Peru is clearly impoverished. It starts off green with flooded rice fields… and then turns to desert.. Small beach towns line the dry coast… much of it littered with tiny little bamboo shacks .. small fishing villages. The shacks are made of a bamboo weave paneling… some concrete construction, but only few…
I ride for a couple hours until I reach Tumbes. I book the first hotel I see ..it has excellent bike parking. I feel a little uncomfortable on the road..
Traffic is beyond horrible, here. The worst so far… so I take a Tuk-Tuk into town. It is fun and lively this way. I think I’d be frustrated riding the bike in. They don’t seem to mind being an inch or less away from the vechicle next to them… lanes don’t really seem to matter either. There are three, sometimes four vehicles astride in a two lane road. They don’t maintain speed or distance in this pattern… the drivers swerve all over. I can’t make any sense of it. I’m convinced the hospitals are full to overflowing with driving causalties.
Downtown is full of art, people, busy restaurants, and street food. I’d skip on the restaurants until you get to try a bunch of the “on-a-stick” stuff. This is another town I wished I had more time to visit! ALL of the people I’ve met are sweet and helpful.. in total contrast to their driving. (The square is conspicuously free of traffic)
The next day, I wake early pack and leave.
On the way out of town, I have to make a detour. None of the streets are signed. Neither are the detours. They’ll say “Desvio” but no further directions. That’s for you to figure out. I follow the line of cars, but then it thins and I end up on one of the dirt back streets.. And then the dirt turns to deep, soft sand. I’m a little horrified of it. The bike doesn’t do particularly well.. for two reasons. 1. the weight, 2. the driver… But I have to go through now because turning around might be harder and I don’t want a crowd trying to help me with the bike.. which is the most likely scenario. I can see my road about a hundred and fifty feet in front of me.
It’s a long, hot ride and I fear I might be low on fuel… there are no good stops at certain points.. this is how they do it here… also, they will sometimes bring your gallon of gas in a steel tea pitcher… probably because they don’t like suck-starting the hose thing.
My next stop is Chiclayo. As I roll into town, I’m following a car closely… (if I don’t, three more cars will push their way in front of me… just edging past my front tire) I have my iPhone in its big rubber protective case… it is what I’ve been using as a GPS so far… as I cruise at a comfortable 40 miles an hour, I see the giant pothole… right before I hit it.. Disaster!
In slow motion, the phone flies up into the air and bounces on the blacktop. I see it happen in my side mirror. It is run over almost instantly by the car right behind me. Pieces bounce and skid across the street.
I’m not sure if there is anything left but I am going to pick up the wreckage anyway. I run out into the street ahead of oncoming traffic and and grab the crumpled black case, the windshield and also the piece of white phone that was left… except it wasn’t just a piece. It is the entire phone! A Miracle!! It still works! I rejoice in my astounding luck for a few minutes. I’m grinning and laughing… I shout.. “IT WORKS, IT WORKS!!!” There are several bland-eyed bystanders that are totally unimpressed with the event.
I find a little hostel only a few minutes later… it looks a little scary but I couldn’t find anything else and I’m pretty beat. It turns out to be a comfortable bed and a safe place for the bike… I settle my things and am posting to my Facebook page (from my miraculous phone) .. then the bed started to move in a very interesting way.. it bed makes a wavy, swishy motion.. almost as though I am on a ship… It lasts about 10 seconds. I stand up, pretty sure that was my very first serious earthquake. I go out front to the counter and ask the receptionist about earthquakes …. ask her if she felt it.. ”No,” she says. “It’s just the busses passing”
Just then, a neighbor comes running past the double doors, waving her hands around… “Tembler, Tembler!”
The receptionist looks at me, eyebrows raised.
In the morning I ride South. I have an idea that I’m going to stop in Trujillo for the evening. It’s supposed to be a fun, historic Colonial town, but when I arrive the traffic is again tragic. I decide to park when I find a likely place… as I turn in, a taxi shoots out right beside me, cutting off my spot….dangerously close to hitting me. there is no signal.. the driver does not check first for oncoming traffic…I have to swerve violently to avoid being hit… He still doesn’t stop.. if he was a quarter inch closer, he’d be mashing my luggage… I lay on the horn. Can it be possible he doesn’t see me?? Maybe if he had only one eye and something was in it… is my only guess.
It looks like a nice city, lots of restaurants and beautiful architecture.. but it’s one of those places.. Like most here in Peru that as soon as you leave the well heeled city center, the roads turn to dirt..
The alleys and streets look like a bombed out village just recovering from civil war… Concrete piles and trash everywhere. Another half mile through the city I see a motorcycle turn right.. and drive directly in to a van. The motorcyclist launches out of his seat, his head goes completely through the windshield, then falls back, into the street.
I wing the bike around to help, but as I park my moto, I see him start to crawl around.. and get up. It hasn’t been a whole minute and a police man has already shown up… he does nothing to help the stricken motorist, but he does begin to divert traffic… the accident starts to draw a crowd.. he wobbles back on to his bike.. I don’t need to see anymore. I’m getting out of crazy town..
I head towards Chimbote. I stopped just short in the Coishco District. The hotels look a little scary. The first one I go to is a brown brick building with three floors. I walk in. There is no reception.. just a room with an open door. I clear my throat and a greasy, distracted fellow comes out. He asks what I want.. I get a really bad feeling because he doesn’t look particularly sober either.. and there’s another suspiciously sweaty man in a dark and dirty room right behind him.
I tell him I’ll be right back. On my way out, I notice the little letters next to the Hotel sign… “Romances”. Oh dear. Not my kind of romance, for sure.
I ride another three minutes into the main part of town.
There is almost no traffic and it feels surreal, dogs everywhere, a handful of people walking around.. like it was almost abandoned, but not quite yet. It is surrounded by low hills with lots of rocks painted that spell out the name of the town, and “Jesus Christo, Salvador!”.. “God is King!” And other patently religious things.. The town smells faintly of fish.
I ride around in circles looking for a likely spot. Finally, there is a hostel (they’re all hostels or hospedajes… doesn’t seem to be a difference between the two ’round these parts) named “New Era” I parked the bike but the gates are locked and there doesn’t appear to be anyone home. A large, middle aged woman in a blue print dress motions me from across the street to go to the other side of the building. She tells me to knock… it doesn’t look connected to the hostel at all. A fellow with a round friendly face answers… he looks slightly confused…
a baby plays on the floor behind him. I ask him for a room. He nods, smiles and shows me up a steep flight of stairs to my room. At $6/ a night, it’s a deal… no wifi, but there is some hot water.. and the crew here couldn’t be nicer… and.. did I mention there’s no traffic?
No restaurants are open and I’m very hungry so I walk to the street vendors and buy some pieces of bread and a mango and avocado. I also stop for two bottles of water. Everyone at the shop that I buy my water wants to know what I’m doing in town because I don’t look like I’m supposed to be here… I’m pretty sure.
I spend a quiet night and wake at dawn to get an early start. As I hop on my bike, the shopkeeper from across the street shouts “GOODBYE!!!” she blows kisses… “GOODBYE!! GOODBYE!” The others all wave and smile… I blow kisses back. “GOODBYE!”
I don’t have any breakfast or coffee. I didn’t see anything I wanted to have. I hope there will be a likely spot soon.