Day 15 of my trip to Peru was the worst; the day I had to leave. I woke up to the sounds of the next tour group making breakfast, tuning bikes, and the little future Peru shredders were preparing to go off to school. So much excitement filled the house for the day on the trails they had coming.
Nicole and Bill have been shredding Peru for the past 11 years. They've done more volunteering than anyone I personally know and have given their lives and time to the people of Peru. During their time volunteering and into the start of their business, they have been in search of the most amazing trails in the area. These two are different than the rest of your local mountain bike tours around Cusco, these two have put sweat and blood into the community and are a power-shred couple ready to share their love for mountain biking and Peru. Haku Expeditions is their thriving company, organized and ran from their wonderful home in the heart of Cusco. Not only do they love the adventure, they also have a demo fleet and gear with Gravity that keeps the local tourists wanting to come back for more.
This trip was "ferda girls"! Kat Sweet, creator of Sweetlines, paired with local guide Nicole Koch made for an epic trip. Seven days of pure downhill riding and professional coaching from Kat Sweet herself. Not only is the riding on some of the most beautiful, challenging trails in South America but we were gaining skills on body position, drop approaches, cornering, jumps, manuals, and how to have one heck of a time on two wheels!
The City of Cusco
Our first day was spent doing drills above Cusco, honing in on our skills before taking to the single track near town. This is going to be the difference in our safety on the trails. Proper form on tech, non-forgiving trails is essential. Not to mention, we all needed to let the elevation seep its way into our bodies and lungs.
On to the Trails
In Peru, we shuttle.
Cusco, Peru is located at 11,000' above sea level. From town, the trails are only a shuttle away. Some ending at farms in surrounding towns others landing right down the steps of the local squares. Haku Expeditions not only takes you to the best trails in Peru, but they take you right to the top to start.
Santa Maria left me wanting more. The trail twists and turns throughout the woods outside of town, a spot I'm sure locals visit often. It felt at times like we were skiing the trees, hitting those sweet pow stashes that seem forgotten about. We drop in on a rock feature with a little pedal to an overlook that shows the valley below. The trail gets steep and fast from there. Easily becoming tempted to release the brakes and send it down the trail, the cliffs and hidden drops challenge that speed, keeping the trail smooth yet wild.
Our first day of single track adventure had a spot Nicole couldn't stop talking about. The trails here in Peru follow old farmer trails, where the livestock was guided through the hills. Following Kat into the Incan stairs was wild. Steep drops with your seat bumping your rear every other step, thank goodness for the drills!
At the top of the most memorable trail lays a place of prayer. You may need to step in to pray for some air for you have exceeded 14k feet and are about to descend on a wild adventure.
We push up to the top of the scree field. Remember my ski reference earlier? This is that open bowl of shale ready for you to slip and slide down. Laping this section would be epic if only we knew how to breath at this elevation.... After gliding through the scree field, we blaze our own trail through green fields full of sheep, alpacas, and llamas with the occasional sheep dog you may have to bark back at. Once out of the field, we end on single track that was built with fun pops for bikers. Halfway down the fun flow of the single track we stop for a snack and water; the shouts of local children start catching up to us. Looking back to where we came, children that live up in these hills are running towards us in hopes for a delicious snack! Nicole comes prepared and teaches us to take our wrappers with us. Where else can you mingle with local farmers and catch wild single-track??
Oh and did I mention our stats for the trail?? 18.7 mi and 5,522 ft
Let's get to the top
My favorite shuttle to yet another wild trail (Radar or RAD-RRR, where pirates love to shred...) we came across a valley on top of the peak (mind you this at 14,500-ish feet) and a friendly local is walking her llamas through the field. They have beautiful tags hanging from the ears which had me letting out a squeal! Running across the field with an avocado sandwich, I make it to the lady and she graciously drags her llama into my selfie, thanking me for the sandwich! This all happening while Nicole is giving some local ranch dogs some eye and subtle growls... I'd been insearch of these types of tags the whole trip!
Just to give an idea of what it's like to shred with Haku:
11.6 Miles and 3,731ft All the way down.
Smiles all day. From fast flowy cliff side single track, to rock features with switch backs, all the way down to dodging cattle along the trail, the single track Nicole leads you through and Kat coaches us on has lines you will never forget.
Being among the locals is something that makes this adventure different from the rest. Nicole and Bill have met some wonderful families in their years here in Cusco. We were lucky enough to ride one of the local enduro trails that ends in a village they lived in a while back. We stopped in for a tour of one of their local friends ranch and got a crash course on how they grow only the freshest fields. We were treated to a Cuy (read - guinea pig) dinner with the best Quinoa soup I have ever eaten; fresh from the fields! After finishing my.... leg.... I wandered off to the barn to see the fat little guinea pigs that are providing foods to homes that may not be able to afford much. Delicious and adorable... it was weird.
Below are some shots from the local towns, a local brewery, the local market, Peruvian family workers, the local eats, and a local church near where Nicole hadlived before that (I believe) is one of the oldest in Peru!
On to Ollantayta
It doesn't stop in Cusco..... The adventure continues on the road towards Machu Picchu!!
After a stop for some jump coaching and flowy single track through an outlying town, Maras, we made our way down through the roads next to a local salt farm and down to the main highway to load up for our drive to the new place of residence, a beautiful escape to the town of Ollantaytambo!
Mouth Watering dishes. My second favorite food (second to homemade Cuy) was in the adorable town of Ollantaytambo. Devoured the best lamb ever from a restaurant that spoke very little English. Most tourists were here preparing for their adventures to Machu Picchu, we were here as house guests to Nicole and Bill, waiting to shred the gnar of the local mountains. Okay... and make a day trip to one of the top wonders of the world!
Drool worthy food.
Just a bunch of Animals
The hardest day of them all.
We drop in on our highest descent yet. It's raining, foggy, and freezing but we know it's worth it if Nicole is pushing us through it. The ride is breathtaking. We descend through an open valley, taking cattle trails that scatter across one another, keeping our mouths closed to avoid the poo-dirt flying up around our fenders. We take a moment in a rock garden to take in the flow of the stream through the valley. Wow.
The trail has our first and only "big" climb up at elevation. I'm certain I'm dying but push through with my broken dropper, my heavy lungs, my slowly diminishing spirit.... at the top I suck in the tears and drop in behind my lovely lady shredders. It's GOLD. we ride along the side of the valley, dodging llamas and popping off rocks. Flying with the adrenaline that we dreamed of on the climb. This is why we bike Peru. Valleys, local villages, farmers, fresh food, beautiful towns, ruins and history around every corner. All of it was unbeatable.
Back in Ollyantaytambo we go over how beat we are, laugh at our tears, and brush our bikes off in the local night crawlers "urinal". Time to go out on the town in celebration!
I couldn't have asked for a better trip and with some shred-tastic women, the pace was fast, the trails were rowdy, and the views were beyond expectations. This write-up only covers a fraction of the trails on our 10 day, 7 shred mountain bike adventure based out of Cusco, Peru. My last few days were going to be spent touring around the city of Cusco and checking out local ruins but when I woke up to bikes getting tuned and the offer to help sweep a ride, who could say no?
It's been a year now and I still talk about this trip and how much it has impacted my life. The bike community is one that knows how to have fun in some of the most beautiful places around the world. Bill and Nic are some of the very best hosts. You will love their relaxed vibe, loving family, lively home, adventurous spirts, and if you're lucky enough you'll get to go salsa dancing with the party girl herself ;) I tell my friends at every feature I clear, Peru helped me get here. BIG thanks to Kat Sweet and her amazing skills to coach and progress riders!
Don't hesitate on a trip like this, I never regretted a minute of it.
Book with Haku Expeditions -
Write up by Laura DeLong
Mountain driven, I find my love in the adrenaline I get while flying down single track and cleaning those tehnical, challenging trails. I have a passion for coaching mountain biking and am certified under Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, Level 1 Fuidride certification, and have Freeride coaching from Kat Sweet of Sweetlines. I live in the Puget Sound area and travel as often as I can throughout the West Coast in search of sweet trail systems. I give back my time on the trails to our local Evergreen West Sound chapter and love traveling and taking photos.
I may be a desk jockey but my heart is always in the mountains.
Follow my weird: IG @thelouda
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