Skip to content

Cusco to Lima (takes longer than you think)

Everything looks so simple on googlemaps. The road from Cusco to Lima is about 1100km of Andean beauty, in other words: less than 20 hours of riding. We decided perhaps 3 days/2 nights would be enough to get us to Lima comfortably and setting off from Cusco, we enjoyed the winding roads more now that they were less sharp and downhill and shrouded in a gentle mist! Shortly after Abancay, we had to make the decision- whether to head towards Nazca and add 250km of road or to head slightly north on a seemingly shorter route. (Un)trusty SatNav was urging us to go North, its algorithms obsessed with mileage and seemingly oblivious to geometry (as it turns out). We went North, feeling it obviously knew something we didn’t about the tempting stretch of wide road towards Nazcar. This road climbed upwards pretty steeply and the sun was just beginning to tease us by sailing close to the horizon, itself already shortened by the Andes.

The landscape changed to inaccessible hard shoulders as the roadside just slipped into sheer drops. We continued to scope the borders for a likely campsite but with no luck as the more we ascended, the more hostile the roadside became. Alex had long entered ‘mono-syllable mode’- a sign that she is either unimpressed at the swiftness of nightfall and its inconvenient timing or that she is hugely concentrated on not falling off the bike. It was short-lived however, as Simon spotted a derelict mud brick house behind a screen of trees. Further investigation proved it to be hiding a perfect clearing- excellent camping potential. We stopped to set up camp when the neighbouring farmer came over to say hello- having asked his permission and explained our journey he was happy to let us be his temporary vecinos! We slept that night next to a stream and once again spoilt by a canopy of stars.


Early morning coffees in the wilds of the Andes


We managed to overtake this guy at least and the last night’s farmer in the background.


Packing up for the day’s road ahead

The next morning we set off determined to get to Lima in two days. We spotted a town in the distance which tempted us with the promise of petrol and lunch but Andean roads being such, what is, as the crow flies, only 50km away, ends up being about 200km of road away with the route coiling itself into the mountains’ narrowest crevices and glorying in the curves and exaggerated undulations of the land. Peruvian road design has a unique and mistakenly ‘efficient’ method for dealing with water drainage from rainfall or snowmelt. They plan their water runoff points to run through the road on the convex corners of the mountain, where the water would obviously naturally collect. However, instead of adopting the system used by most where the drainaway is below the surface of the road, they allow the water to rush across the road, on the apex of the turn and usually the camber is such that a climb is encountered on exiting the turn which would necessitate a little extra throttle on exit to keep you right. After about five of these turns, Alex felt pretty comfortable with them and on entry to a particularly extended turn, with slightly more water, the strategy she’d used previously failed massively. Within seconds she was dragged behind a horizontal bike, which skidded a 180 across the remaining water, depositing Alex neatly in the path of the ubiquitous grey pick up truck behind. To her enormous surprise, the truck stopped dead and a concerned driver rushed out to help her up and ask if she was hurt. Not seriously hurt but just confused as how one ends up on the ground so quickly and unconsciously, she asked only for help to pick up the bike. Simon and the driver picked up the bike and Simon gallantly rode it to a safe spot on a dry bit of the road ahead. The Peruvian sagely warned of the perils of ‘slippery water’ and promptly pounced back onto the winding road at fifty kilometres an hour over the speed limit.


One of Alex’s many bruises following a fall on a turn… (the elbows took the brunt of the impact)

Slightly cowed by the experience, the rest of the journey was slower. Having climbed to a now ordinary 4500m, we found a clearing behind a randomly huge rock on the side of the road to camp on. Completely invisible from the road, the only noise was the gentle mooing of the random mountain cows which seem to belong to no-one and everyone simultaneously.  The place was perfect and we woke refreshed and ready for the remaining 550km to Lima. Clearly things were going too well so SatNav threw in a few jokers into the game. We took a left (the right indicated Ayacucho) and it  eventually tried to convince us that a dirt trail littered with boulders was the fastest route to Lima. Unconvinced, we continued to the next road which although covered in tarmac, soon petered out into a toy track only wide enough for one slim road user at a time. We turned back and took a third route which pushed us south and had a suspicious lack of traffic. A quick glance at SatNav confirmed that this new route would add 400km to our already impossibly long day!! We turned back and retraced our tracks for the last, well-trodden, 80km back to the fork and took the right to Ayacucho. 400km later and we’d made it to a river-bordered area near Huancavelica, no-where near Lima. We accepted our fate- that the road would take 4 days/3 nights and after just under an hour of searching, we found a likely nook set below the road amongst iron-rich rock and sand to camp in.


The Peruvian Andes, past Huancavelica


Unwittingly being poisoned by a breakfast of Corn and Cheese in an Andean village (the next days were horrible!)


One last wild-camp in the Andes en route to Lima


This, ladies and gentlement, is organised chaos!

We set off early, keen to make up time to Lima and after yet another steep climb to the summit of the Andes we stopped for a late breakfast in a cafe set among a tiny cluster of houses* (*a generous description). We were offered various choices ranging from full meals of fried trout and rice to tripe with rice we inquired about smaller dishes insead. The popular combo of cheese and corn came up so we both plumped for that. The corn cob arrived with its huge white pastille-sized kernels accompanied by a side of white, quivering sheepsmilk cheese. Both were eaten with vigour- barely an eyebrow raised by the lambs wandering in the cafe or the archeological interest building up on the shelves where the cheeses were kept. Still innocent to the pending horror that awaited our evening arrival in Lima, we returned to the remainder of the road which had us meandering through vineyards and pisco fields and was altogether very picturesque. These lush vineyards abruptly stopped once the coast was reached and the landscape switched to an eerie grey desert sparsely populated by trees tortured from a constant Pacific wind and erratic flames of blown sand licking across the road. Visibility was vastly reduced despite the welcome straightness of the road.


The eerie desert region of Lima

Eventually the PanAmericana kicked in and welcomed us in with her dual carriageways and high speed traffic. The road cuts through the massive sand dunes northwards towards Lima with curious angled huts perched on sand dunes on the Pacific beaches and high brick walled acres on the right, inland. Our Lima host explained that this is a sign of ‘invaded’ land – areas people have decided to own- almost like squatters’ rights in the UK. So despite the impossibility of living in a hut which boasts Pacific seafront views and a 45deg angled floor, it symbolises someone’s attempt at owning the land. The 100km of desert prior to entering Lima were filled with these and with the Trump-dream walls which are also designed to literally fence off areas of stolen land.

We eventually made it to Lima and after surviving the terrifying entrance to the city with its hugely bossy buses and killer minibuses, we were both taken down by the cheese. Unable to venture further than three strides from a trusted bathroom, we used the time to catch up on movies we’d missed the previous two months in a legally-built, beautifully level apartment!


All content and images Copyright © 2016 Journey Limitless. Website designed by One Day Labs.