Peru at long last: Cuenca to the border

We have a group now, and a big one at that. I’m only half-surprised so many cyclists end up gathering in one roof in Cuenca. It’s a hub for cyclists heading south afterall. I’ve been lucky enough to ride with numerous tourers in the past but our rag tag bunch, all dirt road enthusiasts, seems to have the quiet confidence in all of them . For one, they all come by the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route in the US. Well I guess I’m impressed because we’ve intended to ride that but got blocked by the weather in Whitefish. As a result, we only finished the Canadian section. These guys all finished it and then some. Truly amazing this big of a group converged down here in Ecuador.

We’re excited to reconnect with our old friend, Pauker!!! Scott and us were supposed to bikepack the La Ruta de Los Conquistadores in Costa Rica but he broke his Rohloff in Nicoya Peninsula. Liz and Tyndall, the Alaskan couple and our co-conspirators in Cotopaxi, showed up in town too. One thing we learned from previous encounters with bike travelers, once you’ve gone separate ways, you’ll probably not gonna see each other in the next several months. That’s why we’re so happy to see Liz and Tyndall that soon.

Joe, thebloke from South England was there too. We’ve never met him before but we’re virtual friends on facebook. But Tyndall and Liz already know him way back in Alaska having met in Chickenstock Music Festival.

We also met Bruno and Lorraine, a French couple, who were in Simiatug a day after us, slept in the same hostel, same room and same bedsheets. Poor souls, it must have been a sleepless night over those used sheets.

It’s a small world you suddenly realized.

Bike travelers United…Liz, Tyndall and Joe hanging out with us in Cuenca.
And then my good friend Scott, showed up too. Rest days are still active days. Scott went with us to do some errands and catch up on the latest…
And I’m not quite sure how we all end up here…
It’s the Cuenca Museum. Home to all things Ecuadorians of course. This one stands out the most, a shrunken head. The process is called tsantsa. It’s a practice done by Shuar tribe from the Amazon of Ecuador and Peru. They decapitate their enemy’s head believing that by this they are not only possessing their enemy’s body but also their soul thus preventing the enemy from avenging their death.
Cycling powwow. Pizzas, Beers and cycling stories. Michel, listening intently as Joe ramble on. Michel and Genevieve, Aussie-Canadian couple, showed up in our hostel too. Thanks Rick for hosting us in your awesome patio.
It’s go time the following day!
And the opening salvo looks like this courtesy of Scott using hiking mode in his GPS. Boohoo!
After a brief foray on dirt, we’re back on pavement.
Where everyone feels happy spinning and chatting.
The group never really spread out far from each other. It was really nice especially if I can hide behind these guys’ slipstream…
Taking over the Sports complex. Need more space now to camp.
Rainy night…
Vilcabamba. Long live Centenarrians…
Speaking of getting old:-), Scott decided to celebrate his coming of age in Vilcabamba, the valley of longevity and playground of Incan royalty of the past. “I feel like I’m 25” he insists, I said, “Salud! may you stay forever young my friend”.
The entire crew pitched in, prepping English crepes, lemon pie, banana cake(the best, thanks to Lorraine and souz chef, Bruno), stir-fry chicken, chips and guacamole. Even the Russian cyclist, whom we just met in the plaza chip in with a jumbo bottle of Vodka(no surprise here). We all washed it with shots of mean margarita whipped by the birthday basher, Scott.
The long table. Scott, Liz, Tyndall, Michel, Dang, Kristel, Joe, Bruno and the Russian cyclist(sorry I forgot your name bud). Not pictured are Genevieve and Lorraine.
Hello again mud. Dang and I left the following day ahead of everyone. Not well-timed as rain kept us wet for several days.
Near the border, things begin to dry, we even have an oppressively hot day on our way to La Balsa.


Last bit of climbing as Ecuador usher us out.
Dang just about to crest the top of the hill…

We obtained our Ecuador exit stamp without any fuss. Even better, the Peruvian Immigration officer asked us how long do we plan on staying in his country. I thought it was a dumb question. What if I say 8 months or a year? Will he give us a year-long stamp? We err in the side of niceness and said 6 months at the most. And so we were given a 6-month stamp. Now we have 6 months to explore this country.

Hello Peru!!!
Adios for ahora, Ecuador.
La Balsa Immigration.


Nuts and Bolts:
**In Cuenca, we stayed in Hotel Check Inn, cheap, spacious rooms including free breakfast and fast internet.

**We did not stay with the Loja Warmshowers host but the rest of the group did.

**Vilcabamba boasts several lodging options but we all stayed in Rumi Wilco, owned by an Argentinian botanist, it’s a 5-minute ride from town situated in a forest adjacent to the river. Ask the owner for the botanical manual to identify the plants around the property. It has cabins complete with kitchen or you can pitch your tent for a fee including access to hot shower and shared kitchen.

**Zumba has a few basic accommodations and restaurants.

You can view the whole route here.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Rich says:

    How does one break a Rohloff? Is there anything that could have been done to avoid the break? Replacement parts that could have or should have been carried that would allow for the break to be fixed in the field? Thanks much. Feel free to forward my email address to the Rohloff owner (Scott?) for an offline response.


    1. Hey Rich,

      It was way back Costa Rica. We were riding out of Montezuma heading south when it suddenly “freewheeled”. Apparently the tension pins inside gave in from the force applied while he was mashing the pedals going uphill. Cyclemonkey, the Rohloff distributor in Berkeley, CA sent him the needed replacement parts. Scott then contacted a Rohloff technician in New Zealand to walk him through the whole repair process.


      1. Rich says:

        Thanks for the info. I’m about to head out on my first Rohloff powered journey. I’ll make sure I have contact info for Cycle Monkey with me.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Scott Pauker says:

    Hey Rich, echoing all that Deano said with small suggestion: if you’re a pedal masher like me I would pre-order a spare set of transmission pins to carry with you. They are 9 tiny vinyl pega that weigh nothing and can save your ass if you shear the original ones as I did.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Rich says:

      Will do; thanks for the tip.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Scott Pauker says:

    And Dean: great writeup and photos as always. As I said, git yer ass down here to Mendoza to collect yer Xmas gift!! Love to you both. Always.


  4. Polly says:

    That’s the smart thniking we could all benefit from.


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