With the delays behind us, we set off again on our journey. We discover the Nazca Lines, a bottomless glass of beer and a charming town off the beaten path in Peru.
Saturday, May 12th (cont.)
I rode away from Lima feeling more free than I had in months. I didn’t have a flight booked, there was no boat to catch, there was only open road ahead. There was still the issue of just having 5 days remaining on my insurance, but that didn’t bother me too much.
The day started foggy, cold and rainy.
The route along the Pan-American isn’t particularly beautiful. It’s mostly desert and straight roads. One of my regrets about my time in Lima was not getting further into the country. If I return home via land, I doubt I will even see the ocean through Peru my second time.
Once the clouds parted, the day heated up quick. I had to shed lots of layers.
I encountered some confusing signage and ended up following google maps. It led me to a one way tunnel which I assume was the old Pan-American.
I don’t know what I would have done if I would have met another vehicle inside.
My goal for the day was to reach Nazca and see the famous Nazca Lines. They are a collection of geoglyphs that were created sometime between 500BC and 500AD. They feature numerous different designs and are best seen from an airplane.
Picture not mine:
Plane rides were not crazy expensive ($80-$100 I think), but I’m sort of in a season of austerity right now. Additionally, these planes are not really known for their safety precautions.
There is a nice overlook tower which is right off of the highway. (For $1)
From the top you can see three of the glyphs. The hands:
and the lizard:
(Yes, they built the road straight through it in the 1940s) 😦
There were also lots of stickers from motorcyclists on the roof:
I looked in to getting some while I was home, but just could not justify the expense.
A little further down the road is a hilltop where you can view some of the lines.
There is nothing else around for miles:
I sat beneath the shade of the sign pictured above, planning my next move. I met a really nice guy from Germany who had been robbed at gunpoint in northern Peru. We had a good time swapping stories. I also met someone who worked at a hotel on the main square in the city of Nasca who told me they had rooms for $6. I rode to town to investigate.
I found this adobe sign interesting:
Hotel El Mirador looked pretty nice and the price was correct. When I asked about a safe place to park my bike, the lady pointed to the corner of the lobby. At first I thought she was pointing through the wall to an adjacent parking area, but she actually meant the lobby itself.
It took me a bit of time to squeeze through the standard size door frame. Annie’s widest point is 34 inches at the handlebars, so she normally just fits. I had to back her in to make the turn from the sidewalk.
By the time I got her inside, I had quite a few spectators watching the proceedings. I decided to give a running dialogue to my audience, expounding about how much extra space I had and what good exercise I was getting. 🙂
There was a nice view from the balcony down the hall, especially if you like power lines:
I went out to get a $2 supper and strolled around the town a bit. This place just felt nice. I can’t quite explain it. It’s a relatively small town that isn’t overrun with tourists. It was just a really good mix. The main square was fun to see in the evening.
I got some work done then called it a night.
Sunday, May 13th
The goal for the day was to reach the Colca Canyon area. It would not go quite as planned.
I wanted to stick to the itinerary that my host, Mario, in Lima had given me.
I slept a little later than I should have so I skipped breakfast and hit the road. I knew that this would be by far the longest of my five day schedule.
Early in the route I had a really sobering experience. I decreased my speed upon seeing an emergency vehicle and cones in the road. Even a ways out, I could tell what it was: A motorcycle crash.
The mangled machine, hardly recognizable, sat right on the center line, while the car that had hit it (apparently head-on) was in the ditch to my right.
Most disturbing was the lifeless body of the motorcycle rider in the left lane. It lay beneath haphazardly placed newspapers, one shoe on, one nowhere to be seen.
I gulped hard as I rolled slowly by. It’s maybe always in the back of my mind that I am only one mistake (mine or someone else’s) from being rendered into a similar state. But a scene like that really brought it to the forefront of my mind. In all honesty, it shook me pretty hard and that image still lingers in my mind.
Though I was still a bit shaken, the views along the ocean ridge helped take my mind off of what I had seen.
A lot of the sections of road were through rocky terrain. Others had been built right on top of the sand.
The amount of coastline and beaches is staggering. Additionally, very few are developed at all. The desert runs right up to the ocean. Anywhere there was even a hint of green, you could know that there was a city nearby.
I think I can say that the drivers in Peru have been the most dangerous of my whole trip. One thing that has been a constant scare is that oncoming traffic does not respect motorcycles. It has happened numerous times that I’ve been confronted head-on with two semis speeding towards me in both lanes. Motorcycles are just expected to get onto the shoulder, which is sometimes very thin.
Around 2:30 I finally stopped for a meal. I knew I was going to be leaving the coastline, so I got some seafood. With my belly full, I bid adieu to the ocean and turned inland. I had covered a lot of ground, but I was beginning to get a little worried about the sunset.
At 4:00pm, my road turned to gravel.
I still had about 100 miles to go and had no idea if the gravel was just for bit, or if it went the whole way. I don’t mind riding on it, but it limits my speed. I continued for about 10 more minutes with no change to the road. I kicked myself for not having asked a local.
I weighed my options and decided to turn around and return to the last town. In hindsight, this was absolutely the right decision. I learned later that the road was gravel the whole way. Furthermore, the sun set was a lot earlier than I thought. I would have had at least an hour in the dark on winding gravel roads had I continued. Disaster averted!
I used the app iOverlander to find the one hostel that was listed in the last town, Majes. For some reason, I really felt comfortable in this town right away. It seemed both peaceful and vibrant.
I pulled up to Hostal Palace, ready to ask for a room. To my surprise, I walked right in to a bit of a party. The owner, Salome, had been surprised by a couple of her friends and their kids. They were having an impromptu mother’s day celebration. When they found out my last name was the first name of their son (Anderson…it’s a first name down here), they were excited. When they found out about my trip, I became a celebrity.
I probably spent at least an hour talking to them, drinking out of what became a bottomless glass of beer, before I even had my riding gear stripped off. We laughed a lot and I had my picture taken many times. When I finally had to excuse myself to give my Mom a call, they sent me to bed with an Inca Cola and a big bottle of Cuscena.
I had a big private room (bathroom in the hall) for about $7. The view wasn’t terrible either.
The town had a park running down the middle of its main street. It terminated at the town market. A neat design.
I got to wish both my Mom and Grandma a happy mother’s day. No better way to close the day. 🙂
Monday, May 14th
I studied my maps in the morning, but I couldn’t quite figure out a way to squeeze in a visit to Colca Canyon in my remaining time in Peru. Shame. Instead, I decided to take an easy morning and just make Arequipa my goal for the day.
Since I didn’t have far to go, I took a leisurely stroll through the marketplace of Majes. At first, a lot of the shops were closed….
…but it woke up fairly quickly.
It was a great market: Just enough craziness and just enough organization. I eventually found the collection of dozens of counters, all of which had more or less the same menu.
At just 5 soles ($1.50), this was one of my cheapest full meals of the whole trip. A big bowl of soup and meat and veggies over rice.
The town was really buzzing, but not in the chaotic, stressful way that bigger cities do. I strolled around for quite a bit.
I know I’ve talked at length about the alternative form of commerce that takes place down here, but the following picture is one of the most creative occupations that I have seen (sorry for the low quality).
This guy just sits there with a bathroom scale and a sign that says “control your weight.” He charges about 17 cents for the privilege of weighing yourself. 🙂
I returned to the hostel and started to pack up.
Salome was excited to show me that she had posted a picture of us together on facebook which she had labeled “My gringo boyfriend.” There were lots of interesting reactions from her friends.
Another one of the ladies there really wanted a picture with me, but her phone storage was full. I spent about 15 minutes with her going through different directories and deleting unnecessary items. Not all heroes wear capes.
A few signatures…
…and it was time to hit the road. I had a nice ride.
I’m going to leave off there this time. These days almost felt like a “restart” to my adventure. All of the delays made me feel a bit pent up. I’m still trying to make sense of Peru. I’ve had many wonderful experiences here mixed with some questionable ones. I’ll summarize more thoroughly in my next post.
Controla su peso, a todos 🙂
Realtime update: Oh wow! Some internet! Three nights ago, I lost a race against my laptop battery to get this post out (they have different outlets in Chile), two nights ago I was camping in the desert, last night the internet didn’t work at this hostel. Feels good to get this post out.
I currently sit in place 59 of 92, Tocopilla, Chile. It’s nice to make some tangible progress again. It’s been a long time. Today I will head inland towards the Atacama desert. I’ll spend a couple of days exploring there and then…. we’ll see. I might just cross right into Argentina since there are some things in the north that I’d like to see.