What areas of Peru did you guys cycle through?

Due to the rainy season, we were forced to cycle the entire coastline of Peru. We then cycled inland to Arequipa and Puno regions to cross into Bolivia. The other option was to cycle in the mountain range, which I would have preferred. The latter route is much more difficult due to the dirt roads and multiple high altitude climbs.

The coastal route was very arid, windy, and sandy! We saw many great looking sand dunes and beautiful blue beaches.

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What challenges did you face in Peru?

We got sick quite often in Northern Peru.

We took precautions by using our resublimated iodine crystas, a steripen, and our bleach droplets, but we still got sick. One of the locals than asked us if we are using the condiments that are on the tables, as they can be there for weeks at a time in the hot weather. That was the clincher. I loved the aji that the Peruvians made and when I found out that was the issue, I stayed clear away. We had no problems with the Southern half of Peru.

It was very hot and windy.

As you would expect, the desert is pretty hot, Peru, being no exception. It is amazing how the wind can slow you down, especially when sand is carried with it!

Long distances between towns.

There are many areas that have absolutely nothing! Piura to Chiclayo was one of them, nothing but desert. We got up early to cycle this 124 mile stretch but managed to only get as far as 94 miles. Needless to say, we slept comfortably that night with two locals (not sure how they survived) in an abandoned brick home. Before we left the next morning, we gave them some food and water.

High altitude climbing.

We turned inland in Southern Peru, in order to get to Arequipa and then Bolivia. I had some altitude issues at about 14,500 feet (Imata, Peru), but fortunately we descended a few thousand feet the next day so I could recover and acclimatize. The most we climbed in one day has been here: 5,400 feet. 

Did you guys feel safe in Peru?

We had no problems in Peru. We did have a gut feeling about some areas but the people were very nice. As we traveled, people would come to us and say, “Be very careful, people here will rob you.” Two very notable areas of concern were: Paijan and Chimbote, more on that below.

Red Zones

I call areas that we were warned about from the locals, the Internet, and the State Department, and areas we felt were a bit dodgy: Red Zones. If we traveled through any of these areas, we did so with caution and we passed through it as early in the day as we could.

We were warned about two areas by locals and the Internet (time period: 2010/2013):

We knew about Paijan from our Internet research and were also warned by the locals. This area is known for robbing tourists on bicycles and busses.

“Many BikeTravellers know that Paijan, in the North of Peru, is a dangerous spot. Not just for cyclists by the way, as many cars and buses have been shot at and robbed as well.

‘On the south edge of town, there was a police checkpoint. Not really a checkpoint as it turned out. The cop, a woman, was warning us and even the locals in their motor vehicles not to stop in Paiján under any circumstances. I didn’t follow everything that was said, but clearly Paiján is being treated as a zona roja (“red zone”). So it’s not just bad for cyclists anymore. The latest specific incident was a carload of tourists passing through at night and getting their tires shot out and then their stuff stolen. (Jeff Kruys)’

But since the ‘ladrones’ of this dusty costal desert town have learned about the long line of BikeTravellers that do the Panam route, they have been focused on cyclists specifically. The chances of robbery are high and the danger is real, see here to view some comments and stories from the Panam-riders.”

This is another area that the locals warned us about, “Get there early and get out fast.” That is precisely what we did.

The border. We would recommend that you take caution here. We met a great guy, Edward Bell, from Langholm, Scotland, who was living on the Ecuadorian/Peruvian border. He cycled with us to the border and we went to eat. The section we went to had some fantastic food but there seemed something very dodgy about it!!

Outside of these three areas, we didn’t feel any danger.