Day 71 to 73 – Peru – A Serious and Dusty Contrast!

2016-11-21 – Day 71 – Cuenca, EC to Piura, PE (529 km – 9:30 hrs)
2016-11-22 – Day 72 – Piura, PE to Cajamarca, PE (472 km – 7:30 hrs)
2016-11-23 – Day 73 – Cajamarca, PE to Huamachuco, PE (222 km – 7:30 hrs)

When I mentioned a contrast between Colombia and Ecuador, well, multiply it by 10 and you will get the one between Ecuador and Peru!

Having passed 2 nice days in Cuenca, I felt ready to go on southward and set myself to a mission. Cross into Peru!, located still quite far, about 8 hours away.

Waking up was very early and I set off at 6:00 AM, with a cold 2 degree temperature! I put on my heating jacket, but after 30 minutes, the temperature went down by a notch to get to -3. With completely frozen hands, I also had to slip on the heating gloves, a first one since I left.

Once dressed adequately, I can comfortably drive in a relative warmth. Small problem, the battery of my iPhone, even if connected and recharging, drops dead because of the cold temperature and so, the phone, which is my main GPS (GOOGLE MAP), goes dark.

I must therefore set my course again in my old GARMIN GPS, which is not optimal, because the maps from OSM are not very good in this region.

After some hours of driving in green mountains, the landscape progressively changes from forest to desert. In fact, it’s not really the desert, but a dry vegetation, with big trees which seem dead.

I arrive to the border of Peru under a blazing sun and a nice 36 degrees, 40 more than this morning!

The border post is completely unorganized, as though it had been improvised 50 years ago and that it had been never updated since then.

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The crossing is easy and quick. Officials are courteous. I must pay 35$ US for a month of insurance in Peru (SOAT).

After just a few kilometres, I can see major poverty, the most serious one since the beginning of my trip.

I head for Piura, a big city located at a reasonable distance and where I intend to spend the night.

I must cross dusty cities and villages that seem to come right out of an old American western…

At some point, the main road is blocked because of construction and I must make detours on completely ruined and very poor residential sandy streets. I am also confronted with hundreds of mototaxis on 3 wheels! It is difficult for me to describe this craziness. I really feel far away from the home!

In more rural regions, I deal with other types of traffic!

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I arrive in Piura around 16:00 and start my search for a hotel. Prices are high and I end up in an adequate hostal for 35$. A lot more expensive than what I should have paid for what the place has to offer! I then walk in the city. It is another world… Extremely loud, dirty, and for some areas, simply disgusting. Here are the nicest photos which I could take. I’ll keep the other one for myself! The centre is nevertheless OK but…

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…A few street corners away from the main square, streets are made of dirt and sand!

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I leave early the next morning. In spite of many people advising me to avoid the Panamericana, which is along the ocean, I decide to take the easy option get to Cajamarca. The road begins with a dusty desert and a straight line for more than 200 km. He would be à lie not to confess that I appreciated these moments of easy driving, a first for some time now!

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Of course, it was not going to last and once return I got to the big city of Chiclayo, I got on the gravel for a few dozens of kilometres. I must also pass in completely mad villages, with selling kiosks directly on the street, so I had to squeeze in between them, mototaxis and even big lorries who too, had to drive thru in this craziness.

I few kilometres away, I start gaining altitude and the road becomes very nice, wide, clean, with a perfect tarmac. Landscapes are of equal quality and I in for a nice show all the way to Cajamarca.

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This city is much more imposing than I believed it to be. I quickly find a hotel which allows me to park the motorbike in the courtyard and use the next few hours to walk and discover a place full of beauties and effervescence.

However, it is also very noisy, caused mostly by all the vehicles honking all the time.

I try to study the behaviour, even if it is very unpleasant, as a curiosity and because there seems to be some sort of a system to it.

First, there are no stop signals at most intersections, therefore every vehicle which arrives at a street corner, well, hits the horn!

Then, every driver who finds that another car is too close for comfort, well, hits the horn.

If a pedestrian is on a street corner or tries to cross, they hit the horn.

If they want to salute you, they hit the horn.

Sometimes. When a car passes me by, I get the horn, perhaps to greet me or possibly because my headlights are on?

Then there are taxis.

They honk for all the reasons mentioned above, but it is necessary to add that they also honk to draw attention from the potential clients walking on the sidewalks. And in places where there are many pedestrians, they honk every 10 metres.

Beep beep… Beep beep… Beep beep beep… So stressful! But by finding myself stuck in this situation, and because I can’t do anything about it, I try to find some sort of rhythm, maybe a melody?

Finally, I think that some people are trying to distort my serious study of the behaviour. They simply honk for no reason at all. I try to explain it to myself, but unsuccessfully.

And the government helps in any way they can… Look at the road sign!

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You can therefore imagine the concert of strident horns which is present on the streets of the big cities of Peru!

I leave for Cajamarca early, once again to make progress southward.

I really do not have any objectives for the day, because it is so difficult to estimate adequately which is the best road as well as travel time. I, however, head towards Huamachuco, where there are ancient ruins which are possible to visit, only a few kilometres of the city.

The road differs a lot from the previous day. Although still located in high altitude, I get a series of small villages and farmlands. Nice and quiet. I drive slowly and immerse myself in these bucolic landscapes.

My two stops for breakfast!

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Miam! Seriously. First, good fresh bananas, and then, the small bakery, right in the middle of nowhere, had great apples croissants. A delight.

But I’m a bit more strategic than before. Now, I buy one item, taste it and if it is good, I buy more. I took 4 of them!

I get to the 3N road, which is the one that I am going to try to follow for next days. It is modern and soft for my big motorbike. It is nevertheless strange to see all modest houses of the poor families lining up along this modern and perfect road.

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the irony is even stronger when I think of the streets of Montreal, the city where I live. It is the complete opposite.

Nice houses and crazy taxes for streets in state of decomposition!

OK, let us return to the 3N, what is as also odd is that sometimes it must be shrunk to one lane, because of a badly positioned home or an electrical post. Or because they simply forgot to rebuild a bridge! Now I admit this is more like my local administration!

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In the middle of the day, I come across a group of adventurer cyclists and I stop to salute them. I am warmly welcomed by a group of 4 persons from Europe and one from Vancouver. Some of them have been on the road for 2 years and started their journey in Alaska.

I was highly impressed by such accomplishment and it put things in a perspective. They took, since their arrival in Peru, a month to get here. I took 3 days!

We talk about our itineraries, their bikes, my motorbike. Exciting. I leave 90 minutes later, filled with a new energy which was transmitted to me by the daily accomplishment of these people. I suddenly have a huge desire to camp (what they do almost at all times), and to continue discovering the country via the small less touristy roads.

They also mentioned that they are going to go to a small lake a little farther out to spend the night and that I am welcomed to join them.

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Their web site: www.radko.de

For to get to this place, it will only take me 30 minutes, but for them, it is more than 4 am.

After leaving, I think about my options. I drive in front of the lake, but nothing here justifies my me stopping as it is only 2:00 PM. As I really feel like camping, which I have not done since Guatemala, I decide to go to Huamachuco, but to also go towards the ruins of Markahuamachocho, do a quick visit and backtrack (30 minutes) to try to find the group near the lake.

The entrance in the city of Huamachuco is chaotic and difficult. Initially, my GPS routes me adequately, but several streets are closed and Google Maps has trouble recalculating an alternative route. I get stuck in dead ends or streets which are staircases for pedestrianized, therefore impassable.

It is nevertheless amusing to see the face of people seeing me passing with my big motorbike coming straight from Mars, on their isolated streets with no issues.

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I succeeded crossing the city and rapidly find myself on a dirt road and starts seriously gaining in altitude. The path is very narrow and overlooks very abrupt cliffs! A challenge in driving and courage.

I arrive at the ruins, and the security agent present at the entrance offers to watch the motorbike. Great! I then change my clothes, lock all my things and hide them with the bike’s cover. I am comfortable to leave it alone and leave for a 2 hour trek. I am the only person on site and I use this peacefulness to visit slowly and to take many photos.

At some point, I see a group who bustles about to repair the path and among them, the chief archaeologist of the site!

I get a quick guided tour and I’m also allowed enter the ruins of the main building, which sheltered, more than 1000 years ago, the commercial fair of the people who lived there, estimated at about 10000 persons. The site is located in the mountain side and was encircled by a 3-storied high wall.

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A very nice security agent. And a good photographer!

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After this nice visit, I go back to the lake where unfortunately, I am not able to find the cyclists group. I nevertheless decide camp by the water, on the grounds of the town’s park, a free spot for the night. I park my motorbike and start my tent setup. It is not very long that young kids from the village encircle me and get me with the full set of questions about my trip, but especially about the big motorbike which intrigues them the most!

Photo session…

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Meanwhile, a great surprise, another motorbike arrives, a BMW 650 cc, driven by a fellow adventurer from England, living in Belgium and making the same itinerary as me, but northward. He started in Uruguay and will finish in Houston, TX. He has a lot of experience, having made this journey, and others in Europe, in the past.

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We take a good wine bottle together and swaps many travel stories and tricks. A nice fellow, an incredible evening! I go out of it even more motivated to discover Peru from its mountains and small roads.

It was an exciting day, probably one of the most interesting of the trip. I met great adventurers, saw nice landscapes, nice ruins, and practised my off-road riding on a mountain top.

I am ready for the next stage.

But what awaits me the following days is a lot more intense than what I had planned and I lived the most demanding days of my trip, or even of all my trips.

Stay tuned!

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Marc Ouellet

Adventurer at heart. Travelling on 2 wheels to South America soon!

0 COMMENTS
  • Stephane
    Reply

    Bonjour Marc. C’est toujours très intéressant de lire tes récits. Un autre monde . J’ai fait Tr Rivieres Sherbrooke aller retour hier à 0 degrés.. Je suis loin de ton périple…
    Bonne continuité de voyage

    1. Marc Ouellet
      Reply

      Effectivement, toute une différence avec ce qu’on peu voir et vivre chez nous. Ça me fait réaliser à quel point nous sommes chanceux.

      Attend de lire la prochaine entrée (ce soir ou demain). Toute une aventure!

      Merci d’avoir pris le temps de m’écrire!

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