Today is day #1 of what is likely to be the most difficult bike tour I have ever attempted.
Those of you who have been following along here at Bicycle Touring Pro will know that for the past couple months I’ve been traveling through the South American country of Peru. But what you may not have realized is that up until this point I have not had a bicycle with me. Instead, I’ve been getting around on buses, in taxi cabs, and on foot whenever possible. Yes, I did do a little cycling when I was in Lima, but other than that, this trip through Peru has been largely without bikes. Until now…!
You see, the city of Puno, which is located on the western shore of Lake Titicaca in Southern Peru, is a city bustling with bicycles.
Actually, tricycles lead the charge here… not bikes.
There are tricycles made to haul goods from one side of town to another. There are tricycles set up with barbecues welded to their tops so that street vendors can easily roll their meats from one corner to the next. And more than anything else, there are tricycles designed to carry passengers (and their gear) wherever they wish to go within the city limits.
The Peruvian tricycle taxi cab is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. They’re usually highly decorated, totally beat up, and most of them lack gears or brakes of any kind. And after arriving in Puno, Peru just a few short weeks ago, it was these tricycle taxi cabs that gave me a wild idea – an idea that has now become a reality.
Here’s what’s going down:
One week ago I stumbled across the lime green tricycle taxi cab you see in the photo at the top of this post. There was a large paper sign on the front of the trike saying that it was for sale, so I asked the man how much he wanted for it, and he responded “300 Soles” (about $108 USD). I couldn’t believe the price!
To make a long story short, I bought the tricycle from the man (for 250 Soles) and today I am leaving Puno, not on a bus like most tourists who visit this charming little city in Southern Peru, but on a single-speed tricycle taxi cab.
The plan for the next 5-6 days is to ride this dilapidated old tricycle across the Peruvian Altiplano and through the mountains to the city of Cusco some 250+ miles away. My 100+ pound tricycle will be hauling approximately 50 pounds of gear, plus my own weight (155 pounds), and if I get lucky I’ll add on the weight of one or two additional passengers.
To make this whole thing even more difficult, the elevation I’ll be traveling at is between 11,500 and 12,500 feet… I speak only a few words of Spanish, so conversing with the locals along the way will certainly be difficult… and more than anything else, I’m doing this completely on my own.
This is not the type of bicycle touring I recommend for most people wishing to travel by bike, but after more than 10 years of long distance bicycle travel, I am certainly up for the challenge… and I’m ready to try something new.
If I do indeed make it all the way to Cusco on my rusty old tricycle this may turn out to be one of the most incredible things I have ever done. Or, I may make it five miles out of Puno and realize that this is the most impossible mission I’ve ever created for myself. Either way, it’s going to be one hell of an adventure!
So stay tuned! I’ll be out of touch for the next 5-6 days, but when I arrive in Cusco (whether that be on my tricycle or via a bus after abandoning the tricycle somewhere in the middle of Peru) I’ll be sure to tell you the whole story.
Please keep your fingers crossed for me. The next few days are going to be tough.