Most of my pandemic hobbies died off as normalcy enlivened. The nine to five, once again, refrained me from protracted but rich spare time. To see my days baking zucchini chocolate brownies, I’d have to squint through memory lane. Game nights around a Catan board and an uncorked bottle of wine would only show up as notes on a story. But, one exception escaped the rule: Mountain biking.
As for many, biking has been present in my life since I was a little kid. I vividly remember the first time I rode without training wheels after a swift push from my dad. It was my introduction to what would become an inadvertent love for pedaling later on in my adulthood. What changed, however, was the scenery in which I engaged in biking.
After the first lockdown, I had forcibly been drawn to the outdoors: Out of the city and into the hills. My adrenaline-seeking brother took me on my first day of mountain riding, and he did not hold back. He asserted that if I could pedal vehemently (and unharmed) through rush hour traffic, I had the alertness necessary to take on a downhill bike ride. And so, we charted ourselves to the steep valleys and precipices straddling the Chili River in Arequipa (a forty-five-minute flight away from Cusco).
Our ride commenced in Yanahuara. This is a quaint historical neighborhood with narrow cobbled streets reminiscent of rural Spanish hamlets. What separates it from the Iberian peninsula —besides the Atlantic— is the everpresent white masonry of the colonial buildings.
One of the highlights within Yanahuara is El Mirador, which boasts an unobstructed view of the city and of two out of the three volcanoes encircling it. And to cyclists like me, it delineates (roughly) the road ahead. Full disclosure: The chosen path is not kind to the untrained quads. It sharply heaves and falls.
After twenty minutes of pedaling up and down, the city gives way to the campiña. Agricultural fields show up and show out to render a contrasting landscape, one in which the barren distant mountains are the backdrop to the lush fields facing you. The narrow streets turn into narrow paths over an area of infinite and neatly divided pastures by the name of Chilina.
But the bucolic scenery of Chilina is not the end game. To properly engage in mountain biking, one has to keep riding to —you guessed it—the steep mountains beyond. Off we went past the greenery and up arid hillsides. This is when other cyclists’ tire tracks become apparent, revealing that the path has no other intent but to cloud one’s spirit with adrenaline.
Determination and perspiration amalgamate in the outdoor journey, and without intending to sound pompous, I believe there’s something meditative about that particular blend. When your body commands the entirety of your attention, and there’s no space for private rumination, you really start to feel the restorative powers of hopping onto a bike —and yes, you’ll feel this even if you prefer the sterile environment of a SoulCycle class.
“Do you want to trade bikes?,” my brother kept entreating. His four thousand dollar bike was inherently better suited for the harsh terrains; mine was trying its best. Still, my weight-lifter pride steered me into negating his propositions. Only after my legs were numb and scrambled, I begged him to swap. My two cents to anyone unacquainted with mountain cycling: Please, don’t venture into vertical zigzags with your trusty old bike; even if the seller reassures you that it is a “mountain bike,” let it to a more seasoned cyclist to assess the veracity of the marketing claim.
Get more travel inspo by checking our Mountain Biking Trip to the Sacred Valley.
We probably rode around five kilometers uphill —”rode” is generous wording since large route segments can barely be pedaled through due to the sharp incline. But after ascending what appears to be three hundred meters (if measured vertically, that is), we stopped at the canyon’s summit to rest and snack —but most importantly, to engulf the views right from the edge. From this vantage site, one can grasp the true and Homeric magnitude of the task as well as the distant city encircled by mountains and parted by the Chili.
With the scorching sun no longer cresting over our heads, it’s time to go back, and there’s only one way home: down and fast. Anybody that deigns to command mountain biking on their first try is destined to get some scratches. Still, as one often does, my mind turned to the best scenario, (delusionally) telling itself: “If he can do it, so can I.”
I followed and mirrored my brother with only a handful of instructions, two of which I encourage other novices to adhere to. First, don’t slow down too much, or the bike might slip (especially over loose ground). And second, the grip over the handlebar must be firm and decisive.
I did pretty well for myself; I only fell once. I still have the scar on my elbow, but it was definitely worth it. No regrets or complaints, just yearning for the times in which I went for a mountain bike trip to Peru.
Are you interested in adventure bike tours in Peru? Then look no further. Here at Terra Explorer, our outdoor-adoring team of experts carefully curates the perfect biking tours. What’s more, we bridge them with outstanding culinary and cultural experiences attuned to your interests and preferences. Let’s design a luxurious adventure trip to Peru.
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Our experiences are designed considering the least possible exposure, where the final destinations are usually remote places. By their very nature, our adventure activities are considered to be low risk, mainly because they are performed outdoors where ventilation is constant and making it easy to achieve social distancing.
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