April 22, 2006 GMT
(1) Peru: The South

While visiting a museum on the outskirts of Arica, we met a Japanese couple who were travelling South America, for one (1) year, on their Yamaha....Yamaha 90 that is.

They were a retired couple in their 60s. They had special panniers built, a triple deck luggage pack on the back carrier, a large front basket, not unlike that found on a bicycle and double capacity gas tank giving them 10 liters of capacity and a range of almost 400 kms. I was astounded. I evaluated my 1100 cc brute, weighing in at 525 lbs plus 100 pounds of luggage plus 200 pounds of rider, tipping the scale at 700 lbs.

Their combination was about 200 lbs for the bike plus 100 lbs for the luggage plus 200 lbs for the rider and passenger coming to about 400 lbs. I was simply amazed that the suspension system was up to the load and the pounding. On my bike and other large bikes the weakest link seems to be the suspension. The rear shocks inevitably fail...and yet their tiny 1-1/2" diameter rear shocks and simple front suspension just kept on working and working and working. The motorcycle world could learn a valuable lesson from Yamaha here.


Japanese Couple.JPG

Before I left Chile it was time for a haircut. I waited my turn and then settled into the chair. My wire like mop was overdue. It was at that difficult stage, you might say. First he soaked me down and then sprayed some de-stressing agent on my hair to soften it up. After a vigorous massage it was limp and pliable and he combed it into a fashionable style.

Then armed with scissors and comb only, (the good old fashioned way) he proceeded to make pass after pass over my locks. With the precision of a forensic scientist working a crime scene he carefully measured each strand to ensure it had the correct amount of overlap to provide a perfect layered effect. Time and time again he combed it out and then repeated the entire procedure.

Finally after thirty minutes he combed it out again and I thought I was done. I gripped the arm rests, under the cover of my apron, getting ready to lever myself out of the chair. Before I could make a move he cradled my head in his hands and fluffed everything into chaos again, removing any loose hairs lest they fall upon my shirt after I left. One final comb out and I was done. I bolted for the door! The whole operation cost less than $6.

On the street I cast a backward glance back at the barber shop. In that split second, I walked full tilt into a low slung branch of a tree, who arm was thigh thickness. I staggered for balance and consciousness as the entire Milky Way flashed before my eyes. A goose egg size bump was my just reward.

The exit from Chile and the entry into Peru was simply perfect. These border crossings are always an unknown and I was't sure what to expect. At the first Aduanas office the beautiful Senorita accepted our completed forms and then proceeded to tell us we would need six (6) stamps on the document before we had completed the operation. She then pointed this way and that indicating where we would have to go.

Seeing the confusion in our eyes she smiled pleasantly, rose from her chair and exited the office. Then she pointed out the different buildings we would have to visit. How very congeneal of her...an extra effort she did not have to make.

The next official accepted our paperwork and provided his stamp. Again, he was the most pleasant individual I have ever encountered at any of these Latin border crossings. He welcomed us to Peru, directed us to the copy machine across the street and then waited patiently for us to return. Then he carefully walked us through the process and took it upon himself to obtain the other necessary stamps so we wouldn't have to struggle through the maze. As smooth and pleasant as the entire process was it still took about two hours. There was no mention of a Carnet or any other nonesense.

We moved on into Peru. At Tacna we stopped to get money (Peruvian Soles) and get a bite to eat. On the Plaza de Armas we viewed the Cathedral designed by Gustave Effiel and similarily his fountain.


Effiel Cathedral.JPG

The shoeshine boys were out in force working the Plaza. I was desperately in need of a shine so I relented, for 1 Sole...about 30 cents. Of course they bid low and then hit you with the EXTRAS after they are done, muttering lowing during the entire process that this layer is extra, this waterproofing agent which is necessary, will cost more and so on.


Effiel Fountain.JPG

My shiny boots were no match for my graying leather pants so I directed him to attack the project. Standing in the middle of the mall amidst a growing crowd of onlookers, the shoeshine boy proceeded to polish, shine and seal my garments, working from the cuff of my pants to the...aah...well you know...the top...a very interesting experience I might add, especially under the scrutinizing eye of the discerning public. Amidst the flurry of EXTRAS he laid claim to I put him on a FORCE ACCOUNT RATE based on the amount quoted for the original project. Mr. Business meets...Mr. Business. We parted on good terms. The onlookers watched the whole procedure with interest. With the show over everyone went their way.

We moved on to Ilo, a coastal town. Unknown to ourselves we stopped in front of the City Administration Building. We perused the book looking for hotel options. A finely dressed man walked up and offered his help. He spoke impeccable English, had all of the correct contacts, knew most of the businessmen in town and invited us inside to meet the Mayor. It was getting late and we really needed to find a place to stay and get cleaned up before we took on any new enterprises so we politely excused ourselves and continued our quest.

We parted company and then half an hour later met again, while still searching for a hotel. This was a crazy mixed up town with a combination of one-way streets that made it almost impossible to return to a starting point if you missed a turn. After talking for a half hour he drew me a map and we said goodbye again. Later that evening, while strolling the Plaza after dinner, we met one more time. We talked for over an hour, just like we were old friends. What an incredibly warm introduction to Peru.

Arequipa is historically intact but not original. Most of the original Spanish architecture was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in the 1700s. Still, it offers a pleasant perspective on style and design from that era. The Santa Catalina Monastery is a sure pleaser. One can wander for hours amidst the maze of streets, rooms and tiny courtyards. It is truly a photographers delight. It has survived from the late 1500s and only in the mid 1900s was it opened up to public access. Cloistered nuns still live here but remain secluded in one small corner on the massive complex. The admission fees are a necessary means of generating operating capital at the expense of the isolated life they once led.


Santa Catalina Monastery.JPG

Posted by Robert Bielesch at April 22, 2006 04:00 AM GMT
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