Stop riding. Get off the bike. Stand tall. Look confident. Stare. Shout. Throw rocks.

Cycle tourists in South America have various ways of dealing with the ever-present peril posed by dogs. Some try to outrun them. Others trust a dog dazer. (When we successfully daze a dog with ours, we’ll let you know. Don’t hold your breath.) In Chile, we met one rider who fends off the canine menace with a broomstick. But conventional wisdom suggests that if you follow the guidance at the top of this post, you’ll give yourself a fair chance of escaping unharmed.

Still, as we’ve learned, some dogs subvert the old proverb by possessing a bite that’s worse than their bark. Take the little ginger bundle pictured above. A demure-looking thing, he barely bleated as we walked past him on Sunday afternoon, and we’d forgotten him almost as soon as he’d left our line of sight. And then 30 seconds later, backs turned and 50 metres down the path, we heard a flurry of activity behind us, and Ruth felt a set of teeth in the back of her leg.



Peruvian dogs are notorious among touring cyclists, and for good reason. They are everywhere, they are hungry, and they are deeply unpredictable. Many (most?) appear to be strays, and the survival-of-the-fittest mentality they need to adopt in order to thrive breeds a barely discriminate aggression. Cyclists offer them a moving target, and few seem able to resist taking aim.

While riding, we’re always on our guard, ears peeled for a telltale grrrruff in the near to middle distance. Most are barkers and many are chasers, but a mix of luck and judgment – stopping, staring, shouting – seems to be working so far. The worst option is to keep going and try to outsprint them. You – we – can’t.

But our little encounter on Sunday reminded us that it’s not just when riding that we need to take care. A couple of idle hikers out for a stroll, we barely noticed the dog, and – or so we thought – he didn’t give us a second glance. Until, that is, he chose to mark his territory by delivering a cowardly nip to the back of Ruth’s leg as we were walking away from his domain.

Usefully, this happened deep inside Colca Canyon, about five minutes from the end of an isolating eight-hour hike on foot and on mule from the scruffy village of Cabanaconde to a remote refuge by the water’s edge. We’d planned to spend a couple of days hiking the trails in this extraordinary place, but concerns about rabies – even vaccinated, as we both are, we’re advised to visit a doctor as soon as possible if bitten – meant we had to retreat the next morning to Arequipa. An 11-hour journey, a dozen phone calls and two hospital visits later, with two more visits to come, and all appears to be well. Although Ruth is still feeling a little rrrruff.



Between the time we spent last week in Arequipa and our trip to the Colca Valley, it’s been ten days since we last rode our bikes, and it’ll probably be another couple of weeks before we’re back on them. After Ruth’s finished her course of treatment early next week, we’re taking the bus south for ten days in the Bolivian capital of La Paz. From there, we’ll ride north back into Peru, towards Cusco, Machu Picchu and the Andean highlands. Assuming, that is, we can get past the dogs.

from Arequipa, 04, Peru