Friday, January 31, 2014

January 31, 2014 Paracus National Park, 35 degrees C

This morning we went to Paracas National Reserve, a 335,000 ha reserve on the Paracas peninsula. The drive through the park is on solid rock mixed with boulders and of course lots of sand. There are roadways but also many paths that lead off into more remote areas. At one point the BMW gets bogged down in soft sand and Diana has to push as I paddle with my feet and the new tire spraying sand all-over Diana. Once on firm ground we empty our shoes of sand and pebbles and continue exploring until mid afternoon. For those in the area, this is defiantly a must see park with great photo opportunities and a nice museum.






Thursday, January 30, 2014

January 30, 2014, Lima, Peru

While checking out of the hotel this morning I ask the front desk clerk about the different routes into Lima. She tells us to avoid a particular area as it is extremely dangerous. We've heard from others about this dangerous area but wonder if it's an urban legend or actually true. She says that guys will jump you from above, off bridges and rob you of anything valuable.
Our approach to Lima (population 9 million) is typical, mountains of garbage beside the highway, shanty towns with shacks made of anything that can be scrounged, high density housing amongst factories and warehouses, new American style shopping malls and then miles of grid lock on a road system that is probably 40 years out of date. From the outskirts of town it takes 2 hours to reach the BMW dealer where hopefully they have a new rear tire in stock. Eduardo meets us as soon as we drive in, we talk tires and make our way to the parts department, we are in luck, they have a Heidenau K60 in stock for $220 CAN and get it installed for under $19 CAN. This tire is a 50/50 on/off road tire and should be a good choice for Bolivia and Chile where we expect more off road riding than we've seen till now.
 Service department at BMW in Lima, Peru.
 New tire looks like it came off of a John Deere tractor.
BMW dealer in Lima, Peru (nice operation)
The bike gets wheeled into the shop and within minutes a mechanic starts removing the rear wheel.
Diana and I cross the street for a pollo sandwich and when we return the bike is getting a long overdue bath. The service here is awesome, friendly and knowledgeable staff and a great facility with an inventory of new bikes and a parts department that has stuff in stock.
Eduardo gives us some advice on what to see and where to eat along with hotels along the route to Cusco.
Another hour and we have navigated our way out of Lima and to our surprise not even a single wrong turn. Not bad considering the 9 million people and crazy traffic! On the outskirts of town we stop for a drink at a gas station and once again we're asked for permission as the locals want their pictures taken while seated on the bike, this time by a father and his early 20's daughters and son.
On Eduardo's advice we head to Paracus, a small town on the coast and next to a National Park. We cruise through town looking for accommodations and come upon a dated resort style hotel. A sign at the front desk has a rate of 260 soles ($106 CAN) and as I turn to leave the negotiation process begins. In the end we pay 100 soles ($39 CAN) and get an upgrade to a king suite and the bonus is we can park outside our door.

Monday, January 27, 2014

January 27, 2014, Huanchaco to Huacho, Peru

Spent a total on three nights in Huanchaco, our hospedaje was just across the road from the beach where most of our days were spent. The Hospedaje Oceano was clean, we were able to park the motto in the restaurant after they closed and the cost was 50 soles per night but the noise from the street made it difficult to get a good sleep.
 Catch of the day being sorted before getting delivered to the local restaurants.
 Fishing boats, the front is stuffed with Styrofoam.

January 29th, feeling slightly better we hit the road again passing through more desert terrain. Near the town of Barranca we get pulled over by the police. The senior guy is sitting in the truck and the junior officer asks for passports, license and insurance which I give him copies of all documents. He proceeds to tell me that he wants to see our SOAT insurance. We didn't purchase the SOAT insurance at the border as we had coverage on a policy we purchased in New York. After debating this for 15 minutes I'm told that I passed illegally on a double solid line and now the senior officer gets involved and wants to see my original drivers license which I show him (BIG MISTAKE). Once he has my original license I'm informed that the fine is 438 soles which I try negotiating down to 200 soles. The officer tells me if I don't pay I won't get my license back and proceeds to show me a pocket full of foreign drivers licenses he has. At this point my options are very few, I pay the 438 soles ($178 CAN) to get my license back but now he wont give me a receipt or a ticket for the violation. After getting no where in our argument I get the unit number of the truck and proceed down the highway. Later in the evening I send an email to the National Police describing what happened and explaining how I was forced to make a cash payment and never was charged with the violation or issued the receipt for the payment. I'm not expecting a reply as Peru is well known for it's corruption in their police force. For those of you wondering if I did violate the law, if passing two semi's on a solid line is breaking the law then yes, I am guilty.

We make our way to Huacho and finally find an ATM that accepts our debit card and replenish our cash. Upon checking in at the hotel we meet a couple of brothers in their early sixties who are riding KLR650's. One is from Green Bay the other from Tucson, they've been in the Andes checking out the back roads when the front tire blows out sending one of them into the ditch. He is using a cane to walk and you can tell he is hurting from the crash. They are off to Lima in the morning and are looking for safe storage for the bikes until they return next winter.

 Flag girls dressed for the wind and blowing sand.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

January 26, 2014, Piura to Huanchaco, Peru

Had a slow start to our day as we slept in and didn’t get on the road until 10:30, I really needed the rest and yes, I am on vacation. The better part of the day was spent driving through a desert with some fairly large sand dunes and sand drifting onto the road in places. We had some fierce cross winds and even with sun glasses and my face shield totally closed I was getting sand in my eyes. The roads from Piura to Huanchaco were mostly good pavement with lots of construction in certain areas. On the good stretches of highway I was able to lock in the cruise at 110 km/h to make up for our late start.
 Desert between Piura and Huanchaco, Peru.
 Free range goats somehow manage to survive on the little vegetation that does grow in the desert.
 These sand fences along the side of the highway are about 12 feet tall and set on a slight angle into the wind.
We are starting to notice fuel shortages in Peru and even though our range is 450 kilometers we start looking for fuel when the tank is half empty. On the drive today we noticed a pilot truck leading ten semis with tankers of fuel all in a convoy. In some areas of the desert there are roadside tables with wine bottles lined up on them, it took me a while to figure it out but the bottles contain gasoline for sale should you not have enough to make it to the next gas station.
 Tuktuk's are everywhere in the city's and are an option to a cab.
In some areas the desert is being flooded and rice is being grown for as far as the eye can see.
Arriving in Huachuca about 5 pm the place is a mad house, thousands of people all over the streets and traffic is at a standstill. After making our way partially through town we grab a hotel for one night and set out on foot to search for something more economical and grab a bite for supper. This is a surfer’s hangout on the Pacific Ocean and the waves look awesome. By 9 pm the buses have taken most of the day trippers back to wherever they came from and other than some street entertainment and street vendors selling kabobs its getting quiet.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

January 25, 2014, Piura, Peru

We are still in Piura, Peru and trying to shake this cold that is now about 2 weeks old. I only leave the room a few times a day to go eat and the balance of my day is spent in bed either sleeping or just relaxing. This afternoon we went to the Farmacia and with the help of a translation program on my phone we were able to get some medication for my kennel cough. No need to see a doctor here as the pharmacies are able to dispense medications without a prescription.

Diana went looking for a suitable restaurant, one that is popular with the locals this afternoon while I rested. We return to the place she chose and it's packed with people, some look like they are on their way to a  wedding as they are dressed for a celebration, others are packing bags from an afternoon of shopping. We wait around for 15 minutes for a table and I finally say to Diana we need to get a cheek on a seat as soon as a diner looks like they're finished eating or we'll never get a table, the waiter eventually chases a woman away who bulldogged her way into a table before others who had been waiting longer than her and motions us to have a seat. We had a triple deck sandwich with tomato, avocado and sliced hard boiled egg which was a nice change from rice and chicken or rice and mystery meat in slurry. Diana finished with a bowl of fresh fruit and yogurt while I had to try the apple cheesecake which was very good.

After supper we sat on a park bench next to a traffic circle which has a monument in the middle and watched the traffic chaos. We did a survey of vehicles and found for every 100 cabs that passed us there was 21 private vehicles (in less than 5 minutes). The cabs, most of which shouldn't be on the road are in desperate need of repair. We saw vehicles with no taillights or brake lights, fenders flapping in the breeze, totally bald tires, etc. The cabbies drive around with their left hand hanging out the window and they rotate their wrist back and forth, we're not exactly sure what it means, possibly a left turn signal, maybe right signal, perhaps a signal to brake, or just a warning to be careful because they're going to make an erratic maneuver of some type. Their right hand is constantly alternating from the horn or waving at someone, either to get their attention or looking for a fare. There is no effort on the cabbies part to get their client to the curb and they will just stop in the middle of the traffic and the client needs to find their own way to the sidewalk and safety. As we are discussing the free entertainment we review our travels over the past 3 months and come to the conclusion that even with all this madness on the roads we have witnessed fewer accidents in South and Central America than we did while traveling in the USA.
It's not uncommon to see taxis without any tail, brake or signal lights.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

January 22 & 23, 2014, Macara, Ecudaor to Piura, Peru

 Our last day in Ecuador was an awesome drive from Azogues to Macara with huge elevation changes (again) and non stop turns, switchbacks and more livestock to avoid.  Our hotel room in Azogues cost $31 USD (including breakfast of eggs, buns, Colada de avena con naranjilla, coffee or tea along with ham and cheese) was huge with lamps and lots of ceiling lights which is extremely rare (usually only 1 dim light in a room). The Colada de avena con naranjilla is a refrigerated juice made with oats, cinnamon sticks and naranjillas (a citrus like fruit) and is fairly thick and filling. The following link is for the foodies who want to check out this drink and other Ecuadorian recipes.
 Azogues is known for their white felt Panama hats.
 Ecuadorian highlands.
 While taking a break we notice this elderly lady taking a nap with a walking stick propping her up, a short time later the stick fell to the ground and we thought she would end up face first on the sidewalk.
We arrived in Macara late in the afternoon and found a couple of hotels on the same street, Diana checks out one while I go to the other. She is quoted a gringo price of $40 USD while my hotel was $20 USD. We take the cheaper as it's cleaner and only one flight of stairs and the other was six flights and at the high altitude it's exhausting making three trips from the bike to the room. In the morning I can't get the bike out of the secured garage because three vehicles have me jammed in the corner and we finally get going about 9 am. On the way out of town this medium size dog comes running out of a vacant lot, I think his intention was to get a piece of us but instead we hit him (at 60 km/h) in the right shoulder and both front and rear tires go over him. I look in my mirror and can see him walk away and I'm not about to wait around for the owner, if it even has one to extract a cash payment from me. We continue our dash for the Peru border and are pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to exit Ecuador, takes about 15 minutes for both customs and immigration which are about 20 feet apart and we are the only ones there. Same thing on the Peru side, we are the only ones entering, both customs and immigration are next door to each other and takes about 45 minutes including a conversation with the customs officer.
Trucker taking a nap while waiting for customs clearance.
 Road signs like these are constant in Ecuador (I missed taking a photo of the hairpin sign)
Our expectations of Peru being the same as Ecuador and Columbia are dashed within a few kilometers of the border. The poverty we witness takes us back to Central America, people are living in enclosures made of bamboo weaved together to create walls, no roofs and no doors. There is no running water or bathroom facilities and garbage collection is not existent.
Bamboo huts without doors or roof.
There are goats everywhere and you are constantly watching for them to run across the highway. There is also lots of donkeys, cattle and pigs around every corner. 
We make a run for the coast with intentions of settling down for a number of days so I can recover from this cold and now a groin injury. The 50 kilometers drive from Sullana to Paiti on the coast is littered with more garbage than we have ever witnessed. When we arrive at Paiti we do a quick tour of the city and decide we are not staying in this hell hole and set our sights on Piura which is inland about 55 kilometers. With a population of 380,000 it has a good selection of hotels and restaurants. With the help of the GPS we find a very nice hotel for $48 USD with AC, furniture, hot water, and a great bed.
These are Mangos (not ripe yet), we stopped at a roadside stand and Diana gave the vendor a dollar thinking we would get a few mangos and she stopped him at seven as we didn't have room for more than that. They are extremely juicy!