22.6.2009.SWINE FLU, JEFF'S BEAUTIFULL PLACE AND LONGING FOR STEAK AND SALAD.
22.6.2009.SWINE FLU, JEFF'S BEAUTIFULL PLACE AND LONGING FOR STEAK AND SALAD.
On the second of June we past the Equator and we got lost in Quito. It was a hard day riding on busy and smoky roads. Not much fun. But after this it got much better. We past volcano 'Cotopaxi', but couldn't see the top, it was cloudy, but still we enjoyed the scenery. One night we stayed again in a love hotel. This one had a round bed, 3 mirrors and a great garage for the bike.
We drove through the steep mountains and had sunshine, rain and thick fog as well. There were many road works and we often had to wait for a long time, before we could drive further and the road was very damaged, difficult to drive on. That night we couldn't find a place to stop for the night. We asked in a small restaurant in the middle of nowhere for 'habitation' (a room) and the lady got immediately a mattress out and offered us a small room! That was fantastic!
The next day we got interviewed twice. Somewhere South of Quenca, on a steep mountain in a desolate area where we stopped to talk to a cyclist, called Leo (from Belgium). He is making a film about his trip, so he is carrying a video camera.
In Loja, a modern looking town, a guy on a motorcycle came by and we had a chat. He asked if we wanted to do an interview, so we ended up in front of a studio trying to understand the questions. By that time we were surrounded by a group of people. The interview was unique, everybody was asking the questions and everybody was answering them as well. By now I need a lipstick.
In a small village two people stopped us. To our surprise the were dressed in perfectly white doctors coats. It took us a while to find out that they were checking people out for symptoms of SWINE FLU. Off course we didn't have any (except for making sounds like a really fat pig to make sure that they were talking about swine flu). They let us pass through. Interesting procedure.
After days riding on bumpy roads we arrived in Vilcabamba, in the South of Ecuador. This is a healthy area and the people get very old, because of the climate. The first night we camped near the hostel, they didn't have a room for us. We met a nice couple, Marion and Bernd, travelling in a great Toyota land cruiser and we had a good time together.
This hostel would be the last piece of civilization and luxury that we would come across for a while,
so we stayed for two more nights to enjoy all this, especially the suburb food and great bathroom.
The road to Zumba, in the direction of the border to Peru, is a dirt road and it's in a bad condition. I was all over the place in the sidecar and Andy was working hard trying to ride without braking any spokes by avoiding big holes in the road.
Zumba has some places to stay in the center, but neither of them have parking space for the bike. We found a room in a farm-hostel at the outskirts of the village. It was super basic. The beds were specially made for rough bikers like us, I had never slept in a bed as hard as this one before. The room had no glass in the windows, so we could hear the cockcrow misfiring all night. The toilet (it was green molded inside) had no toilet paper, except already used newspaper. The outdoor kitchen was invaded by ducks and chickens who dropped their droppings everywhere, but it could have been worse, at least there was no smelly pig rolling around in the mud.
We only had a ten days visa for Ecuador, so on the last day before the visa would expire we reached the border by driving over the worst dirt road in this country, but the views were great. People in the South of Ecuador don't look very happy and they don't wave a lot. They look very indigenous and are much shorter than me (I am 1.63 cm. tall), a giant compared to the people we saw here.
It took us two hours to get the border crossing procedure done. 10 minutes at the Ecuadorian side and the rest was spend to help to fill in the paperwork at the Peruvian side. I had already copies, but the border officer wanted them on ONE piece of paper. How bureaucratic it can be. But we got a 90 day visa for Peru, that's good, because it's a big country to travel through.
A German couple in an old Toyota had already informed us about the roadblocks. They told us that we could drive in the direction of Chachapoyas between 6 and 3 o clock during the day. After that they would close the road. Good news, it meant that we would be able to go to Jeff's place without a huge detour.
We struggled on a bad, bad road to get to Jaen, it took us all day and more to reach this town. Three years ago we were also in this place and we ended up in a hotel with an armed guard and they warned us about going out in the dark. It didn't feel very safe then, but this time it looked much better. No arms, no guards, but very friendly people. We found a great place to eat. Andy had a steak with chips and I consumed an enormous pile of salad. A double portion, because Andy doesn't do healthy food.
This town proves that the Peruvian economy is going upwards, people look more happier than 3 years ago and we had to wave our hands off. We got surrounded several times by big crowds of curious people, who wanted to touch the bike and asked loads of questions.
There were lots of well needed roadworks going on, but we didn't see any road workers. All the materials, trucks and diggers were there, but no manpower. Maybe it has something to do with the road blocks?
In Baqua Grande we saw the first signs of roadblocks, burned out trucks and tyres, loads of police and soldiers. We got stopped once by them, but they only wanted to have a look at the bike. No warnings, no talk about roadblocks. We had no trouble to drive in the direction of Chachapoyas. Afterwards we heard that not long ago 24 policeman and hundreds of Indigenous people had been killed and the reason for the roadblocks is a protest against the government who wants to sell big pieces of land to foreign companies, without consulting the people about the consequences like pollution.
To get to Jeff's place you go from Pedro Ruiz South on the road in the direction of Chachapoyas. You will ride through a beautiful valley over a smooth asphalt road (a great pleasure after all those bumpy tracks!) next to a river, along Scottish Highland look a like mountains (but with banana trees). Than 6 km up a windy dirt track that takes you to San Pablo De Valera.
We met Jeff 3 years ago in Cuzco, he is the owner of a bar called 'Norton rats' and has the one and only riding Norton Commando in Peru. We spent 3 weeks in Cuzco and a big part of that was in his bar drinking beer and talking about bikes and travel adventures. Later we met again and together we visited Chan Chan, the remains of an immense ancient adobe city near Trujillo. Jeff had bought a Triumph Speed Triple than and he was riding it home at that time. At the moment he is building a house and a hotel at the outskirts of this little village and it's near the 3rd highest waterfall in the world and other beautiful spots worth a visit ( like Kuelap, an ancient oval-shaped pre-Inca city, South of Chachapoyas and other archaeological sites).
House and hotel are in an absolute great spot! Clouds like huge battleships are floating by, we are in a place where people live above the clouds. Butterflies, rainbows, this place is a treasure high up in the mountains, surrounded by waterfalls..
The climate it nice, mostly sunshine during the day and cool at night. Jeff is proud and happy to show us around and he is very exited about the building work. Andy (who has built his own house himself) and Jeff are on the same level and, as I soon find out, they can talk about it all day.
It's great to see each other again, there is a lot to talk about and to do.
With Jeff's help and translation in Spanish and the guys of a local workshop a well wanted and needed stearing damper is mounted to the bike. It works suburb. Andy could check the bike and I cleaned and repaired all the camping gear.
Than we walked with the 3 of us to the waterfall. We spend all day walking, climbing, slipping and sliding. It was raining, but still we enjoyed the jungle trail, which is very pretty, tranquil and interesting ( so very different to the flat land in Holland were I grew up). The clouds disappeared and the waterfall showed us her pride, wow!
The people in San Pablo De Valera are super friendly and get also very old. They get up by the first light and go to bed when it's getting dark. It has electricity since 2 years, so there are TV's as well. The people here love soap opera's and wrestling shows.
Everything here goes in slow motion.
The village is very small, but it has a little restaurant and 3 tienda's (mini shops), where we can buy toilet paper, bread, water, just the basic stuff.
Every evening we walk from Jeff's house and our tent on a ancient Inca path towards the village, which is a pleasure. Along this path you meet horses loaded with firewood or bags with corn, dogs who bark and wiggle their tale at the same time, woman carrying sugarcane on their back and a chicken (ready to be slaughtered) under the arm, three ducks and and a few chicken families, a huge pink pig, a small black piggy
, more horses (parked up like cars outside the houses), giggling children ('Look at those strange Gringo's!) and cows who are going home.
We are very busy by greeting everybody on the track. When we arrive at the small restaurant, owned by senora Phillipa, it will be for sure we get rice, maybe with a small piece of chicken, ears of a pig or cooked stomach and there is fried banana or cooked yuka. Here the Peruvian people eat this 3 times a day, but we can handle that only once a day. Andy has difficulties to empty his plate, I eat mine and his. He is longing for pizza or a steak with chips. I am more longing for a good shower, a bucket is not very handy to use ( and we only used it once in 12 days).
Here the houses are from adobe, a mix of straw and clay, mixed together by human feet or by horses. When it's dried out it's very strong and heavy. Jeff made the adobe bricks by himself and he put bamboo sticks in the walls to make the house earthquake proof. At the moment workers are plastering the outside of the house and it looks already really good.
Posted by Maya Vermeer at June 24, 2009 03:12 AM GMT
Andy is in his element by giving Jeff a hand and I am happy with writing and reading. But soon we will be on the road again, towards Tarapoto, Tingo Maria and Cuzco. It will be a difficult ride through the hot and maybe muddy jungle, into the cool mountains, crossing some high passes. When we arrive in Cuzco we will celebrate all this and drink to much beer at Jeff's bar. And Andy will get his steak and chips!