Monday, December 01, 2008

Peru Part 3

Cycling from Piura to Yurimaguas
The city of Piura is located in the northwest corner of Peru near the Pacific Ocean just south of Ecuador. Piura is known as “The land of eternal heat” with an average daily temperature of 95 degrees. The terrain is arid and sandy with scrubby trees. This is where our group of seven cyclists began our tour heading east over the Andes Mountains. We would have a support vehicle with Aracely and her mother plus our driver Falipi from Piura and Vioricka from Iquitos. We were also joined by a young man named Cristhian who lives in Piura and wants to be a bike racer. Another Peruvian who joined us was Alessandra from Iquitos. She is a 23 year old cyclist who is strong enough to ride with PAC Tour Elite riders. We had a good mix of Peruvians and gringos on our tour.

It would take eight cycling days to reach Yurimaguas averaging 100 KM per day. The road is mostly paved with smooth blacktop. There are some sections with avalanche damage that are in constant repair but overall the route can be ridden on road bikes. I used my folding Bike Friday with 28mm tires and didn’t have any flat tires from road damage.

The theme of the tour was “Going to where tourists don’t go”. Members of our group were warned not to expect the good hotels or restaurants that cater to most tourists. This part of the country is for mining and farming and most of the services reflect this industrious simplicity. Except for a van of bird watchers we didn’t see another gringo tourist the whole tour. Even without the tourist frills our hotels were clean and functional. We had fans in the rooms instead of air conditioning. The showers had one knob for cold water but the warm days made a cool shower feel welcome.

The third day we went from Olmos to Pucara and began climbing over the Andes Mountains. The gap at the summit was 7,000 foot elevation. It had taken us six hours to travel 33 miles up the continuous 7% grade. This is one of the lower passes across the Andes. The climb is still impressive as it snakes along the edge of the valley with great views of the mountain peaks around us. The final 45 miles were mostly downhill into a stiff headwind. By the time we reached Pucara we were pretty tired from the climb and the heat. The next several days would be more of the same while crossing the ridges and valleys deeper into the rain forest region of the Amazon basin. Each mountain range we crossed offered a slight change in vegetation by adding more jungle type plants and trees. The arid dryness of Piura had been replaced by steamy humidity. Even the afternoon rain showers were warm and welcome and we never needed long sleeves or rain jackets.

Our daily schedule was pretty full with cycling so we didn’t have time on this part of the tour to participate in any extra supply projects. Our group of cyclists rode six used bikes which we gave away at the end of the tour. We did see some rural schools in the mountains which could use some support. Maybe we can help them during our next tour in this area.

Our final two days of cycling to Tarapoto were about 100 miles each. We were well accumulated to the heat and routine of dealing with cycling in Peru. Alessandra had crashed descending a hairpin turn when a motorcycle cut her off. She slid off the road and mangled the fork on her bike. Her rear derailleur left a ten foot silver trail of aluminum shavings along the retaining wall. She was lucky she walked away from the 35 mph tumble without even tearing her jersey. The racing bike we had brought her from the United States wasn’t so lucky. That night we arrived in Nuevo Cajamarca and starting looking for a new fork. After comparing several mountain bike forks and side pull brake clearances we were able to get a fork to fit her stem and frame. We bought a hacksaw and file to cut and grind the fork to fit. After two hours of fabricating the new fork in the hotel room her bike was ready to ride again.



Post a Comment

<< Home