On our last night in Arequipa we treated ourselves to a fancy dinner on the balcony overlooking the Plaza de Armas and Cathedral.
I’m so excited to get back on the road. Like kids on the first day of school donning their new shoes and backpack, I can’t wait to get on the bike and try the new setup. We’ve slimmed down for the remainder of the trip.
We’ve ditched the front panniers and changed the front low-rider rack to a platform rack. Scott changed his heavy camera bag for a lighter handlebar bag. We also traded a laptop for a tablet. Because we have less capacity, we had to leave non-essential items at home, like my little black dress, red Maasai blanket, sandals, backpack, spare tire, Scott’s olde timey cycling cap, etc.
We also replaced the stock road crankset (48-36-26) with a mountain bike crankset so we could have smaller chainrings. We’re now rolling with 44-32-22 up front and 12-36t on the rear cassette. We’ll beast up the remainder of these Andes mountains because we’re geared super low. The rear cassette, chains, all cables and housings were also replaced. Our bikes are like-new and ride smooth, like butter.
Introducing WanderWheels lite:
It feels right to be back on the bike. And I’m diggin’ the new setup. I just need to get used to the way the bike handles with the new weight distribution. Without the front panniers, most of the weight is in the back. My bike’s got a lot of junk in the trunk. In hindsight, we should have made these changes in Panama City, prior to arriving in South America.
Tip for others out there planning a similar expedition: You must, MUST consider your weight and gearing if you plan on riding the Andes (particularly in Peru where much of it will be off-road). Most cycle tourists we have encountered in South America have dropped down to just rear panniers. Front and rear panniers simply allows you the capacity to carry more crap that you don’t need.
Bumper to bumper traffic leaving Arequipa:
After climbing a bit to get out of Arequipa we stopped at a tienda for cold drinks. The shopkeeper was lovely and after chatting for a bit she brought out photographs of large footprints she found in the desert near here. They’re as big as her foot which I’m guessing is a size 6-7. She wanted to know if we could identify them. We don’t know any animal with feet like that, though we have passed a number of sights with preserved dinosaur prints. When we tried to explain they might be from a dinosaur she was adamant that the footprints were fresh. She said that rain has washed them away so the photo is the only remaining evidence. She sent us off with a “Buena suerte” and “Ten cuidado” (good luck and be careful). We’re going to need it if there’s a pterodactyl flying around out here!
And just as we were looking for camping we came up on a military base that stretched on for miles.
We ended up camping across from the military base, with a hazy view of El Misti Volcano rising above Arequipa which sits at its base.