Adventures in Peru, What To See Aside of Machu Picchu

LIMA, PERU: Panoramic view of Lima from Miraflores.

Searching the Internet for travel companions has riskier potential than a blind date. I ignored my wise-trepidation and posted on Mountain Equipment Co-op’s website for “trip partners” confident that nobody would sign up for 17-days of mountain biking Peru.
With so many sites to see in Peru, most folks flock to the famous sitings of Machu Picchu. However, we wanted this trip to be something more. We wanted to experience everything that Peru had to offer, especially those that the locals took part in. We wanted adventure, and we wanted to know what else to see aside of Machu Picchu.

The Largest Sand Dunes in The World

Upon my recommendation, nobody was renting a mountain bike in Peru. Check-in, unexpectedly, slapped standby tags on $20,000 worth of bicycles belonging to my trip partners.
Seeing all our bike-cases emerge on the conveyer belt in Lima resulted in massive relief—surpassed minutes later when our guide greeted me with kisses.

I happily handed the reigns of responsibility over to the guide from Peru Adventure Tours. However, guilt lingered when the executive assistant discovered that her bicycle had incurred damage. Her hydraulic brake fluid was leaking. Then the logistics manager’s gears malfunctioned on our first ride. She missed the sunset-dream of cycling on the compressed sand, along with the ocean-cliffs, of Paracas National Reserve.

Peru Adventure Tours proved themselves seasoned professionals as they skilfully distracted us with sandboarding while their mechanic healed our bicycles. We screamed across monstrous, white, mountains of sand in our super-charged dune buggies and bonded with laughter when sandboarding crashes proved that snow tastes better than sand. Peru is home to the tallest sand dune in the world. Nazca’s Cerro Blanco is a staggering 6,791 ft.

The Second Deepest Canyon and The Largest Lake in The World

The Colca Canyon is 2-times deeper than the Grand Canyon. Our descent would take hours on a rock-strewn, jarring, track.
A reprieve from biking occurred as the pins and needles set into hands and feet. The colorful villagers of Huambo surrounded our group. Strong hands pulled us off our bikes and past a matador, socializing outside a stadium.

High on the festivities, not chicha, we continued our descent. I rounded a switchback. One of our companions was on the ground, her bike near the canyon edge, her helmet in pieces. She clutched her arm and our guide ushered her into the supporting 4×4. A half-hour later, the day turned into night. I came around another bend. The girl was limping towards me. “I think I’ve broken my ankle.”

 

Our guide was still somewhere in the canyon with the others. I offered support and inexpert translation services to my injured partner in the tiny canyon hospital. I translated the admissions sign: $1.50 for sutures, $3 for unspecified extractions and $30 for an autopsy. The teacher produced her wallet to pay for their examinations and injections. The cigar-smoking doctor said they could get x-rays in the city of Puno, beside Lake Titicaca, a 3-day journey away.

Machu Picchu, a Globetroopers Dream of a Lifetime

Machu Picchu was never The Lost City of the Incas—romantically titled by Hiram Bingham. The locals knew it existed. Bingham paid a farmer just pennies to lead him there in 1911. Today, Machu Picchu is literally being crushed under the weight of tourism. At 5:30 a.m. a never-ending procession of tour buses, depart the town of Aguas Calientes below the ruins. Each day 2,000 tourists pant and push their way through the archaeological complex. My friends were not panting. We’d acclimatized having come down in elevation to Machu Picchu’s 7,970 ft, after biking at 15,700 ft.

I have to go back to Peru because I didn’t sample the popular dish, roast guinea pig. Would I advertise to Internet strangers again? Absolutely—not for practical reasons such as cost-sharing but purely for the fun.