We took off for the mountains. There were eleven of us from all around the world packed into a van with 14 mountain biked stacked on the roof. All in all it was 4 French, 2 Peruvians, 3 Argentinians, and 2 Americans with an Incan guide who called himself Loco. Our first stop was about 2 hours away, high into the Andes. We climbed out of the trees, over mountain streams, and just below enormous peaks. Eventually we pulled over in a clearing and took the bikes down. After gearing up in our padded suits, we took to our bikes and began our ride.
For three hours we sped down the mountains. We passed under waterfalls, over streams, and on the edges of sheer cliffs. We were flanked by cars, trucks and busses while having to pass the the occasional group of livestock. The thrill of the ride was truly incredible. Surrounded by the enormity of the mountains, racing around the bends in the road, I felt more alive than ever. The weather changed dramatically every 20min as we drove through the clouds. There was rain, mist, and cold at the start. At the bottom of our course we were met with plenty of sunshine and some oppressively hot temps. It was the best downhill bike ride of my life (that would change 10 days later, but that’s for another blog).
After regrouping and catching our breaths, the crew hopped back in the van and ended 40min up the road to our accommodation for the evening. It was a simple family run hotel that was comfortable enough. However, we only had about an hour to relax. Soon enough we were whisked away once again. This time our busses stopped on the banks of the raging Urubamba river. It was here we were to begin our white water rafting adventure.
Full disclosure, I had never rafted before. I wasn’t sure that the Peruvian mountains was necessarily the setting I wanted to begin my career but I didn’t really have a choice. I was put right at the front of the boat with my buddy Sam. Luckily, growing up in the WA state and Idaho, he was a more experienced rafter. He was able to give me a few more tips than the guide was able to provide. After about 10 min of practicing the commands, our guide decided that our boat was ready. Considering there were 3 separate languages being spoken on the boat, I personally thought 10 more minutes of practice might have been nice. However, I was not in charge and we were off.
The rapids were class 3 which apparently isn’t that big of a deal. After ripping through the first set I decided class 3 was a great place to start. The water crashed over the front of the boat as we drove through the raging river and I was immediately in love. The excitement of it all was intoxicating. Leaning over the front of the boat and digging through the cold water with my paddle, I felt as alive as I had 4 hours earlier when I was cruising through the Andes on my bike. After about 60 minutes on the river, we all jumped off on the banks to relax. Rafting was a workout, and I happily welcomed the break.
When everyone was rested and hydrated we hopped back into the boat for our final 40 minutes on the river. In a deeper part of the river our guide encouraged us to jump out of the boat, hold the sides and float along with the swift current. While there weren’t too many takers, Sam and I were not going to pass up the opportunity. We jumped from the safety of the raft into the icy waters and sped along beside our comrades for the next few hundred yards.
Eventually the team pulled us back in, and we completed the last few hundred yards together. By the time the boats were packed on the jeeps, the sun had set and night was upon us. We drove back to the hotel and had a hearty chicken dinner. Then everyone was off to bed. The next day we had a 9 hour hike up the famous Inca trail. We were going to need our rest.