Saturday, March 5, 2011

Day 141 (611km): Finally getting to leave Peru

After a warm breakfast of Quaker Oatmeal we were cruising our way to the Chilean border. Near Moquegua there was some kind of control checkpoint. We were behind a car (who was stopped) and the inspection guy was looking in the trunk. We asked him if we could go. He waved us through and as we were making our escape we heard a whistle. Apparently a cop was trying to pull us over. He was nowhere to be found and since we've been in Peru for so long I'm immune to the sound of whistling.
Peru is all it's glory

We quickly made it to Tacna where we filled up on gas, assuming it would be more expensive in Chile. It was not easy finding our way to the border, something as critical as that you think would be signed better. Even though Ecuador was sketchy they at least pointed you to the border.
Yay, white mountains. We must be getting close to Chile

The border complex was modern. We parked in the parking area and a policeman came over to ask us if we had a passenger list. We looked at him confused because we were on bikes and there was only one passenger, the driver. Alberto went inside to see what the deal was. Inside the border official wouldn't process any paperwork without this passenger list form. Okay. Where do I get one Alberto asks. I don't know replies the official. So you won't do anything without this form and you don't know where I can get it? Back in Tacna he says but I don't know where. This is ridiculous. Alberto demands to speak to someone who knows what's going on. Then the official guiltily says that the people at the kiosks outside sell them. Alberto returns telling me he has to go buy this form off of these people.

One thing that really pisses me off is unnecessary paper work and this is a perfect example of it. If it's important the government should provide it. What a cash grab.
The feeling isn't mutual

Anyway, we fill out these papers and get our passports signed out of Peru. Then we clear our forms with the office exiting the parking lot. He puts his stamp on the passenger list form. Off to Chile we go. We park and go ask someone where we take care of the bikes. He was the first person in Chile we talked to and he had the more stereotypical accent, I had to stifle a giggle. It's one of those things that you don't expect it to be true in real life, only in movies.

We get our passports sorted out. Then we have to get our bikes inspected. What a hassle. We fill out forms and then we have to take off all our luggage and get it x-rayed. Then he looks through our side cases. Honestly these searches are pretty lame. If I was actually going to hide something I wouldn't put it somewhere obvious! We packed the bikes back up and he stamped our passenger list form. We drive off to some other lady and we fill out some more forms. She stamps our passenger list form. Finally we are done and we hand the passenger list form to the exit guard. That passenger list form sure is necessary. Ha that was sarcasm. What a joke! But at least we are free to tear up Chile.
We finally reach another country

We of course make a wrong turn in Arica, but soon get on Ruta 5 heading south. That's pretty much all we did. The only word that comes to mind is dry. We went south until it was getting late. We tried stopping at a real campground but the gate was all locked up. So we found a bush camp location instead. Oh and the stars were amazing!
Riding in Chile
Cool valleys
Starting the search for a camping spot
Settled for the night

Peru Final Thoughts:

I will try to be objective because we spent a lot of time in Peru without our bikes which totally changes my perspective of the country. So compared with the others final thoughts I've done for other countries this one may be a little biased.

The best riding, hands down, since we left the United Sates and entered Mexico. Riding in the Sierra has been the best experience of this whole trip. The combination of readily available bush camping and isolated empty roads was a dream. If I had the chance to do any part of this trip again the only thing I would do is ride the Sierra in Peru.

The best food as well by a mile. So much variety and selection and I don't even eat seafood (which eliminated a good part of famous peruvian cuisine). I think my favourites were Causa and Palta a la Reina. Oh and tequenos. I love the sauce that comes with tequenos.

For whatever reason Peruvians have a superiority complex over their neighbours and this is reflected throughout the different aspects of peruvian culture. It seems to be self proclaimed and from what I can tell unwarranted. I'm probably going to get flamed for this comment but both Alberto and I agree that Peru would be one of the most coveted places to live if it was run by Scandinavians rather than Peruvians. Oh sure we had amazing encounters with individuals, especially in the highlands, but as a whole Peruvians were not naturally friendly and we had more negative encounters with people trying to ask directions than the whole rest of the trip combined. I enjoyed Peru in autonomy and disliked it when I had nothing to do when the bikes were broken.

Drivers were terrible. Colombia and Peru are now tied for the worst drivers in Latin America, no contest. Though it's funny how different experiences provide different opinions. A couple we met in Peru (riding a KTM) had found that drivers in Ecuador were the craziest. So it really just comes down to personal experiences.
Colombians are bad drivers because they make poor decisions (like passing a truck on an uphill around a blind corner). Peruvians are bad drivers because they drive with their latino egos at the forefront of their decision making. This equates to aggressive driving and generally not being too happy when someone passes you. Near Huaraz there was road construction. Of course us on our bikes went to the front of the line. When the line started going again the combi directly behind me came within centimeters of running me over because he wanted to get in front of me. As it turned out we left him in our dust (which is usually the case) so it wasn't like WE were holding HIM up.

An offhand comment. And this isn't an attack on Peru, it's on all of Latin America actually, I just have forgotten to write about until now and recently (Ecuador and Peru) it has come up more. The use of the round-about (or traffic circle). My concept of the round-about is to provide a traffic flowing intersection not a full blown 4-way intersection. In Latin America the round-about is used in many ways. We've seen stop signs at the entrance of them (pretty much eliminating the need for the circle at all). At that point it just becomes a 4-way. In Ecuador (where they are popular on the highways) we encountered round-abouts that only had one possible entrance and exit. Very mysterious. But in particular people just have no idea how to use them in the first place (and I am by no means saying Canadians do, that is also an uphill battle). People entering the round-about don't even so much as hint at braking and fly into the circle forcing the traffic in the circle to yield. Crazy! Another thing that has confused me is situations where there is only 3 lanes or less of traffic in the circle and three lanes of traffic trying to enter the circle. As you can imagine this puts everything at a standstill since there is never any room for new traffic to enter. I could go on and on with the crazy things I've seen happening in round-abouts but I would be here all day.
One thing is certain. The most dangerous place to be in Peru, is inside a round-about with peruvian drivers. It's every man for himself!

Cops were a pain. We got stopped more times in Peru than the rest of the trip combined but we found the cops to be pretty lazy and it was easy to get away without having to give up any fake documents. So for that reason the encounters were usually humorous and entertaining, especially since Alberto is fluent and could here them expressing their frustration that they didn't know how to ask for a bribe in English.

Since the moment we got into Mexico Alberto has been mentally comparing all prices to Peru, which in his mind was super cheap. Now that we are here we have discovered how much prices have come up over the last few years. It's not as cheap as it used to be.

It seemed to us that Peruvian dogs were more aggressive than anywhere else we've been. Not only did they bark in the same way that peruvian drivers honk, but they would chase us like crazy.

And finally we developed a saying while we were in Peru: “Welcome to Peru”. Whenever something really retarded but typically Peruvian happened we just turned to each other and said “Welcome to Peru”.

Alberto says: The Peru is like the early days of the UFC, anything goes. And the only rule is that there are no rules.

A special critique of the Lima BMW Dealer: by Alberto

The thing with the Lima dealer is that they are young and they just need time to polish the service they provide. It is an accomplishment in itself (since they have no experience doing this type of thing) that they rebuilt our engines and they finished both engines in just 6 days thanks to the mechanic they hired to work exclusively on our bikes. So far everything is working well. They do a good job of accommodating travelers. For a BMW dealer the service is relatively cheap (compared with Colombia, Chile and Argentina). The two main service providers at the dealer, Caesar and Eduardo, were avid bikers at one point in their lives so they understand motorcycles. Finally the dealer is only a short detour from the Panamerican so it's easy to find. I can't say the same for Ruta 40 in Medellin.
Things that went wrong. The bikes weren't stored with care: headlights hanging by the wiring, and critical engines parts exposed to the elements. The bits and pieces (fairing, bolts, protectors...) were stored in a careless manner (scratched fairing, engine covers, engine pieces, radiator) and in some cases pieces went missing (bolts and bits). They had the bikes for 3 weeks before the parts came in. During that time we asked if they could change our front tires so that we could focus on getting the engines done and the bikes put together. Unfortunately this wasn't done until we were waiting to go when the engines were already back in the bikes. Naomi's front rim is mysteriously dented and Naomi's tube was pinched when they installed the new tire. To their credit once we brought that to their attention they replaced it. We noticed the first time we checked our oil that it was overfilled.
There were a few little things that we caught: checking oil level with a cold engine, installing the tire at the correct position (dot on tire with valve), low tire pressures and misaligned rear wheel.
Overall the service is good, they just need to polish the details. Make sure you go over your bike carefully yourself. The best thing is that the dealer knows there is room to improve and that they want to get better.

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