Peru - A Photo Story

Jan 15, 2017
by Nicolas Switalski  


The world is full of amazing places, we all know that we've seen them in movies, tv shows, magazines, and social media. We know they are there and we know we want to be there, but nowadays in this corporate, money-driven world, those places appear more often in bucket lists than in actual memories, as people keep reminding themselves they don't have enough money or time to travel. We've all been there. But the truth is traveling might be one of the most enrichening experiences money can buy, and traveling with the purpose of riding a mountain bike through those amazing places... well, at least for us wanderlust MTB obsessed, is an experience that can be summed up in one word: happiness.

Happiness; true, raw, heartwarming happiness is what we all aim for, what we thrive from, what we seek each and every day, and most of the time, what we don't get. That's what makes happiness so damn good, the fact that it is rare, scarce and hard to reach, but in the next selection of pictures and words, we will try to tell the story about how we did just that. This is the of story of how we found happiness riding bikes in Perú.

Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story

When my partner Alvin "Chill Down" approached me with the idea of launching a new mountain bike trip to Perú for Trail Quest, our MTB tour company, I was instantly sold on it. I had been thinking of riding the peruvian Andes for the last couple of years, but "never had the time" to actually make it happen, so when he said he would do the research and put it all together, I called Nico Switalski, and pitched him the scouting/photo trip. He said yes and we bought plane tickets. A month later we were waiting at Cusco's airport for Robert, the peruvian local shredder we teamed up to make this trip happen. He picked us up at 6:30 in the morning, we built bikes in Faure's house, another local shredder, and by 7:45 a.m. we were on our way to the first ride of the trip.

Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story

Bikes loaded and gear on, we shuttled to the top of one of the hundreds (literally) of 14,000 + ft. peaks that surround the Cusco area, in order to ride the first of many ancient Inca "lines". On our way there, we met with Felipe, Miguel and Brian, from Brasil, Chile and the U.S., respectively, with which we rode the rest of the trip. Once we finished with the first trail, our minds were blown. From riding that trail, and the trails we rode after it, I actually came up with the theory that Incas (as well as most prehispanic cultures, such as zapotecs, in México) were servants to alien mountain bikers that came to planet earth on riding vacations thousands of years ago, so they had them build hundreds of miles of amazing singletrack to ride, complete with flowy sections, wallrides, HUGE rock gardens and tons of switchbacks, and, obviously, Machu Pichu was nothing but a premium bike lodge on the top of a mountain. It was THAT good, and maybe, just maybe, the "peruvian tobacco" I accidentally smoked one morning had something to do with my theory, but the trails were out of this world, thats for sure.

Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Do you even drift bro?
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Party trains for days.
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story

Alien theories aside, riding the Inca trails is a very surreal experience. Imagine pedaling all the way up to 14,000 ft. up in the Andes, hiking a little bit more, and then start descending along multiple brown singletrack lines through lush green open valleys, surrounded by huge mountains with waterfalls running down their sides, while wild llamas and alpacas run beside you, encountering local indigenous kids and people along the trail. Real people, happy people. It is amazing how the locals manage to live in the mountains with "so little" gear and tech. Their skin is thick and their calves strong, they walk more miles on a daily basis than most of us troughout the year, they don't own cars or vehicles and they have been living sustainably in the same place since the days of the Inca empire, always with a smile on their face. It is a very humbling experience to ride the exact same trails these people have been using for thousands of years, to coast through their villages and houses, and to discover they are happy to share their backyards with strangers. It is a real lesson on its own, given the times we are facing.

And the flow, the almighty flow. These trails are so gentle, yet so challenging. You can find yourself riding on top of Inca terraces filled with natural jumps and rollers, almost like a huge natural pumptrack, that gradually leads to switchback sections that lower your speed just enough to launch yourself into a thousand-year-old, 300 ft Inca stair set in the middle of the Andes, right into fast, wide open sections where you can just let it rip as fast as your skills (or balls) let you. Or as the locals call it, "ir al mango". Repeat that combination for a couple non-stop hours, twice a day, and you have our average day for this trip, almost 60,000 ft of descents and over 130 miles of singletrack in 6 days of riding.

Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Imagine being a wild llama and all of a sudden spotting a colorful being flying down the hill. This is how that looks like.
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story

Most of the trails we rode ended right in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, located in the middle of the Peruvian Andes. The Sacred Valley is composed of a few small towns that have been around since the days of the Inca empire, such as Ollantaytambo, Urubamba, Lamay, Pisac and Calca, being this last one the place we called home for most of the trip. Calca is a fairly small town that, unlike more touristy towns like Ollantaytambo or Pisac, provided the real, authentic experience we were looking for, and helped us avoid the hundreds of "adventurous" Europeans and Americans that flock to Machu Picchu each and every day wearing everything they could buy at their closest REI, including a mandatory Lonely Planet travel guide. Instead of "gringo" owned vegan food joints, we enjoyed having breakfast every day at the local market; fresh fruit juice, traditional "sandwiches" and local produce such as quinoa and avocado were on the daily menu. Along with Felipe, Brian and Miguel, whom moved to Calca to ride bikes after falling in love with the trails of the surrounding area, we were some of the only MTB riders in Calca and most of the Sacred Valley, and not a single time we encountered anyone else on the trails.

Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story

Something really special about any trip is the bonds you create with the people you spend time with, and this was no exception. We stayed with Felipe and Miguel at a house Robert was renting in Calca, who spent a couple nights with us in order to make the most out of the next day of riding, and it was one of the highlights of the trip. It was like living with Peter Pan's Lost Boys for a week, and actually becoming one of them. Let's just assume no one in that house was completely sane, (but then again, all the best people aren't), and the only thing that made actual sense was the urge to ride bikes every day. No rules, no cleaning, no order, no systems, just a bunch of grown-ups sleeping in couches and fixing bikes on the living room, a dirtbag dream come true. A dream we all shared without knowing it.

Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
What happens when you outclimb everyone? If you go by the name "chill down", you nap
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Just a bit of pedalling after an hour long hike a bike
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
This was by far the most authentic shopping we did in this trip
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Local shredder, Siwar Monteagudo going al mango behind Mr. Chill Down
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Flowy stair sets
Peru - A Photo Story
Not so flowy stair sets. We loved both
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Do you see that town below Felipe's face? That's Calca, and it was an hour away, after another hour of descending was already in the books.
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Post ride cold ones with the crew
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Brian was kind enough to throw a BBQ for us in his house. Felipe and Nico did their part with the guitar as the rest enjoyed.
Peru - A Photo Story
Nothing better to end a perfect day than the soothing calm that fire gives you.


bigquotes“Mountains seem to answer an increasing imaginative need in the West. More and more people are discovering a desire for them, and a powerful solace in them. At bottom, mountains, like all wildernesses, challenge our complacent conviction - so easy to lapse into - that the world has been made for humans by humans. Most of us exist for most of the time in worlds which are humanly arranged, themed and controlled. One forgets that there are environments which do not respond to the flick of a switch or the twist of a dial, and which have their own rhythms and orders of existence. Mountains correct this amnesia. By speaking of greater forces than we can possibly invoke, and by confronting us with greater spans of time than we can possibly envisage, mountains refute our excessive trust in the man-made. They pose profound questions about our durability and the importance of our schemes. They induce, I suppose, a modesty in us." Robert Macfarlane



Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Hiking with a bike on your back all the way up to 15,000 ft is nothing short of exhausting. Fortunately, our shuttle dropped us off just a couple hundred feet down from that point.
Peru - A Photo Story
After a short but exhausting hike, the fun was there to be seen: fresh freeride chutes and lines with enough grip to surf loosely down a mountain top.
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story
Peru - A Photo Story

After 8 days of riding some of the best trails in the world, meeting new people and calling them friends, being humbled by the strength and the spirit of our fellow brothers, and conquering mountaintops in order to ride them down, it was time to go back home. But different to how you could expect this story to end, we were not feeling bad about it, and we were not wishing we could stay longer. We were happy. Happy to be there, but also happy to leave, knowing that we had the best time, that we were taking back home more memories than souvenirs, and especially knowing that we were going to be back. The Incas used to have a word in their native Quechua language for that feeling, a word for when you have to say goodbye, knowing that you'll meet again: Tupananchiskama.

Tupananchiskama, Perú, tupananchiskama, my friends.


Peru - A Photo Story

If you want to experience this adventure first hand, reach us out through our Trail Quest Facebook page.

- twowheeledjunkie.photo
- Song: Calle 13 - Latinoamérica



MENTIONS: @nswitalski / @Trailquest1 /




Must Read This Week

89 Comments

  • + 106
 Articles like this make me wanna go into work tomorrow, flip over some tables, drop some f bombs, then grab my bike and a one way plane ticket to any third world country with mountains. No plans, just my bike and an open mind. #zerofux
  • + 35
 I did have thoughts like that in the past but then I realized that renting a hotel room for a night, undressing and pouring whisky all over my naked body works just as great.
  • + 11
 @WAKIdesigns: funny, I do the same exact thing, but with o'doul's non alcoholic beer.
  • + 4
 @TugboatComplex: it's a great cleansing ritual. However drinking the whisky helps me to respect myself, not sure how non-alcoholic beer works in that respect... I also thought of psylocibes and riding naked in the mud. The bike and the track may possibly speak to you.
  • + 2
 @WAKIdesigns: I'm just not that hardcore, lol
  • + 6
 @WAKIdesigns: and make a video of it all by yourself just like Bryn Atkinson
  • + 1
 You can join them in their next trip www.facebook.com/travelmountainbike/?fref=ts
  • + 16
 Love that you visited Peru and enjoyed the trails in the sacred valley and around Cuzco. Beautiful pictures as well - makes me want to plan my next trip - I've been bringing friends to Peru to enjoy the very same places you visited.

But please, if you intend to take other cyclists to ride Huchy Qosco and other trails that pass near or through Inca Ruins DON'T ride through them. All that does is piss off the caretakers and culture ministry folk; the few times I've ridden Huchy Qosco, we've always walked through the ruins, shows some level of respect toward the country's and local heritage...
  • + 14
 Reading that story and looking at those photos makes me realize just how much of my life I've wasted.
  • + 15
 Alpaca my bags.
  • + 11
 Amazing quote by Rob Macfarlane. It is incredibly easy to be consumed by the beauty of the outdoors in general, especially when a majority of your days are spent in a concrete jungle.
  • + 10
 Miguel Lazano is an amazing local tour guide who can show you everything in Lima, cusco, and the Sacred Valley. Hit him up if you want an experience from the vantage of a local. Keep the money you bring to these areas local!!
  • + 1
 Miguel is the man—did a trip with him to some of these same areas in 2014 and it was the best riding of my life
  • + 13
 So many POD's in here... Great trip!
  • + 9
 Been here now for three years and I can honestly say Peru is in terms of MTB the freaking Nirvana!! Nobody can hardly imagine what incredible trails,people and landscapes are here if you don't see it by yourself. Very well written article and great pics...Kudos!
  • + 6
 I've been to the Peruvian Andes numerous times over the years but never to ride. So many amazing places such as Cusco and Macho Pichu. If you wanted to do any climbing what so ever, best to bring a spare lung or two. Each mountain pass is a new post card all over again. The locals live in such harsh conditions and one of our bikes is more that they could hope to earn in 2-3 years, yet the people are always smiling!
  • + 1
 contentment. respect to them.
  • + 8
 Outstanding article! You've done a great job inspiring other riders and travellers
  • + 6
 Does anyone asked how those stone walls where perfectly arranged stone by stone fitting them so incredibly well?... Is this possible by just organizing random rocks?... are they laser cut?...
  • + 7
 Thats one of the most amazing parts of the Peruvian ruins. In some places the stones are so large they're the size of a tiny car and still fit together with tolerances that tight.
  • - 4
flag pandaracing (Jan 15, 2017 at 16:59) (Below Threshold)
 W.
  • + 7
 Alpacas...with frickin' lazer beams.
  • + 4
 Rock Shox could learn something from them when it comes to the frickng bushing tolerances... throw me a frickin bone here. What do we got?
  • + 6
 estos son los lugares que nos da nuestra madre tierra, en realidad son muy grandes nuestras montañas y a si es de grande la aventura sobre nuestra bicicleta.
  • + 3
 Peru is the only place I've been where you can ride at 14.000 feet on t shirts. And watch local small farmers growing vegetables all the way to the top of 10.000 foot mountains. The most amazing country of south america with unbelievable Inca buildings .
  • + 3
 "No puedes comprar el sol, no puedes comprar la lluvia, vamos caminando, vamos dibujando el camino..." muy buena canción para disfrutar esas fotos tan increíbles! He montado por Colombia pero después de ver este paseo, Perú está en mi lista.

Thank you for sharing this adventure, looking at these pics while listening to Latinoamérica made it very special!

Check out the video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=DkFJE8ZdeG8
  • + 2
 after 3 or 4 months on the altiplano at 12000 ft. my friend and i got into a little soccer game with some local kids. i was on the curb gasping for air and feeling like puking in a very short time. i can not imagine riding/pushing uphill for any length of time, so even a full day of downhill must have been pretty taxing. i did not realize how much i miss those mountains. great article.
  • + 3
 I had the oportunity to ride in Peru for three days. I was on a rental bike but definetely worth it... Riding down trails that are 200+ years old, there's something very special about it.
  • + 3
 Awesome article and photos - really made me travel and dream for a couple of minutes. This kind of trip creates memories for a lifetime. Looking forward to doing something like this one day. Thanks for sharing!
  • + 2
 Had the pleasure of being a part of 2 different Trail Quest World Wide MTB Tours myself. Oaxaca, Mexico and Mascota, Mexico. Alvin and Mauricio are top notch dudes and great riders! Both trips were smooth from pickup to drop off. I would highly recommend any tours with these guys. I can't wait to do a 3rd! Thanks for the memories and new friends.
  • + 1
 I just got back from Peru a few weeks ago and the riding there is amazing. Also recreationally raced in the Inca Avalanche... a mass start race is so fun. No other place in the world that I can think of that has such great riding, views, culture and history that you are riding right through. Check out my video of the trip: youtu.be/2Wc-TMx9o0I
  • + 1
 I'm interested about the phone case that you can spot nn in the following Image. Can someone tell me where I Can find a similar product?

m.pinkbike.com/photo/14290868

Maybe I can use it for shooting some videos...

Thank you!
  • + 4
 Superb photos, probably the best photo-epic I've seen on here. And I now pretty NEED to go to Peru with the bike!
  • + 5
 Was saving for a deposit on a house. 'was'.
  • + 4
 let's plan what to do with it; shoot us an email, we can help you out: trailquestadventures@gmail.com
  • + 1
 Beautiful pictures of a massive and landscape. I have very fond memories of trekking in Peru, but every time ask myself what does a local with a couple of lamas in an andean hut thinik when confronted for example with a bike that costs more than he mayl earn in his entire life....
  • + 2
 It's so incredible,I'm 15 and I'm from Chile..When I grow up I will go to visit those amazing places and the incredible people.. I heard a lot about it and it's my dream.
  • + 1
 The best. This year I will ride it again. I it will be onece againt the best biking time in my live ever. I can wait untill April the best season weater & price of the year.
  • + 2
 I had a one month MTB vacation in Peru. Best money I've ever spent. People, food, city to jungle, I would do it again in a heartbeat!
  • + 1
 just curious, how expensive was a month there? like what would say is the daily cost? considering doing a month there.. as is most people reading this article im sure haha
  • + 0
 @nathan010: shoot us an email, we can help you out: trailquestadventures@gmail.com
  • + 1
 @nathan010: I was there a couple years ago, kayaking a number of rivers round the Cuzco area, and spent about 2000 euros in two weeks: plane trip (madrid-lima-cuzco), boat and gear rental, food, local guides and insurance. We ate and slept on the bank of the rivers.
Cuzco area is overloaded with turism so, as you can guess, is a bit more expensive.
If you're planning to go there don't forget to take out a good insurance, that's essential.
  • + 1
 @nathan010: I spent $500 Canadian out of pocket for chips n' pop since everything else was included.
Megavalanche is in a month so if you book now you can can join the alumni!
  • + 1
 Ive ridden some of those trails with Wayo Stein. Even spotted the same wee lassie in one of the first photos! Gave her pencils and paper. Cracking place to ride a bike, for sure.
  • + 4
 Amazing pictures and story , so proud my fiends
  • + 2
 Son unos cracks negritou, deberíamos de ir pronto
  • + 2
 Thank you so much for sharing this. Amazing photos and just a sheer adrenaline rush dreaming about this kind of trip one day.
  • + 4
 Fantastic story and pictures. Thanks!
  • + 4
 Amazing
  • + 1
 you're scratching your bikes on putting them on the truck like this.. hahahhahaah!!! no..really...these pictures are good enough for framing..lucky stiffs!!
  • + 1
 We did a trip with Robert and his crew in November, I highly highly recommend Peru Biking for a life experience you will never forget!
  • + 1
 Went to Peru for my honeymoon, but I didn't get to ride. I would love to go back, these pictures make me thirsty for a Cusquena!
  • + 2
 @nvonf I m not saying it was aliens... but aliens... or alien technology...
  • + 3
 The pictures!
  • + 1
 I miss the Andes mountains. Hopefully soon I will be shredding over there once again.
  • + 1
 This is epic, but I'm suprised you were allowed to ride over Inca history :s
  • + 2
 Peru is gotta be one of the most beautiful places on earth to ride bikes
  • + 2
 This is truly amazing....one day
  • + 1
 Last year I took my mother to Peru (Machu Picchu area, crossing the Abra de Malaga pass) and I missed bring my bike Frown
  • - 2
 Too bad that the first riding pic is of a dude skidding through a corner.

Don't people care about trails and the impression we make anymore? With such a photo heavy article why doesn't PB just leave that one out? Gotta lead by example and if the exmple is ''Hey kids, fly around the world and föök up some trails!'' then I am not sure where the sport is headed.


otherwise, cool story bro.
  • + 1
 Is this some sort of bait for trolling? Funny stuff
  • + 1
 NIce Pics, very proud of my home Peru and the local People! welcome to MTB Paradise
  • + 3
 I need a peruvian trip!!
  • + 1
 Nico, que FOTOS CABRON...., me apunto para el siguiente ride a Peru los contacto Gracias...
  • + 2
 That yeti sure looks sick!
  • + 1
 Ridiculously amazing!! beautiful pics and would love to plan a trip like that in the future
  • + 2
 It's a beautifull little big planet. And thank you Inca people.
  • + 1
 Awesome story & pics. Living the dream!
  • + 1
 Muy bueno Nico, Felicidades!
  • + 1
 Another awesome place for a bike trip!
  • + 1
 increible que buen!!!! trip!!! Big Grin felicidades nico por las fotos!
  • + 1
 I just traveled with Trail Quest, amazing crew.
  • + 2
 Just WOW!!!
  • + 1
 Gracias por llevarnos allí maestro Nico!
  • + 1
 Purely amazing....thank you!
  • + 1
 Péru Enduro trip?http://besttrails.ch/en/portfolio/p%C3%A9ru-enduro
  • + 2
 epico
  • + 1
 sweet pics. Great blend of riding and Peruvian culture. Thank you.
  • + 1
 Great job on this article and thank you for the incredible photos.
  • + 1
 I'm an alien, I'm a legal alien
  • + 1
 Que buen articulo
  • + 1
 I need to do this.
  • + 1
 Awesome work guys!
  • + 1
 Amazing Trip! Superb!
  • + 1
 Deadly photos.
  • + 1
 Amazing!
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