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Photo by Ellen Delis, Lagunas Ojos del Campo, Antofalla, Catamarca

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Ellen Delis,
Lagunas Ojos del Campo,
Antofalla, Catamarca



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  #286  
Old 21 Jun 2014
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Neda, Gene

enjoyed reading/ about / seeing your travels. I hope you will be able to continue on in the future. Wishing you all the best with your situation now.

kindest regards
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  #287  
Old 21 Jun 2014
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Hope you get your personal worries sorted...

Future welcome to Europe...we start our travels next week with the same plan as you...no plan at all!! Years away and the road will take us where it takes us.

We have been following your posts with great interest and wish you well when you hit our shores. By the way, have you checked our weather over here??...it will get very chilly soon. Croatia is lovely, but don't expect it to be cheap..as for most of Europe.

Hope to catch up for a on the road...

Kevin and Heike.
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  #288  
Old 24 Jun 2014
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Very best of luck for your future travels and best wishes that your family troubles resolve well. It's been so much fun following your travels and living vicariously through them.

If you find yourself in the UK, drop me a pm as, when I'm not away working on a film, we have a little farm in Devon and you'd be welcome to come and stay.

All the best,

Justin.
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  #289  
Old 24 Jun 2014
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wishing you both a safe trip and hope all works out ok for your families.
welcome to europe and if you fancy a trip to ireland while you,re here give us a call .
cheers mick
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  #290  
Old 24 Jun 2014
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Thanks for the well-wishes guys, it's much appreciated by both of us!
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  #291  
Old 25 Jun 2014
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g'day Gene & Neda,
I'm only a newbie in here, but I have just spent the last few days(when I'm supposed to be working lol) reading & enjoying your travels so far.
I love your writing style Gene & you crack me up occasionally. My dear lady in the next room thinks I'm nuts
I wish you both well in your ongoing adventures & thank you both for the humour & sharing it with the rest of us
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  #292  
Old 29 Jun 2014
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Updated from Apr 22 2014: Life's a Beach!



It's our first ride in a couple of weeks ever since coming back from the Galapagos and it feels good to be back on the bikes again. We're headed to the coast to escape the constant rains. Getting out of Quito was the hardest part, but once we were past the congestion of the big city, the twists and turns of the asphalt kept us amused all the way to the Pacific Ocean.


Still a bit of moisture on the ride over, hopefully it dries up as we head west


As we near the coast, the temperature starts to rise and we stop to layer down


Hi-YAH!!!! Full Point.

With very little room in the back to swing a leg over, the only way to get on the bike is to karate kick the narrow space between all the luggage! Because my GS's seat is higher than my waist, I have to do a little hop once my leg is through to get my bum on the seat. The first time I tried this with a slippery rain suit on, I almost slid off the other side! LOL!


We stopped overnight in Pedernales, right on the coast. The hostel owners are fascinated with our bikes and I catch them taking tons of pictures from the upstairs balcony. Haha!


The next morning, while walking to find breakfast, we see what we think is an ice-cutting factory.
Turns out they are cutting blocks of sea salt. No water on the ground. Duh...



Neda makes more friends on the beach in Pedernales


After a nice breakfast of ceviche, we walk around and watch some jugglers do tricks

We don't stay in Pedernales very long, it's such a tiny town with a tiny beach. So right after a late breakfast, we head back to the hostel, clamber onto our bikes and start heading south. The weather is awesome now. No more rain, and the temperatures are sticky and hot. We don't complain one bit!


Giant iguana roadside attraction heading south on the coastal road. Reminds us of the Galapagos land iguanas!

The beach resort town of Canoa is less than two hours south of Pedernales and we arrive with plenty of time to knock on the doors of a few hostels to find a place to bunker down for a few days. It's a larger town from Pedernales with a great vibe and the beach is very happening.


Lots of board sports here. Neda took up boogie boarding, she got really good at it!


Getting a different perspective on the beach


Playing around between the waves on the long, flat expanse of wet sand


We found an area with hundreds of these little pools that get filled with crabs, little fishes and other marine life leftover from the last high tide


Playing hopscotch on the rocks between waves


Hopscotch Part I


Hopscotch Part II

We were really enjoying the warm weather. Even though it was overcast most of the time, the heat and lack of rain really made up for it.


We'd rush out to the shore after a nice seafood dinner every evening to catch the sunset


Neda almost dognapped this little guy from the hostel


While Neda practices boogy boarding, I practice just being bored. Don't get me wrong, it's my favorite activity!


The surfboard rental tent has a tightrope so you can practice your balancing skills


Awaiting under beautiful sunset


Sandcastles at sunset


Sky is set aflame with boats and boards keeping watch


Squeezing out every last ray of daylight


The beach got a lot more crowded every evening around sunset

Ecuador is known for so much diversity, the Amazon rainforest in the interior and the cloud forests of the central highlands, but we're beach people at heart, and we always seem to end up drifting to the coast over and over again.
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  #293  
Old 6 Jul 2014
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We made a huge mistake.

We wanted to spend the next few days riding the entire length of the western coast of Ecuador, hopping from beach town to beach town. As you can tell from the map above, that didn't happen.


Crossing the bridge to Bahia de Caraquez


We stopped for lunch in the town of Manta, called the Capital del Atun (Tuna Capital of Ecuador)
There's a huge statue of a tuna fish in the background somewhere behind all the luggage and Neda


It all seemed to go according to plan until we reached Manta. As we entered the city, hot winds from the coast blew the overpowering stench of the fisheries up into the insides of our helmets, forcing us to hold our breaths as we rode. As it was getting well past lunchtime, the smell did nothing to dampen our appetite and we stopped for a nice seafood meal by the coast.

We somehow got turned around as we exited the city and headed inland instead of following the coastal road south. Why yes, we do both have GPSs, why do you ask...?

In fact, it was our GPSs that steered us wrong. You'd think that after years of experience second-guessing the GPS maps that we would have figured it out by now. The moment we realized we had gone the wrong way was when the skies decided to sling heavy rain at us. Checking the GPS, it was too late in the day and we were too far inland to turn back north. The only route directly westwards towards the coast was a dodgy dirt road through the mountains of the Machalilla National Park. Not something we wanted to do in the dark and the rain.

We had not planned to go back to the land of big cities for another week or so, but Guayaquil beckoned to us, the closest viable haven from the pouring rain. We forged on.


Bow Chicka Wow Wow!

We arrived in Guayaquil in pitch dark, with the heavy rain falling all around us. Not knowing where any of the hotels were, I turned to the only resource we had (and also the tool that got us lost in the first place). Our GPS said there was a hotel a hundred meters from where we were in the outskirts of the city. We turned the corner and saw the lights of a brilliant neon apple lit up in the sky. It was advertising a Love Hotel. Apple: as in Adam and Eve, Original Sin, etc.

We were wet and cold. It would have to do.

Inside, we warmed up to the 24-hours-a-day porn channel. The plastic under-bedding made crinkly noises beneath us and in the mirror above the bed, we watched ourselves slowly drift off into a fatigue-induced unconsciousness. As the rain raged on outside, I had strange dreams about riding in and out of long, dark tunnels. Oh, and of lots of boobies too.


Leaving the Apple-licious Palace of Porn in the morning

We rode to the centre of the city and parked ourselves and our bikes at a McDonalds for a healthy helping of wi-fi and fries to try to find a place to stay for a couple of nights. Although not Ecuador's capital city, Guayaquil is the economic centre of the country and its largest city. We had no problems finding accommodations within our budget.

Checking into the hotel, we found to our surprise that they carried the same Apple-shaped soap and towels that our Love Hotel had last night. They were owned by the same company! LOL!


Riding around Guayaquil, looking for a place to stay

Since we were in a large city, we decided to head to the shopping mall to see if I could find a waterproof camera, especially with all the rain we've been riding through.


Oooh... motorcycle racing! What was I looking for again?
Chair. I think I was looking for a chair...



Taking a walk around downtown Guayaquil


A popular haircut for dogs in Latin America: all business up top, party on the bottom


Outside the Church of San Francisco


Malecon 2000 - Guayaquil's main tourist attraction

Late in 1999, the city unveiled a new tourist boardwalk for the next millennium. Called Malecon 2000, it stretches for over 2 kms along the shoreline of the Guayas River, boasting plenty of fancy stores, restaurants and theaters for tourists to spend their money. Another attraction is the tall ship, Guayas, you can see it docked in the photo above. It's both a symbol and ambassador of the city, as it travels across the Americas.


Amusement park on the Malecon 2000


Just in case we forgot where we were...


At regular intervals on the Malecon, these nautical-themed outlooks provide a great view of the river and city


The pretty Malecon is a popular place for wedding photos!


Right across the street is the flea market where the locals shop

Only gringos spend money on the tourist trap that is the Malecon 2000. All the locals instead walk across the street to the long and crowded line of stalls and storefronts that sell everything at a fraction of the cost!


Hanging out with the statues outside the government buildings. Neda is practicing being a politician


The downtown core is a mix of beautifully painted colonial buildings and newer skyscrapers


Rainbow Anthill

This is actually the second time we've been to Guayaquil. Our flight from Quito to the Galapagos Islands made a short stopover here, and as the plane circled for landing, the distinct neighbourhood of Sanata Ana rising up like a multi-coloured hill was very striking amongst the grey backdrop of the rest of the city.


Colourful colonial architecture of Santa Ana neighbourhood


Daily life in Santa Ana

At the northern end of the city, the Malecon ends at Santa Ana, and we walk up the well-marked staircase past beautifully painted buildings boasting high-end hotels, restaurants and stores upwards to where most of the denizens of the hill lived and up to the very top where we were treated to a birds-eye view of the city, Malecon and the river.


Taking a breather at the top after climbing countless number of stairs


The tiny chapel at the top of Santa Ana hill, overlooking the city

Guayaquil was a really nice city to walk around in, but it was still a city nonetheless: lots of traffic and noise. We felt like we really missed out by bypassing the coast. Our two days on the beach in Canoa was not nearly enough time away from civilization, so we're going to keep looking for somewhere quiet to hang out for a while.
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  #294  
Old 14 Jul 2014
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We're both missing the sun and sand, and we debated long and hard about turning back the way we came from and heading back to the beaches of the west coast. But the pace has gotten too slow (even for us!) and we decide to move through Ecuador a bit quicker, so we're continuing our trek through the rainy Andean highlands.


Rain clouds greet us overhead as we ride through El Cajas National Park

El Cajas National Park lies just outside of Cuenca. It's a beautiful, but cold ride through the tundra vegetation of tall strawgrass. Parts of it remind me of Iceland... until you see the alpacas grazing by the side of the road.


Only mildly curious about the biker with the camera clicking away

This picture above reminds me of a couple of things:

1) I am constantly on reserve. El Cajas is about 30 kms outside of Cuenca, and yes, my display reads 29 kms till empty... Because Neda's range on her F650GS is about 50 kms more than mine, I'm always running on fumes when we stop for gas!

2) Gas is freakin' cheap in Ecuador! The price is fixed by the government at $1.48 USD per gallon. That's $0.41 CDN per liter! For once, it costs more to feed us than our motorcycles!


Twist and shout! in El Cajas


Riding through Colonial Cuenca

Cuenca is probably Ecuador's prettiest city. Its colonial past is proudly displayed front and centre as we ride through the narrow, cobblestone streets looking for a place to stay.


We find a nice hotel that lets us park inside, and every morning while we have breakfast, we can check up on the bikes


Although there are lots of indigenous people in Cuenca, the town is also popular with gringo tourists

As we walked through the streets exploring Cuenca, we realized we had just stumbled upon another Gringo Trail town. The shell of grand, old historic buildings now house swanky restaurants and souvenir shops. Store-owners and waiters practice their English trying to lure tourists into their establishments.

Our snobbishness is wearing off though. One evening, we nosh on Beef Vindaloo, then Mexican food another night. We also repeatedly walk by a Caribbean restaurant that remained stubbornly closed throughout our stay in Cuenca. To say that we are getting bored of the local tipico food is a gross understatement.


Another evening, we visit a German house

I got Neda blind drunk and took advantage of her later on that night in bed. In Married-Speak, that means I got to hog all the blankets with no fear of retaliation as she lay passed out beside me... kikiki...


The next day, with Neda nursing a severe hangover, we do more sightseeing. We have spaghetti for lunch.


Panama hats!

While we were in Ecuador, I found out the traditional white, straw hats that everyone was wearing was called a Panama Hat. What was more unusual is that they are made right here in Cuenca. So why is it called a Panama Hat and not an Ecuador Hat? Turns out that the manufacturers who originally made the hats forwarded them to the Isthmus of Panama, for international shipping to other parts of the world. So the hats were known for where they were shipped from, not where they were made.


We spent the day walking through lots of museums. This one housed Inca pottery and other household items

As we poked around all the vases, pots and cups, I wondered what would the ancient Incas think about us displaying their everyday cutlery with such reverence? And then I also wondered what far-future archaeologists would think of our own household kitchenware. Would our plastic Ikea cups and Ginsu knives be displayed under glass with little signs explaining how 21st century inhabitants lined up for hours in a warehouse or dialed 1-800 numbers to attain these treasures?


The remains of an ancient Inca rapper: Fiddy Centavo


Outside the museum were the ruins of Todos los Santos

The interesting things about these structures was how the builders cut the stones in such a way that they interlocked with one another, without any need for cement. The best Jenga players in the world come from Ecuador.

I was most interested in visiting the Museo del Banco Central. Neda told me there was a display of shrunken heads, the result of a ritual (even practiced quite recently) by a native Ecuadorian tribe. That was the coolest thing I'd heard in a while, so all day I kept pestering her, "Are we going to see the shrunken heads now", "How about now?", "Can we see them now?"...


Real live shrunken human heads! This head was about the size of a fist. So creepy and COOOOOOOOLLLLL!!!!

There are all these signs around the shrunken heads saying that we weren't allowed to take any pictures. And to underscore the point, there were surveillance cameras all over the exhibit. I really wanted to get a memento, so we scoped what we thought was a blind spot amongst the cameras (like Mission Impossible) and then surreptitiously stole shots of the shrunken heads.

Not soon after, we saw a security guard approach us, so we quickly turned around and fled the building, camera safely stashed away with our prized pictures inside!


A lot of the buildings in Cuenca are covered in amazing artwork


Neda can't walk past a pet store without stopping to go inside


Hanging out with Valentino in Jerez during breakfast

There aren't many things that dictate our travel schedule, but MotoGP is one of them. We stayed an extra few days just so that we could download the race that weekend, but to our surprise, the cafe where we stopped to have breakfast was actually showing the race live! Motorcycle racing is not very popular in North America, so it was quite a novelty to watch it in a public place.

We were the only ones watching the race in the restaurant, and we get quite excited and very loud when there's a close pass or a crash. One or twice (or maybe more often), the other patrons looked up from their nice and quiet Sunday brunch to frown at our outbursts...


Bucolic countryside scene?


Nope, a farm right in the middle of the city!


You don't realize how strange soap operas really are until you see one being filmed live...


Hiking up to the Mirador de Turi, to get the best view of the city


Reminds us of our trip to the Galapagos. Missing the beach so much!!!


Heterochromia (different coloured eyes) is a common trait in Huskies


Cuenca in Spanish means "Basin" made out of rivers

The city Cuenca is actually in the confluence of four rivers, hence its name. At night, multi-coloured lights illuminate the waters, a nice treat for midnight strollers or joggers. The city (and the country) feel very safe to walk around at all hours of the day.


Selling snacks outside the New Cathedral of Cuenca


Waiting for charity
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  #295  
Old 21 Jul 2014
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Hi Ho! Through the Andes Mountains we go!

We've struck a definite pattern traveling through South America, zig-zagging back and forth from the beach to the mountains. Riding through the curvy roads that twist around the peaks is definitely a lot of fun, but trying to beat the afternoon rains isn't, and the our forays back to the coast give us the much-needed sunshine and warmth to keep our motivations and morale high. Travel fatigue is still an issue and having to travel through the noise and traffic of large cities just hammers that weariness home.


Neda waves: "Bye-bye, Cuenca!"

We're headed to a place that the folks at Ecuador Freedom Bike Rental guys recommended, Vilcabamba. Aside from being a chill place to relax, take in the nature and hike, we're told that there are frequent UFO sightings there, and all sorts of alien encounter enthusiasts descend on the town hoping to catch a glimpse of ET, Alf, Mork or Mindy. I want to believe, too!


Back through twisty mountain roads

Neda found a great place called Izhcayluma Lodge, which is about 5 minutes away from the town of Vilcabamba. It's in the valley overlooking a scenic chain of mountains in the distance. Owned by a German, the ambiance and (especially) the restaurant offered a bit of a change-up of the Latin American fare we've been trying to get away from lately. We initially booked a room for a couple of nights, but deep down, both of us knew full well we'd be staying a bit longer than that...


Scanning the skies over Izhcayluma lodge. No UFOs yet, but a nice double rainbow. Because, you know... rain... *sigh*

It was a very relaxing time for us. Neda got a lot of reading done, I pretended to work on the blog, and we both enjoyed being surrounded by nature.


All Ami and Nieve do is lie around all day. We have a lot in common.

There are two resident dogs at Izhcayluma, Ami and Nieve, and they immediately attach themselves to us, because we're the only guests that play fetch and roughhouse with them. Every morning, they wait outside our room and then follow us back after meals. The other guests start to miss them because they're always with us.

We can't help it if we're the cool kids that the dogs want to hang around!


Bored vendors at the lodge passing away the time


Group yoga class

Izhcayluma Lodge is a bit Granola. But that's okay, because Neda is a Granola-Wannabe. She doesn't really get full acceptance by the Birkenstock-crowd because she prefers to hug trees using her dirtbike. Funny story: next time you talk to Neda, ask her about the time she forgot to air-down the tires on her WR250F after riding street, and literally "hit" the trails...


Neda's favorite breakfast is Yoga-rt with Granola

Other than UFOs, there is another peculiar phenomenon in the Vilcabamba. The area around here is known as the Valley of Longevity because the native population, known as the Hunza, are said to have unusually long lifespans, averaging 120 years. Studies in the 1950s concluded that it was combination of natural foods, clean air and an active lifestyle. Who knew all that stuff was actually good for you? Mindblowing...

A lot of the eco spas and granola lodges really capitalize on this Valley of Longevity reputation. I did all of this research while munching on a delicious German bratwurst.

Quote:
A man goes in for his regular medical check-up and asks, "Doctor, will I live till I'm 100 years old?"
Doctor responds, "Do you smoke or drink?"
Man replies, "No."
Doctor asks, "Do you eat red meat?"
"No.".
"Do you drive fast cars, gamble or chase after women?"
"Definitely not!"
Doctor frowns and asks, "Then why do you want to live to be 100?!"

I think Neda is well on her way to living to be 100 years old!

One afternoon, Neda pulls me away from my very important task of doing absolutely nothing and we ride into town looking for UFO hunters.


Vilcabamba's only a one-church town - tiny place!

There's only a couple of main streets in Vilcabambas intersecting at the town square, and a few smaller residential roads surrounded the square. We stop into a cafe for brunch and got to talking to a lady from the US who had the same bike as Neda. Disappointingly, she was not a UFO hunter though. The search continues.


A burst of activity in this quiet town when school lets out


Reflecting on our trip

We extend our stay at Izhcayluma a few more days. We do this because we still haven't seen any UFOs yet. Neda tells me that we may see some if we go hiking...


Neda says we might be able to see UFOs from that mountain ridge on the right.
I dunno... it looks kinda far...



But I get conned into it.

Izhcayluma hands us a rough map of the hike up to the ridge. I think it was about 14 kms round trip! There really isn't a trail to get there, as we have to walk through a couple of places that are marked private property. We got lost trying to find start of the ridge and had to follow another European couple from the lodge - the only other people that we saw up in the mountains.


Neda doing her Hindu Indian Deva prayer to help find our way. The view is spectacular up here!


Hiking along the ridge of the mountain

This was probably the most scenic hike we've done since leaving Utah! It was amazing getting a 360 degree panoramic view of the Vicabamba Valley and at one point, the ridge narrowed to a thin pathway about a foot wide with steep drops on either side. Exciting!


The ridgeline trail seemed to extend forever into the distance


You can see the town of Vilcabamba at the top-right hand corner


The trail ended here and then we were lost again...

The way down was not very well marked and we were unsure of whether we were on the right track or not. I was glad we didn't have our GPSs with us or we would have gotten even more lost for sure.

When we reached the valley floor, we were unprepared for the long and arduous hike back, which the map told us to follow the creek all the way back into town. The problem was that there was no trail beside the creek, just the thick undergrowth of trees on either side with thorny branches. Tired of our arms and legs being subjected to hundreds of tiny slashes, we ended up walking in the creek, slogging through calf-high waters.

I was wet, tired and cut up from the thorns and I took every single opportunity to complain and curse loudly. Neda just nodded her head understandingly, which made it even more worse because every single whine and complaint from me, dug me deeper into a hole that I knew I'd have to dig myself out with a ladder made of apologies.

No UFOs too.


So nice to be greeted by friendly, panting faces when we get back! Note shoes drying on the balcony...

We ended up staying at Izhcayluma for over a week. It was a really nice break, but after a month and a half in Ecuador, we're eager to head south and see more of this continent.


Ami looks so forlorn that we are leaving!
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  #296  
Old 31 Jul 2014
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Updated from May 18 2014: Deepest, Darkest Peru



We're leaving Ecuador!

Heading towards the Peruvian border, we've got a choice to make: do we take the coastal road south or continue inland twisting our way through the Andes Mountains. On the one hand we love curvy, mountain roads, but the constant rains have really dampened (no pun intended) our enjoyment of leaning into corners due to dubious levels of grip. So we decide to head back to the coast, crossing into Peru and traveling along the western shoreline of South America.


Taking the corners con gusto! But it looks wet up ahead...


Need I mention it? Rain. And helicopters!


Saying sayonara to the Andes for awhile


Stop for lunch, pose for a picture

As we reach the coast, the weather is instantly warmer and drier. It's hard to believe a couple hundred of kms makes such a difference. The lush green hills fall away and we're greeted by sagebrush covering the flat plains. We are headed towards the border town of Huaquillas, staying overnight to attempt the border crossing while we're still fresh in the morning. We've read that it's a good idea to fill our gas tanks up with cheap Ecaudorean gas because the availability and quality of the petrol on the other side of the border is a bit suspect. Not to mention expensive!


Neda falls ill!

Our plans to cross the next day are delayed. Neda has developed a very high temperature and bad diarrhea. We get very worried when the symptoms don't abate overnight so we call in a doctor. Poor Neda has to do all the communicating, and I feel somewhat better when I can do a prescription run to fetch the various pills and potions to make her well again. I have a feeling that her flu was brought on by our killer-hike in Vilcabamba. We're not used to that level of activity and I think that the exertion lowered our immune systems. I always seem get sick right after I just start working out after a period of inactivity.

I like blaming exercise and hiking for everything. It's just not good for you.


Our first time in Peru! For today...

The next morning, Neda is feeling up for an attempt the border, so we prepare ourselves for the usual dance. Armed with dozens of photocopies of all of our documents, we pass an imaginary line on the ground and then immediately we're plunged into a chaos that's very un-Ecuadorean. This is the Latin America that we had last seen in Colombia and Central America - the roads crumbling beneath our tires and being surrounded by countless street vendors calling out to us and every tourist that walked by. Yes, walked by. We seemed to be the only vehicles driving through the border. Strange.

We rode around the Peruvian side of Huaquillas for quite a while trying to find the twin offices of Migracion and Aduana to stamp us and our motorcycles into the country. Nothing. No signs or any indications that we should be stopping. We rode further down the PanAm past the city limits. Still nothing. So we doubled back the way we had come from and asked a guy wearing an official-looking uniform where all the border offices were.


Our police escort through Peruvian Huaquillas

The official talked to Neda and told us this was not the official border crossing. Which was weird because this *was* the Pan American highway. I found out much later the problem was that we had actually stopped in Huaquillas. Most travelers bypass the city and cross the border at the official crossing, which was a few kms before the city.

We asked for directions to the real crossing but the official told us that it was unsafe for us to be riding through Peruvian Huaquillas alone. Huh?!? We had been roaming around for half an hour all over the area looking for the offices! It didn't seem unsafe at all. He told that he would radio for us a police escort to the real border. Alarm bells started going off in our heads. Why do we need a police escort to the border? We had never had one before? We tried to gauge how official this guy was, was he setting us up for an ambush somewhere?

In the end, our trusting natures prevailed, and we waited patiently until a couple of policemen riding two-up on a small 150cc motorcycle pulled up to us, talked to the official and then motioned for us to follow them. Seemed legit. *shrug* We followed them.


Our circuitous route to Peru, back to Ecuador and then to Peru again

We rode through Huaquillas on the Peruvian side again. Still didn't seem very dangerous... I watched my GPS as the policemen took us south to the city bypass and then back into Ecuador at the border crossing. We thanked them as they waved goodbye to us. This was probably a very common problem.


Our second time in Peru... today.

Because we were entering Peru from the wrong side (from Peru), there was a huge mixup in getting our bikes stamped out of Ecuador. The Aduana was actually several kms past the border on the Ecuadorean side. It took us another hour to find this out, and we actually rode across the border back and forth several times looking for the office. This border crossing was taking forever!

I thought about all the cheap Ecuadorean gas we were burning up and felt a bit sad. Neda thought about the small breakfast she had over 6 hours ago and she felt a lot hangry. All the scary Peruvian gangsters in Huaquillas pale in comparison to Neda running on low blood sugar...


Riding in Peru! Not so deep and dark...?

The actual border process was quite simple once we figured out where all the buildings were. We fed the Dragon (Hungry Neda) and then all at once everything seemed well with the world. We were riding in a new country, the weather was nice and sunny and over the intercom we made plans to research all the things we wanted to see and do in Peru.

Personally, I only know two things about Peru: Paddington Bear (I used to watch this all the time when I was a kid) and Machu Picchu. I did a search on my GPS for "Deepest, Darkest Peru".


Our first stop in Peru

We decided to find a nice beach-side town to reward ourselves for making into another country. Because that doesn't happen too often when you travel as slowly as we do! The northern coast of Peru is lined with many such towns. The largest and most popular one is Mancora, less than 2 hours south of the border. It's lined with plenty of stores, surf-shops, restaurants and hostels and has a great hippy vibe to it. We find a cheap, yet nice place just outside the city and settle in for a couple of days.


Nice place to relax


Sharing the beach in Mancora with a line of fishing boats in the distance


Surfing is very popular along the northern shores of Peru


Typical tourist fare


Panama Hats made in Ecuador, sold in Peru


Sunset on horseback

Mancora was a great place to hang out and chill. Our first few days in Peru have been quite relaxing, although it was quite clear how much more clean and affluent Ecuador is after crossing the border. And how cheap the gas was as well!


Back on our way to find Deepest, Darkest Peru!
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We've got a couple of long riding days ahead of us.

When I did the research between the rainy, interior mountain roads, or the sunny, straight coastal roads, I was warned that the scenery along the western shores of Peru would be fairly monotonous for most of the way. So at least we were prepared for what laid ahead.


Riding through the coastal deserts of North-Western Peru

I'm not very happy with the point-and-shoot camera I picked up in Guayaquil. The focus is not very good when moving and the colours are not very vibrant. Unfortunately, I found this out much later when looking through the photos. We spent most of the ride using the crappy camera. Going to try to get a replacement Nikon soon.


Frequent drink stops along the way. Neda is giving the Evil Eye to something or someone...?


Some picturesque sand dunes by the side of the road


Good lord! Gas is so expensive here. Probably to pay for Marc Marquez's salary...

So funny seeing some of the European companies in Latin America that have virtually no presence in North America. The only exposure we have to them are when their names are plastered on the motorcycles that they sponsor on the races on TV. I had no idea that Movistar was not pronounced Movie-Star until I learned Spanish. "Movi" is short for Movil (mobile phone) and is pronounced "MobiStar".


Neda has some really strange poses in this bunch of pictures. Trying to figure out what she's saying here.

"Your lens cap is on"
"No it's not.
"Yes it is"
*click*


We stopped in Chiclayo for the evening. Our hotel was right above a casino...


...and a nice restaurant. Ordered a bit too much food...

We had waited too long for dinner (skipped lunch while on the road) and we were both starving, so our eyes were larger than our stomachs and this is what came after we ordered. The plate of fries was bigger than Neda's head! Oops.


A quick bit of wrenching in enemy territory

On the way to Chiclayo, my rear brake light burnt out, so before we left the next day, we dropped into a Honda dealership just down the road to buy a replacement bulb. Unlike the front halogen which I've replaced every 15,000 kms, this is the first rear bulb I've replaced on my bike. Not bad for 185,000 kms! We'll see how far the Honda bulb takes me.


While I'm busy with my bike, Neda performs some impromptu translation duties

Some Honda personnel came out to watch. My bike (and probably me) were quite a curiousity. Then another Honda guy came out and asked Neda to translate a document for him into Spanish. At first I thought it was in English, but found out later that is was written in Cyrillic letters!

I asked Neda, "How did he know you were Slavic?". She replied, "He didn't. I was the only white person around so he assumed I knew Russian!"

OMGLOL! That was the funniest thing I've heard since Punchbuggy Chino! So glad I'm not the only victim of stereotyping down here. We're renaming our blog, "The Adventures of Punchbuggy Chino and Slavic Chick".

Neda did a little Cossack Dance for the Honda people and then we were off.


Ducking down to pass a truck

The winds coming off the coast are vicious. Irregular currents of air blow our bikes sideways and sometimes we are leaning 45 degrees into the wind while traveling straight. The worse is when passing long trucks, when we're temporarily shielded from the coastal gusts, and then once past the leading edge of the trucks bumper, we're violently and abruptly subjected to the high winds again. Very unnerving.

Sometimes the winds have blown large dunes that have spilled over on our side of the road, forcing us into the next lane. We have to time our passes past these stationary mini-dunes between oncoming traffic.


Many unfinished buildings line the road on the way south

There seems to be much more of a "developing nation" feel to Peru, due in large part to the rubbish strewn all over on the side of the road and also the rows of unfinished buildings, their re-bar skeletons poking up into the air, empty promises of a second or third story never fulfilled.

I later learned that there was a method behind this messiness. In Peru, you don't have to pay property tax if you are still developing on the land. Almost every building down here is unfinished because of this loophole.


Our bikes find a nice place to sleep in Trujillo

We've booked into a nice but still cheap hotel away from the city centre of Trujillo, which is the second largest city in Peru behind Lima. There are a few things to see around here so we're staying for a few days.


Very striking colours of Trujillo Cathedral


Walking on the polished stones of the Plaza de Armas


Guarding the sewing machines


Huaca de la Luna (Temple of the Moon) with Cerro Blanco (White Hill) volcanic peak in the background

Less than 10 kms outside of town lie twin active archaeological digs called Huacas del Sol y Luna (Temples of the Sun and Moon). Very Indiana Jones-sounding! The temples were built by the Moche people about 1500-2000 years ago.


Uncovering a huge wall with amazing mural-work at the Temple of the Moon


The detail of the surviving structures at Huaca de la Luna is astounding

The tour guide told us that unlike a lot of other ruins, every effort has been made to keep the structures as original as possible with minimal reconstruction. Some of the detail that made it over the last couple of millennia are astounding.


In the distance to the right, is Huaca del Sol (Temple of the Sun)

Huaca del Sol is much larger than the Temple of the Moon, but unfortunately it was looted and destroyed by Spanish Conquistadors in the 17th century. Not much remains today but the large external structure that looks like a bunker or fort. Most of the archaeological work is focused on the Temple of the Moon.


Peruvian hairless dogs running around the restaurants and stores set up at the ruins

Such a strange-looking dog. Most of them are not completely hairless, but have a thin, little mohawk on top of their heads. Because of my allergies, this might be the kind of dog we'd be able to own. If I could only get past their looks! They're an ancient breed of dog, known to be kept as household pets from pre-Incan times.


We stopped by a small diner and I ordered Cuy: Fried guinea pig! It was delicious!


"Tunnel of Wishes"

Back in town, we went walking around our neighbourhood and visited a little tourist attraction the city put up called El Paseo de Aguas, some lighted fountains in a small park.


Timing our runs through the fountain
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Another long riding day: 11.1 kms. 16 minutes by Google Maps. We'll have to leave extra early today...

We've decided to head to the beach instead of staying in the loud and noisy city of Trujillo. The road leading out is lined with garbage and once again we're reminded of how unkempt this country is compared to where we came from. Huanchaco is where we're headed - a nice beach resort town where the locals and gringo tourists spend their weekends and vacations. It feels a bit silly to pack up all our bags and suit up like we normally do just to ride down the street.


All the restaurants on the main street hire hustlers who stand out in the street and try to steer you inside


Caballito de totora - literally translated "Small horse made of totora (a reed)"

These "small horses" are all lined up everywhere on the shores and are the official symbol of Huanchaco. They're traditional Peruvian fishing boats and are plastered liberally on billboards, taxis and storefronts. They've been in use by indigenous fishermen for over 3,000 years, originally made and used by a tribe called the Uru in a time well before the Incas. Although seemingly unchanged from the olden days, we looked inside and these Caballitos have a modern twist: the insides are stuffed with styrofoam to make them more bouyant!


Another kind of Cabillito de Huanchaco


Neda is soaking up the sun

We find ourselves continually extending our stay in Huanchaco... or delaying our departure into southern Peru... We don't really feel like moving much. Every day we tell the hotel that we're going to stay another day. This lasts for over a week. We are definitely feeling a little burnt out and like last summer, we are thinking about going back to Toronto to visit our family and friends for a little while. On social media, I scroll through pictures of everyone's Victoria Day weekend vacation shots. The weather is getting nicer back in Toronto, and the skies are blue - quite unlike the grey and white cloudy skies that we've been traveling under for the last few months.


A line of little green Peruvian ducklings crossing the street


Picture perfect! A couple poses on the beach for the wedding shots.


Surfing and fishing are the two most popular past times in Hunachaco


In the afternoons, the Caballitos take to the water dragging fishing nets behind them


We watch them come in one by one, the bellies of their horses filled with their daily catch


Locals and tourists in the know intercept the fisherman right on the beach and buy up all the juiciest fish before they take them to sell to the restaurants and markets


Our dinner is cooking while we wait hungrily. Seafood pretty much every single day! Paradise!

Huanchaco has its fair share of tree-hugger restaurants serving up a variety of Ovo-Lacto-Vego-Hempo food. Neda is in heaven and wants to sample everything. I stare at the menus looking for anything that resembles red meat. No joy here for me.


Boxercise class right on the shores of the beach


Horses at rest watching another Huanchaco sunset


"El Muelle" otherwise known as the Hunchaco Pier is the centrepiece of the town

The pier is the busiest place in this small town, and locals and tourists both pay a small fee of a few cents to stroll up and down it. Many of the locals make it worth their while by fishing off the pier. I eye their homemade gear of green translucent line wrapped around small wooden boards with skepticism, but the buckets sitting beside them full of small and medium size catch speak otherwise. I watch this woman above reel up a small fish, she smiles and shows it to me and tells it's too small and then throws it back in. It will be a bigger fish to fry some other day.


As soon as the sun begins to set, the pier gets more and more busier


Love the west coast sunsets! But the weather yields some good, some just okay.


El Muelle lit up in the distance
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A really good interesting thread, a great inspiration
Keep up the good work please

Wayne
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Thanks Wayne! Appreciate it!
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