part of the ride involved crossing through a shallow stream and climbing up the bank on the other side. Ralph and I were gassed by the time we joined Bill, who was waiting. As we were gasping for breath Bill commented, “Sorry about that climb.” A few seconds later he quipped, “Heck, that must have been at least twenty feet of rise!”
Jumping Onto the Road
For the last part of the ride we had to stay on the road. But just before the road I watched Bill hit a small rise, cross over the top of some kind of water control box, and fly over some rough terrain to barely hit the edge of the road. Since I was right behind him I had no choice but to follow. A few seconds after I (successfully) landed I head Ralph scream! I had visions of him wiping out but when I was able to look back he was pumping right behind me. Later when I asked, Ralph said he was so excited to make the jump he just had to scream!
Bill wound his way through town … constantly checking for pedestrians and more importantly dogs (all Peruvian towns are full of dogs, running every which way). At the speed we were traveling hitting a dog would have been disastrous. To finish the ride Bill took us off the top of a couple of stairways.
We finished the second ride around 2:30 pm, perfect timing for a late lunch. Bill took us to a local home/restaurant and bought us a wonderful meal.
Caesar dropped me in the town square (2 blocks from my hotel) and I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face. The bike worked great. Bill did a great job of previewing each beautiful segment of trail. And traveling down through the native culture was incredible. What a wonderful day!
If you want some great riding, I highly recommend Bill. For more information please click Gravity Peru.