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We think Colombia is beautiful and awesome and our favorite country of the trip so far, but we woke up this morning ready to get to Bogota, get Kay's license plate, and get moving. We've spent longer than we intended here, waiting for the plate, which cuts the rest of our trip short. Just 7 weeks to get down to Ushuaia and then up to Buenos Aires to fly home!
We'd done some intense Google Mapping with our intermittent internet connection this morning, and I made an executive call to take the big road that goes directly into Bogota from Zipaquira. Kay had wanted a more indirect route that traverses less of the city, but I thought this way would actually be faster, so I requested he concede to me and take the route I wanted. Which he did, and it was great… we got right into Bogota with no hassle, and then found the road we needed to go sorta east across the city. But when it came time to get on the road that heads northwest to the airport, we must have missed the exit. We noticed our mistake and got off a bit further and started circling back - but we simply couldn't get on the road we wanted in the direction we wanted to go. It took us nearly 45 minutes of turning and turning and circling back until we could finally get on the road to the airport.
And then, of course, we went too far (Kay spotted what ended up being the right turn, but I wanted to go further because I was afraid that if we got of the road to the airport again, we'd spend another 45 minutes trying to get back on it.) More circling around, which this time involved going all the way across town on the road leading from the airport until we could make an illegal U-turn to get back and try the turn Kay thought it was.
Kay's note: to get to transversal 93 take the sign for "Almo". Also, that's where all cheap hotels near the airport appear to be. Most of them appear to have parking that is hidden from the street.
Eventually we made it back and it was, indeed, the correct turn. Found the industrial park where the FedEx office was located with fairly little trouble using the street numbers (although there was no FedEx sign out front - it's buried in the back of the complex) and had a little trouble getting in because Kay didn't have a license plate for the guy to record, and neither of us wanted to hand over our passports and didn't have another form of ID he wanted. But we played dumb gringo and eventually he let us through, and told us the FedEx people would have to stamp these pieces of paper he gave us. But they apparently weren't taking any chances with the clearly dangerous gringos, as one of the security guys walked back to the FedEx building and waited there until we pulled up and got off the bikes, making sure that was, indeed, where we were going.
Kay got his package with a minimum of fuss (Thank you so much, Diane!) and opened it up in front of the FedEx building. He'd saved some wire from removing the Aerostich multimeter yesterday, and intended to tie it to his frame since the plate holder thing had fallen off along with his taillight. But the FedEx guys quickly cottoned onto the problem, and brought a fist-full of zip ties out to us - industrial-strength zip ties. Kay proceeded to try a few anchor points and eventually found a good spot to secure the plate, and used a doubly-reinforced system of zip ties and wire to bodge the plate onto the bike, much to the amusement of the FedEx people.
By now, it was 1:15PM, we hadn't had breakfast or lunch, and we just wanted to get out of Bogota. I'd also mapped us a route out taking a different road than we'd taken out of Bogota the first time (through Soacha this time instead of La Mesa, which I think is probably the main route to Cali) and gave in and stopped for food when we saw a Dunkin' Donuts sign at a gas station leaving Soacha. I wasn't hungry at this point, but I was dizzy and lightheaded which is a bad combo for being on the bike. But neither of us having eaten, we knew it was high time to grab food, and at least we knew what to expect from Dunkin Donuts.
Alas, we spent double what we normally spend on a meal (triple some of our cheap meals) and had a very mediocre meal at Dunkin. A couple of their "flat" sandwiches, and a donut, each - the flats were ok but somewhat flavorless and I had to force myself to eat the second one because I knew I needed the calories. It was insane how much it cost (around $24 US, and most of our meals between $5 and $10 US) but we didn't know where else to look for food and we were grateful for the opportunity to eat something other than chicken or carne asada at this point.
When all was said and done, we rolled into Giradot around 5PM and decided to stop there for the night. We had well over another hour of light, which would have gotten us to Ibague, but we were annoyed with the hotel and parking at our last stay in Ibague so neither of us wanted to stay there again. We kept seeing signs advertising hotels, but when we'd turn down the road, there was no hotel to be seen. In the end, we drove for 40 minutes, checked 4 hotels and ended up in the next town over - Flandes - before we found a place to stop. It was more than we usually spend but we just wanted to stop looking at that point, it had air conditioning, seemed clean, and promised internet. The internet, sadly, isn't working after all, and we might not have paid this much for the room had we known… but it got us off the bikes for the night.
Went down to the "restaurant" and the guy explained that he could call anywhere we wanted to get us food. Did we want pizza, etc.? We'd tried pizza last night in Zipaquira which had gone horribly awry, so we gave the pizza another shot. Asked for a grande Hawaiian and a large Coke to share. Sat on the balcony working on catching up the writing for our blog, even though we can't post it, and the promised pizza arrived in a timely manner. And was huge. And came with 3 liters of Coke. And, it turns out, neither of us wanted to eat it once we tried it. Kay said at one point that "It tastes like someone put ham, pineapples, and cheese on a donut" - which neither of us particularly wanted to eat. So today we've spent more than we'd normally spend on hotels for two nights for two meals, and only ate one of them.
Expensive day here in Colombia.
Kay headed out again and wandered around in the dark until he found a restaurant a few blocks away, and chose the woman who had the most pots of yummy-smelling things to get us dinner. Second dinner turned out much better. Try, try again!
Kays note: it wasn't so much a restaurant as a collection of tables and chairs behind a long table with lots and lots of silver pots on it, illuminated by a street light. All the other places on the street with tables only served alcohol.
But now we have Kay's new license plate, Yay! So tomorrow we get to cross over the ginormous mountain range over to Armenia again, and then start heading toward Ecuador. Probably two more days of riding (maybe three if we decide to tackle the border crossing early in the AM instead of at the end of the day) and then we move on from Colombia, finally!
(PS: Minor medical note - my itchy red dots are getting worse. They've doubled in number and itchiness, and now they're all up and down my arms and legs. One on my neck, too. Kay commented again today that they seem like chicken pox, but I've had chicken pox before. Not sure what else they could be. If only I had the Internet to do some research… but I guess I'll just keep taking the anti-histamines and hope it's just some sort of infection that my body can fight off.)
We knew the mountain crossing from Ibague to Armenia takes roughly three hours, so we got up early today and hit the road at a respectable time. We were on the bikes shortly after 8AM, stopped for breakfast and gas and got really "on the road" at 9. Made good time to Ibague and found a road that bypasses it so we wouldn't have to go through the city. But it was starting to drizzle. Or rain.
We stopped to put liners on our top half and cover our tank bags, and I commented that if we happened to pass a gas station, I could probably use a bathroom before our endless trek over the mountains. Ask and ye shall receive! Gas station with bathroom. The rain was coming down harder now, and I didn't want sloshy boots, so I decided that while we were stopped, I'd put the leg liners in my pants. Which involves taking the boots off, the pants off, zipping the liner in, putting pants back on and putting boots back on. It sounds like a PITA but normally it's not this bad.
The bathroom was small. Like tiny. Built for children. I had to take off my Camelbak and turn sideways just to fit through the stall door, and I had to straddle the toilet while messing with the boots and pants because there wasn't room for me to stand/put my legs in front of me/etc. So I put the liner in quickly, zipped it in, went to pull the pants on and… my right leg won't go through.
What? That's never happened before. The leg must be twisted, but I had no idea it would prevent my leg from passing through entirely if that happened. So I take the pants back off and go to unzip the right leg, and get about halfway around before the zipper won't budge anymore. One single tooth didn't get zipped properly when I put the liner in - it's out of line with the other teeth and sticking kinda sideways - and I can't get it to unzip anymore.
I fuss with it for a few minutes before calling to Kay through the headsets; handy that we were both still wearing our helmets. I ask for a Leatherman to tackle the zipper, but there's a catch - I'm in the women's bathroom and I'm literally stuck in the stall. And Kay can't come in because of social restrictions and because the door is locked. We argue about it for a few minutes before I realize I can stick my hand out the stall and reach the door to the bathroom, and get the Leatherman from Kay. Grab the zipper with the pliers, give it a good yank and it unzips like nothing was ever wrong. Yay for Leatherman!
Get the leg liner in the right way, and with much grunting and whimpering about the confined space, I manage to get my pants back on, boots on and boots buckled. All told, this little episode had me in the bathroom for something like 20 minutes, what with the zipper difficulties. The guys who were standing around were probably snickering about it.
Kay went to put his leg liners in, and got it done with much less drama thanks to a much larger stall. Back to the bikes… and the rain has slowed down. In fact, it's nearly stopped. But liners stay in, and on we go, across the mountains.
We encountered fewer trucks in the first stretch than we did last time, which I suspect is because of the rain. A bunch of trucks were stopped at the gas station and I think they were waiting the rain out - it's a steep, slippery, twisty road that ascends and descends 3300 meters in the span of about 30 kilometers and I imagine the smart truckers don't take chances.
Made it up the easy part of the road in good time and spotted a bank in the tiny town before the steep part of the ascent starts, and stopped to try to get cash. Unfortunately, the bank we spotted wasn't finished yet (they were building it) but a guy pointed out another bank that we drove right past which had an ATM. Alas, it didn't like our debit card. Kay pondered taking the jacket liner out, but it started raining again while we were checking ATMs (because at this point we had about 4000 pesos to our name, or about $2 US) so we just got back on the bikes and headed up the steep part of the ascent.
It was just as steep as we remembered from last time, but we seemed to have better luck with the trucks. We only got stuck behind trucks a few times, and were able to safely pass on the left with a little patience each time. When we broke out the top of the pass we saw sunshine, which felt wonderful! But back down the other side of the pass, we passed back into clouds and drizzle. In all, though, we made better time crossing this time - only two hours from Ibague to Armenia instead of the three it took us last time.
Heading up toward the top of the pass, though, the road was wet from rain and the moisture of the clouds, and at one point, Kay's back end slides out a bit. Not enough to drop him, but enough to cause a wibble and a bit of panic. That's when I notice the rainbow-colored tracks in the water on the road. "Someone's leaking oil!" Kay calls out, and we now have an ongoing oil slick to contend with on this steep twisty mountain road. We try to ride outside of the slick as much as possible, and keep our bikes going forward at a steady pace as much as possible, and hope we don't have an off. Eventually we come around a corner where there's a gigantic pool of oil under a car and a guy poking it from underneath and a guy standing there staring at it and scratching his head. He lost oil for probably a kilometer, but after the pool where he finally stopped, no more oil on the road. Which was a bit of a relief for both of us.
Quick side trip to Armenia to find an ATM so we could get lunch, which still didn't like our debit card, but Kay used his personal debit card and was able to get cash. No idea what's going on with that. We'll have to check on that account when we have internet, and I'll have to try my card next time. Rode out of Armenia and stopped at one of the many restaurants that litters the roadside of the Pan American highway through Colombia (in a good way - we've stopped at a few now and they've all been delicious). Had a lovely lunch, and a bit of a chat with the waiter who spoke some English. He had enough English to ask us some questions about the bikes, which we answered in a combination of English and Spanish. It was fun.
Hit the road again and head toward Cali. And at lunch, we took a chance and removed the rain liners from our pants as well as our jackets. Which, of course, invoked Murphy - we had some rain spatters leaving lunch, and when we were getting close to the turn off for Cali, we encountered some more serious rain. We stopped to put on the rain covers for our tank bags, and Kay put on the rain liner in his jacket, but I was hoping the road would curve right instead of left and we wouldn't hit the rain. So I took a chance and left my jacket liner off.
Wrong move. We hit rain almost immediately, but it was short-lived. We rode out of the rain, but we could see deeper black ahead, and I started seeing lightning strikes. It was obvious at this point that the road was heading right toward it, so I asked to stop again so I could put on my jacket liner. Should have just done it when Kay did. Forward again, and into an intense downpour. Which soaked us in a few seconds flat, but didn't even last as long as it took us to stop and put in the liners. After riding through the rain, it was smooth sailing on a nice highway with speeds of 60MPH! We thought we'd make some good forward progress and get dry.
It became apparent that we'd hit Cali around 4PM. I had no desire to waste time going into the city again to stay at Casa Blanca Hostel, and then loose time getting out of the city in the morning, so when I saw a road that bypassed Cali for Popayan I asked Kay if we could just skip Cali and keep going. He agreed, but expressed concerns that we wouldn't find somewhere else to stay.
We rode. And we rode. And we rode some more. Just when we were starting to get dry, we rode into another downpour which soaked us again. We thought the worst of the clouds were behind us and had no inkling we were about to hit another rainstorm, but we rode right into it with zero warning. So we were soaked again, and it was 5PM, and we were over 100KM from Popayan but had no idea where to stay.
At this point we just kept riding, hoping we'd see a hotel on the side of the road. We'd found some good spots for camping in the valley near Cali (although it stunk there) but that was far behind us, and the road got hilly and twisty with no more good camping spots. As the sun started to go down, the temperature dropped, and we were getting chilly and then outright cold in our wet gear.
Just when sunset was imminent and we were about to have to ride in the dark, we hit a service station and Kay spotted a "hostel" sign in the plaza. Kay pulled in and suggested we check it out, so he did, and it turns out it's a nice, clean, modern facility with private bedrooms and bathrooms for around $7 US. We got a room, unloaded the bikes and grabbed dinner in the restaurant in the plaza. Dinner came with the obligatory Colombian soup, which was delicious to our cold, damp selves - and we count ourselves lucky for this bounty at the day's end.
Also? They had Diet Coke. Every restaurant today had Diet Coke. I had it with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I haven't seen Diet Coke in ages so I'm really excited about this. It's been a good day.
Today started off with a chance encounter with a couple of travelers from Oregon. They've traveled through Central America in their RV, spending some time in Mexico along the way, and now they're headed toward Argentina where I think they intend to make a new home in their retirement. Spent longer than planned chatting so we got on the road a bit late, alas.
The first leg from Tunia to Pasto got progressively worse as we rode along. At places, it resembled the roads in Honduras, which have been the worse paved roads we've ridden. It was heavily potholed and bumpy with patches, although because we were on motos, we were able to pick good lines through most of it. I was just surprised by the condition of the road because A) It was the Pan American and B) All of the other paved roads we've ridden in Colombia have been in MUCH better condition.
But, as usual, it was beautiful riding in Colombia, anyway.
Stopped for lunch at a random roadside restaurant, and while we were finishing up our meal, a couple of guys walked in and introduced themselves with "You guys must be the guys causing trouble on the BMWs out there." Indeed, we were! And so we met Vern and Joe, who are also riding to Ushuaia. We had a very pleasant chat with them, and Joe had a lot of good information, including some tips on the road to Uyuni in Bolivia that we intended to ride. (Apparently the main road that people tend to take has some deep sand, in addition to the washboards we'd already heard about, but Joe gave us a heads-up about an alternate route that is decent dirt.)
They told us they intended to head to Pasto tonight, and I asked for the name of the hotel where they planned to stay. We were probably going to stop in Pasto, too. We were hoping we'd see them again when we arrived at the hotel because it's always nice to chat with other adventure riders and I wanted to pick their brains. But as it happens, we caught up with them on the road to Pasto!
We ended up behind them and followed them most of the way to Pasto (except a few sections where they got ahead again) and when they stopped at a gas station on the edge of Pasto to reconnoiter, we asked if they'd mind if we followed them to the hotel. They didn't, and in surprisingly short order, with the help of some GPS coordinates and a friendly Colombian moto rider who helped lead us the last bit, we made it to the hotel and unpacked. Hotel San Sebastian - nice rooms, internet - the only problem is that our room is on the fourth floor. And we unloaded all the crap from our bikes. Boo.
Unloaded the bikes and went out in search of dinner with Joe and Vern, which was fun. We found a local comidas rapidas place (fast food) where we had assorted hamburgers, sausage on a stick, potatoes and pizza. Then off to a pastelria for cookies to enjoy back in the room, and calling it a night.
Tomorrow the plan is to head for the border with Ecuador and cross. Yay! Alas, Joe and Vern are both Iron Butt riders and tend to get started earlier than we do, so I'm not sure we'll travel with them much further - we take our time a bit more to stop for photos, linger over places we like and good meals, etc. We may make it to Quito with the guys tomorrow, but they might leave too early for us in the AM - and even if we do hit Quito with them, our paths might diverge there. We'll see. But it's been fun chatting with them, and I enjoyed riding in a convo of adventure riders today!
Kay's note: Vern is riding a Suzuki DRZ 350, which we think might just be the perfect size for the Americas, although neither of us like the idea of riding a bike without fuel injection at high altitudes. But, for some reason we're getting way better mileage that either of them. We've been averaging between 65 and 75 Mpg lately. We have no idea why.
Day 66 - Pasto Colombia to …. somewhere in Ecuador.
We decided to ride out of Pasto with Joe and Vern this morning because: they knew the way out (or had a GPS that would get us out), they were going to the church at Las Lajas and Joe, having seen it before and not feeling like walking back up the hill, was going to sit with the bikes while Vern went down, and Joe had been through the border crossing twice before. While the South American border crossings are widely reported to be cake it'd been so long since we'd crossed a border we both felt a bit out of the habit, and in no mood to turn down the ability to cross with someone who'd been there before.
So, we set off early, because they did, and skipped breakfast, because as we found out later in the day, they don't eat breakfast or lunch. We suspect that this has something to do with the senior citizen metabolism. It makes no sense to me that the older you get the less you eat and the less you sleep. Anyway….
Off we went, a bit faster than normal, and passing notably more aggressively than normal, as we tried to keep up with the guys. Colombia was gorgeous, (as per usual) but I felt that I was missing a little of the sights by focusing on keeping up. They guys don't ride blazingly fast, but with way more years in the saddle than us, a few iron butt rides, and a tighter deadline, they ride at a speed that's just a bit more than what we prefer.
A wrong turn or two, a missing Vern, and we make it to the parking lot above the church. Soon Joe returns with a Vern in tow, and Vern, Dachary, and I proceed down the hill.
Dachary and I were both interested in the church from afar, but undecided if we'd actually go into it, because honestly, we don't care much about churches. But, this was absolutely worth the time. The walk down is quiet and beautiful, with great views of the river and waterfall, and the church itself was honestly spectacular. We were very impressed and very glad that we'd come with the guys and gone all the way in.
Back on the bikes we headed for the border, where we encountered the RV travelers from yesterday having a little trouble with the language barrier at Ecuador's customs. Because Dachary and I came with photocopies of everything we got to go first whilst the guys ran to get copies of the passport (main page), license, and title / registration (They used their titles, we used our registrations). And whilst the guys were getting their paperwork done Dachary ran to the Comidas Rapidas place by Ecuadorian immigration and we wolfed down a quick lunch which allowed us to not have to abandon the guys at this point, because having skipped breakfast we both needed something in our bellies.
Coming in to the town at the Colombian side of the border (Ipiales) was an absolute shit hole, unlike the rest of Colombia, although the outskirts of Bogota aren't very pretty. The town on the Ecuadorian side wasn't the prettiest, but it was livable, and not somewhere you'd feel you'd been sentenced to as punishment for multiple cases of manslaughter.
We made it through, and found that this part of Ecuador looks like someone laid a giant green patchwork quilt over it. It's pretty, but not as pretty as Colombia, and even the very pretty bits we encountered so far didn't affect me as much as the typical Colombian scenery.
But we discovered a couple reasons why having the right riding partner is so critical. Before now it'd all just been theory, but now… We were riding at a pace slightly greater than we were really comfortable at, they didn't stop for photos like we do, and because they don't have camelbacks and don't drink, or eat, during the day, they never have to stop to pee. We suspect they've had special super secret Iron Butt training courses to enlarge their bladders.
We've totally enjoyed the past couple days with the guys, but it has also served to emphasize just how lucky we are to be such perfect riding partners. There were things we passed today that we'd totally have stopped to take pictures of on our own, and we both tend to want to eat at the same times, and are more inclined to pull over at a gas station when we need to pee than hold it.
It became apparent we weren't going to make Quito today, and they guys figured it'd be better to call it a day early with time to **** around with their bikes rather than push it, so we stopped at a place Joe noticed, but he didn't catch that the price was per-person, rather than per-room so he ended up paying more than expected ($20 per person). It's high for us too, but were both of the opinion that the extra night of chatting with the guys over dinner was worth it.
Nice rooms, actual hot water, tasty food….. All good, but just after we pulled in the RV people saw our bikes and pulled in to see if we knew something about the place, and find out if they could park their RV here for the night.
Later on the son came and chatted while we all futzed with our bikes, and Joe and Vern advised against our plan to change my rear tire tonight suggesting that the roads between here and Bolivia were fine and that the tire would totally make it, and give piece of mind of having the spare for those extra miles. I figured they've each been riding about 8 times longer than I have and have a far better sense of these things and their advice is probably damn worth it. So, I took it.
The RV folks joined us for dinner which was… interesting. I think I'd have preferred it to be just us bikers, but they're nice folk, and the son was somewhat starved for conversation because they've been living in Mexico for a year, and then spent some time crossing Central America speaking zero Spanish. We're practically fluent compared to them and we're terrible.
As we headed back for our rooms we thanked the guys for letting us tag along for a couple days, wished them the best, and grabbed a couple of Joe's stickers, which I've added to my panniers. I love getting stickers from other bikers, and I am proud to be sporting Joe's. Joe and Vern are great guys, and we're are totally in debt to them for the great info they gave us during our chats. Hopefully we can pass it on to other riders someday.
So, thank you Joe, and Vern. We had a great time riding with you, but we're looking forward to taking things at our own pace tomorrow.
Day 67 - Somewhere north of Quito to Somewhere south of Ambato Ecuador
We caught Joe and Vern as they were doing their final packing, chatted for a bit, and wished them the best before heading to breakfast. Great guys, and we'll miss their company but we like eating breakfast and lunch and stopping to pee (since we drink constantly from the Camelbacks).
The only touristy thing of the day was the equator, which I had put as a waypoint in the GPS. Joe had warned us that the sign was easy to miss, so I was keeping a careful eye on the GPS, switching it from Kilometers to Hours, mInutes, seconds when we got within 1k of it. Was kinda cool watching it tick down from 300 seconds to… "Oh hey! The sign!… that's not very small…."
note: The entrance is about fifty meters after the sign if you're heading south.
Pulled in, and the guy there told us we could bring the bikes in to the main area. Whoot! Then directed us to point them nose to nose along the equator. Many pictures were taken, and then he gave us his educational talk about why the equator is cool, and why the map we're so used to really ought to be turned sideways so that North is on the left and South is on the right.
The idea has a few merits, the one we liked best was that no country is on top of any other country. No matter what map we look at there will always be some psychological value to the country on top, but when you have the equator at the center vertically everything kind of comes in from the side and there's not as much of a sense of domination by the US and Russia.
Also, he explained the Tropic of Cancer and Tropic of Capricorn to us, which is good, because while we both knew they were important neither of us could remember why. Sadly, we didn't stop to take a pic when we passed the Tropic of Cancer in Mexico.
Anyway, they were asking for donation to support their educational stuff, and had a cool sky map with all the constellations (since you can see them all from the equator) and a DVD. We liked what they were trying to do, and ponied up the $20 they were asking for. Honestly I don't care so much if they achieve their goals, but i think that even trying to achieve their goals will get kids thinking and asking questions about the world we live in which is great. Their site is at Untitled Document
We asked the guy if he'd seen a couple of "older guys" on bikes earlier in the day and he said no. We were shocked. Did Joe and Vern somehow miss it?! I hope not, because Vern hadn't been there before. Either way, Dachary and I looked at each other and thought how grateful we weren't riding with them today, because we would have missed it. Also, it's just much more comfortable riding at our own pace, which seems to frequently be about 5 to 10 kph slower than theirs.
Shortly after we left I said "I think there's something wrong with my tires." to Dachary, "No. It's the road." Which is somewhat humorous because there have been so many times when Dachary has been "is there something wrong with the road or my bike?" It felt like i was kind-of floating on the road an not really gripping it. Like when they've just run one of those road eaters over the tarmac to prepare it for resurfacing, except the road *looked* fine. Visually it was great, but both of us were weirded out by it and kept our speed down for the next ten minutes or so, until the road finally rejoined normalcy.
Not long after that we were following the Pan American through Quito, which I'm happy to report was a 4 lane highway that skirted the guts of the city. Neither of us realized how high Quito was though. 3177 meters was the highest we hit in town, and not long afterwards we brushed up against 3500. It's also, FREAKING HUGE. It's hard to get a sense of the thing since it is situated between mountains, and you can never see it all at once. But trust me, it's big, and you really don't want to ride through it if you don't have to.
It was chilly, and wet, as we were riding through the lower fringes of the clouds into, through, and past Quito. When we started coming down we were able to look over and down onto a rain storm, seeing it from a distance, but level with the bottom edge of the cloud. We could see Rain going down onto the plain from our level. It was quite cool. But, by then we'd been in the mid fifties, with wet misty cloudstuff for hours. I was chilly, and Dachary was starting to shiver.
We needed to find somewhere for lunch, which we were already a couple hours late for, but honestly, nothing looked like something we'd even want to park at, nevermind *eat at, until finally, I saw a restaurant sign that proclaimed "Healthy Food" (I didn't realized until later that it was in english). I figured anyone that is going to go out of their way to promote "healthy food" is going to have some standards, and thus, hopefully, a decent place. I couldn't quite figure where it was, but I dutifully pulled over by the sign and saw that it was an adjunct to a hotel, which generally means a bit pricier, but at this point we really needed to just warm up.
So, in we went, past the guy at reception, and into an empty dining room…"Is it open?" We went back and asked. Yup, it was.
We ordered "Cordon Blue" and knew we were in for something…"interesting" when he asked us if we wanted that with beef or chicken. Neither of us felt adventurous enough to try it with beef. What we ended up with was essentially a piece of flat chicken wrapped around a piece of ham and a pice of that cheese that seems so common in Latin America. It wasn't technically Cordon blue…. I think, but it wasn't bad.
Before the actual meal came though, he plopped down a plate of popcorn (a first for us) and offered us some hot juice. We didn't know the word for whatever kind it was, but, being us, we told him we didn't know what exactly he meant, but we'd be happy to try it. We think it was warm grapefruit juice, watered down so it wasn't sour, with a bunch of sugar mixed in. It was quite tasty, and warm….
While we were eating the rain clouds moved in and neither of us felt like leaving. We even pondered just staying at the hotel, but it wan't even four yet and we would have both felt like wusses if we'd wimped out that early because of a little rain. So, we threw the rain liners in our pants (we already had them in our coats for the extra warmth) then added our electric jackets (but neither of us bothered to plug them in) and set out.
It wasn't that bad. And, in typical fashion around here, we rode out of it in less than ten minutes. But, as five o'clock came around Dachary informed me that she was feeling like crap (queezy, feverish, intestines, the whole bit) and really needed a hotel. So, we started looking, and looking, hoping for something… anything that didn't look like a crap-hole.
And we stumbled across it. I went in, and as i was talking with the guy she came in and informed me that I needed to "Just book it" With an emphasis on now. So, I skipped looking at it "it'll just take a minute" "No. She's feeling bad, we'll take it" And we did.
Made it into the room… er no not that room, the electronic lock is broken and you can't get out… next room…. guy leaves and Dachary dashes into the bathroom.
I brought up her stuff, she crawled into bed, and I set her camelback on the bed beside her in case she needed a drink while I went downstairs to the room with the net because we'd exhausted all the points I'd entered into the GPS and I needed to get more from Google Maps. When I came back a bit later to bring her some drinks I discovered that her CamelBak's bite valve had taken it upon itself to empty half of the CamelBak onto the bed beside her.
Unfortunately this means that one of the things that it most important to her in a hotel room (being able to sleep in the same bed) is something she's having to go without on a night when the comforting touch of a lover can be so dearly needed.
Later on I brought her dinner, with little hope that she'd actually eat it, but I had to try. Now the leftovers are hiding in the closet because the scent was not sitting well with her.
She felt a little feverish yesterday, and had some minor diarrhea, but I suspect that the time she spent shivering this afternoon left her with too little energy to fight of whatever it was and it all came crashing down on her at the end of the day.
I told her that we're absolutely staying another day if she's still feeling ill tomorrow morning. She tried to argue that we couldn't afford the time (we've only got about six weeks left to cover most of the continent). I countered that her health was far more important than anything else, and that riding when you're feeling queazy and ill simply isn't safe.
On a related note: those itchy bumps she'd been developing? Yeah, now I've got a few too. And no, they're not bedbug bites, and they're not mosquito bites. Neither of us really think they're bites of any kind, even though bugs love biting her. Mine don't appear to itch nearly as much as hers though. I think hers are starting to slowly fade, but I can't ask because she's passed out in the dry twin bed as I type this.
Sometimes a trip like this has some frustrating, or unpleasant parts. But I don't think either of us would trade it for anything, except maybe the promise of more trips that someone else was paying for. And we're both incredibly grateful for the opportunity to experience the world like this. But, sometimes we dearly miss the ability to curl up on the couch with our dogs and not worry about anything. I suspect that tonight is a time like that for Dachary.
We decided to stay another day because even getting up from bed in the morning to go to the bathroom left Dachary dizzy and queazy. (And going to the bathroom convinced her that she needed to stay near a bathroom.) We read, we… actually, that's about it. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, some Top Gear. Some Dr. Who. Dachary didn't feel up to leaving the room so I brought her the meals in bed. Luckily the beds were comfy, with nice, warm, soft blankets and comforters.
I'm happy to report that the meals were pretty cheap because the restaurant is trying to be affordable food for locals too.
I also bought a pirated copy of the last Terminator movie. Not sure if it's one of those horrid things filmed with a camcorder in the theatre or a rip of the DVD. Hoping for the latter since the DVD has been out for so long.
Day 69 - Somewhere south of Ambato to Machala Ecuador.
The day started off with a grumble. Unbeknownst to me, Dachary hadn't fallen asleep until 2 AM, and I had woken her up shortly after thinking she hadn't taken the evening's antibiotics. Turns out she had. In the morning, I woke up shortly after 7am, went to the bathroom and decided to take a shower. Apparently that woke Dachary up again. She grumbled a bit but fell back asleep, so I let her sleep in until 8:30 (an extra hour more than normal) but at that point she was all "let me sleeeeeep", then got up and grumped at me for a while.
Pack up, grab breakfast downstairs, and start carrying shit to the bikes, while Dachary replies to the developer for the iPad magazine who has promised, yet again, that "one more build" and it would all be fixed. We seriously doubt it, but he's close, and it's less frustration and more benefit, to give him the one last chance than file a dispute with E-Lance to get our money back from the escrow.
We set off a bit late, but that's ok since Dachary's not 100% and head up into the mountains, passing through a town so filled with indigenous people that the street signs are bi-lingual, then a right up, up, up to 3870 meters (our new record) where it's raining, owing to the fact that we're in the middle of a cloud, and we stop to put the rain liners in in our jackets, which we probably would have even without the rain because it's cold and misty up there in the clouds.
We crest the mountain and discover that it's even cloudier on the west side. I guess the clouds blew in from the Pacific and got stuck. We have to drop over 2,000 meters before we're finally below the clouds, and before then they're so thick that we max out at about 50 KPH (diddly-sqat MPH). By day's end we will have descended over 3,800 vertical meters, which I consider a strong argument for fuel injected engines.
I'm sorry there aren't more pictures but I didn't want to get the camera soaked. When we weren't getting saturated and lightly rained on in the clouds, we were getting intermittent downpours under the clouds.
Dachary kicked her her BeadRider one too many times today and lost a few more beads which we attempted to tie back in. Great device, but they need to use kevlar thread or something that'll stand up to repeated kickings better than heavy-duty fishing line.
Soon, we find ourselves in Bannanna country, literally. Bannanna groves line E25 and are only broken by dirty little towns. Seriously. I was annoyed by Mexico's tendency to just line the town with stores and hovels, but when there were poor towns they didn't feel as dirty or run-down as these. We started looking for hotels as sunset approached, but frequently said "I don't care if there's a hotel in this town. I don't want to stay here."
Soon we were on the outskirts of Machala and are presented with four kiss-no-tell-motels, which Dachary is surprisingly into checking out this time. "I don't want to go into the city" she says. I'm not thrilled with dealing with city either, and later I find out that she'd read in the book that Machala is "dirty" and "not safe".
We pull into the swankest looking one, ask one of the dudes how much ($11 for 5hrs) which is pretty steep, but the place looks high quality…Well, as much as you can tell from the garages and enclosing walls. But, we figure that since we don't even have to get off the bikes to check these out we should see what the others are like and what they cost. We skip the Club 69 simply because of the name. Motel Miami looks kinda skanky, and Hotel California you can practically see the bedbugs scampering beneath the giant curtains to hide the cars.
We go back to the swank looking one, pull into one of the garages (with real garage doors), walk up into the place and see that it is, in fact, swank. Round bed, fancy multi-person shower, circular mirror over the bed, big mirror beside it, air conditioning… Only downside? No top sheet or blanket. I guess they figure you're just coming here to boff each others brains out for a few hours and don't really need them.
There's a menu on the wall, with some interesting extras: viagra, Preservativos, Protectores diarios, cepillo dental, Pasta dental (that kinda scares me, is it dental floss?) KY, Aspirina, Alka Seltzer, Sal Andrews, and a few more.
We ordered some food and a couple sodas, but decided to skip the $280 bottle of wine. The food was tasty, and included our first encounter with a Bell Pepper since the US, but neither of us seem to have much of an appetite. Also, I threw my back out of whack this afternoon. I have no idea how. We'll have to work around that. We can't let these mirrors go to waste.
Side note: We have come to the conclusion that neither BMW's Gore-Tex nor RevIt's Hydratex is capable of withstanding the Ecuadoran rains. Our top halves stayed mostly dry, but our legs were damp when we went to the bathroom. Our shirts were dry, but when we put the liners back on after lunch, the liners felt damp. Also, when you don't have a chance to dry out at before the end of the day, you have to put on wet liners/shells in the morning. These rains weren't even the worst we've encountered so far, but I think we're both envying Joe and Vern with their Frog Togs. Not only do they stay dry, they don't have soaking wet shells outside of the rain liners. Nor, do they have the need to take things off to put the rain liners on. Next trip, we're totally taking those.
Dachary's note: Also, apparently my boots are no longer waterproof. I'm pretty sure they were supposed to be waterproof when I bought them, but the last several rainstorms, I've had damp/wet feet. Today my feet were squishy when I got off the bike to walk around at lunch. That's one of the worse feelings ever, and why I decided to get waterproof boots in the first place. Not sure what to do about that. But at least today's hotel has a hair dryer I can take to the inside of the boots to try to dry them out a bit so I don't have to put on sloshing wet boots in the morning.
Waking up in the Love Hotel was surprisingly conducive to us getting on the road. No place nearby for breakfast, no dawdling over packing our bikes - get up, get our stuff together and load the bikes up. I opted for a quick shower before we left, because you never know when you'll have hot water again… and while we were showering, an odd noise started. When we went downstairs, we looked out the window above the garage door and saw that the odd noise was caused by POURING rain. Pouring. So back upstairs to our "suite" and put in the rain liners in our pants, and put the rain covers on our tank bags… and out into the rain.
We rode into Machala because I wanted to find an ATM and grab some more US cash to replenish our "emergency" stash (which we ended up using to fly the bikes with Girag, since they require cash and we hadn't had enough days to stock up). Turns out, it had been raining most of the night and Machala was quasi-flooded. We kept riding through deep puddles that created a bow wave when we passed… and did I mention that through some fluke, my boots were either never waterproof or are no longer waterproof? Before we left Machala, my boots were soaked and squishy again. Boo squishy feet!
Also, I had my face shield cracked a bit on my helmet because it was fogging up in the rain, and when we went through one of those deep puddles, I got passed on both sides by cars going fast and the bow wave went up, up… and I took a giant splash of muddy road water to the face. Double boo.
Rode out of Machala and toward the border town of Huaquillas, and somewhere along the way, it stopped raining. Yay! The ride to the border was rather uneventful, and we were there shortly after 10AM. Rode along toward the frontier… and… oh, wait? Leaving Ecuador? But where's the border control stuff? Oh, hi, Peru. Yeah. We didn't get stamped out of Ecuador. Or the bikes. What's that? Turn around and get stamped out? Yeah.
Rode the 3km back into Ecuador, and tried to stop at the ginormous building that claimed to be border control… except it was blocked off. Entirely. It's a huge complex, and they had wire and rope strung across the car lanes, and rocks and debris across the entrances, so you couldn't drive in. We had to go the wrong way down a divided highway to get past the border control complex, and while we were trying to figure it out, an Ecuadorean car pulled up apparently looking for the same thing. On the other side of the border control complex (what would have been the exit, if it had been open) were a couple of security guards, and the car stopped to ask where to go.
The guards said back to the roundabout and toward the border town (Huaquillas) instead of toward the frontier. Cars have to pay a toll to go there, but they had a moto lane to the right so we skipped by the toll and followed the car… and just past the toll booth, on the left, is Ecuadorean immigration. The sign is big enough, but there's no friggin clue that's where you need to go from the road signage. If you head toward the frontier, you'll completely bypass immigrations. Boo Ecuador!
Then we asked for aduana to check out the motos, and they told us to go back to the big blue building that was the border control building. No, we told them - that building isn't open. Yes, they say - go back there, it's open 24 hours. Kay clarifies that it's the giant blue and white building, and they confirm. So we head back there, and talk to the same guards as before, asking where aduana is.
It starts to get confusing. One of the guys says go back to the roundabout and take a right. Another guy comes out with a small moto/scooter and offers to show us. Yes! So we follow him, and he goes back to the roundabout… and takes a left. Toward Huaquillas. And leads us to the immigration building. No, no, we say - we want aduana for the motos. Ohh. Well, for that, go back to the roundabout, take the right that the other guard told us, and 2KM down the road is the aduana.
We go that way, and head 2km down the road… no aduana. 4km down the road… no aduana. We remember passing some sort of control checkpoint that they waved us through a bit before town, so we go a bit further wondering if that's it. Yes! 5km down the road, give or take, is the aduana building, which you're funneled into if you're entering Ecuador, but if you're leaving Ecuador, you drive right past it without ever knowing it's there. And it's not even a building. Aduana is a tent with two military guys, (outside of a blue and white building) and you hand the military guys your moto papers, and now everything is checked out of Ecuador. It only took us an hour of wandering around to find border offices that are kilometers apart, and getting incorrect directions from officials.
We, and our bikes, are now riding around Ecuador illegally.
Back to the roundabout and toward the frontier again, and this time we know where to go! Leaving Ecuador, again! Yay! Hello Peru, again! Yay!
This time when we pull up to the Peruvian border guy, he asks us some questions about us and our bikes and writes some stuff down on his clipboard. Then we park our bikes in front of the tent where the border guys are set up, and walk over to immigration, where we get a paper to fill out. Fill out the paper and walk to the next building, where a guy stamps the paper. Then we take it back to the first building and give it to the guy, who stamps our passport and gives us the bottom half of the form as our tourist visa card thing.
A few buildings down is aduana for the motos. They give us two forms to fill out (one for each bike), we fill them out and give them back, along with our driver's license (the real one, not the fake we keep for corrupt cops), our registration and our passport. They do some stuff with the form, and then give us back two parts of it (it's perforated and they keep one part that has all of our info on it) as well as an oval-shaped piece of paper with some info on it that they say the police will want to see. And viola! We're checked into Peru.
Walk back to the bikes, where a guy tells us it's $1 each to "fumigate" the bikes. We see no evidence of fumigation equipment, so we're skeptical, but the border guys confirm it's required. The guy takes our money, comes back a few minutes later with a receipt (after we ask for it), and then I see him walking over with a tank of some sort of spray on his back just as we're about to pull off. We get off the bikes and he "fumigates" them (sprays the spray half-heartedly over the wheels and along the bottom of the chassis, completely ignoring all of the grime and gook on our panniers and the rest of our bikes).
Start to ride off again, and we get to a control point where a guy walks over and moves a cone aside and waves Kay through. Kay starts to pull off, but I'm behind him, and I see another guy motion to stop Kay, so the guy who originally waved Kay through suddenly blows his whistle and another guy motions for me to stop. I tell Kay through the headset that he needs to stop, and a guy runs over to him. Meanwhile, a guy comes up to me and tells me I need to turn around because I need to check the bike into Peru.
I have, I tell him. I have the paperwork. No, he says - you have to turn around and check the bike into Peru. Yes, I argue - I already have, and I'm pulling out the paperwork to show him. He still argues that I need a stamp for the bike, but the aduana people told us we were done, so I'm arguing with him and a superior comes over to look at my paperwork. He takes one look, sees that I have everything I need, and tells the confused official to wave me on. He does.
In the meantime, Kay has been told to turn around because he has to check his bike into Peru, too, and the same supervisor who ok'ed my paperwork walks over to Kay, takes a quick look at his stuff, sees that it's ok and waves him on, too. Yay for a competent official! And boo for the stupid guys who didn't believe we'd gotten the bikes legally across the border.
So now we're free to ride off into Peru, which we do!
The only complication is that because this border was so confusing and spread out on the Ecuadorean side and so easy on the Peruvian side, there are no helpers or money changers wandering around. So we have no Peruvian money (Nuevo Sol). Our first order of business is to find an ATM or a cambio where we can change our money. We ride into Tumbes, which is the first town on the map I think is big enough to have an ATM, and do a fair amount of wandering around (the drivers in Tumbes are absolutely insane, btw - made me worried about Peru in general, but the rest of the drivers have been fairly tame). Eventually we find an ATM, which will only let Kay withdraw the equivalent of around $120 US. We figure that'll be enough for a while and go on.
From there, it's a fairly pleasant ride down the Pan American along the Pacific, through beach and ocean towns.
Then begins our quest for gasoline. We saw a couple gas stations near the border but don't see another one until Punta Sal, but they're out of gas. He tells us to go to Mancora for gas. We find a couple of gas stations in Mancora, one of which has gas! Yay!
This is also the first time we've had to look and ride further than we'd planned before getting gas (we started looking about 40 miles before we actually found gas) so I'm marginally concerned about finding enough gas in Peru. I'm sure we'll get through fine, but it'll take more opportunistic gas-filling and being aware of where the next place to find gas is from where we are. We know there are spots in Bolivia where we'll have to carry extra gas, and we've been told that we have to get the gas before we leave Peru as Bolivian gas stations won't let you fill extra containers, so we'll see.
Gas cost us 80 Peruvian, and Kay had only been able to withdraw 400, so we figured out we're gonna need more cash while we're here in Peru. So while we we're in Mancora, we look for another ATM. After asking a couple of times, we find one right on the main street (which is the Pan Americana) down from a couple more, and this one lets me withdraw more money. So now we should be good for a bit, as there are parts of our route that are probably going to be far from ATMs.
Back to making tracks, and shortly after Mancora, the Pan Americana turns inland a bit and climbs up to the top of the reddish-tan hills we've been seeing from the coast. The landscape turns to what Kay calls "Southern California" and then "the Badlands" - it's a dramatic change from Ecuador already. At parts, the plateau we're on opens up and you can see tons of these reddish-tan hills and the landscape feels utterly surreal to me. It's like nothing I've ever seen. We saw hints of this sort of landscape in parts of Mexico, but nothing on this scale. It's awesome and cool and totally different. Alas, we didn't get any good pics of the hilly bit, but here's a desert shot…
I requested that we try to find a hotel with internet tonight as I wanted to check on a couple of things for work and get caught up on the blog. We looked at the map and found that the nearest town that was likely to have a decent selection of hotels, including possibly one with net, was Talara. There's another sizeable-ish town further along the Pan Americana and a bit inland, but we haven't got a sense for the scale of the Peruvian map yet and I wasn't sure if we could make it before dark. So Talara it was!
We hit town around 5PM, and rode around randomly a bit trying to find a good spot. We saw one "hotel" sign but couldn't find the hotel… hit a roundabout, took one direction and then decided to try a different direction so back to the roundabout and saw a hostel on a random corner. We figured the hostel wouldn't have wi-fi but they might be able to suggest someone who did, so Kay went inside… and came back with surprising news. They had wi-fi! And secure parking for the bikes! And a decently sized room, as soon as Kay explained that he was with his girlfriend and not another male biker. (I think, actually, the nicest room in this hostel.) So yay for random hostel on random street corner with internet!
Brought our bags up from the bike, started stuff uploading and then went out to find dinner and walk around the town a little bit. We both agree that we have a decently good vibe about the town, and Peru is growing on me.
The first town we encountered after the border, Tumbes, was hectic and dense and the traffic was very thick and crazy… and I just didn't like the town. Not at all. I feared that if Peruvian towns were like this, I wasn't going to like Peru. Some of the beach towns we rode through were kinda cute and fun, which gave me hope for Peru. Talara is neither cute nor fun… in fact, bits of it are dirty and run down and there's this weird shanty-town coming into town that's indicative of the stark poverty here. But the town center itself isn't bad, and the people have been friendly and curious.
I think I already like Peru more than I liked Ecuador.
Also, bonus? One of our power adaptors died for the laptops a while ago (yes, we're carrying two laptops and two power adaptors - extravagant!) and I insisted on carrying it anyway because when we got back to the states, we could take it to Apple and they'd replace it. They've already replaced one adaptor for me because the dog laid on the cord too often and shorted the cord.
But the hotel where we're staying has plugs that won't work with our two-pronged adaptor (both prongs are the same size, and our adaptor has one prong slightly wider than the other) so we went to steal the end from the broken laptop power adaptor. Kay said "just for the heck of it, let me plug this in" - and viola! The broken power adaptor is suddenly working again! It sparked when Kay put it into the wall outlet and now it's charging our laptops quite happily. So now we have two functional adaptors again! Yay Peru!
Kay's note: Totally excited about camping in Peru. There were about four billion places we could have pulled off the road, ridden behind some bushes / trees and set up the tent, but one of Dachary's requirements set forth at the start of the trip was that when she was having her period we'd get a hotel. Obviously if we were nowhere near one, she'd deal, but it's generally not a hard thing to find, and running water and toilets just makes her life that much easier.
Last night did not go as planned. Dachary didn't get around to the work she wanted to get done, but decided that since it was just a little revision work she'd do it in the morning.
Unfortunately, we discovered that there was a thump-thump-thumpitdy nightclub somewhere nearby, and none of the local drivers seem to give a shit about the fact that people may be trying to sleep in the town and continue to communicate with each other via horn until the wee hours.
Then, there were the mosquitoes. They didn't bother me, because they rarely do (I'm lucky that way) but they like to buzz in Dachary's ears, bite her repeatedly, and generally do their best to keep her up all night with itching, and biting, and buzzing.
So… she didn't sleep much.
In the morning she typed up the rest of her revisions, I packed and pumped water, then, went to the International Casa de Cambio while she finished the rest of her packing and getting ready. Walk up to the guy, tell him "I have Quetzales and Limpiera and need Soles. Is that ok?" "Huh?" I repeat myself. "Yes, five minutes. Just wait there." I do. Nothing happens. I wander off to the tiny competitor in the square. No, they just convert Dollars and Euros to Soles. I return and now whatever he was waiting for has happened. I go up to the window, pull out my cash, and both he, and the guy who was just at the window, get completely bewildered looks on their faces. "What are those?!" …."Quetzales, y Limpieras…." "Dolares?" …"NO. Quetzales y Limpieras" …. more bewildered looks…. I hold up one "Costa Rica", the other "Colombia"… (Dachary later informed me that I was horribly wrong and the Quetzales are from Nicaragua and the Limpieras from Honduras) They shake their heads…. "Pero yo habla yo tengo Quetzales y LImpieras y nessecito Soles" "Desculpe…" he responds.
Gah! I walk out in frustration. My initial conversation was very simple. "I have X. I need Y. Is that ok?" and he said yes. Grrr
We hit the road without breakfast and start driving farther into the desert. Long plains of brown with bumpy brown sides that have somehow funneled enough water to repeatedly wash out the road. Past virulently green fields engineered by humans against all the laws of the desert with signs warning that the water used on them is not safe for human consumption.
We made it to Piura where we planned to fill up before the 200k of desert but… wait, "gasohol" Nonono. Not Gasohol…. Next place… Nope. Gasohol… "Donde esta una bomba con gasolina? No Gasohol." "en *uninteligable bit* 15, no twenty minutes down the road. " Oh my….
It's a big town, so we keep looking. Eventually pulling into a station that appears to all be gasohol too. I ask. "Yes this is gasoline" "With alcohol. right?" "yes. gasoline and alcohol" "I need gasoline without alcohol" He seems to be saying that it's all gasohol in Peru…but that can't be right. "Hold on." he runs back to finish helping people at the pump, comes back, explains some more, helps someone else, comes back… then a guy on a little 50cc scoot with his girlfriend riding pillion joins the conversation, understands the problem, and starts giving me directions to where we can find actual gasoline. Then realizes the directions are too effing complex before even finishing them and tells me to just follow them. So we do.
Eventually, we come to a gas station (after passing a few others) where he converses with the person there and it is determined that yes, the "97" is pure gasoline. Then they make sure we know how to get back (yay GPS tracks) and the girlfriend tells us where we can find tasty lunch. We thank them hugely, and they ride off into the city without asking for anything. We'd have happily given them money since they went out of their way and drove us half way across the city, but it warms our hearts to know that they did that out of the goodness of their hearts. I hope I can return the favor for someone back home.
On a related note, we may have inadvertently used gasohol the other day (it didn't look quite right), because the bottom of the pump said "gasohol" but the part by the levers said "gasoline" and looked to be newer. The bikes didn't complain, but considering how picky BMW's are about gas neither of us is willing to risk putting gasohol in there. Also, WTF do the numbers mean if the gas is mixed with alcohol. An Octane rating is related to the number of carbon atoms in the molecule. WTF do the numbers mean if you've got two different molecules floating around in there?
We escape the city, and head deeper into the desert, past stick houses teleported from Africa, past warning signs for dunes that might creep across the road, and then…. nothing. Eight meters below sea level and there's a flat plain of… nothing.
There are a few more pictures of us stopping at the empty desert spot in our Peru set on Flickr.
Back on the bikes we continue down the straight straight road. Maybe one turn in two hours until a voice comes over my headset. "I think there's something wrong with my motorcycle" "Do you want to pull over?" "I'm not sure what good it would do?" "Ok"… A minute later. "Let's pull over. I think I have a flat."
So we do. "Yup. I have a flat." she says.
It's the rear of course. Couldn't be the nice easy front. We pull it off and I spin it, looking for what could have punctured it… I don't see anything obvious, but I do notice something suspicious. These water patterns shooting out from under the bead at points all around the wheel. That can't be good. The only thing I can think of that would have caused that is the entire tube blowing catastrophically. But, that couldn't have happened. I keep my thoughts to myself.
We've pulled everything we need from the panniers. I open up the BeadBreakr and hand Dachary the instruction sheet. She's always better at interpreting instruction sheets, probably because she used to write instruction manuals in a past life. Tab A, Slot B… this way on the tire and voilla! easiest bead break ever; like trivially easy. That can't be good. The F650GS has one of the hardest beads to break, and none of the previous times has it ever been "trivial". The BeadBreakr generally makes it pretty easy, but not…. Oh my.
Turns out, something had been "gradually getting worse" on her bike for nearly ten minutes before she mentioned it to me; not that I would have known what the problem was from my bike in front of her. I suspect that riding it for that long with way to little, and then no, air built up so much heat that the tube simultaneously disintegrated and melted to itself. The pressure from all the weight of the rear end of the bike on the flat tire caused the inside of relatively new treads to bend the carcass and crack it along the grooves.
The tire is shot. We're keeping it for the moment because while it may be ****ed it's at least usable in a pinch if one of our rears somehow gets a big rip in it. We'll try and get internet soon so that we can e-mail the BMW dealer in Lima and see if they can get a tire in stock for us before we swing by. I wouldn't mind being back at the hotel in Ecuador with Joe and Vern though… just down the street was the moto district with a bunch of tire vendors and while our front tire may be an uncommon size, I'm pretty sure our rear isn't too hard to find.
Anyway. We grabbed the spare I'd been carrying for myself and put it on her bike. The spare, which I still had, thanks to the advice of Joe and Vern, who suggested I could probably get another 2k out of my tires if I needed to, and that they'd consider it piece of mind to have a spare "just in case". Always listen to your elders kids. Especially when they've got nearly a hundred years of motorcycle riding experience between them.
Dachary says we changed the tire in an hour and a half, and then spent thirty five minutes picking up our crap. I'm not sure how we managed to spend that much time cleaning up, but I think an hour and a half isn't bad considering we weren't trying to rush it. It was nice out: about 80 degrees, good breeze, plenty of sunlight left…
There wasn't much sunlight left though, and as soon as we found a town big enough to have a hotel / hostel / hospedaje we opened our eyes and pulled into the first decent one we found. 40 Soles, a parking spot with a big door behind the place and a restaurant three doors down.
Dachary's note: the flat was actually a fairly trivial thing. I think we've been traveling long enough now that we didn't panic or get upset when the flat happened. We were just grateful we had enough light to fix it, and proceeded to do so without drama. And honestly, it was kind of cool to get a flat (and fix it!) in the middle of the Peruvian desert. Like somehow now we're "real" adventure riders. "Remember that time we got the flat in the Peruvian desert?" "Yeah, that was cool." I'm just annoyed with myself that I didn't pull over immediately when I noticed something was wrong, because we might have been able to save the tire. Finding a new rear for Kay may be a bit more of a quest than we'd bargained for, and I'd like him to have a new rear before Bolivia.
Packed up the bikes and headed out without breakfast again. We're having trouble finding places in Peru that advertise breakfast. We don't know if they simply don't do breakfast here in restaurants or if they just assume that you know that if they're open they do it. We're leaning towards the former.
The morning started with desert with piles of garbage dumped from garbage trucks stretching from the road off to the nearby mountains. Sometimes they were being burnt. Sometimes they weren't. The sides were littered with… litter as well. Soon there were more man-made fields of green sitting directly against the sand. It's a testament to what humans can do, but it also seemed horribly wrong, especially the rice paddies.
Around 10:45 we were both starving and decided to stop for an early lunch not long thereafter. When Dachary pulls off her jacket she discovers this.
He's alive and kicking, but has attempted to sting her coat. Unfortunately, he's thoroughly wedged half-way in the hole of the mesh. We're betting Rev'It hasn't encountered this problem before. But it does give a good sense of just how much air can flow through the 3D Mesh on the Sand Jacket. Speaking of…. In this dry weather neither of us has felt overheated on the road even when the temps have been over 100. Both of our jackets have been doing an excellent job of keeping us well ventilated. It's not terribly surprising with the Sand jacket, but the BMW stuff really doesn't *look* like it would flow a ton of air, and yet it does. I'm still envious of the Sand's chest vents though, but not enough to give up the incredible armor on the BMW Rallye Pro 2. (Dachary's note: the dry heat of the desert is WAY easier to bear than the wet heat of places like Panama in Central America. Dry heat bakes you, but it's not miserable like humid, wet heat. So give me Peruvian desert any day!)
We couldn't figure out how to remove the bee without seriously injuring him, so in the end I pulled out the Leatherman, grabbed him around the middle, pulled, and threw him to the ground to give him a stomp and put him out of his misery. Poor bee.
The owner of the lunch place where we stopped recommended Pato (tasty chicken with an almost curry-like sauce) and ended up sitting down and talking with us for a while. He'd had some English lessons a couple of years ago, but asked us to speak a bit slower. Dachary says I failed miserably at this. Sorry.
We've totally forgotten his name, but one of the interesting points of the conversation was that he was doing fairly well for himself, he had a restaurant, he had two cars (we think he was saying there were taxis since he didn't drive at all himself) and yet he only made $5,000 US per year. The conversation was such that I didn't really mind when he asked how much I made, but I felt terrible revealing it. As a programmer in a big city with 15 years of experience I make good money, but there's no way to convey that rent and taxes alone eat up over half of it, then add in all the other bills, and while yes, I have more disposable income than him, I'm not nearly as well off as my salary from The Man, would have him think, or that I'll be quite lucky if I have enough money to survive for two months when we return.
Anyways, we got back on the bikes and headed out. I asked Dachary if she was ok with stopping to get some welding done today as the loop on my kickstand had broken off a while ago, and getting it out is very difficult without it. Also, the $32 "Large Sidestand Foot" from Touratech that we'd put on each of our bikes had each fallen off, probably when scraping in a curve, we're not really sure. They required an hour of grinding each to make them fit in the first place, and then the layers split, and then they fell off. ****ing pieces of crap, but I digress.
Dachary was up for it, feeling somewhat guilty about the fact that I'd been dealing with the frustrating lack of a loop to pull out the kickstand for a while now. Plus, with so much sand and dirt in our future having a foot that was wide enough to not sink straight into the ground was probably a good thing. So, when we saw a welder next to a little lunch place with drinks and shade, we turned around a pulled in.
Showed him what we wanted, asked how long and how much. 30 Soles (about $12 US), and one hour, he told us. Excellent. We sat at a table and grabbed some drinks while he made a little cardboard template for the feet, which I modified somewhat to better not hit the center stand or drag as much during leans (we hope), and then he set to work cutting and grinding with his apprentice(?). I did the whole mega-tourist thing and brought out the big camera, taking tons of pictures of the whole process. Yes, cheesy, and touristy, but when am I ever going to do this again? Ok, there's a decent chance I might, but hopefully not on this bike again.
When he was about to weld it on he looked up and told us we needed to disconnect the batteries before he started… "shit". ****ing BMW and their pain in the ass designs. "diez minutos" I told him. He was a little confused by this, thinking we'd just need to take off the seat, but accepted it and wend back to grind some more. We set about removing the seats and undoing far too many screws.
In the end I was happier than a pig in shit. I kept looking over at Dachary and saying "I have a loop!" because I'm thrilled that I don't have to dig awkwardly with my heal in hope of being able to catch and pull out a kickstand I can't see. I'm happy about the foot too, but I don't try and stand the bike on squishy dirt / sand nearly as often as I kick out that kickstand. Having that loop back is a little slice of heaven, and the whole experience was just a great part of the adventure.
Soon the welding was done, and it was time to head out. Sadly, today's driving was filled with human towns, and almost every one stank, mostly from burning garbage and such. Plus gasohol exhaust smells worse than gasoline exhaust. Speaking of which… we came to the conclusion that we'd never see 97 octane "Gasoline" again and gave up and used Gasohol at the best octane we could find (95). When we filled up we discovered we'd only gotten 45 mpg, which is crap, as we'd been getting 65-75 for this entire trip. Yes, we were driving almost 60mph for most of yesterday, but at that speed we should have definitely been getting over 55mpg. So, we think the claims that the 97 "Gasoline" didn't have any alcohol in it was pure crap. Later on in the day we found a Repsol station with 98 and even that wasn't gasoline. We have come to the conclusion that there simply is not any pure gasoline in Peru. I don't know why we never discovered this in any of the ride reports we've read before, but there you have it. Peru: guaranteed to void the warranty on any BMW motorcycle.
I don't know what the negative side effects are of running Gasohol in a finicky BMW engine are, but we don't have a choice. We'd need a support vehicle filled with jerry-cans of gasoline from Ecuador to do this without using Gasohol because Peru is big!
When we got into town we started looking for a hotel that had a chance of having somewhere to put the bikes. The first one we found was a 3 star place by the water. Didn't have high hopes for being able to afford it but… walk in, start asking the price for a room and the guy just starts shaking his head at me. Doesn't even say a word. Just gives me a "we don't want your kind here… smelly biker." look. But, I got him to recommend somewhere else because Dachary needed net for work and I wanted to give BMW Lima a heads up about needing new dual-sport rear tire. He recommends a place down the road with one of the noisiest intersections known to man. It's another 3 star hotel, but we're both tired and I'm really not into hunting this city any more for places that'll be cheaper but still have internet and parking so we pay the $35(ish) US. and take the room.
The intersection eventually quiets down, but we get to hear bad karaoke from across the street into the wee hours. Dachary is totally crashy at this point, barely articulating herself and staring blankly at everything as a result of only having had an early lunch. I convince her that yes, you need to go eat now, not attempt to do work, so we wander out to the corner, don't see anything immediately, and I make the Executive Decision that she's not mentally capable of wandering around town for food, so we turn around and eat at the fancy Chinese Restaurant attached to the hotel. Like the US it's got lots of red lacquer with cheap looking jade and porcelain things behind glass. Each plate is intended for two people (oops) but you have to specifically ask for rice (weird). Also, we're the only people in the place who ask for chop sticks, and we get the standard ginormous unwieldy plastic things that seem to be a universal standard in Chinese restaurants that don't use disposable wooden ones. I don't get it. They're the worst chop sticks under the sun. But then, we each eat everything on our plates. Ok, I left a few pieces of crunchy white lettuce bottoms, but I don't think either of us had any idea we were *that* hungry.
Back to the room and Dachary barely gets any work done before, sensibly, declaring that she's too tired. We'll get up early(ish) to finish that, and putting images in the last two posts. Takes about an hour every night to do these posts if you include the uploading and putting in the code for the images… Daily posting is not an easy task my friends.
Side note: can't find an e-mail address for BMW Lima, but it looks like we may actually be able to find the place without playing follow-the-taxi. The plan is to go there try and get a tire since they'll be the most likely to have one of the appropriate size I think. If they have one, great. If they don't ask them where we can find tires in town (Damn I miss Colombia with all it's motos and streets of moto shops) and go buy something there. I'm not going to be picky, just something that'll be able to handle the dirt we're going to encounter as we head farther south.
Also, Moto Adventure Gal took a dirt road I really wanted to see that went through the Cañón del Pato, passed through like 40 tunnels, by a couple coal mines, and had Laguna Paron just half an hour off the main road. I really wanted to see Laguna Paron, it looks so pretty, but it'd add at least a day to the trip and Dachary has convinced me that since neither of us want to give up the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia (dunno how much time that'll add), or Machu Pichu here in Peru (adds about 6 day), we're going to need to give up a few other things. We'll still probably need to push pretty hard after the Salar, but there's nothing we can do about our time limit. We're both of the opinion that it's wrong to go to Peru and skip Machu Pichu even if it's totally touristy and expensive. Unless of course, you've already seen it, but we haven't.
We got internet and I was disappointed to find that Naomi had emailed us (she's the female half of the couple with the exploded F800GS engines here in Peru) and we rode right past where they were staying this afternoon! I'd thought they were in Lima because I believe their bikes are in Lima, so I thought we'd still have a couple of days before we'd need to figure out the details of meeting up - but it turns out they're a bit further north, and we rode right past the town where they were staying this afternoon. Bummer! Stopping there for the day would have been quite early, but we always enjoy hanging out with other ADVers, and Kay and I agree that it's a shame we didn't get the email before then. We would have called it an early night and been happy to hang out. So sorry we missed you guys, and maybe we'll meet again down the road!
Regarding Peru… I have a lot of mixed feelings about this country so far. The landscape has been otherworldly and beautiful… except for all the trash. So much trash. Trash lining the road practically the entire way. Open landfills beside the road - even in the towns themselves, right across the street from collections of shanty homes. It seems like such a shame to have all this trash everywhere, but clearly Peru doesn't have anything resembling the infrastructure and organization we have in the States. I just keep thinking about that old commercial with the Native American guy looking at trash in the middle of a beautiful American landscape and the single tear rolling down his face, and I know that's such a cliche image… but that's how I feel about Peru. It makes me sad. I know that as a "rich American" I have no right to really find it sad, but I do. It saddens me to see the planet treated like a giant trash can. This is something I took for granted before I left, and now I know a bit more about myself. So there's that.
Also, I'm having trouble with the poverty here in Peru. We rode by a big corporate farm thing (in the middle of the desert) at one point today, and there were probably a dozen big tour buses lined up outside of the place. Parked there. Kay and I figured those buses must transport workers to the big corporate farms. I started thinking about what it must be like to toil in these fields all day, under the desert sun, and take home what is basically pennies for an entire day of hard labor. Shortly after seeing these fields, we met the guy who owned the restaurant and was talking to us about his salary and life here in Peru. He took English lessons because he dreamed of going to the United States and work in a kitchen, but he said he never had the opportunity. In large part, I'm guessing, because he makes so little here and just to get to the US must require an amazing amount of cash for people here, and I can't imagine how he'd adjust to the inflated cost of living in most of the US.
This has made me very thoughtful about the poverty we've encountered here in Peru. We've encountered poverty in many of the Latin American countries, but it wasn't *all* poverty. Peru seems to have more shanty-towns, more sad-looking towns and while there may not actually *be* more poverty here, it certainly feels like there is. And I don't know how to feel about that. Part of me feels like I should feel guilty that I make so much more than the people here, and I have so many more opportunities than they do. Most people here could never begin to contemplate a trip like ours. There simply isn't enough money in a lifetime for the folks here. And I do regret that they don't have the opportunity that we have in the United States. But I don't want to feel guilty because I *am* American - it's just a fluke of birth that I was born there and they were born here. And yet, I feel that there would be something inhuman in not acknowledging that we have it so much better than so many of the people here, and I hate feeling like a "rich gringo" taking an extravagant trip like this through their country.
The guy at the restaurant seemed shocked when we told him we paid rent for our apartment. He didn't seem to get the concept at first, and then when he did, he asked why we didn't just buy a place. We told him that we can't afford a place in Boston (we might or might not be able to afford one there, but neither of us wants the kind of lifestyle that would be required to buy a place in Boston). But we could have used the money that's funding this trip to put a decent downpayment on a home somewhere else, and we could have bought ourselves a lot of stability with this money. Except neither of us wants that at the cost of this. A trip like this is worth so much more to us than a mortgage and bills… and yeah, having a home back in the States is important, but neither of us wants to forego the experiences of traveling for the security and stability of a 9-5 job and the life back home. And yet, part of me feels arrogant and kind of wasteful that the people here would make so much better use of the money we're spending, and it would offer them security and stability and being well-off for such a long time… maybe even a lifetime.
So yeah. Peru is full of confusing feelings and reflection on poverty and American consumerism and the way of life that I want for myself, and trying to reconcile all of these things. I have no idea what the outcome of these reflections will be, but I do know that it will make me a better, more developed, deeper person for having to face these thoughts and ideas.
Around lunch time we were going around a roundabout when I spotted a restaurant with wooden chairs and a nicely lettered menu of the day, and a little voice inside me said "eat there!" so I listened to it, and passed on the word. We pulled in, I intentionally hopped off the wrong side of the bike, and slowly pulled it down after me.
I stared at it for a moment. Laughed, once again, at my idiocy, and Dachary and I lifted it back up.
In we went, and had one of the best lunches we've had in a while. Dachary had some roast beef, potatoes, and rice. I had chicken, potatoes and rice. Both plates were delicious and there was a wonderfully curry-like spice on the potatoes that left your lips numb without burning you. Mmmm
Back on the Panamerican the word of the day ended up being "Wooowwwww" because we just kept saying it over and aver. We've never seen landscapes like these, and we both felt so amazingly grateful for the opportunity to experience them.
Another stop at a Gasohol station to fill up on "fuel" that was guaranteed to void the warranties we didn't have. We pulled over to put a smudge more air in my tires and on the way to the bathroom I noticed the bins of frozen treats… "hmm. standing around for five minutes eating a frozen treat wouldn't be bad." Dachary wasn't opposed to the idea, so 7 soles later we were enjoying a nice little break by the bikes. We'd been riding hard all day, and rarely take little breaks like that. It was nice.
Back on the bikes, and we encountered the two police checkpoints where Naomi warned us about corrupt cops trying to extract bribes. Sure enough, at the first one the cops lied and tried to tell us we were going faster than we were after exiting a toll booth, you know, where you're supposed to be accelerating? The next one was after cresting a hill, there were four cop cars at the bottom of it, and I thought, with that many cops it'll be less likely that they're trying to get bribes from people, but sure enough, we were waved over by a cop standing on the side of the road with no radar gun or any other means of detecting speed.
Having been warned about these guys in advance I played extra stupid gringo with zero Spanish skills. At the first stop the guy was speaking so fast that I didn't even have to pretend I didn't have a clue what he was saying. He went to get his partner whom he thought spoke some English. He came over, attempted the same thing, and failed utterly at my dazed looks and "Sorry?" and "I don't understand." I didn't even answer the question of "where are you from?" because that would have implied some Spanish understanding. I did give my fake license though because "licencia" is pretty close, and I don't give a shit if he has it. After a minute or two of utterly failed communication attempts he waved me off with a frustrated expression.
The second stop was much like the first, except I actually understood the first guy, who went off to get someone else to attempt to communicate with me, and he wrote down "$150 Infractione" on the back of a ticket. "Ok." I said in the "I have no clue what you're on about, but please continue speaking." sort of voice. He told me I'd been going very fast. I told him I didn't understand a thing he was saying. He asked for my documents but used other words. I told him I didn't understand. Eventually he said "documents para la moto" which was close enough, and I showed him my documents. He pointed to the "$150 infraction" on the paper again. I said "Yes?" He blathered on for a few moments, and then gave up and waved me on. As a note, whenever we've seen prices in Peru it has been "S./ some_number" and never dollar signs, so I'm pretty sure he meant US Dollars.
Soon, we entered the outskirts of Lima and started looking for a hotel, having previously decided it would be better to grab a hotel and attempt to find the dealer tomorrow since we'd never make it there before they closed. Dachary spotted one on the left but I mistook her hail for the one I'd spotted on the right with balconies, faux marble, and more all done up in a heavily european style. It stuck out like a sore thumb along the side of this busy road with crappy little single color one-story buildings.
(Dachary's note: while Kay was enquiring about the hotel, I was standing with the bikes, as per usual, and a guy pulled up in a pick-up truck and seemed really excited to see the bikes. He came over and started asking me questions, and my Spanish isn't as good as Kay's, but eventually I was able to tell him the capacity of the bike, where we were from, where we were going, etc. He asked if he could take a picture of the bikes, and we told him it was fine (Kay had come out at that point and was standing with me) and he seemed really happy and excited about us and the bikes.
He shook our hands and then made to drove off, and as he was going by, he pulled the pick-up next to us and offered us some toffee. Apparently he made it himself. He opened a little plastic baggy and handed us each one, and then he handed Kay the full baggy, which had contained a total of 5 toffees. Normally I'd be skeptical of eating food some random stranger gave us, but he was so genuinely happy that we took them - I felt it would be insulting to refuse. We each had one after dinner, and ZOMG! They were amazingly good! I'm not even really a toffee fan, but these things were SO tasty. I had two, and Kay had one, and we still have two left. We're saving them. Yay for random encounters with generous strangers who make good toffee!) - End Dachary's Note
Turns out they're not done with the building, but they're really trying hard, and have done a good job. It's also got real Jacuzzi tubs, although, it's lacking enough hot water to fill them. When we asked about food around here the lady at the desk (on the second floor) said she could order us something. So, **** it, we took it. Better than hunting around for more, and getting closer to Lima and higher prices.
We paid for the room, asked about food again, and she wanted as much for the food as for the room. We were quite confused because it was an outrageous price for food in Peru, and told her we'd go find food out there. Then, magically, the price halved itself. Dachary told me later that the lady was originally offering us some sort of mixed platter with chorizo, chicken and a bunch of other stuff, which Dachary has seen elsewhere for quite a high price, so it turns out that the price wasn't implausible. For half the price, it was still a bit much but within the realm of sanity and we didn't feel like debating it any more so we said ok and went to the room. What we ended up with was tasty fried chicken on a bed of lamely done french-fries which she probably marked up 100%. I hope she at least tipped the delivery-guy we saw bringing it via the balcony.
We set up the iPad on the balcony, grabbed the headphones, and enjoyed an episode of Top Gear whilst we munched our meal. Afterwards, we remembered we were going to check Dachary's air filter because she's been having some performance problems, but it was dark, some disagreements ensued and in the end, the idea was abandoned.
I'm not sure what this means for tomorrow because I'm not comfortable with her heading into Bolivia and beyond with the bike acting as it is (sometimes she has the throttle pegged and we're barely doing more than 60mph). It may be something more, as the bike is due for it's 12,000 mile check-up, but it may just be that the desert has filled her filter, although if that were the case I'd suspect that my bike would be experiencing similar problems, but Horse is doing good, even with the crap I've been feeding him.
Side note: Gasohol in Peru is running us nearly $7 US a gallon and is continuing to give us shit mileage (45 mpg when we're used to getting 65-75). We buy 95 or better whenever we can, but sometimes we get stuck with 90 because there won't be any more stations for a while and there's nothing better. Still don't know what the numbers mean. Maybe it's octane, but we've no clue what percentage of what we're buying is alcohol. We are not happy.
Side note 2: Checking the air filter requires removal of six torx screws, the seat, the blinker, two long phillps screws (one of which is in a deep tunnel), and the snorkel. Once you get it out you have to do a lot of shoving and finger crossing to get it back in because it doesn't really fit in the space provided. We love our bikes but hate everything to do with getting those body panels off. You need to remove them to access the battery, the air filter, the fuel filter, and to change the oil. Well, the oil also requires removing the filter and it's cover down near the chain, as well as the sump plug under the bike. Actually you're supposed to remove the oil tank thing near the top too but we never do since you can drain almost all of it just by having the bike tilted on the kickstand. Some of the design decisions on this bike are just ****ing moronic.
There are far things in the world worse than corrupt cops. The cops in Colombia and Mexico were great, but so far Peruvian cops on the Panamerican are as bad as their Honduran counterparts. Peru is beautiful, when the natives haven't covered it in trash and / or foul scents, but bad cops can sour the whole experience of a country for overlanders and that really sucks.
The plan for this morning was to find the BMW dealer in Lima to get a new tire for Kay's bike, and maybe ask about the problems I've been having with my bike. I honestly didn't expect they'd be able to get the bike in and serviced quickly, and I didn't want to spend days in Lima waiting for it at this point, given the tightness of our schedule now, so I figured we'd just get a tire for Kay and move on.
Got up and out of the hotel shortly after 9AM (I had a ton of trouble sleeping again last night because the hotel fronts the Pan American and we heard a non-stop litany of large trucks and honking all night… loudly. And the room was too hot, so you had to open the door to the balcony to get any cool air, but that let in more noise. I tried sleeping on the floor near the door, which was cooler, but uncomfortable on hard tile without my sleeping bag or sleeping mat, which were down on the bike… and I tried sleeping with my ear plugs and buff on to block out the noise, but I woke up around 3AM and didn't get back to sleep until after 6AM. So I slept until 8 and then we got up, packed the bikes and hit the road.)
Neither of us was looking forward to driving into Lima, because we ALWAYS get lost in the big cities. And we didn't have a map of Lima, and we didn't have internet at the hotel to look at a map - so we had what Kay saw two nights ago, and an address written down in his book. He thought we took the Pan Americana through Lima until we found the road that the dealer is on, and then just get off the Pan Americana at a roundabout and follow the road. But it's never that simple, and we had no idea where the Pan American would cross the road we needed…
Turns out it was that simple. After a poorly-marked roundabout took us a little over 1k off the Pan American (but asking directions from a guy selling stuff at a stop light got us turned around quickly) we took the Pan Americana through Lima… and eventually saw the sign for the road we needed. Which indicated which exit we needed. We got off at the exit, stopped at a gas station to ask some cops, who seemed quite happy to help Kay - they shook his hand, waved and smiled at me, and got out a map to answer his question - and told us we were on the right road and just needed to head 10 blocks that way. We did, and we saw the BMW rondel (on the opposite side of a divided road) so we went down to the next left turn, popped a U, and made it back to the BMW dealer with zero hassle. It was seriously the easiest thing we've ever had to find in a big city. It went ridiculously smoothly.
Still, driving through Lima takes time, and it was around 10:30AM when we pulled up outside the dealer. The guard saw that we were riding BMW motorcycles, and when we made to pull up in front of the dealer, he waved us through into the back. "Oh, you're riding a BMW - you don't need to park out there. Come on in!" I seriously love that about riding this bike. The service we've gotten at dealers on the road has been absolutely stellar.
Into the back, and the guy who greets us says he speaks a "little English." We try explaining what we need in pidgin Spanish/English with our limited vocabulary, and he follows us for a bit, but wants to confirm that he understands what's going on with my bike when we try explaining the problem, so he goes to get a guy who speaks English. Turns out that's Eduardo, whose card says he is a "Jefe de Soporte Tecnico" but who we thought was a director until we just now looked at his card. He was certainly striding around being helpful like he owned the place, and maybe he does and I'm totally misunderstanding the title.
Anyway, we explain what we need to Eduardo, who consults with Caesar who apparently organizes service (we think - we don't have his card) and they say they can take a look at my bike immediately to diagnose the problem. Great! Eduardo also says that a tire for Kay's bike is no problem. So we go inside and hang out reading our books (mine on my teeny iPhone, and Kay's on his iPad, since we've run out of paper books a long time ago - thank god for Kindle on the iPhone/iPad on a trip like this). A bit later, Eduardo comes out and says there's nothing wrong with my bike, but they're still checking it out. I'm a bit confused as "nothing wrong" implies to me that they're already done checking, but we wait more. No big deal. We're just grateful they were able to take a look at it so quickly, so we don't complain.
A bit later again (around noon) Eduardo comes back and shows us the air filter, which is absolutely filthy. He mentions checking the fuel filter and that they might want to change the… oh, he can't remember the English word for the thing they might want to change. So I hand him my iPhone and motion for him to type the Spanish word into the dictionary app I have (Ultralingua, which Eric recommended to me when we hung out with him, Sabrina and Stephen in San Cristobal what feels like forever ago!) and it turns out the thing they might want to replace is the spark plug.
No problem! I have spark plugs! I go out to get them (he's a little confused that I hand him two, but I explain that my bike, the '07, is a two-spark model - Kay's older F series is a one-spark) and he sits them on the bike for the technician, who has gone to lunch, but who will get back to working on my bike when he returns.
Which reminds us - we haven't had breakfast yet and can he recommend a spot for lunch? Eduardo tells us about a place down the street a little and around the corner, inside another building. He can't remember the English words for them but I figure we can look around and find it, so we head that way. Turns out he was sending us to a supermarket that had ready-made food offerings on the second floor, and also a hot food place that served chicken and french fries, but Kay and I are getting god-awful tired of chicken and french fries (seems like we have it for every other meal here in Peru) so we opt for some wraps and empanadas from the ready-made food case.
Conveniently, I've been needing new contact solution and the store has a pharmacy section! Armed only with my iPhone and Ultralingua, we inquire about contact lens solution. (I don't know why I haven't mentioned it before, because we use it practically daily to look up specific vocabulary we don't know, like "contact lenses". It doesn't require a 'net connection and it's fantastic. It'll conjugate for you and everything. We super duper love it and I am very grateful to Eric for recommending it to me. If you don't speak Spanish and plan to travel Central/South America and have an iPhone, I highly, highly recommend it.)
With the aid of Ultralingua, I'm able to ask for "water for contact lenses" and point to my eye, which the woman at the pharmacy understands the very first time. Yay! And they have some! Yay! She brings me two options and I pick one at random because I don't know the difference. So now I have new contact solution! Bonus!
Also, while we're here, I ponder snacks. Being a girl, there's a certain time of the month that I simply CRAVE chocolate. (And being a big girl, I like my treats in general.) But good chocolate treats are so hard to find in Latin America. I prefer baked things, like brownies, which we never ever see. We do occasionally run into a panaderia when we have time to stop, which usually has bread and occasionally pastry products, and I've tried a wide variety of Latin American pastries, but none of them really satisfies my desire for baked goodies. And in Peru, we've noticed a dearth of panaderias or even bodegas or stores that have much in the way of tasty treats.
So I decide to look at Oreos, and end up picking up some bite-sized Snickers that aren't going to last long in my tank bag in the Peruvian desert (pity about chocolate melting, and all that) and end up buying the Oreos and Snickers. So I have treats for the evening, even if we don't run into a place to buy them at the end of the day. I'd normally eschew pre-processed baked goodies in the US, because it's so easy to find really good baked goodies (or make them) back home, but abroad, Oreos are something I know and come close to fitting my requirements. So I broke down and got them.
Turns out our trip out for lunch was quite productive!
It takes longer than we expect and we get back to the BMW dealer around 1:40PM. Eduardo had told us to expect my bike to be done at 2PM, so I figure we have just a few minutes of sitting around. As we're reading on our respective devices, a lady walks by and asks if we need Internet access. Sure, if you're offering! So she tells us which network to use (they've got a guest network set up) and gives us the password, and we log on from our iPhone and iPad and check ADV and my email and poke the Web for a bit. Which always takes longer than we expect.
At around 2:45, we decide we should give up and watch a show until they're done with my bike, so I go out to where we've piled our stuff to get the headphones for the iPad. And as I'm out there, I see that they're buttoning up my bike. Yay! I go back inside and tell Kay to nix the TV idea, and he's walking toward me with a piece of paper that has a total written on it (roughly $64 for labor, since we didn't need any parts) and says we're probably about ready to go. Yay! So Eduardo comes back a few minutes later and explains that they're done with my bike, and they need my passport and the bike paperwork to fill out an invoice. No problem. We ask about a tire for Kay's bike again, and he seems to think we want them to mount it. No, no, we just want a tire we can bring with us. So he goes to ask a guy about it.
He and the guy come back a few minutes later, look at the tire and write down the specs. They go back and forth a bit, and eventually Eduardo tells us that they can get a Metzler Tourance tire for the rear, but it won't be here until tomorrow. Bummer. I wish they'd have told us that at the beginning because that's the whole reason we stopped there - not to have my bike serviced. But it's getting late in the day at this point - it's after 3PM - and we probably wouldn't get very far, so we ask if he can recommend a hotel where we can stay in Lima and we'll pick up the tire and hit the road in the AM. He can, and he has the guy "order" the tire (I think they have to request it from a warehouse or something, and they'll have it tomorrow AM) and a tube. There's a bit more confusion because he still thinks we want them to mount it for us in the AM, but we don't. I think Kay wants to get to Bolivia before we mount it - his tire still has a little tread left and it's largely pavement between here and there.
So we wait, assuming that he's getting the info about the hotel for us. He says we can leave the bikes there for the night, and the hotel is just down the street - walking distance - next to a gas station. So we pull what we want from the bikes, and he says he'll be back in 20 minutes and wanders off.
What ensues next is an hour of sitting around wondering what the heck we're supposed to be doing. We go back inside and wait. We play a game on the iPad. Time passes. Eventually Kay suggests watching a TV show again since it's clear Eduardo isn't going to be back in 20 minutes, so we go outside to the stuff and look for headphones. But while we're out there, we get the idea of checking Kay's air filter because mine was FILTHY, so his probably needs cleaning, too. So we take all the crap off his bike, take off the seat, undo all the screws and pull the air filter. Yep. It's filthy. Unfortunately, the F650 FAQ says to clean the air filter with filter cleaner / gasoline / detergent and a burnish (which we don't have), so we ponder asking the guys to clean it for us in the AM and we'll just put the bike back together ourselves. That can't take long.
While we're poking Kay's bike, we notice he's got oil in his airbox, too. Crap. He hadn't been noticing the performance issues I had, but we both remember that my bike had oil all over the place and needed a bit of cleaning up, so we decide that Kay's probably needs the same, based on what we've seen. So we want to ask if they can do the same service on his bike, but Kay is annoyed that we waited till the end of the day to discover this, since we've essentially been just sitting around since 11AM.
As we're standing around outside, Eduardo comes dashing by and says something like "Had to come back to the office!" by which I understand he didn't mean to return, and I realize he thinks we were done a while ago. We confer and then flag Eduardo down, and ask again about the hotel, etc. And we ask about whether they can get Kay's bike in for the same service. Eduardo indicates that it's no problem and that they'll do Kay's bike early in the AM so it should be ready before the tire is there, so we should still be able to get on the road at a decent time tomorrow AM. So we ask him to do that, and then ask about a hotel again. Could they maybe call us a cab to the hotel? Eduardo had indicated that it was in walking distance, but I'm bringing my panniers, and Kay has some stuff from his, and we don't want to walk kilometers to a hotel with all that crap even if it is "within walking distance."
Eduardo says sure and wanders off, and a few minutes later, the same woman who gave us the internet passwords earlier in the day walks over and says she'll drive us to the hotel. Yay! We pick up our stuff and follow her out front, and she leads us to a BMW Mini Cooper S, which has the extra storage space in the back, and opens the back doors, asking for my panniers. I tell her that they're heavy - I'd rather put them in myself but the way the car is parked and the doors are extended, I can't get to it. She takes them, realizes they really ARE heavy, and gets dirt all over her nice slack suit trying to manhandle them into the back of the BMW. Yikes! I feel so bad for my filthy stuff getting all over her nice suit!
One of the guys takes mercy and comes over to load the stuff into the back, and it requires a surprising amount of manhandling. Then we're off to the hotel. Which, it turns out, is a little over a block away - it really is close by. But as soon as we pull up, the guy is shaking his head at us. While Kay gets out of the mini, the valet goes inside and comes back out to say they have no vacancies. "What? I thought this was arranged?" the woman who is driving us asks. We had no idea. We didn't even know the name of the hotel - it was just the place that Eduardo recommended to us. So she calls Eduardo, who apparently says that Caesar recommended it but they haven't called ahead to make any arrangements, so now here she is with a car full of gringo and our stuff and no hotel.
"No problem," she says - her English is quite good - she learned it in Germany - "I know another hotel. Let's go check it out." I'm sitting in the front seat with her so I make small talk - turns out her father is Peruvian but her mother is German - she was born in Dublin, Ireland - raised in Peru until she was 18 - lived in Germany until she was 28 - and then returned to Peru to be near her family. While we're chatting, she tells us there was a big accident at a football stadium nearby, which is why we keep seeing all of the ambulances flying by. She heard on the radio that like 100 people, many of them children, were injured. I think maybe a bleacher collapsed - I'm not quite sure what the problem was but it sounded bad. We chatted about Peru, which she says she didn't miss because all of the earthquakes, and before we know it, we're at a hotel not far from the supermarket where we had lunch.
Kay goes in to ask about a room, and it's more than we would normally spend, but we don't feel like we can ask this lady to drive us around further like some sort of borrowed taxi service. She already seemed annoyed (although not at us) that the first hotel hadn't been arranged beforehand, so Kay and I agree to suck up the price just so she can get back to her hijacked day. It turns out, this is the first hotel where we've stayed in Peru that has AIR CONDITIONING! YAY! Thank God! And it has hot water, and internet, and it's quiet, even though it's on a main street. I should be able to actually SLEEP here. ZOMG almost worth the cost.
So we haul our stuff in, take the ELEVATOR up (I know, right? What luxury!) and get into the surprisingly roomy room. Crank up the a/c, hop in the shower, and then out for dinner. We wander around the corner where I had seen a restaurant sign earlier, but the place doesn't seem open, so we wander a bit further and find what appears to be a convention center, and then an upscale mini-mall. What luxury!
We wander around the mini-mall just to see what they have, and Kay spots a bubble tea place. Kay LOVES bubble tea, and hasn't had any since probably a month before we left, so he goes inside and asks if they have "black tea with milk and bubbles." The guy indicates that it's no problem and asks us to sit down. Sure! We sit and he makes the bubble tea, and brings Kay what looks like a glass of milk with bubbles in. Kay says there's "technically" tea in it, but it's basically milk with tapioca balls, and the tapioca is old … so we look for a place to throw it away. It was a nice idea, but didn't quite work out.
Kay's note: the tapioca "bubbles" have to be remade multiple times a day as they start getting hard within hours. If you ever get ones that are too stiff it means the people who work there aren't doing their job.
But the bubble tea makes me realize how friggin thirsty I am (SO THIRSTY!) and I really want juice. Except juice may or may not have local water in it, which isn't safe for me, and I've had enough trouble with my tummy as it is. Eventually we settle on what looks like a chain place for dinner, but has stir-fry type food, so it's a change from the usual chicken and french fries and rice. And they advertise milkshakes! Kay spots a glass with ice in it on another table, which seems to be industrial mass-produced ice, which we've been told is safe to drink because it's made with treated water. So I decide to risk it and ask for a strawberry milkshake. What I actually end up getting is some sort of purple frozen juice of the day. It's definitely not strawberry, nor do I sense any milk anywhere near it. I drink about half of it down anyway because I'm SO thirsty, and I just hope I don't pay the ultimate price for it later.
Dinner was surprisingly tasty, and I'm in good spirits because the menu advertises "brownie con helado" - which is brownie with ice cream. And this restaurant seems large enough that it probably actually *has* brownie with ice cream. But, alas, as has been proven true at EVERY SINGLE RESTAURANT - brownie con helado is just a myth. It doesn't exist. We've seen it on a ton of menus and no-one ever has it. So sad. But I was smart enough to get the snacky goodies when we had lunch, so I have Oreos or Snickers to look forward to back in our AIR CONDITIONED hotel room.
While neither of us would have planned to spend another day in Lima - especially with our schedules getting so tight on making it down to Ushuaia before the weather is too bad - it's probably just as well that we're getting the bikes serviced. We're getting into no-man's land for BMW dealers, so any problems we encounter now could make or break the rest of the trip, depending on how we handle it. The day was not unpleasant, and while the hotel is more than we'd normally want to pay, it does have some nice luxuries. We should be well-rested and ready to hit the road hard tomorrow, if the bikes are ready early in the AM!
The hope for tomorrow is to get as far as Nazca, where we'll check out the Nazca lines and then head inland for Cusco. Although at this point I'm seriously considering scrapping Machu Picchu for our schedule, because the Salar de Uyuni is going to take up some serious time and I don't want to miss our window to get to Ushuaia. It's getting tight now. Time to start making some tough decisions.
Kay's Note: at this point I don't even consider the cost of labor at the BMW dealers. It's just so damn cheap. After The Fan Of Insanity I'm freaked about parts prices, but paying them to look at the stuff involved with Dachary's bike today didn't concern me in the least. $65 US to dig out the fuel filter (almost literally), clean the carb and the air box of oil spew, and change the plugs? Sure, we could do it, but honestly we never have the time at the end of the day, and when we do want to **** with the bikes the hotel never has an appropriate space to do so (someone's kitchen, a parking lot we can't access on our own, etc). $65 is totally worth it if you ask me, and that's still the most expensive labor we've encountered.
One bright side of the hotel? It had breakfast. We went down and ordered some eggs (complementary breakfast was toast, juice and coffee/tea) and reveled in a tasty breakfast, which has been far and few between in Peru. No-one here seems to do breakfast. Whilst we were there, a woman at the next table was having trouble understanding what the waiter was saying, so I told her what he meant, and then she asked me to translate for her.
We ended up chatting, and discovered that she was a Welsh housewife in Lima because her son had fallen in love with a Peruvian woman, and wanted to ask her to marry him. Her mother insisted that his mother MUST come with him if he wanted to ask for her hand, so she flew to Lima with him (it was apparently his second visit but the first time for her and she was very much out of her element) and was very uncomfortable here. She didn't speak any Spanish, although we think she has an excuse - she didn't want to be here anyway - and she was pretty much stuck in the hotel until her son came to take her around with his girl. It was an interesting chat, and an unexpected viewpoint into the differences in culture. Hopefully the parents grant permission and he gets to marry the girl!
After breakfast, we ventured out of our hotel to the supermarket just down the street to get some large jugs of water and hit the ATM we'd seen there. Along we way we ended up walking through the grass instead of on the sidewalk and Dachary twisted her ankle in an unseen hole, and in the end going to the supermarket and back took at least half an hour even though we could see it from the hotel.
Back to BMW Lima around 10:30 AM, crossing our fingers that the bike would be done, but no. It was in pieces on the stand. I went up to check on it and the mechanic said he needed a spark plug. Yesterday Dachary had just handed them her spares. I figured, why hand over my spares for such a cheap part. Turns out, they didn't have any. Not a huge vote of confidence…
Gutless Bikes Naomi and Alberto's bikes, sans engines. They both look like gutted bugs without their engines, but Alberto's especially so. You look down and you see valves sitting there that should never be exposed.
Whip out the iPad, watch some Torchwood in their "waiting area". Really, just a high table with squishy stools, then they start cleaning the bike. I would have rather just taken off with it dirty and saved the time but it was already in there and wet so…
We finally escaped just after 1pm, but the bikes… OMG the bikes are SO happy. They feel like brand new with their new plugs and clean filters (and carbs). I don't know if my carb had dried oil in it like Dachary's but it's happy now even though it wasn't notably off.
Drive drive drive…. there's a magic number approaching… How close is it? Are we there yet? How much further? Almost? YES!!!! 10,000 miles baby. We're in the middle of the Peruvian desert, 168 kilometers south of Lima and 10,000 miles from Boston. We get off the bikes and celebrate. We film a video for you. We take pictures. We don't care in the least that it's taking time from the schedule because we're at 10,000 miles baby!
On we go, until we see a couple big BMW's heading our way. We wave. They wave. We pull over. They pull over. We start chatting. Another bike pulls over. Then another. It's a group of four guys (one pair father and son) on brand new BMW's who look like they raided the dealership and made a break for it. They're all wearing BMW gear, BMW tank bags, and the bikes are spotless, with a bunch of Touratech farkles. The only odd man out was a guy wearing a spotless Rallye Pro 2 suit. Maybe they ran out of 3s? Turns out, they left Venezuela about twenty days ago and they were just doing a loop around parts of South America before heading home. I think they had just one month to do it so they didn't go all the way to Ushuaia. Also, they went to Bolivia but skipped the Salar de Uyuni. How odd.
They gave us lots of info, like telling us that the main road from the Panamerican to Cuzco is "perfecto" and "mui bonito". They also gave us the card of a Hotel in Huacachina, which is the town just west of Ica which has these huge sand dunes surrounding an almost stereotypical oasis.
More chatting, picture taking, shaking of hands, and pointing at maps, and then we went our separate ways, buoyed by the encounter.
It took a bit longer than expected to get to Ica. We had GPS coordinates from Fred for the hotel where he'd stayed the night before and as we came into town we thought we saw it on the side of the road, but decided to go with the suggestion of the biker guys in Huacachina and light faded out just before we pulled into town. Unfortunately, we didn't realize that the town's sole purpose in life is to accommodate tourists. Not only that, it was a Saturday night. The place the guys recommended looked money. I walked in and saw that it was s./ 155 (about $60 us) and walked back out. We went to another place down the road that might have had parking. They were full, and about the same price. They suggested the place we came from (too pricey), and the place next door might have parking but noted that it was the weekend, the neighbor hotel had a huge pile of people in and had a discoteque, so even if they did have a room it was unlikely we'd actually be able to sleep. However, if we wanted to drink and dance, it would probably be a good choice.
We didn't. Dachary really didn't want to drive in the dark since there was zero light in the sky now, so we went back to the money place. Oh, whoops. They're full. ****. Turn around, ready to head back to Fred's suggestion when we see one more that might just… Sure, s./ 60, and yeah you can bring you're bikes in through the restaurant.
Only problem? Three steep narrow stairs up to the restaurant. Three or four long stairs out the back of the restaurant, and gravel behind that with tables we'd probably smash into.
The town was filled with college age kids, and places to drink and the idea of leaving the bikes on the main street didn't appeal to me. However, I wasn't fully confident I could navigate the bikes up the first set of stairs, or the stair + gravel + tables combo without ****ing something up, and there was no way to fit with panniers. Debate Debate. Ponder Ponder, while Dachary's getting annoyed. **** it. We'll go back into town. Sorry Dachary, more night driving.
We do. Oh, whoops. That place we thought was the hotel wasn't. It was a restaurant with a name that looked like "Real" when driving down the road trying not to hit things. But wait, there's another actual hotel… Oh, hmm. No, they're full too. Do you know the Hotel Real? "Oh yes… go this way, about a block and a half. It's on the left. " Hrm… No, DOn't see it. Go farther. No. Turn around…. no… **** it. "Hey cabbie. Where's the Hotel Real?" Follow the instructions, and then another cab that happens to be going in that direction. Oh THERE it is… Go in. Nope. They're full too. ****ing A. "Who would you recommend with parking for two bikes?"
Ok… I head out to the bikes and Dachary's chatting with another cabbie. I mention the hotel. He confirms the directions and says for s./ 4 he'll lead us there. The directions are really clear, but I figure, it's late, I'm sick of hunting for hotels, and there's a decent chance that when we get there they'll be full and we'll need to hunt down another one. For $1.50 (US) I'll pay for the security of finding the place and having a guy to follow to the next place which is almost guaranteed to be harder to find.
Directions were good, but I still would have driven past it. In we go. My normal questioning is thrown out the window. "Do you have a room for two people?" Yes?!?! Holy shit. "Do you have one with a two person bed?" Yes?!?! Holy crap. "How much?" Now, I ask this, not because it actually matters how much it is at this point, but just so that I'll know how much to pay. s/. 110 Beggers can't be choosers. "Ok." I start to walk out to tell Dachary, then poke my head back "wireless internet?" Yes?!?!? Holy shit.
We pay the cabbie, pull in. Pay for the room. Unload, and go to the restaurant. "What's the WiFi password?" We'll test it with Dachary's phone while we wait for food. Hmm, that password worked for one network, but not for the network we see in the room. Go back and double check. Yup, those are the numbers she has. It's the typical 0123456789 password you see so often at hotels. Hard to **** up. But no. It still doesn't work. Hmm… poke poke… AHHh… I figure out the password to the other network, go back to the office and let them know what it is so that they can give the next guests the right info.
Turns out we can't actually use the net from the room. We can barely see it but it just times out when we try to use it from there. So close, and yet so far.
The room is pricey, again, but the place is really well done with an old time southwestern feel and the room is sooo quiet, with a comfy bed and a big-ass ceiling fan that is actually so blowey we turn it down a notch.
We know we should write today's post but it's nearly 9pm and neither of us feel like it. So we celebrate the 10,000 miles by testing out the bed-springs, then relax with an episode of Torchwood and fall asleep.
I only wish someone would have let us know that Ica/Huacachina was a some sort of Peruvian tourist destination and that it should definitely be avoided on the weekends.
Today got off to a good start, as the hotel served breakfast. I had a nice coffee, eggs and bread, and Kay dug out a tea bag we've been carrying around since the US and had a nice cup of tea. He says that on the next trip, he's bringing some good tea with us. I should probably do the same with coffee. It's amazing what a comforting, tasty warm drink can do for morale.
Packed up our stuff and brought it out to the bikes… only to discover that my rear tire had gone flat overnight. Damn. I was concerned about what might have caused it to go flat, but Kay suggested filling it with air, checking the valve core (as his loosened once and caused a slow leak overnight) and seeing if it would hold air. So we dug out the Cycle Pump and filled it up. I left the cap off, we did some packing, took our time, etc… and more than 10 minutes later, the air was still fine. So we opted to drive down the street to get gas, and check the air pressure then. 5-10 minutes later, we pulled into a gas station, the air pressure was slightly higher (as it should have been, since the tire had gotten hot and the air would have expanded) and it seemed to be holding air fine.
I've gotta say, for someone who has never seen desert before, riding through a desert is really spectacular. I've seen pictures, of course, but pictures can't capture the utter emptiness of the desert. The landscapes are otherworldly and beautiful. And there's something almost… purging? Some sort of powerful spiritual sense endowed by the emptiness of riding through a desert. I wouldn't want to live in one, but traveling through it has been a real treat and a gift.
At one point, I pull ahead of Kay because he wants to get some pictures of me riding in front of him. And I stay that way until we come into a little town about 50km before Nazca. At this point, we've been riding for an hour to an hour and a half from Ica, where we started this morning. Kay says over the headset "I think you should pull into that gas station because I want to take a look at your rear tire."
Yep. It was flat again. We couldn't tell by looking at it if it was just low or completely flat, so I pulled out the air pressure gauge and got something like 10 PSI. So it wasn't completely flat, but it may as well have been. I'm so glad Kay spotted it before I had ridden too long like that.
So we asked the gas station attendants if we could work on the bike, and they motioned us to move it a bit out of the way into the corner. Off come my panniers, onto the center stand, and we inspect the tire for any visual signs of damage. We see one point where air seems to have come out around the bead, but nothing like the massive tube blowout of the last rear flat. We can't see any damage to the tire itself, so we set about pulling it off, breaking the bead and pulling out the tube.
On the bright side, we're getting faster at removing the rear tire and pulling the tube. This is the third rear tire flat I've had on the trip now (one our first day in Mexico, and two now in the Peruvian desert) so we've got the tire removal process down and we're getting much faster.
Get the bead broken with very little trouble - we assemble the Bead Breaker and break the bead with it at one point, but Kay finds that the tire was so warm (everything is piping hot from the heat of the desert, and riding on low pressure - like hot to the touch to the point that Kay tried pouring water over some of it to cool it just so we could handle it) that after the initial squeeze with the BeadBreakr, which required almost no effort, he can just break the bead by stepping on it. This is completely atypical of the F650GS tires - they're well-known even among F enthusiasts to be a PITA to break the bead. So we were both a bit worried.
Pull the tube without too much trouble, and thankfully the tube is intact. Kay bends the tire out enough to see inside and it looks like there's no damage to the carcass. Thankfully I hadn't ridden long enough/it hadn't gotten flat enough to ruin the tire again.
We inspect the tube visually for signs of damage and can't see anything obvious. Kay thinks we should fill it with air since we've got everything out and check for leaks just so we can figure out where the problem is. So we do, and he holds the tube up to his ear and listens while squeezing it… and it doesn't take long to find a couple of pin-hole size punctures that are steadily spewing air. We make note of where they are on the tube and then pack it away - we'll patch it later to use it for a spare, but since we still have two brand new rear tubes (since we keep replacing the rear tubes that get ruined) we opt to just put a new tube in so we don't have to worry about patching it right now.
Amusingly, we started this trip with two rear tubes and two front tubes. At this point, we've blown out two rear tubes catastrophically enough that they couldn't be patched. Luckily, I've insisted on buying new tubes when we visit the BMW dealers, so we still have two spare tubes. We've now replaced our third tube (all for my rear tire, crikey!) and we have one new rear tube and the one that we can patch to use as spares.
I'm getting kinda sick of rear flats, personally.
We get the new tube in and I work on starting to re-seat the tire while Kay walks down the street with my axle looking for grease because it's far too dry. That's the one thing we didn't bring with us on this trip, and we've regretted it a couple of times (mostly because we keep wanting to grease my rear axle). Kay found a workshop down the street where he was able to get them to put some oil on the axle, which he reckons is better than nothing, but it's still not grease. Alas. If I could pick one bike-related thing I didn't bring but wish I had, it would be grease.
When Kay gets back with the axle, we get the rear tire re-seated on the rim (with the well-meaning but slightly interfering help of a local moto rider, who stopped to watch the proceedings) surprisingly easy. It's frighteningly easy to work with the tire because it's so hot. At this point, I've rolled the tire into some shade, and have put our tools in the shade under my bike, because everything is painfully hot to the touch. How hot is the sun in the desert with no breeze? Well, the highest my thermometer will read is 106 degrees, and the heat today broke it. In the shade. It was maxed out and all of the LCDs were lit. So it was effing hot.
Got the tire re-mounted and did the fiddling to get the tire positioned properly, chain have the right amount of play, etc. Took a bit longer than usual for that fiddling this time. We're getting quite efficient at the whole dismounting/dealing with the tube/tire, etc. part, but the re-mounting process will probably always take as long as it takes because there's no way to rush through getting everything squared away properly.
When all was said and done, we had replaced the tube and gotten everything packed away in a little over an hour and a half. We cut a half hour off of last time. By the time we were done, we were so hot that we had to move my bike into the shade for the fiddling with chain/tire positioning, etc. and I still felt on the verge of heatstroke. Kay's jacket, which had been in the sun, was painful to the touch, so he soaked it down with water before setting off.
Changing a flat tire once in the Peruvian desert was kind of a lark. Changing a flat tire the second time in a gas station with no breeze at Peruvian high noon was just hot and mildly annoying. We were both ready to get going and get some airflow, as we were literally drenched in sweat - water was running down both of us in rivulets before we were halfway done with the tire. It was… gross. And wet. Our bodies lost a lot of fluid.
Air flowing through the vents never felt so good. I was a bit paranoid about my tire so I rode in front of Kay leaving the city and kept asking "how does my tire look?" Off into the desert again, toward Nazca. Turns out that we were closer than I thought to the Nazca lines… about 15-20 minutes of riding and we saw the tower that everyone talks about where you can view some of the lines. We pulled over and climbed up the tower, in spite of the fact that I'd said just a few minutes ago that I was too overheated to deal with it… I didn't feel like going into Nazca and then coming back again for the lines after lunch. So we stopped and looked.
The Nazca lines were… mildly disappointing. I could only see two figures from the tower, and I couldn't quite tell what they were supposed to be. It might have been more impressive if we'd stopped at all of the viewpoints (there are multiple points where you can stop and look - mounds you can climb, etc.) or even got the airplane tour, but after getting overheated changing my tire, neither of us really felt like spending a lot of time on the Nazca lines.
So on we went, into Nazca itself, where we looked for a place to grab lunch. We were both feeling a little ill from the heat exposure and neither of us felt like eating, but I knew we should sit in the shade with some cold drinks for a bit and maybe our appetites would return. So we pulled over at a "hotel/restaurant" that looked decent, and had a lot of cars outside. Walked up and there was a pool that a ton of people were playing in, and a restaurant where several groups of people were enjoying what looked like tasty food.
Ordered cold drinks and food, because when we got off the bikes, I felt weak and knew I had to eat before I could keep going. The cold drinks came right away, and we sat and enjoyed them for a while. Sadly, shortly after we arrived, someone cranked the music WAY up… to the point that it was too loud and getting to Kay. After a few minutes, he put his ear plugs in… and shortly thereafter, laid his head down on his arms and fell asleep. I sat reading on my iPhone.
Waited a while… and no food. Wasn't sure exactly what time we stopped, except that it was after 2pm, so eventually I looked at the time and saw that it was 3:02PM. Kay woke up a few minutes later, realized that we'd been sitting there for quite a while with no food. We make significant eye contact with the waitress and suddenly utensils and napkins appear. "Oh, it must be coming soon we think." but no…. Eventually Kay hunts down the waitress. The order had become "lost" despite the fact that she only had six tables. 10 minutes, she said. Five minutes later Kay gets something that involves the same raw ingredients he ordered, although probably not what he ordered. Kay starts eating, and I snag a french fry or three.
We wait. And wait. And wait. And my food still doesn't put in an appearance. After we've been sitting there an hour and a half (and 40 minutes after she said "10 minutes") Kay goes to look for my food. He's done with his by now. Just as he walks up, she comes out with my plate. Thank god! I eat quickly, try to use the bathrooms, a woman is holding the door shut from the inside so I go back to the table and say "Let's just go." The noise is getting to both of us, and it's 2 hours after we've arrived (it's 4 o clock by now and we've hardly gotten anywhere from Ica) and we just want to be moving on.
It doesn't sound as bad writing it up, but this was the single worst dining experience we've had on this trip. Waiting 1 hour and 40 minutes for food that I could have made at home in 20 minutes, starting from scratch, chopping everything up myself, etc. And sitting for two hours with music that was too loud, after being overheated and exhausted by the tire… neither of us was happy when we left the restaurant.
So off into the desert again.
Kay's note: under normal circumstances we would have said "**** it" and left a while before then, just paying for the drinks. But Dachary had been beaten by the heat and just was not up to gearing back up, hunting down another restaurant, and waiting more. She needed food before we left.
Fortunately, we got to ride through more beautiful Peruvian landscape. The desert truly is spectacular, and will remain one of the highlights of my trip. I couldn't help but feel good about riding through the desert, even after the flat tire eating up time, even after the annoying lunch experience eating up time… here we are, on this trip, riding through Peru. In the desert. So far from home, and so awesome.
Around 5:15PM, we approach a town called Lomas on the coast. I have no idea if it's big enough to have a place for us to stay, but I propose it as a stopping point to Kay anyway. At best, we have just over an hour of light left, and I don't know if that's long enough to get us to the next town. And neither of us wants to be riding around after dark, or hunting a place to stay after dark, like last night, and we're both atypically tired from the heat this afternoon still. So we decide to ride out to Lomas to see. There's a huge beach along the road to the town, but the town itself looks like it can't possibly support a hotel. Tons and tons of people are lining the beach under canopies and on chairs, towels, and blankets. Many cars are leaving town, as it's getting late in the day. And people are walking through the town. I think that with this many people enjoying the beach, surely the town must have at least one hotel.
We ride into town, which doesn't have any obvious looking hotels in site, and ask some girls if they know where we can find a hotel. The first one doesn't seem to understand Kay's question, but the other girls chime in and point us down the street, giggling and laughing. They send us on our way with "bye!" and a cascade of teenage girl laughter that is the same in any language.
Down the road we go, and Kay stops to inquire at the restaurant where they directed us, and the lady at the restaurant points us down the street. So we ride down that street, see a hospedaje that looks… sad… and ask someone else. He points us around the corner, and then walks to the corner, points us up the street, and then motions us to turn left when we reach a cross-street. Oh! There's a decent-looking building with tile on the front, and a big hospedaje banner in the barred window. We stop, and Kay walks up and knocks on the door to inquire.
A lady comes out and tells him they have a room available, and shows him a twin room, which isn't our preference, but he comes back and tells me it's clean and seems decent. Sadly, it's pricey. She wants 70 soles, and we've paid that much (or less) for much nicer rooms in major cities. Kay decides to go back and try to bargain her down to 50, but she won't take it, and tells him there's a place down the street that will take 50. So Kay comes back out to report, and we decide he should go check out the other place just for the sake of seeing. Unfortunately, it's right on the town square and there's no parking for the bikes, and we don't want to leave them out in the middle of the street, and if the inside is anything like the outside… so he comes back and reports and we decide to take the expensive room.
She gets it ready and we unload the bikes into the lobby. Because we're parking on a street (although this hospedaje is on a side street) we unload everything from the bikes. It makes an impressive, dirty pile in her immaculate lobby, and I feel bad. She shows us our room a few minutes later - she had one with a "matrimonial" bed, after all (a size around a double in the US) and it has another bed on the side. She's quite emphatic that we ONLY use the "matrimonial" bed - don't use the other bed at all. Don't put anything on it. Don't touch it. The other bed doesn't exist. So we pile our stuff around the one bed we can use, and she seems dismayed to see the size of the pile (and perhaps its dustiness) when she comes back in to give us a second towel a few minutes later.
Kay's note: We spend the rest of the night imitating her saying "No" and replicating her hand motions to anything that requires a "no" answer.
We change into street clothes and walk out into the town. It's a port and we find some lovely scenery just a few blocks down from our hospedaje. We walk around looking for cold Coke we can bring back to the room, since neither of us actually feels like eating a meal at this point. We eventually find a place that has cold drinks of several varieties (a Coke to share, and a Poweraid for Kay and a fruit juice drink for me), some cookie snacky things, and an ice cream bar. Kay comments that we're choosing our food like 13-year-olds tonight.
Walk back out and think about heading back to the hospedaje but we see this beautiful sunset and have to go investigate.
Lomas is an interesting town. It claims to be a port, but it's not big enough for anything commercial. Just a bunch of local fisherman who have their own boats and probably sell their haul to the local "restaurants". There's hardly any infrastructure, and there are a fair number of run-down buildings and shacks. We can't figure out how this town makes its money or why it's not better developed, since we saw so many tons of people on the beach… but it's a nice, out-of-the-way spot, and we think at least it should be quiet. Hopefully we'll have a restful night, and make better progress tomorrow.
Kay's note: Around 10pm we get a knock on the door. There have been many knocks on other doors earlier in the night so we figure it's just a mistaken knock, but we say "Hola?" just in case. Nothing… A minute later another knock. "Hola?" Nothing…. Another knock a minute later… WTF?! I put on clothes. I open the door. There's a crowd of people there including the owner lady. One of them is speaking English. The owner thinks we should bring the bikes into the front room for security. I'm down with that… since I'm already dressed.
So I quickly go out, unlock the bikes, back one up so that it's facing the… steps… ****. There is no way I can get it up those steps, with maybe eight feet of run, squeezing between two parked cars, and not take out the glass and wood things to each side of the door. Not gonna happen. One guy comes to help, but once again, they just don't grasp that these aren't teeny local motos even though it's right in front of them. I explain to them that they weigh nearly 250 kilos (could be totally wrong there) and that there's no way we can pick it up or that I can ride it up without a serious risk of breaking something. In the end they have us squeeze them between the two parked cars (good thing i'm skinny) because they'll be safer there in front of the door. I don't see how, but it's not worth arguing over. So I do, and I thank them for the concern, and head back to the room.
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