Having been cycle-touring for a while now, I realise that although I find every day a challenge in one way or another, it barely scratches the surface in comparison to the feats of other cyclists.

For example: the couple who completed the 2500 mile Great Divide Mountain Bike route in the US on a unicycle; the family who left home for a true Latin American adventure together; the Spaniard who has been riding his bike around the world for the last seven and a half years; the Australian who always, always finds the back road alternative no matter how hard; the French couple who do it by tandem, or the Canary Islanders who gave up backpacking, built their own touring bikes out of recycled parts, adopted a puppy, strapped her to the front of the bike and set off for the mountains.

We have met all of the above cyclists on our trip (except for the unicyclists who I would just love to share a beer with) and more, who continue to inspire us, challenge us and show us that there are so many different facets to bicycle touring.

For my part, after two years I simply continue to enjoy the ride, to be amazed at new landscapes, continue to love meeting new people – cyclists and locals. If we can follow just some of the tyre tracks of those who inspire us, and absorb some of that incredible energy, we’ll have enough steam to get us to Patagonia.

The latest leg of our trip was not lacking in inspirational landscapes or people and as the road brought us nearer to the mythical Cordillera Blanca, the thrill of the ride never waned.


Ladies in the square at Namora, Peru

Leaving Cajamarca, our morning stop in the square at Namora has us admiring an array of hats.

Condor statues in Condormarca, Peru

By lunchtime, we are admiring the condor statues at Condormarca – unfortunately none of the real birds make an appearance.

People gathered in the main square at Cajabamba, Peru

The pattern repeats: more hats, this time with the ubiquitous pot of Peruvian jelly…

Statue of Virgin Mary at Cajabamba, Peru

…and more statues; an enormous Virgin Mary marks the entrance to Cajabamba.

Man making tiles outside Cajabama, Peru

Into the rural fields outside of Cajabama and James gets a whirlwind intro to tile making; moulded out of earth, sand and water…

Tiles drying in the sun outside Cajabama, Peru

…left to dry in the sun…

Traditional tiled house near Cajabamba, Peru

…they eventually make a picturesque roof. 

Maize drying in front of a painted wall near Huamachucho, Peru

A classic Latin American view as we pass through the regrettably named Shitabamba: maize kernels drying on sheets in the sun and political campaigning painted directly onto the walls of houses.

Sarah cycling up to the ruins at Marcahuamachuco, Peru

We unload the bikes at Huamachuco and make the 10km rocky climb up to the pre-Inca ruins at Marcahuamachuco…

Funeral building ruins at Marcahuamachuco, Peru

…where we find they buried their ancestors in funeral towers with incredible views.

Mototaxis in Huamachuco, Peru

Back down in Huamachuco, we weave through hundreds of mototaxis…

Lady at the market in Huamachuco, Peru

…to get to the market for supplies – before all the vendors nod off for their afternoon siesta.

Sarah trying to decide which track to ride near Huamachuco, Peru

More than once on this section we are scratching our heads about which of the identical unsigned tracks to take…

Sarah asking for directions near Cachicadán, Peru

…and when there’s someone on hand to ask it’s always a relief.

Sarah's old and new tyres.

After 21,000km another rocky descent is one too many for my front tyre. Not bad for two years of rough riding. So we swap a Marathon Extreme (now discontinued) for a Marathon Mondial – initial impressions are that it doesn’t seem to offer as much grip, but we’ll see how it goes.

Man next to burning stacks of hay near Cachicadán, Peru

Afternoon riding through pastoral scenes…

Marlene and friend at the dairy near near Cachicadán, Peru

…brings us to the dairy at La Victoria near Cachicadán. A beautiful camp spot and chatting with lively local dairyherder Marléne (on the right) is the perfect way to end the day. 

La Victoria dairy near Cachicadán, Peru

The following morning, we can’t leave without buying some of the produce; the kids wave us on our way…

Manjar spread on fresh bread, near Cachicadán, Peru

…but it’s not long before I insist on stopping to sample some of our purchases: manjar, spreadable fudge, on fresh crusty bread. Yum.

Valley near Cachicadán, Peru

Fuelled up on manjar, the morning is spent rolling up and down through pretty villages.

Lunch stop in Peru - cheese, tomatoes, olives, avocadoes, fresh bread.

Lunch feels practically European. Unexpectedly, we have been able to get hold of Swiss-style cheese, meaty olives, juicy tomatoes, creamy avocados and fresh bread. More yum.

James pushing his bike over a bridge near Tulpo, Peru

The afternoon delivers a nasty punch with a challenging river crossing on a bridge that looks about four hundred years old, a scramble over rocky roadworks and then a gruelling climb up to Tulpo.

Roof with detail of builder's signature, Mollepata, Peru

Arriving in Mollepata, small details pop out of the woodwork…

The local church, Mollepata, Peru

…while ladies with brooms keep the main square looking pristine.

Sarah cycling down into the valley near Mollepata, Peru

We make a delicious descent into the hot valley…

The hairpin climb from Mollepata to Pallasca, Peru

…only to be confronted by the afternoon’s challenge. Twenty four hairpin bends and a 20km climb to Pallasca…

James eating a deep fried dough snack in Pallasca, Peru

…where, when we arrive, the most pressing job as always, is to seek out calories. Sometimes we hit the jackpot – this fritter is the perfect quick fix…

Cake stacked up on a cart in Pallasca, Peru

…and sometimes there are bitter failures; what appears to be tasty looking cake is filled with a foul excuse for jam, rendering it nearly inedible.

Sarah displays her sweaty cap, Pallasca, Peru

Proof of the day’s sweaty climbs: my salt-encrusted hat.

Lady selling bread in Pallasca, Peru

We make sure to visit the bread lady before leaving Pallasca not knowing where we’ll end the day – but certain that…

View of the canyon near Pallasca, Peru

…there’s a big downhill in store. 25km of descending into the Rio Chuquicara gorge and then it’s all flat riding or downhill.

Close up of canyon wall near Pallasca, Peru

Textures, tastes and smells are all different at the bottom of the valley.

Sarah on a downhill bend in the canyon near Pallasca, Peru

If you look hard enough you can see a cyclist here…

Sarah cycling into the canyon near Pallasca, Peru

…before she gets swallowed up by the rocks.

Sarah amongst the rocks in the canyon on the way to Chuqicara, Peru

Further along the road, the canyon opens up…

Miners outside Chuqicara Peru

…and we’re into mining country.

In the Rio Santo Canyon on the way to Chuqicara, Peru

The road weaves through gorges and tunnels and we’re not sure how far we are from Chuquicara…

Man painting a distance marker on the road near Chuqicara, Peru

…when magically a roadworker appears, painting the kilometre marker in front of our very eyes.

Sarah stretching her legs in a palapa in Chuqicara, Peru

Sure enough, exactly 10km later we are sheltering from the wind in a palapa at Chuquicara. A morning stretch is needed before we set off towards Caraz through the Cañon del Pato.

Dawn over the canyon at Chuqicara, Peru

Dawn brings more beautiful views.

Three cacti behind a rock near Chuqicara, Peru

We pull over to investigate some pretty rock formations, the catci pop out to greet us…

Sarah relaxing against a boulder in the canyon near Chuqicara, Peru

…and I am caught napping on some perfectly moulded boulders just an hour after we set off.

Roadsign for Mirador, Peru

Passing through Mirador, incongruously named “town of faith and hope”…

Adobe house destroyed by earthquake in Mirador, Peru

…we see the effects of the disastrous 1970 earthquake and subsequent landslide are still evident. 

Sarah sitting next to her bike in the canyon near Chuqicara

Deeper into the gorge with seemingly no one around…

James riding alongside Segundo in canyon near Chuqicara, Peru

…when James is joined by a companion on a bike. Segundo, a local security guard who patrols this stretch of road on his two wheels, tells us there are two other touring cyclists just ahead.

Cicla the puppy in the front box of Kalima's bike near Chuqicara, Peru

They are Spaniards Kalima and Charco, riding up into the mountains on handbuilt bikes from the coast, with their new puppy “Cicla” (rescued from a rubbish dump in Trujillo) stowed away in a box on the handlebars.

Camping above Rio Santa near Yuracmarca, Peru

We camp together that evening…

Kalima and Charco preparing smoothies near Yuracmarca, Peru

…before they teach us a thing or two about taking roadside breaks the next day. Charco has a blender attachment on his bike and they soon knock up four papaya smoothies…

James, Kalima and Charco drinking smoothies near Yuracmarca, Peru

…even Cicla gets a taste.

James cycling into the Cañon del Pato, Peru

The final stretch to Caraz is through the famed Cañon del Pato, a series of thirty six tunnels cut into the rock where the passage between two mountain ranges is more than a tight squeeze…

One of the tunnels of the Cañon del Pato, Peru

…and we’re in and out of tunnels all day…

Sarah cycling through the dark in a tunnel of the Cañon del Pato, Peru

…eyes adjusting to the changing light…

Sarah looking over the edge of the Cañon del Pato, Peru

…it’s a long way down to the bottom.

James entering a tunnel in the Cañon del Pato, Peru

Breathing in for the cars and buses which come screeching through is not an option; stopping is mandatory.

View of the peak of Alpamayo from the plaza in Caraz, Peru

Last stop on this leg: Caraz and the gateway to the Cordillera Blanca. From the town square the stunning peak of Alpamayo is cutely juxtaposed with swaying palms. Snowy mountain adventures await us…



7 Responses to “Two wheels; different ways”

  1. Casey Peetz Says:

    Great pictures, you two! Sending you good vibes from Missouri :)



  2. Edgimundo Says:

    Tell me that couple is actually touring on one unicycle?! That sounds cozy! And are Segundo’s siblings called Primero and Tercero? It’s so unimaginative it’s borderline genius. Anyway, 2Tone, what’s with the beard again?! Sarah, tell him…

    PS Nice shot in the tunnel…


  3. Gayle and Mark Says:

    Great pictures as ever you two…sending love from the Wharton clan! Xxx


  4. Ma and Pa Says:

    Just read this and as usual want to blub! The p;ictures are amazing and we are so proud of all that you are doing. You meet the best of the people too for whjich we thank God every day. Look after yourselves and one another. We love and miss you so much and really enjoyed our Skype on Wednesday. Ma


  5. Andy Peat Says:

    Great photos guys… and what a wonderful road, eh?

    Especially liked the one in the tunnel too.



  6. Mario Kausel Says:

    Hi You two globetrotters:

    As always your followup is incredible.Amazing are those arid landscapes and mountains in that specific área your are now pedaling compared to the green ones I have seen here in our country.
    Big hug from us.


  7. Margy Says:

    Hi you 2, well surprise I have actually got this one almost on time!!!! Lap top working fine at last! Well what a trip, roads are fantastic! views wonderful too, so glad to hear you, Sarah still telling all the super food you are getting!!! Keep it up, keep well both of you and lots of love, Margy X
    Only 8 days until we fly off to Spain!!! Really looking forward to it, although we have had some super weather here! Nearly 2 weeks of blue skies, sunshine and very hot, am working on the tan in preparation! XXXXXXX


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