Return of the bikes
First of all: The climbing season for the Aconcagua had not started yet and we had to skip that adventure. We would have to wait 2 months till the Parque National allows climbers in and that#s just too much time for us. So we did go on.
Our hitchhiking days are now officially over. We managed to get from Mendoza to Santiago with the help of a canadiAn, and from then on it was straight north in trucks, yet again till Peru. A short stop in Arequipa, with it's lovely old town and the giant monastery was the only distraction on the way back to Cusco. After 2,5 months we finally see our gear and the bikes again, both still there, in the Hostal Felix. We quickly fixed the bikes up, packed our now obsolete warm clothing in boxes and send them home. We now travel with about 10kg of gear each, and the bikes are as light as never before.
Our first trip led us to Nasca, a desert town famous for the lines etched in the rocky ground hundreds of years ago. A total of 680km and 5 mountain passes lie between Nasca and Cusco, which we covered in just 5 days of biking. A wild mix of warm, sandfly-infested valleys and cold, windy highlands. The most awesome thing: After seeing no other bikers for 3 months, we met 4 in these 5 days. 2 individual french couples, one traveling since 3 years, coming from Alaska, exactly where we are heading, the others came down from Equador, on a 7 month journey to Ushuaia. Good luck to both of them :)
We started early in the morning in Cusco, and climbed the first two passes easily, since Cusco is on 3500m already. We met the first french right there, just a few hours out of Cusco. Village after village we went on through the warm valleys and reached the first big pass. At nightfall we found a town, still going uphill. The locals told us, that we were about halfway up... so we decided to stay a night in a hospedaje (Hostel) there. The next morning we continued upwards, and it took us almost all day to get over the pass, a total of 13h of uphill cycling. The downhill on the other hand was awesome and we made up a lot of time. After a quick meal in Abancay and a short ride in the valley we started to camp. The next three days did not offer anything different. Getting up early (the sun comes up at 0500 and sets at 1800) cycling all day uphill along a river, camping, cycling half a day up a pass, along the altiplano (Highlands) full of Alpacas and Vicunias, finding the next village, climbing 2 smaller passes, a last big one and finally: The 100km downhill to Nasca. We raced down in the evening, darkness around us, only with our headlamps showing the way. The cold air of the altiplano gave way to the warmer desert climate of Nasca, and at 0800 in the evening we stood at a small stand and greedily devoured the chicken, salad and fries...
Sandboarding and the Nasca Lines were next on the list.
The Sandboarding tour was actually a lot more than just that. We visited an old aqueduct, a religious sacrificial center containing 5 pyramids. Still being excavated, it was impossible to enter the actual site, but we could have a look from the outside. Build 400 AD, it was an important religious center with human and animal sacrifices. Next stop was at the old Nasca cemetery, more a ramshackle pile of bones in the desert then a real cemetery. Bones, skulls, clothing and mummys just lie in the desert sand, bleaching in the sun... a bigger pile has been assembled, presumably for tourist to take pictures of. Weird.
The sandboarding itself was awesome as always. We were in a group of just 4 people and our guide, Cesar. Lying, sitting, kneeing, standing, jumping, we tried it all. Everyone of us made at least one crash, and we were all covered in sand afterward. Surprisingly one of the most fun things on the tour was the transport itself. We rode out to the sites and the sand dunes on a buggy. And Cesar is a really good driver. We bumped up and down, left and right, and at the dunes he really cranked it up to eleven. Similar to a rollercoaster we rode up dunes and jumped them down, a sandbuggy full of screaming people :) Again, an amazing tour.
The second day in Nasca we did get up at 0900 in the morning and started our flight in a Cessna with 3 more passagners. From above, we could see the famous lines in all their beauty. They seemed a bit small, but we saw all details really clear. The flight was just 30 minutes long but we saw every known line. After the landing we jumped in a taxi and drove back to our hostel, rested a bit and packed our stuff. We are heading now to Lima, but on our 450km long way, there are some other interesting spots where we maybe stop. Otherwise we just go straight to Lima :)