Touring Peru

Cycle-touring, Expeditions, Adventures, Major cycle routes NOT LeJoG (see other special board)
crazyferret
Posts: 65
Joined: 15 Jun 2010, 8:48pm

Touring Peru

Postby crazyferret » 27 Jan 2013, 11:05pm

Hi

Me and my friend are just beginning to plan a tour of Peru this summer and were wondering if there is anything important we should know.

We have a fair amount of touring experience and for the last 3 years have done progressively larger tours most recently Europe taking in the alps and Pyrenees.

we are planning on flying to Lima then cycling north to Cajamarca. Is there anything in particular we should be wary about. How safe is Peru in terms of safety for cycling. Has anyone done any cycling here before and is there anything you can recommend or areas to avoid. Any highlights.

It will be our first time cycling outside of Europe and would appreciate any advice you can give us.

Thanks
Jack

vernon
Posts: 1584
Joined: 8 Jan 2007, 6:03pm
Location: Meanwood, Leeds

Re: Touring Peru

Postby vernon » 27 Jan 2013, 11:15pm

Have you read any of the accounts on the Crazy Guy on a Bike web site?

iviehoff
Posts: 2411
Joined: 20 Jan 2009, 4:38pm

Re: Touring Peru

Postby iviehoff » 28 Jan 2013, 9:49am

There are a few spots in Peru one has to avoid, since banditry against cycle tourists is known and frequent repeated in those spots. I suggest you take responsibility for finding the latest information on such things, rather than expect people to hand it to you on a plate. It's out there if you look for it.

Cycling along the coast road isn't much fun at all. Lots of traffic and lots of desert, entirely missing the best of the scenery that Peru has to offer. And has some of those dodgy bandit ridden bits you need to take transport past. On the other hand, cycling east out of Lima straight up the hill goes too high too fast for altitude acclimatisation, without any useful stop-off points.

I would suggest that for maximum enjoyment and avoiding pulmonary oedema, you should aim to cycle in the highlands, but need to find a way of getting your acclimatisation at a suitably moderate pace. One method would be to start at Caxamarca and cycle back southwards via a route in the mountains, in other words reverse your trajectory. Since you are in the southern hemisphere, it will even have the advantage of putting the sun behind you rather than in front of you, though as the sun is high in the sky at those latitudes, it is not as big a gain as at temperate latitudes.

Another place cyclists often take transport to out of Lima is Huaraz or Carhuaz. There is quite a lot of info on cycling in that wonderful area of Peru - Cordillera Blanca - at my friends' website here. http://www.masterlyinactivity.com/ You could take a loop around the CB and then proceed onwards towards Caxamarca, that would fill a few weeks. Cusco is another common starting point, though Cusco to Caxamarca via the highlands is a long, hard ride. There are other highland locations where one could start to shorten that, and some are at sufficiently moderate altitude to be a starting point (ie nearer 3000m than 4000m).

phil parker
Posts: 1019
Joined: 31 Dec 2009, 5:09pm
Location: Hants/Wilts

Re: Touring Peru

Postby phil parker » 28 Jan 2013, 10:00am

Peru is much more stable and safer than it used to be in the 80's & 90's, but it's always worth reading the Foreign Office advice before setting off as they will have current information on any areas to avoid. Also the locals in each place you pass through will tell you of any places to avoid.

If you don't already speak Spanish I would advise starting to learn now (try Coffee Break Spanish from iTunes podcast) as very few people speak English and a small amount of vocabulary can get you by.

I haven't cycled in Peru, but I have met cyclists there when I was climbing, based at Huaraz, which is north of Peru ans that would be a fantastic road to cycle up (and even better to cycle down!). Some of the roads can be very slow going once you're off the tarmac surface, which is common away from trunk roads.

The nicest area of Lima is Miraflores, otherwise it's like any other big city and best to avoid. I've never been to Cusco, but that's where most the tourists head for. I've only ever been to Lake Titicaca from the Bolivian side, but it's one of the nicest and most tranquil places I've ever been to.

It should be a good trip - enjoy!

iviehoff
Posts: 2411
Joined: 20 Jan 2009, 4:38pm

Re: Touring Peru

Postby iviehoff » 28 Jan 2013, 10:01am

crazyferret wrote:It will be our first time cycling outside of Europe and would appreciate any advice you can give us.

One of the things I wish someone had told me before I went to Latin America the first time, and which I had to learn the hard way, was the following. Get used to the idea of carrying water, lots of water. And, if you aren't going to be passing through larger settlements for a few days, food, lots of food. Make sure you have space in your luggage for carrying it all, and, in the case of water, suitably light weight containers, eg Ortlieb water bags, for carrying it - though of course a few used commercial drink bottles will often do. Have a few containers, since you may wish to carry safe and dubious water separately, heat is the safest and cheapest method for converting one to the other. In dry mountains, you will often have to camp without a water source nearby. Get used to the idea of getting your water for the night when you can get it, and then your camping decision can be based purely on finding a suitably flat and discreet spot, rather than still worrying about the water. When looking at the route descriptions of people who have previously used a route, pay particular attention to the food and water availability.

Cachao
Posts: 51
Joined: 23 Jul 2010, 11:56pm

Re: Touring Peru

Postby Cachao » 30 Jan 2013, 8:17pm

Hi, I'm CrazyFerret's friend. Thanks for the advice so far, this is a whole new level for us so we're glad of any information available.

1. Safety:
We have already read (and re-read) the FCO and OSAC reports on Peru. But they aren't necessarily comprehensive, so we would appreciate whatever you can tell us.

2. Route:
The point about gaining altitude too fast certainly seems important. We'll post an initial route soon and do some reading on it Vaguely, the current idea is to bear east out of Lima then head towards Huascaran etc. To avoid the moe dangerous towns and more heavily-populated areas I expect we will be tending towards the east of the Cordillera Blanca.

3. Food and water:
We will be carrying at least one Platypus, so our combined maximum capacity will be at least 4L. Chlorine dioxide followed by a coffee filter is the current frontrunner for water purification. We will certainly have to investigate how we are going to get food.

I shall have a look at crazyguyonabike's Peru entry now.

Here is our kit list: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc ... Et6VkZZUEE

Thanks again

iviehoff
Posts: 2411
Joined: 20 Jan 2009, 4:38pm

Re: Touring Peru

Postby iviehoff » 30 Jan 2013, 8:59pm

Cachao wrote:1. Safety:
We have already read (and re-read) the FCO and OSAC reports on Peru. But they aren't necessarily comprehensive, so we would appreciate whatever you can tell us.

You need to research the issue of where are the locations taht banditry against foreign cyclists occurs, which will not be found places like FCO, it is found in places like cyclists blogs.
Cachao wrote:3. Food and water:
We will be carrying at least one Platypus, so our combined maximum capacity will be at least 4L. Chlorine dioxide followed by a coffee filter is the current frontrunner for water purification. We will certainly have to investigate how we are going to get food.

Not enough water carrying capacity. You aren't going to be picking up water several times a day, and treating water during the day is just too boring and time consuming given tropical daylight hours. 4l isn't really enough for 2 of you to set off in the morning and cycle all day meeting no water supply until evening in that climate. That's a common scenario, even if it is only to ensure you have potable water for all day and don't have to bother treating it from the few dubious sources you find during the day, but there may be none at all. I find 4l (just for me) a reasonable quantity to survive the day, and have drunk as much as 7l when its been hot.

And I don't think 4l will be anywhere near enough for you to collect water mid-afternoon, have enough water for all your overnight camping needs and breakfast needs, including hot drinks, dinner, breakfast, washing up, enough water to wipe the dust ingrained suntan lotion off exposed parts of your skin so you dare get in your sleeping bag, and then have enough left to put in your bikes in the morning. This is another common scenario with overnight camping, the campsite itself is hard enough to find, so don't reckon on camping near water supplies. That's probably more like 15l for the two of you, though some people get away with less - I need to drink a lot. Then there is the issue of dealing with even longer gaps in water availability - need to research your route whether you'll be having big gaps in water availability. I had the ability to carry up to 15l just for myself in Bolivia and Chile in order to go 2 days without water, but most of Peru is not so dry as those.

ankaradan
Posts: 31
Joined: 11 Jan 2013, 2:31pm

Re: Touring Peru

Postby ankaradan » 31 Jan 2013, 7:35am

Bear in mind that during July and Augustle , Lima and the coast has a grey and miserable climate. Huarez and the Cordillera Blanca, are stunningly beautiful, but the road from Lima to Huarez climbs quickly from sea level to over 4000m, enough to give you alot of breathing problems, if not HAPE/HACE.

I would definitely take a proper water purifier, as an example- http://www.cotswoldoutdoor.com/katadyn- ... colour=180. Giardia is endemic, as are many other waterborne infections.

iviehoff
Posts: 2411
Joined: 20 Jan 2009, 4:38pm

Re: Touring Peru

Postby iviehoff » 31 Jan 2013, 10:51am

ankaradan wrote:... but the road from Lima to Huarez climbs quickly from sea level to over 4000m, enough to give you alot of breathing problems, if not HAPE/HACE.

I would definitely take a proper water purifier, as an example- http://www.cotswoldoutdoor.com/katadyn- ... colour=180. Giardia is endemic, as are many other waterborne infections.

If you want to cycle from the coast to Huaraz without altitude problems, then you can use the northern approach, along the Rio Santo, which has a spectacular canyon on the way (Cañon del Pato), and doesn't go over a high pass. Very worthwhile. But there are banditry issues by the coast there, that's why Tracey and Colin went by taxi to the less-used approach road to the canyon, as described here: http://www.masterlyinactivity.com/peru/ ... santa.html

The simple and cheap way to be sure about your water is to boil it. You are surely taking a proper petrol stove, so you can boil water reasonably quickly in reasonable quantities. While you are camping, cooking your food, having hot drinks, it's all cooked, it's OK, you can use the dubious water without treating it, the cooking is the treatment. But you don't really want to be treating/boiling all the water you drink while on teh bike during the day, treating water in such large quantities is a horrible chore. But provided you are in a sufficiently civilised place the tap water will be OK, might not be very tasty, but you'll live. This is why I'd rather be able to take enough from such localities when I can get it, rather than be scrabbling aroudn for dubious water at 3 hour intervals that you are going to have to treat. If its going to be getting dark at 6pm or 7pm, you need to get on, make sure you get somewhere to stop the night, not waste time with chores during the day. Peru isn't like Guatemala where even the children know that tap water will make them ill - in Peru the tap water is OK in more developed settlements.

crazyferret
Posts: 65
Joined: 15 Jun 2010, 8:48pm

Re: Touring Peru

Postby crazyferret » 31 Jan 2013, 10:18pm

Great thanks for all of the great advice so far.

For water chlorine dioxide kills all of the bacterial and viruses like giardia and cryptosporidium so that means we won't have to buy and carry a pump.

In terms of cooking i have been looking into getting a petrol stove for some time and this looks like it might be needed. How easy is it to get hold of things like gas or meths or would it be worth investing in a petrol burner.

please have a look at our kit and see if there is anything you think we should be taking on top of this and if there are any other things that we should think about.

Jack
Last edited by crazyferret on 1 Feb 2013, 9:11am, edited 1 time in total.

dbascent1986
Posts: 36
Joined: 24 Sep 2012, 9:14am

Re: Touring Peru

Postby dbascent1986 » 1 Feb 2013, 7:29am

The whileoutriding blog has a recent Peruvian bike trip - in the interior highlands there may be villages where spanish is not the first language

ankaradan
Posts: 31
Joined: 11 Jan 2013, 2:31pm

Re: Touring Peru

Postby ankaradan » 1 Feb 2013, 7:50am

I've visited the Cordilleria Blanca twice (last time 2000), and yes there were plenty of people who only spoke Quechua. I made a point of not drinking tap water even in towns like Huarez, still less in villages. I would treat it with the chlorine dioxide tablets to be on the safe side.

iviehoff
Posts: 2411
Joined: 20 Jan 2009, 4:38pm

Re: Touring Peru

Postby iviehoff » 1 Feb 2013, 9:46am

crazyferret wrote:How easy is it to get hold of things like gas or meths or would it be worth investing in a petrol burner.

Camping gas very hard to find, no doubt you will get it places like Lima but not outside really major cities. Meths is possible but might need a bit of hunting down - ask for "alcool para quemar", well-stocked hardware stores will have it, but other possible suppliers include funeral parlours and witchcraft stalls. Paraffin (kerosén) is a tricky one because it is an essential ingredient for extracting cocaine from coca leaves, so it isn't always in ready supply, and what is available on the black market can be very dirty and hard to burn. But I do recommend a petrol stove because the fuel is very easy to get (stoves run fine on leaded whatever your stove instructions say), and it is so much powerful than the other kinds - and when you get to altitude all of the stoves slow down because of the reduced oxygen, so it is a good idea to have the powerful one to start with. And 1 litre of petrol will boil 28 litres of water, so it is the lightest fuel to carry (per unit of heat output), as well as being the cheapest. If you have a petrol stove and are in a place with a good hardware store, it's worth looking to see if they have any bencina blanca, ie white gas, which burns cleaner than petrol. It's reasonably available in some parts of South America as it is used as a paint thinner. If they don't have it and say would you like some aguarras instead, that's turpentine, so the answer is "no".

The only issue with petrol stoves is that can be a bit temperamental and need regular cleaning when used with petrol, and more so at altitude, so I don't recommend them for people who are not very handy at fixing things. If you have any terror at taking something apart and trying to estimate the problem, then forget it. An acquaintance went to Peru with a good quality petrol stove, it stopped working, which completely messed up her plans; once back home a friend got it working within a minute, requiring no special skill to achieve other than looking at it and having the right frame of mind to think what the impediment might be.

Don't try and cook rice at altitude, it takes for ever to cook at the lower boiling point, the locals use a pressure cooker to do it. But pasta cooks fine.

iviehoff
Posts: 2411
Joined: 20 Jan 2009, 4:38pm

Re: Touring Peru

Postby iviehoff » 1 Feb 2013, 10:21am

Looking at your kit list now:
Walking boots and cycle shoes?? Just take some lighter low-ankle walking boots and cycle and walk in those. Cycling shoes aren't very clever for cycling in the Andes anyway, your feet are on the ground too much of the time. I tried it and they were a problem and eventually fell apart. A pair of light walking shoes was much better.

Your tent is unnecessarily heavy by quite a lot. You can get very spacious 2-man tents at around 2kg including poles.

Obviously you can't take fuel with you on the airplane, and what's a fuel converter?

I wouldn't bother with the D-lock. Friends had their bikes stolen from outside their tent in Peru, even though it was D-locked. The way to avoid that happening is not to camp in such a dodgy place in the first place. And in towns you are always going to get your bike indoors, not in the street.

Make sure your tools are adequate, some multitools are crap, and some prevent you getting at the bolt because of their shape, and some don't have enough leverage. Take more spare inner tubes, if you are lucky you won't need them, but they tend to have a lot of very thorny trees that part of the world.

Toiletries etc can be purchased locally - this isn't subsaharan Africa you are going to. You'll be using suncream in quantities more like 500g, but it is perfectly available in larger towns. Suggest you get some high quality very high factor lip protector to take with you as that is harder to secure locally than suncream, and lips are important. Shaving creates unnecessary baggage, do you really need to do that? Doubt you'll need insect repellent. I'd take one Swiss army knife each, as you'll be stuffed if you lose it, and I'd never want to rely on someone else having one.

Forget front bikelikes, you have headtorches and they will do. You will need the lights from time to time, but sufficiently briefly you'll get away with the headtorches, which you need anyway. You are definitely not going to do any extended cycling in the dark, its a very bad idea.

It is relatively unusual to see cycle tourists in south america wearing helmets, not least because broad-brimmed hats are much more practical, given the essential factor of protecting yourself from the sun, especially at altitude, where the sun is a lot more bright than it is at sealevel. You can't wear helmets on long climbs or in very bright sun.

Take themorests, not roll mats, thermorests are what makes camping more than tolerable.

Don't use skinshorts, unless to wear underneath casual shorts. Or clingy cycling tops. The lycra look is very unhelpful in traditional areas, which is most of Peru. You'll get a better reception if you don't look too much like an alien from Mars, and especially avoid having obvious bulgy bits. Don't forget that if you are cold you can buy a nice llama-wool jumper and woolly hat locally which you might like to take home with you. But the high quality thermal underwear you will really value when camping at altitude, excellent pyjamas. I valued having a light-weight duvet jacket for those cold evenings.

A very useful trick to make a sleeping bag a lot warmer at very little weight is a so-called "space blanket" or survival blanket, you know one of those silvered plastic foil things, weighing about 60g. I never managed to leave it on all night, I was always too hot after a while, even at 4800m. Also good to have one to spread over the tent ground-sheet to sleep on top of when at altitude. They are very reusable and do fold up with care to put back in the packet.

iviehoff
Posts: 2411
Joined: 20 Jan 2009, 4:38pm

Re: Touring Peru

Postby iviehoff » 7 Feb 2013, 12:25pm

Here's some recent reports of banditry against cyclists in Peru.
http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/t ... ID=2295952