Sunday, October 21, 2007


October 2007
I've spent the last 10 days mountain biking in Lima and Cusco with my friends Daamo, Lorraine and Ruth (or, as will be described on my Revenue Canada Form T2124-07 Statement of Business Activities - Deductions for Operating Expenses: "participating in a reconnaissance trip to evaluate the terrain and trails in Peru as a possible new destination for Big Mountain Bike Adventures".)
Before I explain why I've concluded that Peru is unquestionably one of the most remarkable places to visit and ride, I'd like to introduce the crew on my trip:
Canadian National DH Champion: 1998, World Masters DH Champion: 2006
Hometown: Revelstoke, British Columbia
Age: 31. Sign: Scorpio
Occupation: Ministry of Transportation dispatcher, helihiking guide, mountain bike coach
Bike: Rocky Mountain Slayer SXC 70
First mountain bike: rigid black Nishiki Banshee
Favourite post-ride meal: avocado salad
Weirdest thing ever eaten: bear jerkey
Last song downloaded / CD bought: Dashboard by Modest Mouse. Bought a CD at the Cusco Airport earlier this week from a Peruvian pan flute street busker for 9 soles (about $3)
Tattoos: lower back
Pets: no
Last book read: Let My People Surf, Yvon Chouinard (founder of Patagonia)
Favourite ride: Keystone Standard Basin, Revelstoke

Canadian National DH Champion 1997, 1999
Hometown: Vancouver, British Columbia (born in Sydney, Australia)
Age: 36 year old teenager. Sign: Gemini
Occupation: will bike for food
Bike: Marin Mount Vision
Sponsors: Marin, Shimano First mountain bike: 55 pound silver rigid frame singlespeed. Got bike in a trade for a jar a Vegemite and a case of Foster's Lager.
Favourite post-ride meal: tortilla chips with salsa and beer
Favourite flavour of energy bar: Sharkies. Fruit Blast ? (the ones in the blue package)
Last song downloaded / CD bought: Flashdance by Irene Cara. [ed. note: Daamo, an unabashed fan of 80s music, has many other redeeming qualities.]
Favourite beer: Corona
Weirdest thing ever eaten: roasted guinea pig
Tattoos: no
Pets: Kootenay (lab cross) and Dakota (cat)
Favourite ride: Burro Pass, La Sal Mountains, Utah
Hometown: Vancouver, British Columbia
Age: 44. Sign: Leo
Occupation: Coast Mountain Transit Buses - Driver Instructor
Bike: Marin Rift Zone. currently for sale if anyone is interested.
First mountain bike: rigid Trek
Favourite post-ride meal: beer
Favourite flavour of energy bar: Cliff Bar Peanut Butter Buzz
Weirdest thing ever eaten: cockroaches coated in chocolate.
Favourite beer: Tecate
Pets: Copper (Rhodesian Ridgeback)
Tattoos: 3 total. Right forearm. Left bicep. Ankle.
Last song downloaded / CD bought: Art Teacher by Rufus Wainwright
Favourite book: A Fine Balance, Rohinton Mistry
Favourite ride: Cunning Stunts, Sunshine Coast, BC

Our group joined a tour which had the following 2 guys signed up: Luis Viallacorta from Lima and Scott Vizniowski from Peterborough, Ontario (but currently residing in Maranello, Italy)

Our guides:
Peruvian National XC Champion: 2001, 2004-2005
Hometown: Maras Cusco, Peru
Age: 35
Bike: Gary Fisher Cake
Peruvian National DH Champion: 1999-2001
Pan American Games Bronze: 2001
Peruvian National XC Champion: 1997
Hometown: Lima, Peru
Age: 33
Bike: Santa Cruz Nomad
First mountain bike: light blue GT Zaskar, Rock Shox QR21 2.5" travel fork
Favourite post-ride meal: beer
Favourite flavour of "energy bar": Nestle Sublime Extremo Peanut and Milk Chocolate bar
Favourite beer: Cusquena
Favourite ride: Marcahuasi Stone Forest, Peru
Quote: ride fast or be last

And me:
Holy Trinity Elementary School Undefeated Grade 3 Recess Schoolyard Tetherball Champion
Hometown: Whistler, British Columbia
Age: 39. Sign: Scorpio
Bike: Marin Wolfridge. with a pair of Maxxis High Rollers purchased on the black market in Lima for 65 soles (about $21). Score.
First mountain bike: 1996 Rocky Mountain Hammer Race
Favourite post-ride meal: sushi
Weirdest thing ever eaten: deep fried iguana nuggets. Yes, there was a lot of tequila involved as well
Tattoos: no
Pets: no. Had a guinea pig growing up - a little horrified watching Daamo dine on a roasted "Snuffles" in Cusco.
Last song downloaded / CD bought: Stronger, Kanye W
Favourite book: Breakfast of Champions, Kurt Vonnegut
Favourite trail: Aline. Whistler Mountain Bike Park, BC

And some of the locals we met along the way:

Quick recap of the trip:
- 10 days
- 0 other mountain bikers
- 55,774 total accumulated vertical feet of descending
- 11,385 vertical feet - longest individual descent
- 1 replacement set of brake pads
- 14,271 "why is everything....gasp...going dark???" feet above sea level – elevation of highest trailhead
- 3,500 switchbacks (2,500 on the roads used to shuttle the rides 1,000 on the trails)
- 3,450 switchbacks successfully negotiated (2,500 on the roads used to shuttle the rides 950 on the trails)
- 45 hours riding bikes
- 30 hours riding in shuttle van
- 2 hours "shuttling" by horseback. still haven't fully regained the feeling in my ass
- 4 apparently functioning traffic lights in Lima, a city of 8 million inhabitants
- 1,200 photos taken by Daamo
- 1,196 taken with the lens cap off
- 500 year old singletrack - (one of our rides traversed along a section of the Inca Trail)
- 7 pounds of seafood ceviche
- 8 bowls of cholco. Peruvian salty crunchy goodness. A little bit like partially popped popcorn kernels. But softer so that you don't have to worry about cracking molars
- 0 glasses of chicha – homemade Peruvian beer. Brewing process, according to the Lonely Planet Guide, is begun by chewing and spitting corn into a vat, which is then sealed and stored for several weeks to allow for fermentation. Establishments which sell the beer display a red flag above the door. Gaaaaaack
- 12 glasses of Andean lemonade. Blended ice, peppermint, ginger and fresh lemons
- 1 grilled medium rare elpaca (a smaller, woolier version of a llama) filet. retched.
- 24 imodium tablets
- 0 to 27 degrees celsius. Temperature range on the trip. Often during the same day. Routinely started rides wearing every piece of clothing that I had brought
- 2 Peruvian soles (about $0.45) paid for a pair of souvenir salt and pepper shakers shaped like the Machu Picchu peaks
- 1 trip of a lifetime

Hard to properly describe and express just how incredible this experience has been. Unforgettable rides, massive descents, endless fast flowy singletrack, challenging technical trails, spectacular scenery, unique terrain and topography, majestic Andean peaks, magnificent Inca sites and ruins, delicious food (wel...except for a few funky exceptions), amazing hospitality and the warmest friendliest people imaginable. There are countless people we met on our rides and travels who touched our hearts - from Wayo (one of the most thoughtful, easy going, and charming guys you will ever meet); to Willy Pro (owner of a bike shop in Lima) who kept his shop open 2 extra hours waiting for us to return from a ride in order to fix Ruth's brake line; to the young barefooted shepherd we met at the Megavalanche trailhead (he's the one who's waving in the picture above - the shyest, sweetest smile ever); to Juan (a porter on our horseback shuttle ride) who hiked back up to the top of the trail to retrieve Lorraine's forgotten camera and arranged to have it delivered to us the next day; and to all the people who warmly greeted and welcomed us as we passed through their lands and villages.

I am exceptionally lucky and privileged to have had the chance to visit and ride in Peru - hope you also get the opportunity someday.

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