After leaving Vilcabamba in Ecuador, I rode a blissful 200 kms to the Peruvian border at Macara in the belief that this was the most important land border and thus the easiest to cross. But it turned out to be little more than a grumpy man in a hot shed who insisted on seeing my Chilean drivers licence. After an anxious couple of hours of paper shuffling, he finally let me cross the border with the moto. The contrast to Ecuador was quite stark as gone were the vegetated high mountains and hills to be replaced by flat and dusty desert. Also, Peru is a lot poorer than Ecuador so there were lots of apocalyptic, Mad Max style towns on the side of the Panamerican, proving that humans can survive an impending environmental collapse. There were no ATMs at the border, so I had no Peruvian Sol, but I managed to swap five American dollars for a gallon of petrol from a bored young man standing next to a lonely petrol bowser.
This was a hard day riding of about 500 kms, and I arrived at Colan on the Pacific coast at around sunset. Colan was a desolate Peruvian holiday town; a mixture of plastic and thatch restaurants and authentic South American village. It had a sleepy town square, colourful adobe houses, and a very prominent and strange looking church thrusting out of the desert. I had fish and rice for dinner and slept peacefully in a hotel right next to the ocean with the feeling that the sea was lapping at my bed.
The next day I rode to Chiclayo, a reasonably large city, but with not a lot for a traveler to do. I couldn’t decipher the crappy guidebook map of the city, so spent a long time looking for a budget hotel where I could store the moto. The last hotel I visited initially said no, but then the proprietor said I could keep the moto in her bedroom. It was a nice hotel, and I slept well and rose early to visit the witch doctor section of the local market. But witch doctors obviously don’t get out of bed as early as I do and thus I couldn’t find it.
I then rode to Huanchaco, another beach town, next to Trujillo on the Pacific coast. This was a pleasant enough town near a large pre-Colombian, adobe ruin called Chan Chan. I rode the moto around the vast ruin, but there wasn’t much left of it which is probably to be expected of a city built 700 years ago out of mud.
The next day was possible the best days riding of my life as I went from the Pacific coast up into the Andes past shear 1000 metre cliff faces and deeps gorges. The highlight was Canon del Pato, which many Peruvians call the world’s most dangerous road. The road disappears into spooky, roughly carved, one lane tunnels cut into the mountains (I will write a separate blog post about this very special ride).
I arrived late in the day in the unique city of Caraz, set beneath jagged, snow-covered mountains. I stayed in a rather generic hotel, but with a balcony overlooking the lively town square. The next day I rode 25 kms up a drunken goat track to visit Laguna Paron, a bucolic lake that looked like the wallpaper in the bathroom of a flashy London club.
The ride from Caraz to Barranca was again a long one, but it was downhill, so it felt as though I was on a real motorcycle. Barranca was a sad, Peruvian holiday resort geared up for a party that had long gone. I didn’t leave my hotel room this night as the beach was frigid and the town a bit sketchy.
From Barranca I made a small detour to Caral; to visit the ruins of a one of the worlds first large cities dating back to 4500 BC, roughly the birth of civilisation (along with the Chinese, Indian, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian formative contributions to what we call civilisation). The place was entirely deserted as most tourists would prefer to visit the overrated Inca rock stars who have a better promoter.
On the way back to the Panamerican I took a short cut, but the road disappeared into the fields, so I had to turn back losing a precious two hours of travel time. This was bad news as I had a big day of riding ahead that included riding through Lima. I had decided to give Lima the flick as I had already spent a month in a large, modern South American workhorse, Bogota, and Lima is a lot meander and tougher than Bogota. Luckily there was a road that went straight through the centre, past the many kilometers of colourful shanty towns built on the hill (in developed countries it is the rich people who have the best view).
After Lima, a strong head wind, whipped up from the desert, brought with it mouth fulls of sand. I closed my visor but couldn’t see very much, so blindly rode on at 60 kph for the next 300 kms to Huacachina. At 8 PM that evening, I arrived in Huacachina, a desert oasis a few kilometers from the major town of Ica. The oasis was a stagnant pond with a few palm trees and pissy party hostels, but the sand dunes were magnificent (and fun to climb).
From Huacachina, I rode to Nazca, along the Panamerican and through the Nazca lines. The Nazca lines date from 450 AD and were made by aliens. The aliens drew animals like geoglyphs in the desert so that the Discovery Channel could make gee-whizz documentaries about them to make mysterious things sound more interesting than they are. The Panamerican goes straight through the centre of one which was sort of convenient as I was hungry and wanted to get to Nazca for dinner.
I had dinner with a lovely Italian couple I met in the central square of Nazca, slept well, and set off very early the next morning on the long, two-day ride to Cusco (with stop-over). I rode past the world tallest sand dune (at 2000 meters), but didn’t have time to stop and do whatever you do at exceedingly tall sand dunes. The two-day ride was spectacular but the higher I got into the Andes, the colder it got. Then, what all 125 cc moto riders on high mountains with ten dollar gloves fear, it started to snow. I stopped, pondered the situation, then put a pair of my bamboo socks over my gloves and soldiered on. After being chased by dogs that were possibly rabid (and didn’t respond kindly to sly kicks-in-the-head), riding through rock slides, rain, and intermittent snow, I arrived in Cusco where I am now. I plan to stay here for a while and rest after riding 3000 exceedingly diverse Inca-kms in less than two weeks.