Km 11 407
Studying the next days of our route on the map, we were scared. In only a few days, we had to climb 15000m 😱 But the landscapes were so nice that we almost didn’t notice all the uphills!
Leaving Cusco, we made a small diversions in the sacred valley of the Incas where there are plenty of archaeological sites. If we had wanted to visit them all, we would have had to stay a month. We started with the site of Chinchero, where the spanish colonialists built a church on Inca ruins. Now that archaeologists have cleared the Inca ruins underneath the church, it’s a nice mix of cultures in one place. The next morning we visited the salt mines of Maras. A natural salt spring feeds a large number of ponds from which the Incas already extracted salt. Nowadays, the families of Maras still own these mines and continue to extract salt as their ancestors did before. We went on to the archaeological site of Moray which is only a few kilometres away. It is an agricultural complex with several terraces in a circle. The purpose was to protect the terraces below from the cold wind and to obtain higher temperatures with the sun heating the stones of the terraces. This way, the Incas could grow plants that normally do not grow at 4000m of altitude. What a clever bunch of people! We made a nice descent to the bottom of the sacred valley, this view alone was already worth the diversions. After a beer tasting and a good burger in a brewery, we ended the day at Ollantaybambo, a major site in the sacred valley. It was a military fort built into the steep mountain slopes. We were impressed by the small paths carved into the rocks, the super steep terraces and the fountains fed from a small river passing near the site. The Incas clearly had a good knowledge of civil engineering!
Although it’s great fun to visit all these sites, we saw enough old rocks for a while. We focused more on our bikes again. To get to the coast, we had to ride through several very low valleys only to get back to the altiplano right after. Several times we had very nice descents getting to a milder climate at 2000m altitude. But unfortunately we had to go back up each time to 4000m and the cold altiplano just behind. It was a few intense days starting in shorts in the morning and finishing in a down jacket in the afternoon or the other way around. But the scenery was breathtaking every day! Until the last day when the last descent took us from over 4000m altitude to only 600m altitude in Nasca. Soon, you can read more about our adventures there in the article about Nasca. Meanwhile, check out the beautiful landscapes we passed through in our photo gallery 😉
To see all photos, please click here:
From Cusco to the coast