Our race continues through Northern Peru and into Ecuador. We see some familiar sights, make some new friends and cross our most significant milestone so far. Also in this post is an update of my shipping process.
Tuesday, September 18th
With Lima behind us, we began heading north up a familiar road.
I think Annie was a little disappointed to be out of the mountains. She seemed to really enjoy the time up there, turning in consecutive tanks of 80, 79, 76 and 81 miles per gallon. This was with the lowest grade fuel too. I still don’t know if efficiency is an effective way to ascertain engine health, but numbers like this are always encouraging.
I had driven this same coastal stretch back in April on my way down through Peru. Some might find this road bland, but I actually quite like the desert scenery.
The bad thing about this section was that it was also the place where I’d had my most unpleasant interaction with police during my trip. I talked my way out of paying a bribe in that instance, but other travelers had reported similar poor experiences during this oft-foggy ride.
The rules of the road in Peru border on pure anarchy, but foreigners need to always be wary of police. This is the hardest thing about riding here. If you follow the rules you run the risk of getting run over. If you don’t follow the rules you risk a bad experience with police.
In all fairness, there are some wonderful police in Peru. At one of the routine document inspection stops, one of the officers asked me if I had had any trouble with police in Peru. When I told him that about the experience that I’d had my previous time, I could see him getting physically upset. Indeed, it only takes a little bit of corruption to tarnish the image whole group.
Some see speed bumps as obstacles, some see them as selling opportunities.
The sun finally came out in the afternoon, to light some of the desert landscapes.
(It was laundry day the night before, so I was using my box as a portable clothesline. Things dry quickly at 60 mph.)
For the night I was aiming for Huanchaco, a coastal town just outiside of Trujillo. There was a hostel here at which I had stayed before called ATMA hostel and Yoga. It is a great place with wonderful staff, fast internet and room inside for a few bikes. I rolled in and Annie got her inspection:
Since there was a little bit of construction going on, they knocked a bit off of their prices. I think it was only about $7.
Wednesday, September 19th
It’s fairly commonplace for hostels to have a house cat or dog, but this one has both hares and a tortoise, named Dondoco.
As I worked during the morning, he resolutely completed laps around the yard. Slow and steady, of course.
Watching him made me think about how important it is to just keep putting one foot in front of the other. I’m sure that sometimes he laments not being as spry as the resident cat or rabbits, but that doesn’t stop him. I hope I can emulate his attitude during those times when my journey becomes difficult. Slow and steady will win this race.
I met lots of nice people while I was here, including a couple of North Americans: Coree from the US and Bryn from Canada.
They treated me to a nice meal and were very interested to hear about my trip. It felt like it had been a long time since I’d met people who were so enthusiastic about the quest aspect of my adventure. As I’ve been traveling through Latin America, it is an extreme rarity to meet anybody who is familiar with the song I am following. The time I spent with them helped me remember that the theme of this adventure is pretty neat. It was odd that I needed to be reminded of that.
I wish I had time to tell more about their stories. They were both very interesting people. I almost had them talked into buying bikes and heading north with me, but unfortunately there were no suitable ones for sale. We’ll have to ride together at a later time.
This was one of my most productive work days in some time, as I took full advantage of the fast internet. I did venture out for a nice walk to see a little bit of the town in the afternoon.
Thursday, September 20th
I said goodbye to all of my new friends and hit the road, aiming for Piura on the day.
My route was nice and smooth, with less fog than the previous day.
Just a reminder: Always be careful about using the word for “full” in Latin America. It means something different down here:
I stopped at an abandoned gas station for a break and did some exploring. I found a nice reflective vest. Score!
My home for the night was Qispi Kay hostel. They had a garage for Annie some nice artwork on the walls and it was only about $8 for a dorm bed. However, the monkey painting was absolutely terrifying.
I had some Soles to spend, so I went out for a nice meal with ceviche, fried fish and a whole pitcher of chicha morada (the purple corn drink).
Does anyone else see a piston in this bathroom light, or have I just been travelling by motorcycle too long:
I had a good time in the evening drinking some beers and enjoying nice company on the rooftop terrace.
The only downside of this night was one local guy who was really insistent that I try marijuana. It’s probably been offered to me at least 15 times during my trip, but I still haven’t tried it. I’m basically a living D.A.R.E. commercial. I might try it someday, but I would only do it somewhere that it was absolutely legal. Furthermore, I am very reluctant to introduce any new substance that could affect my focus while on a the road. (…yerba mate notwhithstanding) 🙂
I retired to my little “sleeping crate” and had a restful night.
Friday, September 21st
I was really looking forward to this day. We would be crossing back into Ecuador as well as crossing an important milestone. I had heard that the most traveled border along the coast was still struggling to process all of the Venezuelans coming south, so I chose to use one of the inland borders: El Alamor.
The aduana was a humble little building on a dusty road.
My wait here was about a half an hour as the paperwork for Annie was processed. I made some new Ecuadorian friends during this time.
I was eventually given the go ahead and I continued on to the migration office which is right next to the border bridge. Here I received my eighth and final passport stamp from Peru.
Despite spending quite a bit of time in this country, I’m still not sure exactly how to sum it up. I saw some wonderful things and had some unforgettable experiences, but I never felt as comfortable in this country as I did in some others. I’m still not sure whether this was due to real or imagined reasons.
I have to acknowledge that Peru had a tough spot in my itinerary. The first time it had to follow our amazing experiences in Ecuador. The second time it followed our “hospitality road” in Brazil. This is a tough position for any country.
I would not be surprised if this country changes immensely in the coming years. It feels like a place that has a lot of untapped potential. I hope that they are able to succeed in raising people from poverty, while still maintaining the cultural intricacies which make this place special. Thanks for the cheap food, Peru. We’ll see you later.
From my very first interaction across the bridge, I felt very well welcomed back to Ecuador. The military police were really friendly and interested in my trip. One of them posed for photos, holding my passport and inspecting my trunk. 🙂
The paperwork probably took close to an hour, but it included an incredible surprise: A free map! If you want to win the heart of either my Mother or me, all you need to to is give a gift that touches our cartographic hearts. (Are you listening, Dad?)
But wait, it gets better. Back on the road there were lots of goats:
I had a little bit of a fuel scare, as there was not a station too close to the border. I had passed up gas earlier in the day since it is so much cheaper in Ecuador. ($1.48/gallon for gas, $1.04/gallon for diesel).
After a couple more military checkpoints, we crossed our aforementioned milestone for the day: 50,000 miles on the trip.
That’s pretty far, I guess. After 10-12k more, I think we’ll have this thing licked. You can do it, Annie!
I felt like I had to do something to commemorate this special time. Our first vandalism of the trip seemed to suffice:
I aimed for the city of Machala for the night. I wanted to take a more coastal route this time, since our first time in Ecuador was almost exclusively up in the mountains.
I struggled a bit in finding lodging, ending up at a place for $13 that only had parking across the street.
Saturday, September 22nd
On to Riobamba.
Endless fields of banana trees:
Ecuador is well known for having some of the best roads in all of Latin America. While this is true in the Quito region, the roads in the South of the country are pretty similar to the rest of the continent. Some good parts, some bad parts.
The scenery is always great though.
My home in Riobamba was Hostal Segovia. They had a long hallway/driveway (hard to explain…) for parking. The options were a room with shared bath for $6 or one with a private bath for $7. Since I’m such a big spender, I splurged the extra dollar.
The place was….hmmmm…entertaining? I actually had two beds to choose from in my room. One of them had the best bedspread of my trip:
Tangled is probably my favorite contemporary Disney movie.
The walls were really thin and I soon realized that my neighbors bathroom was essentially in my bedroom. It was just separated by a glossed over window. I became familiar with the sounds my neighbors made, both while on the toilet and while having sex. These sounds were fairly similar.
I grabbed a supper to go at a little fast food restaurant downstairs. I had to laugh when I saw that the to-go cup was actually just a plastic bag.
Just when I think nothing else can surprise me in Latin America, I encounter something like this. 🙂
Sunday, September 23rd
I took a work day/watch the Chiefs day. I wanted to pass through Quito on Monday in order to look for some parts for Annie. Though my hostel wasn’t the fanciest or most sound-proof, the price was right.
I struggled with my work on the day. It was becoming more clear that I was tired on a macro-scale. Perhaps this is warranted after 50,000 miles, but I always feel frustrated when I do not utilize a day to full effect.
Monday, September 24th
A special day! The goal was to end up in the home of my Ecuafamilia in Cayambe. First, I would pass through Quito to take care of some business.
In the morning, I made a wonderful connection. Parked behind Annie was a bicycle equipped to travel. I immediately noticed the Deadhorse, Alaska sticker.
I got to meet the owner, Takeshi from Japan. He is three years into a round-the-world ride. He’s on the way to Ushuaia, after which he will fly over to South Africa and start going north. He figures that he still has about 3 years left on his trip.
His bike and luggage weigh in at about 80kg (176 lbs.) and he even has a guitar along. I can’t imagine how hard it is to pedal a bike that weight through the mountains. This is an important lesson about why you should never think you are a tough guy. Eventually, you will meet someone like Takeshi. 🙂
Happy pedaling, my friend!
I’ll leave it there for now. This was sort of a rushed post, but hopefully it wasn’t too bad. As always, thanks for being here!
Keep plodding, everybody
Realtime update: Whew…OK…where do I begin.
I arrived in Bogota in the nick of time to get my process started right away on Monday morning. I’ve been jumping through all of the hoops pretty much non-stop since then. I’ll start with the good, then move on to the Latin American.
The Good: I was able to take pretty much a full day to try to do everything possible to minimize my shipping size. Doing so brought our price down to $1,375, about $400 cheaper than the first estimate.
The Latin American: I spent almost all of Tuesday and Wednesday sitting in a warehouse waiting for two five minute inspections. We finally completed all of the paperwork needed about ten minutes before the deadline. Annie was loaded onto the plane that was departing today.
There was a little bit of rain today and the pilot decided they needed to remove two packages to bring the weight down. No prizes for guessing whose package was removed. 😦 It now appears that Annie will be on a flight on Saturday, meaning that Monday will be the earliest time that I can retrieve her.
I’m still planning to fly to Miami tonight as originally planned. I feel VERY worried about exiting this continent before my bike, despite the constant reassurances of my shipping agent. Perhaps I’m being pessimistic, but I would be surprised if I’ve encountered my final hiccup in this process.
A big thank you to my friends Adam and Natalie who bought a nice hotel room for me for the past three nights…(and I’m kind of hiding out here using the wifi until my flight). The 6′ 5″ shower head almost made me feel like I was back in the states. 🙂