Cusco, Peru: It has rained everyday. Every night. Without fail. That’s why they call it the ‘rainy season.’ From Chile where I had been blissfully short-sleeved since Christmas (the seasons are reversed), I planned my return to Peru—where Bob & Surly sat patiently in a friend’s apartment. Close attention was paid to various guidebooks’ weather advice. One such reputable guide said, “In the Andes, the seasons are clearly marked, with heavy rains from December to March.” With this wisdom tucked away, I tore myself from the sandy beaches of northern Chile and reunited with team MB&S around the end of February in Cusco, Peru. After many a man hug and macho butt slap, we were once again together, ready to ride south, onward to victory and warmer weather. With March showers brings…wait a minute….
It was still raining.
After asking local Peruvians about the actual rainy season I learned that it not just drizzles, not just rains, but downpours until the end of March. A minor miscalculation. I had broken the number one rule for bike travel in South America: never trust printed information over first-hand word-of-mouth. And even then keep asking different people until you get two similar responses. Why didn’t I just ask my Peruvian friends in the first place? A mystery to this day.
As a penance, I’m going to ride the 327 odd miles from Cusco, Peru to La Paz, Bolivia to find out just exactly what the guidebook meant by ‘heavy rains.’ If it’s not as miserable as I imagine it will be, then I’ll continue south down the Bolivian spine of the Andes toward the largest salt flat in the world and promptly put to shame a Belgium cyclist’s personal record of two minutes and 12 seconds riding with eyes closed across the white expanse—strictly no peeking. He triple-dog-dared me. Of course, there may be a visit to an island in the world’s highest navigable lake, mudslides, snow storms, hypothermia, and runny noses, and definitely will be lots of coca leaf chewing, photos of colorful indigenous dress, and rides over 12,000+ foot peaks, somewhere between this blog post and my gold medal run for glory in the salt flat. I’ll keep you updated.
Should I arrive to La Paz, the highest capital city in the world, drenched and shivering, pissed and wondering why I couldn’t have just righted my wrong math by self-flaggellating in a heated hotel room, I’ll wait out the floods in a Casa de Ciclista that I’ve already contacted, much like the ones in San Agustin, Colombia and Tumbaco, Ecuador that had been such an incredibly welcome rest from the road.
Meanwhile, I didn’t have the heart to break the news to Bob & Surly that we’re about to pedal in the rain for a month. They were excited like little puppy dogs to see me. Instead I told them we were going to ride to the airport to catch a flight to the South Pacific, you know, somewhere tropical with little umbrellas. They got so excited that they tattooed each other with what they think the local cinnamon-colored Polynesian women would find “masculine and outwardly virile”—Bob’s exact words.
I just hope those designs don’t mean something completely different to the indigenous Aymara on whose sacred lands we’ll be riding for most of this month.