Gathered in a circle around our guide on Peru’s high plateau, the instructions for cycling at the highest altitude of our trip, 14,300 feet at the top of la Raya Pass were being given out.

Peru La Raya pass cycling

“Be sure to stay in an aerobic state and if you feel yourself breathing heavily pull over and stop” came the advice. Considering just standing at 13,400 feet and holding my bike my breathing already seemed to be heavy, this was not going to be an ordinary bike ride.

Map Peru Cycling Hiking La Raya Pass

* Please note the map is slightly incorrect in that we started cycling 10 miles and 1000 vertical feet prior to the top of La Raya Pass. Wishful thinking on the map makers part.

It seemed no coincidence that during the van transfer to our starting point our Peruvian guide Raul, explained and  demonstrated the process of  chewing Coca leaves. Apparently Coca tea would not be adequate for the days events.

Taking several Coca leaves and a pinch of catalyst called Lllicta, made of mint, quinoa ash and Stievia, is rolled together. The ball is then put in one’s mouth as you would a piece of chewing gum. It tastes pleasant enough. I have no idea if it helped my cyling but it did make my tongue numb.

* Special note- Raul advised if one is subject to random drug testing, chewing Coca leaves or even drinking Coca tea, can cause a positive test.

Chewing Coca leaves

The climb is a gentle and steady one averaging a three percent grade over 10 miles. At home this would be a leisurely ride, but at here in Peru at high altitude, the cycling definitely presented challenges. Even the train which you can see in the distance in the photo below is joked to be the slowest train in the world. .

Train travel La Raya pass

 

Peru cycling high altitude

The climb was slow and steady. The sun shone, it rained, there was sleet and the snow covered peaks of Peru’s Andes were breathtaking. Well something was taking my breath that’s for sure.

La Raya pass Peru

Dave called out from behind me and reminded me that we were at the highest elevation we had ever experienced and we were on bikes. How grateful we are to be healthy enough to experience this most astounding adventure together.

La Raya pass Peru souvenir stand

Souvenirs can be found most anywhere in Peru, even at this high altitude. Clever idea since I was so mind boggled I had to ask someone later if the scarf I bought was pretty.