The Galapagos Islands were a wonderful, luxurious break for us and an absolute treat! My “land sickness” hung around for nearly five days after the boat so it made for interesting times just crossing the road – let alone walks through tunnels in the dark! It is wonderful to be back on the bikes – to clear the city traffic and get the wind sailing through our mesh jackets! We head south – through masses of banana plantations! Any time we see an Ecuador sticker on a banana in the future we will know exactly where it comes from!! The border crossing is a cinch after all the Central America beauracracy! We switch to our N.Z. passports – as Kiwis can get in to Bolivia, Argentina and Chile for free!!
Aside from the fact that Machu Picchu is down the road – we know very little about Peru. The road-sides have lots of grazing goat herds – and once “Mummy” starts to cross the road, you know the rest of the mob are not far behind!! There are donkeys, dogs, chooks and pigs wandering freely and we are back in horse and buggy country. We take a great back road and end up in a very basic small town – the side roads are all dirt – but we find a good hotel. The mode of transport here is called a “bajun de las moto” (pronounced bar-hun) and we can’t decide if it’s most like the old Model T Ford or a stagecoach buggy!! Besides being a source of income, they are the family vehicle, useful for furniture removals, produce movers – we even saw one with a car spoiler attached to the back of its roof!
We are on secondary roads and going through lots of sugar cane plantations, rice paddies and very basic towns. Then we come in to spectacular desert as we follow the coast – blowing across the road in drifts – with massive sand dunes – and views of the ocean when you hit the peaks.
We see hundreds of “poultry farms” – all through the desert – but this is not surprising at all when you consider Peruvians seem to eat chicken for breakfast, lunch and dinner!! We hit the coast at Trujillo and meet a German guy at a biker bar who is setting up bike tours.
We turn off the PanAmerican at Casma and take the 14A towards Huaraz – the change is immediate and we feel like this is the Peru we imagined! The mountains start “growing” in front of us as we come over a moonscape area and drop in to a valley full of crops with a fast-flowing river meandering through it. Some of the crops here are on vertical slopes – so steep they defy logic – the locals must be so fit!!
The 3N Highway from Huaraz is motorcycle heaven – just perfect riding conditions with spectacular scenery – remote villages – and lots of dogs who snap and chase the bike in front (Paul) – running like mad!
The road starts to deteriorate as we come in to Huallenca – a remote and basic mining town surrounded entirely by large mountains and we feel like “aliens” here as we wander around!
We have many river crossings and the road is becoming a challenge – especially when there’s been a mud-slide and the lingering rain is keeping things moist!
The small town of Chavinillo is our lunch stop and a crowd gathers – with one little lady coming straight at me with her hand outstretched. We make eye contact and I take her hand in both mine and we smile at each other – just beautiful! She talks in Spanish and I talk in English and we have a great conversation!! We tell her we need “comida” (food) and she takes my arm and guides us to a restaurant up the street and straight in to the kitchen! We can see what we will get for lunch (menu del dias) and she then serves us – the soup is sensational! When we finally leave town she is standing on the road to wave to me – so precious!
Tip of the Day
If you are travelling through Peru on a motorbike and need to get new tyres or repairs of any kind done – it pays to stop at Toby’s Place in Huanuco. He is U.S. born but has been in Peru with his wife, Sara, doing missionary work for 35 years. He’s set up this bike workshop with his friend, Jaime (pronounced Hi-me) and boy, do they know their bikes! His knowledge of the country and good bike routes is also amazing! They organise bike tours and rent out bikes – Toby can even buy you a bike and have it ready to ride away and will buy it off you again – or store it when you’re done! You can see more here. My cooling fan has “done it’s dash” after 87,000km so the boys fit me out with a replacement and do Paul’s at the same time.
We have been travelling for several hours on a remote mountain road and it’s well past lunchtime – our stomachs are growling and we are approaching the border crossing with Peru! We are usually “fed and watered” well before we start proceedings so by the time we have exited Ecuador and crossed the bridge – we are really hungry! There are about six food places before the Peruvian customs so we just choose one and have a go at ordering, aware that our hostess is NOT putting up with any lack of Spanish! I ask for the “soup of the day” and Paul orders meat and rice. The soup comes out quickly – it is chicken – lukewarm – but there are beans, pasta, noodles and what appears to be veggies floating around in it! In we go and so far it is going down – until we spy the chicken “foot” – and then realise it’s attached to the whole spindly leg as well!! As the tide goes out I can see other “unmentionables” and can’t go on – so I push it towards Paul and he has a “go”! He thinks one of the “parts” could be the chicken’s heart so he gives in as well! No photo is necessary – the image is still “right there” in my head
On Two Wheels
Crossing the border in to Peru we meet Kalil from Israel and Hans from Holland – who met working in the States and have come through Central and now South America over several months. (You can read their stories here). We head off in different directions but discover we are in the same town the following night – so we hook up for dinner and beers! It was great to chat with these two like-minded individuals and who knows – we may cross paths again!!
Story of the Week
We are on an open highway in Peru – carving it up at around 130km/h and clocking up some miles. On a huge sweeper I “take” a truck on double-yellow lines – as you do – and up ahead are a couple of cops with bikes. One comes out onto the road and flags me down – hello hello – am I done for speeding or the overtaking manouevre?! It seems it’s about the double lines but he starts saying he wants some “dollares” and I tell him to just write me out a ticket which I will take to a bank. Then he asks for my “permiso” and “seguro” (temporary vehicle permit and insurance) and I point to my “esposo” sitting on the bike ahead waiting for me. The other cop gets on his bike and goes and “gets” Paul! The officer wants me to sign a blank ticket – with none of my details on it – or pay some dollars! At this point I whip out my phone and take a photo of his name badge and tell him we will phone Lima and tell them about him. Immediately he hands all the paperwork back to Paul and shakes his hand with a big smile. Then he hands my licence back and shakes my hand and tells us we can go!! NB: All of these conversations are in English on my part and Spanish on his with neither of us understanding each other at all!