Peru with Derek Frankowski

Mar 31, 2011
by Derek Frankowski  
 
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One of the best parts of being a photographer is being invited to document fun and interesting things. The idea of traveling to document huge descents and culture, in a place that has thousands of years of history, was an exciting one. In 2005 I was fortunate to go to Peru as a photographer for a Bike Magazine feature. With a crew consisting of Lou Mazzante (writer), Adrian Montgomery (Scott Marketing), Niki Gudex (rider), Walker Ferguson (rider), myself and KB our local tour guide and host, it was sure to be an eventful 10 days. I hadn't spent too much time researching the area, I like going into new places fresh, but I also knew the others had spent ample time researching. This feature was shot on slide film, Fuji Velvia 100F, so might have a bit of a different look then you are use to on Pinkbike, but that's how we did it not so long ago.
  One of the best parts of being a photographer is being invited to document fun and interesting things. The idea of traveling to document huge descents and culture, in a place that has thousands of years of history, was an exciting one. In 2005 I was fortunate to go to Peru as a photographer for a Bike Magazine feature. With a crew consisting of Lou Mazzante (writer), Adrian Montgomery (Scott Marketing), Niki Gudex (rider), Walker Ferguson (rider), myself and KB our local tour guide and host, it was sure to be an eventful 10 days. I hadn't spent too much time researching the area, I like going into new places fresh, but I also knew the others had spent ample time researching. This feature was shot on slide film, Fuji Velvia 100F, so might have a bit of a different look then you are use to on Pinkbike, but that's how we did it not so long ago.

This is the view landing in Cuzco. It was a lush approach with saturated green pastures giving way to blood red soil and eventually the Andes. I could tell once we began to descend that this was going to be a very life-changing trip.
  This is the view landing in Cuzco. It was a lush approach with saturated green pastures giving way to blood red soil and eventually the Andes. I could tell once we began to descend that this was going to be a very life-changing trip.


The Inca people had a serious addiction to detail. And the thing that made that so ridiculous was that they were doing it with 10,000 lbs rocks. Carried from miles away. We need more of that in our lives now.
  The Inca people had a serious addiction to detail. And the thing that made that so ridiculous was that they were doing it with 10,000 lbs rocks. Carried from miles away. We need more of that in our lives now.


Most trails that you ride, send you through a town or three. Coasting through a foreign land, slowing on a bike is a pretty cool way to see the world. At the tail end of this trip I had booked a few extra days to stay and do some riding without a camera. I was able to ride a decent that we had tried to get to with the crew and it was my favorite single experience from Peru... maybe from anyplace I've traveled. The day, the ride, the towns are all still very vivid and I don't have any photos of it. Maybe, had I brought my camera, I wouldn't have had the same experience.
  Most trails that you ride, send you through a town or three. Coasting through a foreign land, slowing on a bike is a pretty cool way to see the world. At the tail end of this trip I had booked a few extra days to stay and do some riding without a camera. I was able to ride a decent that we had tried to get to with the crew and it was my favorite single experience from Peru... maybe from anyplace I've traveled. The day, the ride, the towns are all still very vivid and I don't have any photos of it. Maybe, had I brought my camera, I wouldn't have had the same experience.


Walking the streets in town was a like walking through a movie set. It's a living and breathing community that has so much history and character it was humbling. The labyrinth of narrow cobble stone sidewalks, parallel with working water aqueducts, was such a contrast to anything I had seen. I spent a lot of time wandering them by myself looking for photos.
  Walking the streets in town was a like walking through a movie set. It's a living and breathing community that has so much history and character it was humbling. The labyrinth of narrow cobble stone sidewalks, parallel with working water aqueducts, was such a contrast to anything I had seen. I spent a lot of time wandering them by myself looking for photos.


Shooting the action on this trip was challenging. I didn't have a lot of time for set up and often I would have to ride ahead when I saw a shot, jump off, compose and let the crew pass. Here I found a small pond near a few very remote stone homes. It's my favorite riding shot because when I close my eyes and think of the riding experience this is what I see.
  Shooting the action on this trip was challenging. I didn't have a lot of time for set up and often I would have to ride ahead when I saw a shot, jump off, compose and let the crew pass. Here I found a small pond near a few very remote stone homes. It's my favorite riding shot because when I close my eyes and think of the riding experience this is what I see.


Not much explanation needed. Lou Mazzante shares a slice of life with a local Peruvian on a trail.
  Not much explanation needed. Lou Mazzante shares a slice of life with a local Peruvian on a trail.


How they built these roads I do not know? We spent a lot of time traveling by KB's van to near by towns and new trails. While sitting in the back sipping large road-pops you had to be careful. Any pothole or obstacle could cause a sudden bump and your teeth were at risk of being taken out. <br><br>Driving in Peru is an experience in itself. A few days after these shots were taken we were driving on a road, an
  How they built these roads I do not know? We spent a lot of time traveling by KB's van to near by towns and new trails. While sitting in the back sipping large road-pops you had to be careful. Any pothole or obstacle could cause a sudden bump and your teeth were at risk of being taken out.

Driving in Peru is an experience in itself. A few days after these shots were taken we were driving on a road, an "out and back". The way out was fine, but while biking the road back we had a situation with a "small landslide". The road was blocked courtesy of baby head rocks piled deep, they were under the influence of gravity from a very long way up. I thought we were stuck for the night. We watched for at least an hour as traffic backed up. That is until a huge truck stopped. Out from the box jumped guys probably 10 yrs old to 50 yrs old and they began to clear the rocks by hand. It was crazy... from our perspective. They always kept an eye up the slope for rocks. I could barley watch, thinking of what it might look like if they got hit. Every few minutes they would scatter as rocks rained down. You could barely see them as they came from the peak, but you could hear them. It was such a raw experience of what life is like for the people here.


Coke out of a bottle is awesome.
  Coke out of a bottle is awesome.


Locals use coca leaves to fight fatigue and elevation sickness by placing a bunch of leaves, with a lime finger paste, under their lips. Evidence shows that the people here in the Andes have been using it in this way for 8000 years. I wonder if anyone has ever placed them into a bladder?
  Locals use coca leaves to fight fatigue and elevation sickness by placing a bunch of leaves, with a lime finger paste, under their lips. Evidence shows that the people here in the Andes have been using it in this way for 8000 years. I wonder if anyone has ever placed them into a bladder?


I love this kind of photography. From-the-hip. I could see these two locals walking towards our van so I set up and waited for them to pass by. I was pleased when I got the photos back to see the child looking right into the camera. I like that he has a very comfortable expression and came closer to check us out, but the man in the background stayed further away and looked more concerned.  A van packed with 26 inch machines is not a daily sighting.
  I love this kind of photography. From-the-hip. I could see these two locals walking towards our van so I set up and waited for them to pass by. I was pleased when I got the photos back to see the child looking right into the camera. I like that he has a very comfortable expression and came closer to check us out, but the man in the background stayed further away and looked more concerned. A van packed with 26 inch machines is not a daily sighting.


Working hard seems like the only option for the people here. Because of my lack of Spanish skills I couldn't communicate with the locals as much as I wanted. I would love to be able to talk with them to see who they really are. This happy fella didn't need to say too much for me to understand that he's all good.
  Working hard seems like the only option for the people here. Because of my lack of Spanish skills I couldn't communicate with the locals as much as I wanted. I would love to be able to talk with them to see who they really are. This happy fella didn't need to say too much for me to understand that he's all good.


This lady was living on the side of a trail in this very authentic looking mud home. I like the old bike rim hanging on the wooden beams that spanned through the entire house. Maybe it was a childs toy or a tool used for some daily chore. In her hands were potatoes that she was peeling as she talked.<br>The women I noticed are always working with their hands. It's really common as they are walking to be spinning wool, which makes sense because some people are walking 10 hours a day. Yeah 10 hours! I was told some live high in the mountains and have to walk to market, which is 5 hours each way. Tough to grasp that kind of daily commute.
  This lady was living on the side of a trail in this very authentic looking mud home. I like the old bike rim hanging on the wooden beams that spanned through the entire house. Maybe it was a childs toy or a tool used for some daily chore. In her hands were potatoes that she was peeling as she talked.
The women I noticed are always working with their hands. It's really common as they are walking to be spinning wool, which makes sense because some people are walking 10 hours a day. Yeah 10 hours! I was told some live high in the mountains and have to walk to market, which is 5 hours each way. Tough to grasp that kind of daily commute.


The hex. Adrian Montgomery was negotiating the hundreds of steep rocks stairs (following the line I cleaned with camera pack... had to say it Adrian) until this local decided he was done, keeping us in check in their country.
  The hex. Adrian Montgomery was negotiating the hundreds of steep rocks stairs (following the line I cleaned with camera pack... had to say it Adrian) until this local decided he was done, keeping us in check in their country.


Ingenuity of people in remote places is always fascinating. You cross countless bridges here, as the water descends from the massive peaks. It's another texture that creates depth to the fabric of Peru.
  Ingenuity of people in remote places is always fascinating. You cross countless bridges here, as the water descends from the massive peaks. It's another texture that creates depth to the fabric of Peru.


This was one of many river crossings we did. When we had an opportunity to jump out of the Van and onto the bikes we did. Might as well be shredding the road on your bike than in the vehicle.<br>You could imagine that this crossing is impossible at certain times of the year when that river in the upper left is raging.
  This was one of many river crossings we did. When we had an opportunity to jump out of the Van and onto the bikes we did. Might as well be shredding the road on your bike than in the vehicle.
You could imagine that this crossing is impossible at certain times of the year when that river in the upper left is raging.


Lou, super thirsty for a Pilsner. Post-ride's are really similar anywhere in the world.
  Lou, super thirsty for a Pilsner. Post-ride's are really similar anywhere in the world.


This was the drop-in-point from a ride we did just out side of Ollyantaytambo, after a horse-back-shuttle from the river below. If you stand back from that doorway it perfectly frames a mountain called Mt Veronica in the background, which is a comfortable 19000ft. <br>We were able to see a lot of ruins and they seemed to incorporate a balance with their surroundings, I appreciated that.
  This was the drop-in-point from a ride we did just out side of Ollyantaytambo, after a horse-back-shuttle from the river below. If you stand back from that doorway it perfectly frames a mountain called Mt Veronica in the background, which is a comfortable 19000ft.
We were able to see a lot of ruins and they seemed to incorporate a balance with their surroundings, I appreciated that.


Mt. Veronica, at 5680m / 18,635ft has some serious presence on the horizon. Its Quechua name, the native language of the area, Wakay Willca, means
  Mt. Veronica, at 5680m / 18,635ft has some serious presence on the horizon. Its Quechua name, the native language of the area, Wakay Willca, means "Sacred Tears". You can see why the Inca would build structures to take advantage of its beauty.


The Sacred Valley in Peru provides stunning descents and vistas. This was the back patio we were able to relax in between adventures. It felt very comfortable and taking in skyline was afternoon exercise.
  The Sacred Valley in Peru provides stunning descents and vistas. This was the back patio we were able to relax in between adventures. It felt very comfortable and taking in skyline was afternoon exercise.


This image is burnt into my mind. When I close my eyes and think about the places we saw in Peru this one pops in a lot. I had the opportunity, in this area, to get this backdrop with a beautiful young child and her timeless looking doll in one hand. She stared into the camera. I took the photo and thought I had my best portrait of the trip. But when I got the film back from the lab I had underexposed the slide pretty bad... not sure how, it used to happen...<br>Maybe I'll scan it some day and see if I can pull more out of it. I still really like this picture because it opens fond memories...
  This image is burnt into my mind. When I close my eyes and think about the places we saw in Peru this one pops in a lot. I had the opportunity, in this area, to get this backdrop with a beautiful young child and her timeless looking doll in one hand. She stared into the camera. I took the photo and thought I had my best portrait of the trip. But when I got the film back from the lab I had underexposed the slide pretty bad... not sure how, it used to happen...
Maybe I'll scan it some day and see if I can pull more out of it. I still really like this picture because it opens fond memories...


For more photos by Frankowski go to:
http://www.frankowski.ca
http://www.lifecyclesfilm.com/


Do you want to go on a Peruvian adventure? Check out his details:
KB Tambo Hotel & Tours or
Ollantaytambo, Peru
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67 Comments

  • + 21
 This is exactly why Im on pb!!
Looks like an amazing experience, makes me want to book a random holiday somewhere with my bike Big Grin
  • + 3
 Great idea - yo, why don't you "randomly" come to Cusco/Ollantaytambo next month for the Inca Downhill DH race? ! Starts at 15,000 feet above sea level at the foot of the Veronica glacier, and drops 5,000 feet down Inca road and singletrack to the finish line below. I'll give Chris Van Dine and elbow to the ribs, and you coast to the finish line Smile Check us out at www.IncaDownhill dot com !
  • + 1
 i miss peru very much, such awesome people live there!
  • + 1
 for sure this will be one of the next places i travel, and chili..... can never get enough of the mountains. the pictures look amazing.
  • + 4
 I spent two months traveling Peru last year. Only managed to get on a bike twice, but was thinking about the potential non-stop. Geographically, it's by far the most amazing country I've ever seen. Looks like you guys hung around Cuzco, the best area for riding. Oh and Coca leaves are the real deal. Coca tea is also the bomb. And Coca biscuits. Et cetera.
  • + 1
 Hey Harriieee, how are you man? i hope you enjoyed our bike trip in the Pachacamac area, i have a video from that day i will uploaded for you.

Great to hear about you, do you have plans to return again to Peru? Let me know....

Guillermo
intibike.com
  • + 3
 I told you guys, Peru is a wonderful place to visit and of course, one of the best places on earth for mountain biking too! Want to drop around 65,000ft on your bike through the best trails on earth??? Check us out!
  • + 2
 Saludos Derek, gracias por compartir tu experiencia y me gustaria aportar un poco de la que yo y unos amigos compartimos. En el 2007 yo y unos amigos fuimos a participar en el evento mega avalancha, nos conectamos con nuestros amigos de Loreto tours los cuales nos dieron la oportunidad de vivir una experiencia unica que de seguro marco nuestras vidas para siempre tanto como corredores de bicicleta de montaña, buscadores de aventura y aun mas importante como seres humanos que aprecian la hermosa creacion de Dios. La gente de Peru nos trato como verdaderos reyes, nos ayudaron en todo como si fueramos hermanos y nos mostraron una cara del mundo que ya haciamos extinta. Me gustaria poder explicar en toda su grandeza esta experiencia pero sinceramente el decir que fue inolvidable debe darles a todos los lectores una buena razon para planificar una mega aventura como la que yo, mis amigos y tu hemos vivido en el glorioso Peru.
  • + 2
 Greetings Derek, thanks for sharing your experience and I would like to bring a bit of mine and some friends shared. In 2007 asome friends and me went to participate in the mega avalanche event, we connect with our friends in Loreto tours which gave us the opportunity to live a unique experience that is sure to frame our lives forever as well as mountain bike riders , Adventure seekers and more importantly as human beings who appreciate the beautiful creation of God. The people of Peru treated us like true kings, helped us all as if we were brothers and they showed us a side of the world who was already extinct. I wish I could explain in all its grandeur but honestly the experience was unforgettable to say that should give all readers a good reason for planning a mega adventure as I, my friends and we lived in the glorious Peru.
  • + 1
 Great article that only begins to describe the beauty that you'll experience in Peru. And having been on many tours with KB, the guide mentioned in the article, he's the guy to contact! Nobody knows the area better (that's why "Bike" mag and some of the worlds best riders call him first), and he's a very resourceful, knowledgeable guide. Check out his website at KBPeru dot com and be sure to call him if you're considering a bike trip to Peru...he'll take care of you!
  • + 1
 I had the pleasure of spending about a week with Derek in the Nevada desert on a climbing trip a few years ago. Since then I have tried to follow his work. he has an amazing eye for the sublime and a ton of talent. I can always spot his photos in magazines, ads etc...there is just something about his pictures. Well done Duke.
  • + 1
 truly an amazing trip! what about acclimation? did the altitude have a strong affect on you when you arrived? we did the inca trail last spring, an absolutely amazing experience and wished i had my bike the whole time, and it took about a week to get to where i felt close to 100%.
  • + 1
 Wow, wow, wow. Those photos are unbelievable. Nary a single huck shot in them but they all totally captured the beauty of Peru, the mountains and the culture. Geez, Derek, you should try your hand at writing in addition to film making, cause your narrative was freaking awesome, especially since that trip was 4 years ago. It makes me want to live there - oh yeah, I already do. Thanks Derek, you are the man.
  • + 1
 Love Peru, been there couple of times, but never took my bike with me... This year planning to go again, but don't know where to start for information about mtb'ing in Peru.. Maybe any of you peruvians here can help me out.....
  • + 3
 i saw 4 maybe 5 pods in my opinion here. hope it will be some day. great photos, amazing trip. and i'm jealous.
  • + 1
 Thanks for the great story PB! Peru has to be one of the best places to mountain bike on the planet!! We run epic all-mountain and DH trips in Peru, check us out: ridebig.com/adventures.php
  • + 1
 yeahhhh .. thanks derek frankowski... Peru has this and much more ... many beautiful places I have incredible .. come all and if they can visit every corner of Peru. thanks to all
  • + 1
 awesome pictures , awesome history and the way you tell avery detail is stunning , I just want to go to Perú. Thanks for this articles
  • + 1
 This trip is a dream of mine and this article just sealed the deal. I guess i'll start saving now, which probably puts a halt on my next trip to Moab.
  • + 2
 incredible photos (analog?)
  • + 3
 I love peruvian food.
  • + 2
 I prefer tan peruvian women, but the food is great also
  • + 1
 Epic trip. Talk about some sweet shots too. But where are the photos of Nikki? :-p
  • + 1
 Coca leaves in your CamelBak to fight fatigue. South American MTB brilliant!
  • + 1
 Guys, this is awesome! I wish I had time, cash and buddies to join for such a trip )
  • + 1
 Makes me want to travel the globe wih a bike and a camelbac filled with Coca leaves.....
  • + 2
 wonderful photography! I wish I could ride there too.
  • + 1
 this is awesome photography. and the culture there seems so rich. ride of a lifetime.
  • + 1
 So nice... I was there two years ago and it really is such a fascinating country...
  • + 1
 this is what it´s all about
  • + 1
 BEAUTIFUL photography. May I ask what camera these were taken by?
  • + 1
 damn.... I can't say what I fell when I see this pics... so beautifull
  • + 1
 Amazing pics and great write up.
  • + 1
 Beautiful... great article!
  • + 1
 Awesome photos. Glad to see someone using film.
  • + 1
 Ooo.. awesome. So good adventure Smile
  • + 2
 yes! coke in bottle is amazing! also good to see inventive uses for coca leaves. i never thought to put them in my camelbak..
  • + 2
 Amazing photos
  • + 1
 mind blowing is another word
  • + 2
 epic comes to mind
  • + 1
 fuck yes!! peru is where its at!!
  • + 1
 Love the look of the film, adds another layer of authenticity
  • + 1
 It's "PILSEN" not "PILSNER"
  • + 2
 There's also beer called Pilsener, though it's more common in Ecuador (where it's $1 a litre..... good times indeed)
  • + 1
 Pilsen callao
  • + 1
 Yeah man, you know... and the "cuzqueña" is good too
  • + 1
 Good trip, amazing place, so much beautiful!
  • + 1
 Love this one.
  • + 1
 awesome photos!
  • + 1
 they are some sick pics
  • + 1
 amazing!! nice pics
  • + 1
 AMAZING
  • + 1
 absolutely incredible.
  • + 1
 epic
  • + 1
 Crazy good
  • + 1
 nice experience
  • + 1
 awesome
  • + 1
 wow!
  • + 1
 Magical
  • + 1
 so so cool! Big Grin
  • + 1
 Epic!
  • + 1
 i will go some day
  • + 1
 Too sick!!
  • - 2
 coca leves with h2o = red bull
  • + 1
 except if you drank red bull at 18000 ft you would probably die.
  • + 2
 Great history and amazing photos from my country, I'm very proud... and feel so happy to live here. I've been biking in Cuzco two or three times, but guys, Cusco is wonderfull we know, but i'ts not the whole Perú; here in Lima you can found amazing singletracks and ancient trails where you and your bike will get a lot of fun...

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