The problem of flying to Cusco, Peruwith a broken plane mountain bikes is that you then have to grab the humble airport parking lot to put those bikes back together. Routine work is probably a good thing, though, to help us acclimatize to the 11,000-foot altitude – and to the challenge ahead. I am one of 16 experienced North American hikers who traveled to this region of the Andes in southeastern Peru to log six days of rigorous descents as we explored an ancient trail system in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, with a side trip to Machu Picchu Comment on a good measure.
With all wheels and handlebars matching the corresponding tires and bikes secured over three trucks, we cruise through the twisting colonial city streets and farther into the surrounding green mountains to begin our first descent. We unload the load and, despite our stress, try to walk ourselves as we move to a higher starting point. We are surprised to see a group of colorfully dressed Quechua, who are direct descendants of the Incas, sing and dance along the lonely lane. They weave between our rows, smile and hold hands, then drift past. As the welcoming receptions go, they are unbeatable.
Our opening slope, the 9.3-mile llama-fired trail, known as La Maxima, is notorious locally. It begins as a path of red dirt in the Andes and is bordered by tall yellow grass. The path is steep and fast before moving on to the rugged rock gardens and switches that require constant vigilance to avoid being washed out. After about two hours of technical maneuvering, getting close to the bottom and tired of the long ride and ride, I casually dropped my seat. I glide my feet first over a loose rough rock that burns my ass, and I pray I don’t become a speed bump for the bikes rolling behind me. The disaster has been averted with difficulty, I scramble off the dents and complete the descent. Laughing at the ceremonial Cerviza, we appreciate that this ‘jerk trek’ was really the equivalent of several regular rides back home – and we’re ready to tackle 16 more descents in the coming days. I’m making a point of long clicks with my friend Dillon Lemar, Team Riding Manager for Commencal bike brand, and professional mountain biker Aaron Chase. Chase envisioned this entire traveling circus after seven previous trips to ride the Sacred Valley. It was called the “Inca Flow”. And for now, I wonder if I’ll survive.
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