Monday, April 18, 2011

Day 187 (0km): On the antibiotics

I was still not feeling well this morning so I saw a doctor. He confirmed that I had tonsillitis, and hooked me up with some drugs. My fever was still killing me though and it was more or less a day of suffering.

Day 186 (0km): Hard to get moving again

I'm still sick and Alberto was happy to putter around the house getting things done.

We met two bikers from America (BMW and Suzuki), and then an additional biker on a KLR. We had a nice chat with them while they had lunch and then went on our way.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Day 185 (0km): Sick

I woke up with a terrible virus and pretty much couldn't do anything all day. Alberto made himself productive and kept tackling the list. In the evening I dragged myself out to a dinner with a bunch of friends as we had planned. Luckily I was feeling marginally better by that point, but I still had a painful headache and muscle cramps. All in all though dinner was fun.
Alberto hard at work

Day 184 (0km): Work continues

We just kept working on our list; visited with a few friends. More or less nothing noteworthy.

Day 183 (33km): Back in Huanchaco

It was all too familiar waking up in the tent, on the roof, to the fog rolling in from the Pacific. We didn't really have plans for the day just a long list of things to get done over the next few days. So after breakfast we started with the list.

In the afternoon we met up with a local Trujillo biker club that had tracked Alberto down on Facebook. One of the members, Julio, came to the house on his KLR. We chatted for a bit and then rode the bikes into the city. What followed was a bizarre experience and it felt like I was in a commercial. As we rode our route into Trujillo more bikes joined our convoy. These were members of the club meeting up with us on the road. It was surreal as we weaved around the city at night in a bike pack that was getting bigger and bigger. I had no idea where we were going I just followed the bike in front of me and hoped we'd end up somewhere that had food. 
We eventually pulled up to a place to have dinner and by that point the group was six bikes. Two KLRs, our BMWs and two Harleys. We had a nice time talking about the trip and bike related stuff over dinner and that was that.
Parked up at the restaurant
Everyone at dinner
Looking over the map

Day 182 (570km): Running the police gauntlet

We were too tired from the previous few days to make an attempt to get out of Lima under cover of morning darkness. We had a leisurely breakfast with Alberto's grandma and then packed the bikes for our departure.

Riding out of Miraflores was pretty simple because there is a new bypass part of the way. Getting on to the Panamericana is signed so that was pretty straight forward as well. We were cruising down what we thought was the Panamericana (there were no signs indicating otherwise) when all of a sudden the massive highway just suddenly ended. Surprised and confused we continued in what we thought was a northerly direction and then the road really did end. End in the sense that there were barriers and no where to go. WTF?!! Where were we, and where did the Panamericana go? We escaped through a tiny gap in the concrete barriers. On the other side was a cop with florescent gloves and a whistle trying to stop us. We didn't have time for whatever he was selling so we just ignored him and continued our search for the Panam Norte. We drove a little further down the road and suddenly found ourselves in a dense pile of traffic. Ugh. We were lost.

A friendly moto agreed to lead us back to the Panamericana, very nice of him. His driving was a little too opportunistic for our large bikes, but he waited for us when we fell behind and showed us how to get back to where we needed to be. It took us a while to get back on track and we have no idea how we got so far off track. We were on a major highway and then suddenly we were not. Getting back on track consisted of driving in heavy traffic in sketchy neighbourhoods. A passing women commented to her friend that we were most definitely martians.

Safely back on the Panamericana we continued our quest to get out of Lima. No easy task for all of those that know the messed up situation that IS the northern section of the Lima Panamericana. There were plenty of close calls and crazed bike messenger driving. After 1.5hrs we had exited the city. That's what we get for not trying to leave at 5am. I think without a doubt the section of Panamericana that goes through Lima (and I am taking into consideration the entire road) is the worst section of the entire highway, we have ridden. It is embarrassingly chaotic. The highway should not go through Lima but the city is such an out of control monster there is nothing that can be done.
Still feeling a bit angry about the whole detour we found ourselves doing we arrived at our first toll booth. Still not completely in the distance crunching groove, we were casually approaching the toll booth and I specifically slowed down to the posted speed limit cause I was feeling law abiding. There was a whole bunch of police officers in attendance and one was kind enough to pull us over.

He was wearing earphones which I thought seemed kind of rude. He immediately asked for Alberto's license, in English. Alberto, wholeheartedly playing dumb, told him we were going from Lima to Trujillo. Again he asked for his License. Still avoiding the issue Alberto asked why we had been pulled over. Normally we are speeding or passing on double lines, something illegal, but in this case we were on our best behaviour. Apparently this particular police officer doesn't like answering questions because his reason for pulling us over was because he is the police. Since he seemed quite proud that he was the police Alberto asked him for identification. Once he showed his ID Alberto gave him his license; seemed like a fair trade. The situation then proceeded to go downhill fast. He was very annoyed at having to produce identification and then asked Alberto to take off his helmet. Alberto just gave him a straight-up no. The officer wanted the bike's documents. Alberto kept saying he didn't speak spanish. At this point the officer could be heard, saying in Spanish, now you will see what's going to happen to you. I'm going to keep you here all day. This was the point of no return. He walked over to me and was looking over my license. Alberto used this distraction as an opportunity to escape. He took off and the cop got all worked up. He was making a phone call, or pretending to make a phone call to scare me. He was telling me something about our licenses being copies and while he was looking at them I took off as well. Now YOU will see what's going to happen loser. It's always a good idea to leave the bike running.

We fled the scene of the tool booth and figured that we should keep our eyes pealed for check points just in case he actually did phone ahead to someone. We had a pretty good idea of where we'd find police (since we'd come this way before) and we used a shield strategy. When we were approaching police we would stick like glue to the back of another car. This strategy was very successful and I think that we managed to avoid being pulled 3 or 4 more times today by using this method.
We made it through 2 police points using a shield before being pulled over again. These guys were standing in the middle of the road and we were all by ourselves, so there was nothing we could do but pull over. There were two this time. Again we weren't even speeding. They asked for our licenses but we had left the other cop with our copies and didn't have any more on hand. Alberto did however have his ticket from Argentina which also doubles as a duplicate license. This is what he gave the police and I was in the middle of explaining my situation with hand signals when the officer got tired of me and went over to double team Alberto. They asked for the bike's document and Alberto explained that we were robbed. I was surprised that the officer understood the word robbed, but later Alberto explained to me that he used the universal peruvian hand gesture for thievery and that's how they knew what was going on. Anyways, one of them halfheartedly tried to tell us we were speeding and then pointed to the 240 on our speedometer. Alberto just laughed and, since they only had a piece of paper representing his license, quickly gave up on him and sent us on our way.

Soon we had passed the highly concentrated police zone just north of Lima. We noticed that a white new F150 we had been following got pulled over twice by the police along the same stretch. Crazy. It's just shameless targeting of people they think will pay up.

Things were mellowing out policewise and we were getting into the groove of the day. The desert reminded me of the Atacama (cause they were sand coloured mountains) but with sand dunes thrown in. Personally I think the Atacama scenery is more spectacular.
Large sand dune
A different angle
We were coming through a town and on the lookout for a gas station. There was a slow moving truck ahead of me that was pulling over to the right so I went around him to the left. It was even a dotted line. To my horror there was police only 20m away; one in the truck, one on the road. The one on the road motioned for my attention. I pretended to be dumb and gave my best stupid tourist wave back. He then gave me the slow down arm and tried to pull us over. When we both just drove by I could see in my mirror that the truck had it's lights on and the guy was heading for the truck. Crap. Then they started to chase us. Knowing from previous experience it took a cop car 15 min to catch us and we didn't even know we were outrunning them at the time we figured we should just make a run for it. So that's what we did. We took off at breakneck speed down the road. We kept up this pace for a while, and to our advantage the road got twisty and hilly. Our only worry was getting pulled over by other police and these guys catching up to us. That would have been awkward. We made it through two toll booths though and no police ever showed up in our mirrors. Serves them right for trying to pick on Adventure Bikers.

We continued to use the shield technique for the rest of day, especially when approaching toll booths. Which brings me to my critique of the toll booths in Peru. They do not have consistent moto bypasses and there are no signs. You have to figure each one out and sometimes the bypass is on the other side of the road. You have to cross traffic to use it. Very stupid and dangerous.
The only other incident with a cop was when we passed one, AT the speed limit and he gave us the slow down hand gesture. These idiots have no perception of how fast we are travelling. What little respect I had for Peruvian cops completely vanished today. I'm dreading having to drive to Lima one last time.
Neat texture
All you have to do is follow your nose to find Chimbote. The smell of fish is overpowering and quite frankly disgusting. It gave my tummy an uneasy feeling it was so powerful. At least by that point we were getting close to Huanchaco though and the terrible day was coming to a close. Corruption puts such a sour taste in your mouth and pretty much ruins a day.

We pulled up to Alberto's parents house in early evening and resumed our usual spot camping on the roof.

Day 181 (442km): Driving a familiar road

We had breakfast with my family and then said goodbye, as they were off to have a flying tour of the Nazca lines. Before we could go anywhere Alberto needed to sort out his front tire, which was completely flat now. This turned into a huge ordeal. The 17 wrench from under the seat is useless we discovered. Try as he may he could not get the wheel off with the tools we had. No worries, he repaired the tube by leaving the wheel on. Take that BMW toolkit!
Flat tire
Buffet breakfast
Taking a short break
Trying to make the under seat tool useful
While we were packing up my sister phoned saying that they had finished their flight and were hanging around Nazca. We finished packing and found them in town. We had a nice sit down lunch with everyone. This was the first sit down lunch we've had on a riding day since leaving the US. It was kind of weird. My family were happy to be able to consume beer for the first time since arriving in Peru (no alcohol sales during the election).
Sitting down for some lunch
Pretty bikes
My dad was happy to be drinking beer now that the election was over
A selection of Peruvian food for lunch
Pollo saltado
Pollo Relleno
We parted ways at around 1:30 and we were soon riding on familiar turf. This is the 4th time we've driven this section of road now, and it's not exactly the most thrilling. Shortly after leaving Nazca I had the most dangerous road encounter in Peru ever! A bus saw me, then decided to pass a truck anyways. He was completely taking up my lane and I was happy there was a firm shoulder for me to use. I was not impressed with the situation.

You know how things go. It's the Panamericana and there is sand. Today was pretty much all business, we were just trying to pound out some kilometers in a north direction. We saw lots of police but didn't get pulled over a single time. Shocking for Peru. Maybe our luck is changing?

We were planning to camp but as it got late and we got closer to Lima the camping options became limited. We decided to push on and get all the way to Lima, where we could stay with Alberto's grandma.

It was dark for the last little bit, but we made it to Alberto's grandma's without incident. Well except for missing our exit again (we missed it last time) and then had to backtrack. All part of the fun right?

Day 180 (362km): Plenty of twists

The morning was sunny and warm. We had a delicious breakfast prepared at the restaurant and caught up on the Peruvian election situation on TV. In anticipation for our decent to the desert I packed up all my warm clothes and was wearing my warm weather riding gear. We had seen plenty of traffic coming on the road so we were confident that the slides were cleared.

Back on the road we approached the first slide, which was half cleared. The second slide was quite a bit bigger than when we left the area so more material must have come down. It was about 600 tonnes the amount of material that had fell. For several kilometers we passed slides that had been cleared enough for one lane of traffic. A very unstable area it would seem.
The state of the road
At one of the slides I had a chance to talk to a traveler on a KLR coming the opposite direction. He had just come from Ayacucho where he had to detour around the bridge that was out. He said that the Sierra was a mess with mudslides, and detours etc... so I guess it's probably good that we were heading to the coast now.

As well as slides to keep an eye out for there are tons of small river crossings on the highway. Water is allowed to flow over a man-made drainage. In theory this is okay, despite being weird on a major highway, but sometimes debris builds up and it can take you by surprise as you are driving down the road at highway speeds.
Some nice riding
Instead of descending, the road kept going up. Up, up, up until I got so cold I had to put my heated vest on. We encountered some typically crazy drivers and for the first time on this trip Alberto chased down a mining pick-up that tried to run us off the road. The driver got a not so pleasant earful of spanish when Alberto pulled him over. There is very little skill demonstrated by Peruvian drivers when travelling at speeds.
Curving upwards
Yay for sun
Curvy road
Nice mountains
Take note Peruvians, I manage to stay in my lane and still have fun
Keeping a close eye on that bus
Attempting knee down
The photographer
It was sunny for most of the morning and then the dark clouds appeared on the horizon. I could still see some blue sky and lived with the hope that the road would take us that way. We were rained on a tiny bit but it soon stopped raining and our clothes dried from riding. As we were coming into Puquio Alberto was complaining about handling problems with his bike. I said he should check the air in his tire. Sure enough it was low. We had a small compressor but it takes a while to pump up a tire and we were practically in town so we limped the last few kms into town to find some compressed air. First gas station didn't have any; the second gas station didn't have any. They sent across the street where there were some tires laying around and a small child of about 5 years old supervising a store. They didn't have air, but I did buy some snacks from this kid. Oh the experience you get when travelling in 3rd world countries.
A typical highland town
Alberto spotted a real tire shop just down the road and walked his bike over. The tire was repaired in no time but the wheel took some trouble to get back on. After all was said and done 2 hours had passed. The blue sky we were previously staring into had become dark clouds and rain.
Front wheel off
Looking for the leak
The culprit: a tiny spike of metal
Patching the tube
Getting everything back together
At first there was rain as we climbed back up into the mountains, but just sprinkles. Then there was just fog. We were driving in the fog for a really long time. When we came back out of the fog there was heavy rain and some hail. The hail hurt like hell. The road just kept going up and slightly down not seeming to make any net gain in a downward direction. I kept thinking to myself, do we ever go down to Nazca??

When the rain was really hard I got soaked (since I didn't put my rain liners in) and the road just kept going up with the temperature dropping rapidly. It was very difficult to see because with all the moisture from the rain and the cold air, my visor stayed in a permanent state of fogginess.

At first I thought I was seeing things, but no, there were small patches of snow at the side of the road. Then without warning there was snow on the ROAD. I guess the small patches at the side of the road were the warning. Alberto was leading and he was sliding like crazy in the slush. Luckily he did not crash. I had a sliding experience myself but not as scary as his. Still sliding in slush at speed isn't fun no matter how well it turns out. Because of foggy visor situation it was really difficult to pick out the snow on the road and that's why it took us by surprise.

By this point I was freezing especially my hands. I had all my heated gear turned up to the max and was desperately watching my temperature gauge in hopes that it would start rising. I kept picturing the hot desert in Nazca. The temperature accent was slow at first but once we got into the drier topography it started to rise more quickly. It didn't matter. I was already chilled and left my heated vest on max until we got to Nazca (a comfortable 26 degrees).
Starting our dry descent
The twisty road
Naomi being twisty
The entire day was twisty mountain roads; which was quite challenging given the smorgasbord of weather conditions we encountered. A few easy days on the Panamericana might be nice. At least we are pretty much guaranteed no rain.

We had never planned to meet up with my family before our little vacation in Mancora but since we have had so many plan changes over the last few days we ended up being in the same city as them so we thought we'd put in the effort to find them. We phoned up their tour company and found out the hotel they were staying at.
Alberto modeling the latest in duct tape fashion

It's a little out of town and on the way there Alberto got another flat tire (in the front again). We didn't want to deal with it (it was getting dark) so we pulled into a gas station, pumped it full of air, and went to the hotel. My family wasn't there yet so we waited. We were under the impression that they were supposed to arrive in the late afternoon or early evening. We waited, and waited. It was dark and Alberto's tire was less than 100%.

The hotel was out of our budget and they wouldn't let us camp in a corner of their parking lot (hidden away). We could have bush camped but the tire was suspect and we didn't know what the deal was with my family. We decided to suck it up and pay for a room at the fancy tourist hotel. We waited as long as we could to have dinner with them but they never showed up.

Eventually, after I had fallen asleep, they arrived. We went out to greet them. Their bus was late and they'd also had a long day. We socialized for a while and then went to bed sometime after midnight. Sounds like they have been having a great time in Peru so far, which is nice to hear.
Sharing stories
That must be one hell of a story, eh Nik?

Day 179 (302km): Stopped, dead in our tracks

Today we had to say goodbye to the luxurious lifestyle we had enjoyed through the comfort of the Marani Hostal and the delicious food options around Cusco. Also we had to say goodbye to Loren. We had lots of fun with him, and I hope we get to see him again in BC this summer. Loren, being the awesome guy that he is, offered to direct us out of town and we were out of the city in no time. I bet that following him probably saved us over an hour of frustration.

Once on our way we were enjoying the legendary twisties. It was very twisty until well after Abancay. It took a lot of focus and at some point before Abancay I started to feel a bit sick; probably from the altitude. So I wasn't really enjoying myself as much as I probably could have. The good part was that we weren't rained on though. That would have added insult to injury. 
Packing and getting ready to leave
This is where Loren and us part ways

Bye Loren, have a good ride
On the road again
The highlands
More scenery
We reached a plateau of sorts and the road flattened out. We were able to actually stay in 6th for long stretches (not possible before in the twisties) and started to make some good progress. We had just stopped to put on our rain gear when we noticed a line of traffic ahead. At first we thought it was road construction and then once we got close enough to see, we discovered there had been a landslide. Great.

No sooner had we parked, there was another landslide further up the road. There was a lot of material in the way in the first landslide in front of us and the mud was very unstable. Alberto, cause he always has to try, tried to take my bike over but it was always going to be a losing battle.
The situation; note the second one in the back
Alberto needs to discover his limits in real time
Needs help to even get out
This guy on his tiny bike BARELY made it past
After that failed attempt we waited. While we were waiting we turned our engineering brains on and decided that the slope we were parked under was potentially unsafe and decided it would be a good idea to move. After we had moved there was another large failure up the road (not where we were). Clearly this was an unstable area and not somewhere you want to hang out.

We talked to the police and they said it would be about an hour before the road was clear. It was already 4pm so we decided it wasn't worth waiting around to see if the road cleared on time. We retreated and went in search of a place to camp. There wasn't many options since the road ran along side a river but then Alberto remembered a fancy hotel he'd seen only 10km back. So we went there and asked the guy if we could camp on the property. We thought we'd have to do some convincing and explain that the road was closed but he immediately said that it was no problem if we camped.
Cutting our losses and camping
While we lay in the tent relaxing we could hear the road opened shortly after 5pm. Even if we had waited it out I doubt we would have found a better camping spot than this further down the road.
We went exploring the grounds
A peruvian dog
William, our tour guide, and the fish pond
The Hotel
Awww, isn't he cute
A peacock roaming the grounds
Analyzing the sticker wall