Exploring Peru & Bolivia Along the Ancient Inca Trail

May 18, 2018
by Tito Tomasi  
Riding the Inca Trail Across Peru and Bolivia

There are ideas we have in mind. We live in the real world, we interact with people like we are entirely here, but we are not. Only half of our soul is here, talking and living, the other half is lost in the dreams and ideas. I started thinking about Peru and the Inca trail. My mind was there, I had to go.

I landed in Cusco on a fresh morning with a threatening sky, my plane was coming from Quito Ecuador and I was escaping the rain. Unfortunately, the rainy season was hitting Peru pretty badly, I will have to face that reality.

Endless climb.

A BIT OF HISTORY

Cusco was considered as the belly button of the world by the Incas, in the legend this is the place where the first humans settled the Inca empire. They were sent by Inti, the God of the Gods, the sun himself. These two first humans were coming from Titicaca lake, walking and walking in search of the perfect land, a fertile land. Every trail and settlement lead to Cusco on the Inca Trail. The Inca empire was superior and they could conqueer the countries known today as Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile thanks to their advanced technologies such as communication.

The Inca trails they build help them to be stronger, but in the 15th century, the Incas started to face invaders coming from Spain.

The conquistadors had weapons and strategies, they decided to destroy Inca empire and make South America a part of the Spanish Kingdom.

When the Incas where loosing too many battles they were only in the Cusco valley, general Pizarro from Spain was pushing them further and further and after the battle of Ollantaytambo, the Incas had to escape towards the Amazon to find shelter in Vilcabamba the last Inca stand.

One of the many Inca gate along the path.
Short loop at Humantay lake with my Inca brother Yuri on my second day!

Inca Trail dropping into the Sacred Valley.
Local style. Why climbing a ugly road when you can hitchhike?


A BIT OF A PLAN

I wanted to explore some Inca Trail on my bike and ended doing the last walk of the Inca. The one Manco Inca took with his people to save them. Legend says the Incas still live in the Amazon, pretty impressive when we know that Tupac Amaru was the last Inca king and died in 1572. From the city of Cusco to Ollantaytambo to Vilcabamba, the network of Inca trail was really impressive, I reached some remote communities where there is no comfort such as electricity. The people live from the fields and cattle, lamas, alpacas, horses, sheep, cows and more. The meetings and the lessons are fascinating, this is the true reason for travelling.

This trip was a blast, I had tonnes of fun and discovery but it never went like planned. The rain has been a terrible partner in my 45-day trip, forcing me to make choices. But that's also the beauty of the trip, a combination of time, mountains and dreams.

I was lucky to explore many Inca trails from Cusco to get to the Sacred Valley, from there I could ride more and cross some valleys. The trails I found were really good to ride, with strong local life and beautiful scenery. Unfortunately, I was not able to take my camera with me during the trip, because of the rain so I only had a waterproof phone and action camera with me. This is frustrating but this was a reality. Trying to stay warm and dry was hard enough, filming in those conditions was just too hard.

From the Sacred Valley I went back to the Cusco region for another chapter as I reached the Salkantay mountain. From Sorai Pampa starts the Salkantay trek which crosses a pass to the north and eventually to Macchu Picchu. Sorai Pampa is just a nice place with campsites and hotels, it's green and peaceful with Humantay lake and Mollepata village for some riding. Really liked to discover the area and watch the Salkantay mountain whose peak is at 6271 meters, raw and strong with glaciers and seracs. This incredible moment contrasted with the poor quality of the trail on the next day, after the pass at 4630 meters probably the Huayracmachay pass.

I left the classic trek to go further north, my goal was to reach the Amazon following the IncaTrail to Vilcabamba. As I was navigating in the mountains, the rain came back and made those endless climbs harder. After two days of big rides I finally reached Vilcabamba, the place was incredible to visit but at the village I have heard that the trail I was planning to do was closed. With floods and landslides, it was dangerous to try to make it… so I decided to get back on the bike and go south hoping for a better weather. Coming back to the Sacred Valley I dropped into the Inca Avalanche Trail to get to Ollantaytambo. This famous trail is spectacular, starting at 4300 in Abra Malaga for a 1500 meters drop.

The Salkantay summit from the trail to Sorai Pampa.
Neli in Sorai Pampa, I had no tent so she found me a place to stay in the employee's room!

The Salkantay trek downhill is definitely one of the ugliest trail around. Too bad!
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Lost on the misty balcony.

Salkantay trek.

Huge mountain and long trails, that's what Peru is all about.
When there is a bridge.

The altitude is dropping the bananas are coming.

And this is a classic rainy day in Amazon area.
Back in Cusco I took some rest and planned another trip to the south, with a goal: to cross some mountains, reach the Titicaca lake and ride the Royal range in Bolivia.

The bike got some love, I cleaned all my gear and then packed again. Heading south for my first range to cross, the Ausangate. I reached out the mountains and discovered the giant summit and range of Ausangate, a sacred one for the Inca. The trail led me to the last houses and right before the storm in Upis village, luckily I met Domingo. An old llama shepherd who helped me for the night, he found me a dry place to sleep and something to fill my stomach.

The next day I crossed a big part of the range with two passes. In the morning the fresh snow was painting one of the most beautiful landscape I have seen, with lakes everywhere, green grass and the glaciers to contrast with.

The riding was mind-blowing too, from some part at 5000 meter high around the glaciers down to the valleys with horses and little houses it was just unique and awesome.

The storm caught me badly in the afternoon, I rode hard to find a village and a crappy hotel for the night. Because of this really crappy place and the storm I had to cancel the rest of my exploration in Ausangate. Hard call.

I finally reach Sicuani and jumped in a minibus for some bus hopping experience with the locals! From a bus to another, from loading and unloading the bike on the roof of the minibus, I eventually got to Copacabana in Bolivia. The weather was looking good, I was hoping for the best and rode towards the Royal Range. I reached Sorata on some awesome trails, this village is the perfect place for trekking. The views in Sorata's area are breathtaking, with huge mountains, glaciers and forest. I rode a few trails and had a blast. When I decided to follow the dirt roads to the east the storm was back, strong and dangerous. Definitely not the good time to hang out in the mountains!

With some help, I finally reached Tuni, a place deep in the range, surrounded by lakes and summits. I arrived at the refuge before the night, the snow was near and it was cold. The guard was here for maintenance, he could open the place helping me for the night but he had to go back to civilization. An old lady, looking after llamas, prepared me a dinner but the next morning she said she couldn't do more. Actually, the road was closed so she had not enough food for me! The trails were covered with snow on this cold morning. I waited one entire day and tried to go through the mountains when I discover that the hole in my tire was getting too big. Bad sign for the rest of my trip. Without spares, I couldn't take the risk of riding the trails, so I decided to get back to La Paz on the road.

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Domingo's house. This 60 years old shepherd is a nice guy. But he left his house running after the alpacas, so no picture of him!

The fresh snow on Ausangate trek.

The view makes it easy to forget about the cold and the snow.


It was almost to nice to ride! Had to stop for pictures so many times.
Green, white and red, on red. What a trail!

The trails in Ausangate range are awesome, this is the last downhill after the 5000 meter high section.


BOLIVIA

Well, at this altitude (4500 meters) when it rains it snows too!
What a place. That I couldn't properly ride! Need to plan to come back ...

Life could be all the nice and deep sentence you want, but first it's now. Just now.

My trusty bike for the trip, Rocky Mountain thunderbolt BC edition
Good trails around Sorata.

Lost in the big mountains and going to Amazon.
My friend Roberto that day we did El Brujo twice.

This is Yuri my Inca brother. This man knows everything and loves to share.

Wet conditions in Peru!

Bolivian breakfast and shuttle on Titicaca lake.

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Some meetings and the place where I slept.

Because Inca walls.
Llama!

Riding with a friend is a great feeling. Always.

An ugly and chaotic city built in a hole, in the middle of the mountains, holding pollution and clouds. This was the beginning of the end. After all those days in the rain and all the events I was losing it. So I decided to get back to Cusco with the night bus.

In Cusco I found a really cool rhythm for the last days, painting and writing in the rainy day and biking in the nice days, I enjoyed the rides around Cusco and Sacred Valley with my local friend Roberto. He is a guide, we met three years ago in Cusco and got along well. Roberto loves the mountains, pedalling and wild trails just like me! I was really lucky to share many days with him so we could go and explore.

If you are looking for adventurous experience in Peru you are looking for him! At www.perubiking.com

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El classic El Bruno. First round first light in the morning.
Nice rock slabs in Huanacaure.

Way above Cusco on a sacred site, very ancient Huanacaure.
Yeah!

Wizard trail.

Well after the last exploration session it was time to get back home in France. I knew this trip could have gone better, especially with the weather, but I was feeling blessed for the meeting and the experience in this fabulous country. Peru is a rich country where the history is mixed with the present, where the culture is old and evolving with the people. It's a fascinating life, and to witness it in a bike trip is just a blessing.

Gracias Peru

Tito


MENTIONS: @mavic @RockyMountainBicycles @julbo @foxracingshox @clif




18 Comments

  • + 13
 wow, you and your view on life is a huge inspiration! Keep on doing what you are doing!
  • + 5
 I just got back from Peru a few weeks ago. Did the 2018 Inca Avalanche race along with a bunch of other trails with KB Tours. Yuri was the group leader of our other group. Check out my video of our trip.... Starts off with some cultural stuff and ends with riding videos. youtu.be/2Wc-TMx9o0I
  • + 2
 That was super fun week Cal! love the video
  • + 4
 Such a beautiful area of the world with great people and great food. Loved the photos and write up. Thank you Tito for sharing
  • + 2
 Not the first humans but the first Incas and not from the Titicaca lake but from the Pacaritambo cave, the only source that claims the Incas came from the Titicaca lake is Garcilazo de la Vega's 17th century chronicle, the early chronicles all claim the Pacaritambo cave as the original birthplace of the Incas, that's reason why all Cusco's historians rejected the Titicaca's version some years ago, its only supported by uninformed locals manly around the Titicaca lake.

It seems that after many centuries the oral traditions blend together causing confusion among the local people, in pre-columbian times every central Andean culture had a place of origin or Pacarina, usually a cave or lake sometimes ruins from previous cultures from which its ancestors came to life, among them the Titicaca lake was especially important, as many local cultures claimed to descent from it, it seems the natives around the lake created a strong cult which believed the god Wiracocha created the first humans from that lake, but not specifically the Inca clans, that was added later likely in the colony as a form of syncretism or just degradation of the oral myths. Incas didn't believed they were the first humans but the most perfected ones.

And Wiracocha is the one who feels more appropriate to be called "god of gods", though the most revered god among common people was Pachamama, Inti is seen as the most revered among the upper class (Incas) although this wasn't always the case, Inti and Wiracocha constantly rotated as the most revered god among the Incas, Wiracocha seems to have been the most favored god in the Tupac Yupanqui reign for example.
  • + 3
 Great write up, inspirational stuff! Always great to get in touch with that kind of stoke.. Riding bikes in big and wild places.Thanks Tito
  • + 2
 Nice Journey Tito! Peru and Bolivia has a lot to offer. Amazing trails left by the ancient people hundreds of years ago. Here we don't make trails every day, ee find them exploring around the mountains.
  • + 2
 Ancient trails, Big Mountains, Excellent Food, Amazing People and a Long Living Culture ...that is Peru! Great words and photos Tito!
  • + 1
 I'll be in PerĂº in a few weeks and certainly this one helps me to decide where to ride. Contacting Perubiking.com in 3... 2... 1.

Great Story @TitoTomasi ... thanks for sharing.

Beer
  • + 3
 Amazing scenery. What an adventure!!!
  • + 2
 Peru is adventure and fun...way more people should come and experience it!
  • + 1
 best lifestyle story for a while! soo good! location, story, pictures, drawings... enjoyng the life Wink
  • + 2
 riding out in the middle of nowhere is the most peaceful.
  • + 3
 Amazing photos!
  • + 1
 Wonderful trip and report, Tito! Vive la vie!
  • + 1
 Love the ride report, it's great to see photos of Peru again.
  • + 1
 Sooo nice!!
  • + 1
 Great trip!

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