3 Jan 2018

PARACAS, PERU

WORDS x Steve Storey
PHOTOS x Justa Jeskova

An unexpected destination.

Have you ever been somewhere you’ve never heard of and then found out it was exactly the kind of place you never knew you were looking for?

That’s exactly where Michael Sousa, Justa Jeskova, and I found ourselves while on a mountain biking trip in Peru. Having just completed two high altitude bike-packing missions and blessed with a few days to spare, we hit the maps in search of something different. Over some local brews and random electronic sleuthing we decided on an oceanside village called Paracas.

We knew little about Paracas except that it was in a desert and promised incomparable marine life viewing. It also happened to be conveniently located halfway between where we were and where we needed to be next. Impulsive? Maybe. But when has impulsive not answered questions you didn’t know you had?

Riding wise, we expected little, which each one of us was content with. A few days of relaxation and leisure were well deserved at this point. Over the 3 days we had to spare in Paracas we thought we would jump on a questionable boat, see some marine life, enjoy some pisco on the beach, then move onto greener and much hillier pastures.

But Paracas held a secret.

A morning cruise at sea to some offshore islands brought views of the promised wildlife which initially enticed us here. It was incredible. Easily the most wildlife intense place any of us had ever seen. But it was in between the penguin and sea lion sightings, and thousands of guano bombs from above that we fully realized the secret Paracas had hidden behind its coast line. Towering sand dunes and rocky oceanside steeps broke up an otherwise flat horizon. It was a scene so enticing our worn and tired bodies skipped the pisco back on shore and went straight back to our hostel to unpack and rebuild bikes.

The next two days, each and every available minute of daylight was spent pedalling and exploring our new desert playground. Unique meteorological and geographical conditions here combine to create a magical riding experience. Constant trade winds carry sea salt over the desert peninsula firming up what would normally be deep, soft sand. It creates a riding surface unequaled anywhere. Sand dense enough to allow climbing any dune without fat tires yet soft enough to feel like you’re floating atop snow.

Paracas was the dream like riding we never knew we had dreamt of. It was the life-size rendition of a sandbox taken and moulded into an endless selection of perfect ridges and limitless lines. Our imaginations let us decide where our trails would go.

Each day was bookended by a sunrise and sunset high atop a ridge or dune. Our midday traverses were aided by tail winds turning our travels into downhill cruises. Every dune we ascended rewarded us with a stunning coastal view. And every day was finished with a Pisco sour and a cheers to the exact place we never knew we were looking for.

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