Friday, November 11, 2005

Cajamarca to Lima

Hotel Fundo Campero San Antonio, Cajamarca, Peru

Hotel Fundo Campero San Antonio, Cajamarca

Up around 6:30. Another cold shower (and this for $30!) Packed up the motorcycle, then went for a walk. Took some photos around the hotel grounds. Wandered out to the river. Sat down to breakfast with Anne. Real coffee for a change! Home-made butter. Papaya juice. "Gabo" hung around with us, snorting. He’s so ugly he’s almost cute.

"Gabo". I'm sorry if I offend anyone, but they had three or four of the most ugly dogs at this hotel!

On the road around 8:00, Anne leading up over the mountains. Hazy but mild. The ride seemed to go much faster on the return. My tires were slipping, making things exciting. Still we had fun on the hairpin turns over the summit. The roads in the high country much better than down below.

Back in Jequetepeque, where we connected with the Pan American Highway again, we stopped for a light lunch. Parked in the dirt lot outside the restaurant, trucks all around. The air smelled of urine. Not the most appealing setting for a meal. But a chicken soup turned out to be very good, and we were soon back on the road, bound for Trujillo.

In Chocope, the highway forked and as I started taking the left fork, I was met by on-coming cars: I had turned just a bit too soon. I started to turn out of the way, but in light gravel, with a poor front tire, the bike was down in a flash. Anne and a passing motorist came to my rescue and we lifted the bike back up. The right pannier was "tweaked" again, with the telescoping sections forced out of alignment.

In Trujillo, we easily found the house where fellow traveler, Brad is staying. But he was out shopping. I decided to move on, anxious to get to Lima before motorcycle shops close tomorrow. It was after 3:00, and I figured I could get a couple hours closer. The family that Brad is staying with said Lima is still about an eight hour drive.

Trujillo is a large city, and I quickly enlisted the aid of cabbies to help find my way out. One talked to a bus driver, then shouted for me to follow the bus. It was heading south to Chimbote. I followed, as the cobrador, the fellow who collects fares and hurries passengers on and off the bus, leaned out waving me along. But it quickly got old, as the bus stopped every few blocks. I finally broke off to try some ATMs before leaving the big city. For some reason, the two or three I tried wouldn't work for me.

Once out on the open road, I tried to maintain a steady 70 mph in the face of strong crosswinds. I was passed several times by a car traveling probably 90 or more. A couple of wild young guys. I saw them pass trucks on the right, going onto the shoulder when they couldn't pass on the left. They were drinking beers and throwing the cans out the window. We leap-frogged along the highway (as they seemed to stop a lot, probably for more beer.) At one point, they pulled up alongside, the passenger reaching a can of beer out to me. I graciously declined the offer. At another point, after passing, the same fellow shook a can and sprayed me with beer. "Clowns."

So much sand! Just one of the many dramatic views driving the coast, south of Chimbote, Peru.

Passed through incredible desert landscapes, with sand dune mountains. Towns began to grow scarce. I was running low on fuel as darkness fell. Down to the last 30 miles in range, I passed a small house that looked like he had some barrels of fuel. Turned back to see if he could sell me a gallon or two. He had none, but said the next town was "12 minutes" ahead.

Several miles further, I came to a police car parked at an intersection. Not wishing to waste a drop of fuel at this point, I stopped to ask them where the nearest "grifo"(gas station) was. They assured me the next town was only about 20 kilometers. One of the officers started talking about how low incomes are in Peru compared to the U.S. I suspected he was working up to asking for a little financial support, when I quickly thanked them and hurried off. When I reached Huarmey, I was down to my last eight miles. Three gas stations from which to choose. I was saved!

After filling up, I went over to the "urinario" - basically an outside wall you get to pee against. Pretty funny.

I was very tempted to camp out in the desert tonight. It would have been pretty easy too find a spot well-removed from the highway. But another part of me was up to the challenge of making Lima tonight, for a 500+ mile day.

It was fairly cold and I bundled up. It didn't get so bad as to require my electric vest, but it was getting close. No dinner, just snacked on chocolates.

A very high cloud layer allowed only the moon and a couple of planets to shine through. I'm still waiting for that clear view of southern skies. Along the coast, I could see the white surf line in the diffuse moonlight.

It was pretty crazy driving Peru at night. The highways were fine, but once you start into small towns, it's insane: pedestrians, animals, potholes, debris; crazy truck, bus and taxi drivers; vehicles with non-functioning lights. Hazards-a-plenty. And talk about headlight warfare! High beams are used as a weapon to blind opponents. No exaggeration. I finally used my high beam exclusively, as it seemed to offend other motorists less. (But in no other country on this trip has the phenomena been so apparent, and I have driven at night plenty of times.)

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