Saturday, April 16, 2011

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.

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