Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Las Retamas Hospedaje, Huaraz, Peru

My first view of the Cordillera Blanca after crossing 13,386-foot Paso de la Fortaleza en route to Huaraz. In the shadows at this altitude, it quickly became bitterly cold. Even my heated hand grips didn't keep my finger tips from going numb.

In Lima, I was up at 6:00 after only four hours of rest. The sun was actually shining! I could hardly believe my incredible fortune!

Called Sean at Frank's Motorcycles in Vermont regarding some advice from Ivan Guerrero, the local "Horizons Unlimited" contact. Ivan suggested declaring the value of the tire as $70 to avoid duty and using EMS service to ship to Peru. Sean said the tire had already been picked up; he did however show the cost as $70.

Packed up, leaving some stuff here at the hotel. But it's very difficult to leave. I wasn't feeling well.

Carolina made some arroz con leche (similar to rice pudding) with mazahorra morada (a mildly-sweet, deep purple sauce made from corn; a favorite Peruvian dessert) and insisted I try it. "You have to prove it!" she said. I gave it my best try, but just couldn't deal with the strangeness of flavors - to my tastes, that is. My palate has been too corrupted by sugar and chocolate.

Outside, a string of people stopped to chat as I loaded the bike. A young fellow named "David" effused "you're my hero!" I was doing something he has been dreaming of. Marc walked up the street and said farewell. J.D. leaned out his fourth floor window and waved good-bye. A doctor and his wife stopped to talk. (He said they were selling their home in Peru and moving to Bolivia. "Peru's a lost cause.")

Exiting the city, I became lost, as usual. It took an hour to get to the open "Pan-Americana" highway. By noon, I was up to speed, driving north, passing through amazing desert. Extremely harsh conditions under which so many people live. The wind coming off the ocean was brutal. You can understand how sand gets piled in dunes hundreds of feet tall. The surf looked wild in the hazy distance.

In Huacha, I filled up, then had lunch at the service station: chaufa with an excellent aji (a red chile salsa that is becoming my test for how much I like a restaurant.)

South of Barranca, I came around a bend and over a rise. A highway patrol car was parked perpendicular to the road. As I approached, the familiar gesture to pull over.

The patrolman said I was going too fast around the curve, and asked for my documents. I realized I had left my title and registration back at "El Carmelo", but handed him what I had. He examined them, then explained he was not going to write a ticket, which could cost $50 to $100. Then came the familiar commentary about how rich Americans are, and how poorly-compensated the police are. Maybe I would like to offer a regalo (gift) so they might buy some cervezas y gaseosas (beer and sodas)? I told him I would need a receipt, and he looked at me with a puzzled expression. "No, no."

I asked how much the typical regalo runs. He told me "whatever you wish." I handed him a ten-Sole note. When I held it out to him, he quickly grabbed it and hid it from view, aware that passing motorists should never witness this little transaction. Walking back to the patrol car, he announced to his partner that the gringo had given them some money for beer.

A half-hour later, I was stopped again at the turn-off to Huaraz, where there is a toll station. I straightaway complained to the officer about the patrolman ripping me off. He wanted to know whether it was ten Soles or ten dollars? Maybe he was testing the market. But he just wanted to talk. Bored, I guess. I was impatient, as daylight was swiftly running away, and I didn't want to be caught crossing this pass at night.

Into the mountains as the sun slipped behind the western ridges. The bike was running fine, but now Brad had me a little worried about the final drive. He said I have the same problem as he had: excess play in the rear wheel, which causes poor handling and rapid rear brake wear. He had his final drive replaced four times!

Climbing higher, I began to wonder if I were losing the clutch. It was becoming more difficult to change gears and I was having to roll on the throttle to shift on the fly.

Up here, it is common to see animals being herded along the road (and in the road): sheep, pigs, cattle, mules, horses, llamas.

Diarrhea hit me in the mountains around Chaucayan. I found a gas station and almost made it to the little hole in the floor. "Crap!" (Literally.) Messed my drawers and, to make matters worse, there was no toilet paper. But there was a waste can with used toilet paper! (It's common to put soiled toilet paper in a waste can rather than in the toilet or pit.) So here I was looking for relatively clean used toilet paper! Fortunately, outside was a sink where I could wash out my boxers.

Reached the 4,080-meter (13,386-foot) Paso de la Fortaleza summit as the sun was setting. My first glimpse of the snow-covered Cordillera Blanca peaks beyond was breath-taking. I wasn't quick enough with the camera, as the light was changing quickly and darkness fell. The air turned frigid and my finger tips were soon in pain from the cold.

Approaching Huaraz, I stopped to refuel and took out my computer to check Anne's e-mail giving directions to this hospedaje. 20 Soles; 25 with desayuno (breakfast) included. A pretty "sketchy" place, but they had a large gated compound with an inner grass area where bikes could be parked. I saw three bikes already there, including Anne's.

Once I got the knobs figured out, after ten minutes of allowing the water to run (sink: hot on the left, shower: hot on the right), took a warm shower, then washed clothes. Then the lights went out in my wing of the hospedaje.

Took a taxi into downtown. Went looking for Anne at two restaurants she had recommended: "Chillie Heaven" and "Vagamundo".

At "Chillie Heaven", I met owners Simon and Beatrice. Simon said Anne might be next door, and he walked me over to "Amma", a restaurant owned by Ibett, the manager of our hospedaje. Anne was not there, but I met "the Japanese", Aki and Motsu. Soon Anne showed up, accompanied by "David", who had been her guide today on a visit to Chavín de Huántar. The little restaurant is quite cozy and tonight it was especially festive, as we celebrated Aki's birthday.

Talked of mining, artichokes and asparagus (both big export crops for Peru), counterfeit money (a huge problem in this country,) the 1970 earthquake and slides (which obliterated most of the towns in this valley.)

Tonight, my chest has a "fluttery feel" from the 10,000-foot altitude in Huaraz.

Outside, a dog triggers a chain reaction and suddenly it sounds like I'm in a huge kennel (kind of like that campground north of Quebec City!)

To bed about 1:00 - not good!


(Note several years later - 2009: I believe Brad was mistaken in his diagnosis. Last I talked with him, he was on his FIFTH final drive on his GS! I am still on the original final drive, and service shops continue to report that mine is still tight. The premature rear brake pad wear is no doubt attributable to the conditions we were riding under: heavily-laden with extensive off-pavement riding. The pads are intended to "float" on the rotor surface. But dust and excess weight greatly accelerate brake pad wear. Around much of South America, Brad was traveling two-up with gear. And I was probably traveling with over 100 pounds of gear. I think some BMW shops replaced his drives under warranty because they didn't really understand what was going on, and since the R1200GS model was so new, they were erring on the side of caution. And Brad can be very compelling!)

1 comment:

.studioK said...

local yogurt helps fight traveller's runs.... good luck