Onward to the Banana boats of the Amazon river, criminals wearing police uniforms and more bike destroying roads !!!
It was great to be back on the road again after the holiday at Dave & Kates place, but I was falling behind schedule a little ( actually a lot ), and I had to press on. Before doing that however, I have to plug a quick thankyou to Marty and Gosia Aitchison, who not only delivered an oil filter for the bike, but also some vegemite and crunchie bars for my taste buds - most appreciated !
Jetlagged yet generous - Marty, Gosia and myself in Lima
Once I hit the road north of Lima I began to regret pampering my bike and riding gear with soap suds. The "new" me was like a magnet for the "police" which pulled me up 4 times within 200 kmīs. The first three stops were blatant gringo targetting, while he 4th was the otherwise normal nosy copper scenario.
The first control was just on the border of a city limit, where the speed limit is 45 km/h. I was travelling in line with other traffic at 60 km/h, same speed as everyone else, but was pulled over and told I was speeding, that it was 'Muy Grave' ( very bad ), and that I would have to pay 320 Soles (96 USD). Despite my protests they proceeded in writing up the ticket, and I was foaming at the mouth as those bastards didnīt even have a radar detector, and I knew I was being screwed. After more discussion, and what I believe to be bogus calls to someone on the radio that a foreigner was refusing to pay, he offered to be my friend and said it would only cost 150 soles, and he would rip the ticket up. Having given him his booty, he ripped the ticket up, and I felt like jamming it up his nostrils...
Moments later his colleague hurridly gathered up the pieces of the ripped up ticket, lest I use them against them. I wished I had a helmet cam of the incident and could lose thier jobs for them.
The second control, not 10 minutes down the road was equally dubious. Rounding a corner at 70 kp/h, I was pulled over and told that again I owed 320 Soles, as the speed limit for any corners marked with an arrow was 60 kp/h. Again, I was judged to be speeding with nothing other than the officers eyeball as the measurement device. I got that crook down to 50 Soles (15 USD)
The third control about a half hour later and I was ready to explode, maim and torture the next guy in uniform who wanted to play cops and robbers with me. I was driving exactly 45 km/h through a city limit, so slow in fact that a truck actually passed me within 400 metres of the now well recognised police landcruiser. Still I got targetted, told I was speeding and that I would have to pay a fine. Despite the yes sir no sir ettiquette recommended for the local constabulary, I looked him straight in the eye and told him "No - I wasnīt speeding", and did he not notice the 18 wheels of truck that overtook me because I was going so slowly ?
He could see I was bit fiesty, and avoided losing face by asking me to watch my speed and drive on. What a jip I thought.
After that the police reverted to good country cops, and the 4th control of the day turned out to be nothing more than a couple of interested officers who insisted on a photo...
Officer plod and the pennyless gringo
Listening ot the council of common sense I stopped in Casma as darkness approached, and picked out a hostal at random which turned to have a swimming pool no less ! More of surprise were the two scooters parked outside, somehow looking like they were geared up for a long trip...
The riders of these two MBK (Yamaha) 100cc scooters turned out to be Diego & Katia, Colombian and French respectively, doing all of South America by scooter ! Somehow my shitty day had been transformed as these two gave me all the information I could have wished for about travelling through French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana. See www.maillongas.com
Diego and Katia, click here to see thier scooters
The next days I travelled at pace from Motupe to Moyobamba towards Yurimaguas, keeping a respectful eye on speed limits, and enjoying some brand new stretches of road winding inland. In Motupe I would swear I was the only foreigner in town judging by the crowds who gathered in the main square, and would you believe the hostal parked my bike in the living room !
The old bike in the bedroom scenario...
Leaving Moyobamba I was heading for trouble I could not have imagined. From Tarapoto a friendly waiter said it would take 9 hours to get from there to Yurimaguas where I could catch the first of the banana boats. I thought Iīd have to call it a day, but then he said a motorcycle could do it in 3. ( I learnt later that locals think big bikes can travel at the speed of light... )
I decided to give it a go.
At first it was quite bone jarring, and I truly realised the penalties of travelling with 280 kgīs of bike and baggage, plus my 90 kgīs wearing all my gear. Considering the scooter pair were managing with 30 kgīs each I knew I had to lose even more weight...
Then, it started raining, and therein started 150kmīs of maximum 2nd gear riding, mostly at 20 km/h. Without exaggeration, it was a real battle of mud, ice-like red clay, and dubious river crossings. The first river I studied for a bit, and after walking it I decided to cross. The current was quite strong, but it was only just over the front wheel hub.
Not 150 metres down the road and there was another piece of road submerged beneath 60-70 cm of equally fast flowing water. It was more than I could handle, and my path backwards was now blocked by rising water. Damm I thought, it looked like I would be roughing it in the sodden vegetation in the middle of nowhere. Sizing up my options I saw a tiny shelter made of bamboo just off the road, but I was put off by the clothes hanging to dry, and the shotgun shells laying around. Somehow I didnīt want to be that personīs surprise guest.
The second piece of swollen current - a bit too deep for the F650...
After waiting 2 hours for the waters to receed I finally crossed using one of the locals to stand downstream just in case I launched, quite nerve wracking stuff really. It was just in time I thought, as a massive boulder tumbled down from the hills above and crashed not 10 metres behind my bike...
Riding in the darkness to Yurimaguas was slow going, and although the rain had now stopped, the road was now sodden. I got wedged in the mud three times, and had to dig myself out or walk beside the bike. There were numerous trucks along the way who were hopelessly jammed up to thier axles, going nowhere that night...
I made it to Yurimaguas around 10.30 pm, having left Moyobamba 10.30 am that same day. 12 hours for 200 kmīs. Deservedly I headed straight for a beer before looking for a bed. My bike and me were caked in mud, but man did that beer go down like a treat...
Not dirty enough ? - click here for a larger view...
The boot, normally you can see some black leather and a steel toecap....
The following day I arranged a boat to Iquitos for the afternoon, and spent the day trying to rid myself and the bike of the mud. Everything was saturated, including the contents of my Touratech boxes...
The boat journey itself was truly not to be forgotten. The hammocks were crammed in like you wouldnīt believe, and to get to the 'toilets' you had to virtually crawl on all fours. The floor space was also at a premium, some choosing to sleep there, along with the chickens, dogs, bananas and even a parakeet. These boats are truly banana boats, stopping at small villages on the way and loading up with branches of green bananas for sale in Iquitos. At every stop vendors would try and sell food and drinks, which was ultimately better than the broth prepared on board.
I actually donated the food portion of my ticket to a lady and her kids next to me, and I think somehow we were both grateful....
A thankful but camera shy mother of two....., click here for a larger view
I made a policy on the boat of making friends with the people either side of me, so we would keep an eye on eachothers gear. Iīd heard of two German Backpackers losing thier packs only a week beforehand...
While the views were at times absolutely magic, I just could not believe how locals treated the Huallaga River like a rubbish tip. Anything discarded was simply biffed through the window, and I mean anything.
Would you throw your rubbish here ?
In Iquitos I got a great nights sleep after having suffered the throbbing diesel for the last few nights, and also the good news that I had an invitation to attend the Launch of Ariane flight 152 from Kourou in French Guiana. With luck I would be able to make it there on time for the 5th of June.
Iquitos was civilised considering itīs location smack bang in the middle of the jungle ( no access by road ), but it had a wild west feeling all the same. The local girls seem to eye every foreign guy up ( a real turn of the tides ), and I even got propositioned by a security woman at the port entrance. I am on Candid camera ?
What is strange however, is that despite being a major port, and with such a large population, the facilities are abysmal. The boats slide up onto a mud bank, and the road leading to the city is bascically a muddy 4WD track going through some floating slums. You see everything here from huge sows being loaded on top of each other on the back of a motorbike scooter, screaming thier lungs out, to any sort of animal 'reproducing' in front of seeemingly oblivious shopkeepers.
The next boat from Iquitos to the frontier town of Santa Rosa was a slight step up from the first one, but it still wasnīt what youīd call luxury. Getting on the boat was a performance too, with fistfights breaking out among the porters trying to help me with my luggage. One enterprising little twirp though he could have my wallet too, but I let him know he could stick his hands in someone elses pocket....
On the second day a couple of Dutch guys jumped on board the 'Kiki' at Pevas, having spent the last week getting rained out in the jungle. They had stayed the night with an infamous artist called Senor Francisco Grippa. Heīs basically a filthy rich ecentric artist who flogs his work around the world, and according to the Dutch guys, takes his pick from the local girls of the village as he pleases. They said he was drunk most of the time during the stay at his huge Pagoda style house, and even they were shocked when a woman turned up depositing her 15 year old daughter for the night....
Caeser, myself, Waut and Robert (The dutch guys... )
At Santa Rosa I did my immigration and customs thing with an overly cheerful official, and then we lowered my bike into a longboat and it was off to Brasil....
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