Over the course of seven months that we’ve been cycling we we had a few minor problems, such as food poisoning, little accidents, Chikungunya, and shipping woes. Nothing, however, was as hard to digest as what happened to us on Saturday May 23rd.
We had completed a section of the Inca trail the day before and cycled a few kilometres to a nice camp spot near the dirt road that runs from Huamachuco to Pelegatos. We awoke to a beautiful day, the ride along the dirt road was stunningly scenic. It was the perfect day for cycling. At 4400m, just before a nice downhill into the small community of Hongos, we stopped to have some snacks and boil up some coca tea. As we were waiting for the water to boil I suddenly saw three men coming around the corner behind Dan. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes, I made Dan aware of them, we got up in confusion and fear. The men had guns and pointing them at us. It felt like a movie scene, so unreal. Dan told them to take whatever they wanted and gave them his money, 200 usd. I gave them what I had in my wallet. They made Dan sit a bit further away and didn’t seem to care about me. They crowded around the bikes, probably looking for more money. One of them took our gps, I pleaded him not to take it as it was our maps, and a bit later he put it back. They eyed Dan’s camera which told them to take it. They looked at it but then put it back. They told us to leave, with the bikes. Dan asked whether we could please just quickly pack up our stove as we needed it to cook, and they let us, taking off themselves. We packed up and cycled off as fast as we could. We made it down to Hongos and asked at a farm whether we could stay there for the rest of the day and the night. We were more than welcome. The woman there, Rosa, said that there had been cycle tourists before but there hadn’t been any robberies. Why us? We had come across only a few houses, the first one Dan chatted to and asked about the route. Perhaps he told some people that we were coming their way so they prepared and waited for an opportunity to rob us. However it happened, we are eternally grateful that we weren’t harmed, and that they left us all our gear which would be hard to replace. It did however upset us and we wondered how we could ride on lonely mountain roads again without fearing a reoccurrence. We had not heard of any such events on mountain roads, only along the coast. Adding to this stress I had had a cold for the past few days and got water poisoning. In the middle of nowhere, with no traffic, and out of food, we were forced to continue in the morning. In Pelagatos, a beautiful thing happened; a little dog, not older than a year, suddenly started running with us, not in a chasing kind of way but friendly. We stopped and played with him and as we continued cycling it following us. We decided that if he stuck with us we’d try to keep him. It was kind of ironic, only the day before we had been speaking about travelling with a dog for security. He ran with us all the way to Pampas and despite wandering off in town to search the streets for food he kept returning. We named him Coby, after our friend Coburn who had given Dan the idea of touring on fat-bikes.
Trail notes (best not to take this route despite it’s beauty, the robbery seemed targeted and not just opportunistic, they knew we were coming)
(Don’t) take the dirt highway Ll-15 (turns into AN-101) that merges off the highway going south 10k after Huamachuco (or that the inca trail merges onto) towards Pelagatos. From Pelegatos you can either go to Pampas or Conchucos, Pampas being more of a detour. They are about equally big. Pampas welcomed us warmly and we stayed another day.