Annie gets hit, Sonic gets caressed and I try to talk my way out of paying a fine/bribe with the police. Our opening stanza in Peru was full of excitement.
First of all, let’s take a minute to appreciate what a large country this is. It’s basically the same size as the whole west coast of the US….
….and stretches from Stockholm to Rome in Europe.
For this reason, I wanted to allow plenty of days to make my way to Lima for my April 20th flight to Nebraska.
As improbably as it may seem, I actually had a number of Peruvians recognize the word “Nebraska.” This is due to a project in which an impressive compliment of Peruvians visited the quaint town of Peru, Nebraska. They shared a bunch of cultural intricacies and by all accounts had a wonderful time connecting with small town Nebraska.
The first security stop saw me encounter two guards who had never heard of Sonic the Hedgehog before. Still, one of the guys just couldn’t resist touching him. 🙂
Route for the day:
My first impressions of the country were a mixture. The lush green of Ecuador was replaced with harsh desert. The poverty of the people in this area was painfully evident. Here, the ground is more an adversary than an ally.
The straightness of the roads seemed strange too. I couldn’t remember the last time I actually had to choose my speed. There was a stark contrast in the conditions of the roads between the country and the towns. The highways were very well maintained, while the city streets were in crumbling, dusty disrepair.
A creative welcome sign:
I met some nice people at my first ATM stop. Including a moto-taxi driver who was really interested in my trip.
In turn, I was really interested in his machine. Specifically, the final drive. He lifted up his 150cc Chinese contraption with surprising ease, to show me that it is a dual-chain system which drives just one wheel.
I actually find deserts to be very beautiful. I took a brief detour off of the beaten path to take some photos.
If I start online dating, this has to be a profile picture candidate:
It was a long day in the saddle. Both Annie and I took a pretty good beating. The speed bumps were the worst ones I had seen in South America. Some of them were shaped just perfectly to scrape my oil pan.
Before the trip, I deemed a skid plate (which protects the bottom of an engine) as surplus to requirements. It just seemed like more money and more weight. I’m starting to have a few second thoughts about that choice.
My home for the night was called “ATMA Hostel and Yoga.” It was a charming place and I met a lot of nice people. I didn’t take part in the yoga class though. Maybe next time. The place was just a block from the beach and housed many surfers.
I actually ended up paying more for supper ($9) than lodging ($8) this night.
Tuesday, April 17th
I got a decent start to the day and bid farewell to the house bunnies at the hostel.
I wouldn’t quite reach Lima this day, but I’d get within striking distance.
The forecast for the next 1,000 days is the same along this stretch: Hot with a strong west wind. It was so blustery that I was using the full width of my allotted lane.
I wasn’t having too much fun. Even though I had sunglasses on under my helmet, I could not seem to keep the sand out of my eyes. Knowing that gas was scarce, I made a questionable left turn over a dusty median to fill up at an isolated station. There was actually a restaurant there too, so I sat down for some aji de gallina.
But I was not the only foreign traveler who made this same questionable left turn. My jaw absolutely dropped as I saw a battle-scarred Ford Transit pull into the lot.
It was my good friend, Leebong.
We both knew that we were travelling the same route, but we’d lost contact for a few days. Getting to share a meal with him was an unexpected treat. Obligatory:
We were both in kind of a hurry, but couldn’t help having a really nice chat. We agreed to stay in closer contact henceforth. 🙂
The roads were not a lot of fun, so I was continually lured onto the sandy paths to explore a bit.
Had I been on a lighter machine, I probably would have taken even more such detours.
Time for a fun game. I’m going to post a video of me riding in Peru. If you can spot one person using a turn signal, you will win an autographed copy of my hypothetical book.
The van at 0:04 and the silver car at 1:01 do not count. They both just have a brake light out. 🙂
I set sights for Hostal Raymi in Huacho. The lady at the desk wanted to charge me $13 for a room, but I got her talked down to $9 for forgoing a TV. The place was really secure, had great internet but it was not fancy enough for a toilet seat or shower curtain.
In the tiny parking area, Annie had a friend to swap stories with.
This KTM 690 belonged to a Norwegian named Odd. We met the next morning and, of course, had plenty to talk about.
Wednesday, April 18th
I took it easy in the morning as I only had a short distance to reach Lima. Unfortunately, that distance would be full of some drama.
About 30 miles from Lima, I came upon a police checkpoint. An officer waved me to pull over and I began to take out my documents. I’ve been through dozens of these types of stops and have never had any trouble. This one, however, would be different.
The officer spoke very softly to me. With the traffic flowing by it was really difficult to understand him. After some initial misunderstanding, I eventually figured out that he was going to fine me 324 Soles (about $100). My crime? Riding in the left lane.
Now let me explain the situation: I had just made a pass on an uphill stretch and came around a curve. Looking ahead, I saw cones blocking the right lane (for the police checkpoint). Because of this, I just remained in the left lane.
Let me also say this: NO ONE in Peru follows the “stay right except to pass” rule. Though it is law, it is rarely followed.
I was quite incredulous about the charges against me, though I remained as polite as possible. Despite numerous requests for him to talk louder, even plugging my traffic side ear and leaning into his face, he would not increase his volume. Perhaps he didn’t want the other officers to hear our conversation.
Accordingly, I basically just had a one way conversation. I explained to him that I was not speeding or doing anything dangerous, and that I had a good reason to be in the left lane. He just showed me my offense in his well worn booklet of traffic laws. I continued to reiterate my stance and made it clear that while I was short on money, I had all the time in the world.
After about 15 minutes, he handed back my license and instructed me to continue on my way. He acted like he was doing me a tremendous favor, but I could not bring myself to tell him thank you.
I think he was just hoping that I would panic and offer to settle the dispute for a bribe of lesser cost. Going down that route would only embolden him to try the strategy in the future. If he had caught me doing something truly illegal (speeding, splitting lanes, passing on a solid line) I wouldn’t have argued too much. I hope I handled the situation correctly.
All that said, this was absolutely my first experience with Latin American police that was not completely positive. All the others I’ve met have been professional, some even friendly. I’ve had very good fortune in this regard.
So what should I do after that stressful situation? How about ride deep into the heart of the biggest city on my whole trip: Lima. (It’s just a bit bigger than New York City) It was probably the worst traffic of my whole journey.
There were long stretches of stationary waiting amidst the suffocating diesel fumes and oppressive heat. (That sentence was a little dramatic, huh?)
Then happened another first of my trip: Getting hit. Thankfully it was very minor. A taxi behind me was attempting to sneak into another lane and misjudged the length of his hood. His bumper hit Annie’s rear tire as he swung to the right. Normally when stopped in traffic, I have my right foot up to cover the rear brake. Fortunately, I had both feet on the ground this time, otherwise I would have been toppled over. I managed to yell “Cuidado!” (careful) as he came by me, but he seemed unconcerned.
It ended up being around four hours of travel to cover less than 100 miles on the day. I eventually stumbled in to Lucky Lodge, a $12 hostel right in the middle of downtown. The parking wasn’t as secure as I would have liked, but I could see Annie from my windows.
Chicks dig the sign:
Thursday, April 19th
Pretty chill day, basically just spent preparing for my flight and finding somewhere to store Annie while I was away. I did meet a couple from Germany who were travelling all around South America on KTMs, as well as an Irish guy on a trusty KLR.
In the evening I met up with Leebong and his friend Mia for some Ceviche.
The dish is a bit hard to explain. It is raw seafood (mine had fish, shrimp and even little octopi) which has been cured in lime juice. I’ve never really tasted anything like it.
We had a great time chatting.
Friday, April 20th
Pretty much only one thing remained: Dropping Annie off for storage. I initially had a few options, but ended up going with a Suzuki dealership that my friend from Norway, Odd, told me about. Though it would cost me $40, I felt that it was worth it since they also helped explain the process as it relates to migration.
By the letter of the law, I was not supposed to leave Peru unless I suspended my temporary import permit. This took days to get accomplished so they just recommended that I not mention my motorcycle as I was leaving.
It took longer than I would have liked at the dealership. They said that I would need to remove the luggage since the total weight was more than their elevator could handle. (Are you calling Annie fat!?)
I exchanged WhatsApp numbers with one of the workers and he sent me a picture of Annie once she was safely upstairs. That helped put my mind at ease.
With that, I took a shuttle to the Lima airport. This place was beginning to feel like a second home to me. Next stop: Nebraska, to attend the wedding of my friends Aaron and Brandy.
Stay bribe-free, everybody
Realtime update: Waiting…..Still in Lima. They said 3 to 5 days for the Brazilian visa to come through. Today is day three. I really hope I get it by Friday. I’m itchin’ to get back on the road.
I came across some very sad news recently that hit me kind of hard. A couple of cyclists were recently killed in southern Mexico. Though the cause of death is still shrouded in mystery, some suspect foul play. Article Here. The reason this hit me especially hard was that I recognized the name of the road immediately: Route 199 in Chiapas. This road was the same stretch where I had my crash, encountered a couple of road blockades and ended up riding at night. (That post, in case you’re new here.)
It’s caused me to reflect on how fortunate I have been on this journey, considering that it could have ended at any number of unfortunate conclusions. As always, I’ll take any spare prayers you have lying around…