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Published: March 20th 2006
Leaving Nazca on the Panamerican, the highway with so many stories....OK, how about...it was a dark and stormy night??….out across the desert, now this is serious desert, sandy, dusty, windy, so dry I can feel every drop of moisture in my body being sucked out, doesn’t help to be a little evaporated after another night on the pisco sours, cottonwool mouth, still lingering sinusitis, if I was able to spit it would be a ball of dust, if you sliced a potato here the slices would be chips before they hit the ground, and the dust again…but at least it’s hot, and there’s plenty of oxygen, down below 2,000 metres, and the brakes started working after only 11 kms and riding with my right hand down on my knee is getting more comfortable.
From time to time a rocky, shaley ridge to cross, the road goes into fantastic sweepers and hairpins, the right-handers more fun than the lefties!…little oases in green valleys the contrast with the nothingness of the desert, sandy, stony plains out to the sandhills and beyond them, the craggy mountains…nothing alive out there for a million miles.
Sometimes the perspective boggles the brain, Surreal, Escher-like patterns, changing as
you watch, in and out of focus, there’s a line of hills in the middle distance, black triangles on the peaks and white triangles of erosion down the valleys, it is absolutely, dazzlingly, synthetic.
There must be some water source as there are patches of sugarcane, chillies and some other crops, surrounded on the fence lines by bamboo and sugar cane wind breaks, lines of gums on the more substantial farms, inside big mudbrick walls. The peasants line up outside the farm gates, waiting to be selected for digging the irrigation ditches, or cutting the cane, everything manual labour…coz it’s virtually free.
And between the shoreline and the road these huge, long, low shelters, massive chook farms, and they go on forever, surely enough for every man, woman and child in this country to have 10 eggs a day and chicken for every meal. Altho’ some of the sheds appear deserted, what went wrong?
We turn off the Panamerican to check out the beach at Pisco, my first look at the Pacifico for several months, apart from a brief glimpse in Vina del Mar. The ‘beach’ was shrouded in mist, I could see the great white clouds rolling in from the sea as we approached, the cold water currents meet the hot dry desert air, it was like a flaming sauna, sweaty, steamy, then suddenly cooler, almost cold and clammy…uugghh.
Back to the Panamerican, heading for Lima, had some beans for lunch, yes, real Lima beans!…and fish, great to be back near the coast, even if it is all a bit too weird.
The road alternates between cutting thru’ the dunes and sand at about 38 degrees and 0% humidity and running along the beachtop at 15 degrees and 90% humidity!
Out in the desert, small shelters of bamboo and woven rattan sheets, hundreds of them, all spaced out, some appear to be dwellings, are they beach houses for the ultra-poor, it reminisces me of the landless movement in Brasil, some are more substantial in the omnipresent mudbrick and adobe, some with bamboo poles and red flags, I’ve got no idea what’s going on here.
On the beach side, now masses of adobe slum tenement seaside shacks, cluttered together, a tangled web of electrical cables tying the whole together, then the inevitable mega-resorts, club tampons, massive fences, razor wire, armed guards, the same tourist prisons that could be anywhere, always amusing that they are always soo similar, and you never have to meet a local!…
Down by the water, lots of people actually getting wet, and I believe some actual surf altho’ I can’t see anyone out in the waves, one car with boards out of fifty million vehicles, yes, only 100 kms from the big Lima and the big crowds are heading for the beaches for Sunday arvo’ and it is soo strange with this fog everywhere!
And then the remains of more ruins, pre-Inca and Incan as well, I’ve seen enough just for now, thanks all the same, keep going..
Lima has arguably the worst drivers in the world, particularly dangerous for bikes, possibly why there are very few bikes in the city at all, and only one bike shop, Honda per chance, but the mechanic has a BMW manual and rides one himself…good sign, my brakes seem to work most of the time so I’m going to leave the fixing til Quito in Ecuador, the next authorised BMW dealer, they can have it for a week while I get out to the Galapagos maybe! But Raf has a serious rattle in the right hand head, they adjust the tappets but its still going, so they take off the head and cylinder, big scratches, something definitely NQR, his BMW mechanic in Venezuela tells him to get the local guy to give the cylinders a sand down, put it back together and head for Quito for an authorised service.
Finally out of Lima, almost as much of a maze to escape from as such classics as San Jose in Costa Rica. Again, the cops are on to us straight away, insurance again, this time the dates are OK but the cop insists its not “international”…as usual, patience, calmness, show the wallet with only 30 soles ($10)…this time he actually writes out the tickets, v serious, we will have to go back to Lima, to the ATM, pay the fine (340 (R) Soles) and also, also, wait 3 days while our licences are sent to the Ministry (of funny walks no doubt) and returned. I had heard of someone who had to go thru’ all this in Cusco!…Naturally I had given up one of my phoney licences so I wouldn’t have to wait but Raf only had his original. As usual tho’ the cop walks away to the side of the road, has this imaginary phone conversation, comes back, and after a few more threatening noises, takes our 30 soles each and shakes our hands and off we go. Another 50kms or so, out in the middle of nowhere in the dunes, a 60kph sign…what th…?…a sure sign something’s up…another bend and there’s the speed trap…just pulling everyone over..... they have a decrepit looking radar gun but obviously no idea how to work it!…just another scam. I’d loaded the wallet with another 30 soles and after the same rigmarole he takes it and off we go.
These traffic cops are well fed, well dressed and well rehearsed, the same story every time, and they all have the Ray Ban, wrap-around, reflective sunnies and cheesy smiles…patience my son, remember, Moses had patience..etc etc…
I’m getting worn out by this shitty, dusty, unimaginative, ugly-peopled country..the imagination, passion and knowledge of this culture was exhausted by the Incas and nothing is left…apart from the ruinas ..and even there I’m not sure that the original plans were for Machu Picchu to be built down by the river but some dickhead had the plans upside down and built it on top of the bloody mountain! Here, you could believe it!!
There is some speccy scenery, but otherwise there is nothing, the people, by and large are thick as 2 short planks, I have to work out the change every second financial transaction, twice I stop people overpaying me in change, they are fcuked and the cops are driving me to distraction….they know how to count at least…someone told me tonight, a local motocyclista, he just ignores the cops and keeps going, sounds like a good theory, might try it mañana…I know they aren’t going to bother radioing ahead because that won’t get them anything, their only motivation is making money for themselves.
Stop tonight at Huanchaca, just on the beach near Trujillo, first swim in the Pacifico for a long time, and it’s freezing.
Hey, next day and off to the north, the fabled warm water, Mancora, surfista navel, point break, world famosa(?)….first cop waves me down but I’m not stopping…heart in mouth I just wave at him and crank it on…he looks puzzled, reaches for his gun or his notebook or radio I don’t care…over the river at somewhere, then inland, really bad desert, hot and dry again, dusty and loads of rubbish!!…fewer cops and mostly just letting me cruise thru’, I wave or salute, obviously no radio contact from the first guy. This is seriously tedious desert riding, straight, flat, hot and dry...getting by with Van Morrison and Gotan....
Finally some curvery and back on the coast, 600 kms today, longest for a while, just 10 kms short of Mancora, another bloody cop and he’s taken a bit by surprise, as he starts to wave me down I’m past and off! Raf’s bike is hanging in, performance is perfecto, using a bit more gas is all, but it’s rattling like a VW on heat, I can hear him coming up behind me…he’s getting a bit nervous following me on my new philosophy of not stopping for the cops…by the time he gets there they have the full roadblock set up!
So, Mancora, lovely little spot, find a great hostal, with pool!, parking and everything, wander 50m to the beach, perfect, warm water, 1m waves, just too much, friendly chica brings beer to the table and chairs under the umbrella, by the water..aahhh, It’s Saturday arvo and a small crowd, maybe 100 people over a couple of kms of beach…low season…sun’s setting over the little fishing fleet, magazine cover shoot, all just too exquisite, starting to feel a bit better about Peru, first good feeling in this stupid ugly country…and having not wasted money on the cops makes us feel a whole lot better
And the Pelicans and Frigate birds are back…feels like home, stay another day or 2, they say there’s still big trouble just across the frontera and also in Quito over the Free Trade agreement so we are in no rush.
Oh, and we are in the throes of an election here, it’s the second stage, the 15 original candidates have been narrowed down to 5 for the second round. Every bit of wall, rock face, mountainside, billboard is covered in election ads…it is so overwhelming, must provide employment for thousands of artists, and the quality is very high, signwriting-wise..I think they go thru’ the country and towns and cities, in three waves, first lot whitewash the wall, second does the big red letters, third adds the shadow effect or smaller text or, in some cases, the blue…Lourdes is favourite, going for the chica vote and trying to follow her fellow chica’s success in Chile, however she makes Maggie Thatcher look positively humane, an ultra right winger!..and Alan, and Bruce, you get so sick of seeing these messages every-fcuking-where!!..but only 10 days I think until the big one!
Just been down for the early morning dip, the water is like glass and perfect little waves curling off the point, only a metre or so but perfectly formed, only me and a couple of surfers, the fishing boats in the background, pelicans and frigates gliding by, small silver fish leaping out of the water, hundreds of crabs scuttling across the wet sand, scavenging from the piles of garbage, plastic bottles, cups, papers, plastic bags, it’s really bad.
Not sure whether to publish this at all...haven't even been able to take photos it´s all so depressing...should take some here tho´it´s nice enough...chica brings more beer to the beach, plate of really good cebiche...OK, it´s alright now.....probably not a lot going to happen between here and Quito....see what you can make of it all....
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