Sunday, September 18, 2011

Three days in the lush, tropical Peruvian...desert?!

So, maybe I'm just hopelessly uninformed, but when we entered Peru, I did not expect 1000 straight miles of windy, arid, lifeless desert. Just south of Mancora that's exactly what we found...
 We rode for about five hours at a...moderate pace, and found ourselves in a strange room, in Chiclayo...
 We headed out the next day, eager to find an end to the desert. We didn't.

The aftermath of another extremely windy day in the desert. I guess it wasn't THAT combustible.

 I feel the desert is best represented by a few stark images and even fewer words; at one point our communication radio batteries went out and we later discussed the very troubling, lonely two hours we spent without talking.

Out of the clouds and into Peru

Under some clouds and above others near Zhud, Ecuador
As we left Banos we had two potential routes: highway 60, which heads down 9,000 feet and runs along the coast, or highway 35, which runs through Cuenca along an Andean ridge and reaches 15,000 feet. We had been enjoying the scenery since Latacunga, so we decided to try the high road. Unfortunately, the weather had other plans, and as we started ascending toward Cuenca we hit the higher clouds at about 11,000 feet(above) and visibility went down to about 10 yards. Every inch we went forward the wind became stronger and the temperature dropped, so we reluctantly decided to head west and catch highway 60. The descent was rapid, and the photo above was taken at around 10,000 feet, with the entire landscape to the west, where we were headed, completely obscured by a lower level of clouds. Riding along between the clouds was a surreal experience; looking off into the distance was exactly like being in a plane, and as we descended we were soaked in cloud.

We made it into La Troncal at dusk, and with the help of a local man, found a hotel with a nice garage for the bike. The next day we hit highways 60 and 25, where the 50 degree highs and curvy mountain roads were replaced by 80 degree heat and straight highway through miles and miles of sugar cane plantations. After a few long days riding in the mountains it was nice to watch the miles fly by and cruise at 60mph again. Somewhere between La Troncal and the Peru border we crossed the 10,000 mile mark, another big milestone for our trip. We were shocked to find ourselves at the border by noon, as the 200 miles we covered that morning would have taken a full day in the mountains. The Ecuador side of the border was time consuming, but luckily there were no "helpers" there to make things more diffucult. We got through the border in about 3 hours, but it was nowhere near as tense as the dusty, crowded borders in central America, and the worst thing we encountered were a couple of feeble pick up attempts by Peruvian border officials while Jill was sitting with the bike and I was in the office doing paperwork...

A few more hours of beachside riding and we were here...

The Loki Hostel in Mancora, Peru is more of a resort than a hostel, and was a welcome sight after so many roadside hotels in the middle of nowhere. Our private room, with the balcony from which this photo was taken, was a whopping $30 a night! Alex, Kristi, Anna and Kim were already there, so we spent the next four days lounging around and eating at the in-house restaurant. On the the third day we felt like we should do something, so Jill arranged surfing lessons for our group. For $20 per person we each had our own instructor for an hour and a half lesson, and a board for the whole day. The waves were perfect, and in no time we were all standing up and riding waves like we had a clue...thanks mostly to our talented instructors picking waves for us, and stabilizing our boards while we shakily stood up. Surfing is very, very hard work, and paddling and breathing while lying on your chest is a pretty good workout. After about an hour we had all worked ourselves to the edge of passing out, so we tipped our guides and headed in. No one had a waterproof camera, so here's the only evidence of our adventure:
On our fourth day in Mancora the rest of the crew rolled in- Tom, Charile, Andy, and a new addition, Andy's girlfriend Cass, who had joined the group in Quito.
Cass, Andy, Tom Charlie and I...who knows where everyone else was
After spending four days almost entirely inside the walls of the Loki Hostel, I was getting a bit claustrophobic and ready to hit the road. Jill, however, would have been happy to live there. After reassuring her that there would be other beaches we bit the crew farewell and hit Panamerica 1 south, bound for Lima, which was rumored to be a paradise of motorcycle parts.