PERU THE ABSURD, PART 1

FROM SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA TO THE HIMALAYAS, TATOOOINE TO WILLY WONKA’S CHOCOLATE FACTORY…EVERYTHING IN PERU REMINDED US OF SOMETHING OUT OF A MOVIE, A PHOTOGRAPH, OR SOMETHING WE’D SEEN SOMEWHERE AT HOME. WITH A COASTLINE AS LONG AS THE WEST COAST OF THE U.S., PERU IS A COUNTRY OUTRAGEOUSLY DIVERSE AND INCONSISTENT IN EVERY REGARD.

Wednesday July 31st – Day 56 – Cuenca, Ecuador – Tumbes, Peru

Of all the border crossings we’ve done on the trip. This border crossing was the most civilized and organized of all. There were no moneychangers, no crazy border “helpers” and very little crowds. We were even told by a police officer to use the crosswalk to cross the street…It didn’t feel right.

A couple hours and $35 worth of insurance later we were on our way into Peru. The nearest city, Tumbes, was about 16 miles away and unfortunately for me, my headlight had gone out the day before and it was now dark. So for the 20 minute ride I followed Chase’s taillight and Mac’s headlight to the nearest city.

Looking for a place to stay we saw a little cheap sign for a hostel and followed it up a dirt road in a suburb of the city. After following half a mile people came out of their houses trying to get our attention. A car in front of us basically pulled out in front of us and tried to signal us over. This wasn’t completely crazy behavior for one person but this was a ton of people. We stopped and they were almost frantically telling us to turn around because we were in a dangerous area. The guy in the car waved at us so we could follow him out and then unknown to Mac and I, a cop had pulled chase over to tell him the same thing about 100 yards back. So. We followed their advice and turned around. We continued further down the highway and found a hotel in the downtown area for about $8 each and went walking through the streets.

My first impressions of Peru. Not anything like Ecuador, surprisingly. Way more energy, way more chaotic and dirty, way more people walking around, and the people have a different look as well. The people seemed to have a little bit more European blood than in Ecuador (at least in Tumbes). Gas prices were back up to ridiculous prices (almost $5/gallon) and with it came the motorcycle taxis all over the place. Ecuador was almost devoid of motorcycles. The energy was completely different though. I might like Peru a lot.

NOTE ABOUT THE CAMERA: Something happened to the camera in Ecuador but now it has a small black dot that shows up on the pictures. It’s not on the lens. I don’t know what the deal is but please accept our apologies about the black dot in the remainder of the photos.

No moneychangers..? No herds of people...? Clean tidy roads and buildings...?
No moneychangers..? No herds of people…? Clean tidy roads and buildings…?
No lines...? No fees...?
No lines…? No fees…?
Walking the streets of Tumbes, Peru
Walking the streets of Tumbes, Peru

Thursday August 1st –day 57 – Tumbes, Peru – Lobitos, Peru

The next morning we walked around town and quickly found a replacement headlight and headed for a surf break that some Aussies in Medellin had recommended. It was only about 130 miles south on the Pan-American highway.

This was our first experience with Peru in daylight but it felt like we had come home… kind of. The Ocean, the water, the waves, the temperature, the humidity, the overcast sky, the bluffs along the shore… ALL of it was identical to the scenery you’d see along the Southern California coast. But instead of pristine little beach communities lining the water, we were greeted with straw huts, dirt roads, fishing boats, birds, and the smell of burning garbage and dead fish. My brain was messing with me. At times I think I felt like I had finally come home and then I’d pass a little fishing village and immediately remember I was 8,000 miles from home.

A couple hours later the scenery turned into a more intense desert and some of the Californian similarities faded. After about 6 miles on dirt roads, we made it to the seemingly abandoned surf town of Lobitos. All the streets and houses were practically empty but we managed to rent a couple surfboards and wetsuits for $8 for the next morning. When we tried to get dinner, everything was closed except one little store where a lady said she’d make deep fried fish and bananas for us. When I asked if I could wash my hands before eating I was offered a bucket of water. When I asked for soap I just got “No.” It’s a little concerning to hear that from someone making you a meal in the backroom in a third world country. The food was delicious but I was keeping my fingers crossed for how I’d be feeling the next day.

After dinner we found a nice cove and went camping for the first time since Mexico. For some reason we’ve only ever felt safe camping on the beach. Maybe something about the Pacific…it’s the only geographic landmark (watermark?) that’s stayed with us since leaving home.

Riding a mototaxi on our way to find a headlight.
Riding a mototaxi on our way to find a headlight.
Look kind of familiar?
Look kind of familiar?
Figuring out ways to keep ourselves entertained on the long straights
Figuring out ways to keep ourselves entertained on the long straights
Typical Peruvian lunch. Fried rice and chicken soup.
Typical Peruvian lunch. Fried rice and chicken soup.
My waterbottle was ejected from my motorcycle at 65 mph and survived. A highlight from an otherwise boring road.
My waterbottle was ejected from my motorcycle at 65 mph and survived. A highlight from an otherwise boring road.
Some of the landscape surrounding the Panamerican highway
Some of the landscape surrounding the Panamerican highway
Off the highway and heading towards Lobitos.
Off the highway and heading towards Lobitos.
Mac checking the surf from the lifeguard tower
Mac checking the surf from the lifeguard tower
We went for some surf spot exploration so we'd be well prepared in the morning.
We went for some surf spot exploration so we’d be well prepared in the morning.
Chase on wave patrol.
Chase on wave patrol.
Surfboards. Check. Wetsuits. Check. Transportation. Check.
Surfboards. Check.
Wetsuits. Check.
Transportation. Check.
We went camping in this little cove. I didn't do anything to change this pic. The sunset was unreal and you'll see it only got more intense.
We went camping in this little cove. I didn’t do anything to change this pic. The sunset was unreal and you’ll see it only got more intense.
10 minutes later.
10 minutes later.
Our camping setup.
Our camping setup.

Friday August 2nd – Day 58 – Lobitos, Peru – Guadalupe, Peru

At sunrise, Mac and I sprung to life, got our wetsuits on and rode 5 minutes further south to a left point break we scouted out the day before. The shape was perfect but the size was a bit lacking (shoulder high and a little mushy).  I would have loved to stick around that place for a while to see a big swell. The locals we talked to gave us the typical, “You should have been here yesterday…”

Getting on the road around 11:00 am, the rest of the day was devoted to riding through the coldest, straightest, dustiest, windiest roads since the trip began two months ago. Our surroundings were completely flat, barren and uninteresting. You might think the pictures look cool, and I’d agree with you. But I’d bet you’d get bored looking at pictures of this place after just one minute.

Around 6:00 pm we pulled into Guadalupe, Peru. We found a cheap little hotel for $3.70/person and dinner for $1.85/person. I’ll take it! Too bad premium gas here goes for about $5.55/gallon. That makes dinner and a hotel as expensive as one gallon of gas…absurd.

That morning arriving at Baterías. (it looked the best the afternoon before)
That morning arriving at Baterías. (it looked the best the afternoon before)
Baterías pullin through.
Baterías pullin through.
Two bananas in one. Peru the absurd.
Two bananas in one. Peru the absurd.
Ya. It got windy sometimes on the road.
Ya. It got windy sometimes on the road.
Riding through Piura, Peru
Riding through Piura, Peru
Desert.
Desert.
More desert.
More desert.
This is where we stopped for lunch. and more desert.
This is where we stopped for lunch. and more desert.
desert gettin desertier
desert gettin desertier
us and nothing.
us and nothing.
our motorcycles and nothing.
our motorcycles and nothing.
desert gettin windier and sandier.
desert gettin windier and sandier.
We did see a 12 motorcycle caravan coming from Ecuador that we met up with for a second. That was kinda cool.
We did see a 12 motorcycle caravan coming from Ecuador that we met up with for a second. That was kinda cool.
Dinner. Fried rice.
Dinner. Fried rice.

SATURDAY, AUGUST 3rd – DAY 59 – GUADALUPE, PERU – YUNGAY, PERU

Waking up in our $3.70/person hotel accommodations we did a quick oil change and then headed south through what we had now deemed the ugliest country we’d seen yet.  The desert continued.

At the suggestion of some Brits we met in Quito, AND because we were getting more and more suicidal for every straight desert highway mile…we took the road less traveled by and grabbed a dirt road headed for the Andes Mountains. Adios Pan-American Highway!

The day after the most terrible day of riding since the trip began, this was the most incredible. Our dirt road pulled directly away from Tatooine and the Pan-American Highway into a river gorge that looked like the pictures we’ve all seen of Afghanistan. Around every corner the scenery got more and more unbelievable. The ride only got more absurd when we started riding through a gauntlet of tunnels cut out along the rock cliffs. After 90 miles of incredible dirt roads slowly climbing into the mountains we arrived at the small town of Yungay. It seemed as though we had arrived in a town straight that you’d expect to find inside of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. More than half the people in the small town were decked out in a very colorful and strange fashion. We’d seen funky Andes fashion before but this was more extreme. My very professional opinion is that it looked like the people here had gotten a hold of the Spaniards’ most colorful 16th century thrift store clothes and stuck with them for the last several hundred years. After securing a hotel we found a GIGANTIC fried rice dinner for about $2.25 each and hit the hay.

Waking up to...you guessed it. Desert.
Waking up to…you guessed it. Desert.
If you ever are in Peru and see this spot. TURN LEFT!!!
If you ever are in Peru and see this spot. TURN LEFT!!!
Getting ourselves pumped up for the unknown. Right after we pulled off the highway.
Getting ourselves pumped up for the unknown. Right after we pulled off the highway.
The beginning of our 90-mile dirt road ecstasy
The beginning of our 90-mile dirt road ecstasy
Pavement for 5 minutes before entering the canyon. Everything that follows explains itself for the most part.
Pavement for 5 minutes before entering the canyon. Everything that follows explains itself for the most part.

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Afghanistan?
Afghanistan?
Yup. Afghanistan.
Yup. Afghanistan.
Corporal Chase.
Corporal Chase.

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One of the tunnels. In case you couldn't tell. Some of them were longer than 100 yards.
One of the tunnels. In case you couldn’t tell. Some of them were longer than 100 yards.

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So we found a little basket on a wire that crossed the gorge. It said, "Dam employees only". But we all had to try out the Dam thing anyways.
So we found a little basket on a wire that crossed the gorge. It said, “Dam employees only”. But we all had to try out the Dam thing anyways.
Manning the ropes!
Manning the ropes!
Coming out of our canyon arriving in the Andes!
Coming out of our canyon arriving in the Andes!
Yungay!! (Willy Wonka's chocolate factory) We liked getting sneak shots...
Yungay!! (Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory) We liked getting sneak shots…
Cruising the markets in Yungay.
Cruising the markets in Yungay.
More market time.
More market time.
Big o Dinner and a Big o Inca Kola.
Big o Dinner and a Big o Inca Kola.
This was our hotel's parking garage. Excellent!
This was our hotel’s parking garage. Excellent!

SUNDAY AUGUST 4TH – DAY 60 – YUNGAY, PERU – HUANUCO, PERU

We woke up the next morning bright and early to some ungodly roosters howling at the moon. We had a lot of ground to cover but, first, we had to make a pit stop at a lake nestled in the mountains above our funky little village. After 45 minutes of dirt roads winding through hilly farmland we reached Huascaran National Park. We had left Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and now entered the Swiss Alps. The scenery was unreal.

After some quick pit stops to check out our surroundings we backtracked down the mountain and got on the paved highway south. Our journey took us higher and higher and higher into the Andes. First through what we referred to as the plains of Rohan and then through the Himalayas. At our highest elevation of 15,300 feet we even managed to drive by some snow. The motorcycles barely puttin’ along.

Descending from 15,300 feet our highway turned into a one-lane half-paved death road. For four hours we rode along a cliff dodging speeding oncoming cars around corners and every farm animal you ever learned about in kindergarten. It was EASILY the craziest/scariest/longest/deadliest road I’ve ever been on. I suppose none of us were extremely surprised when we came around one corner and saw a crowd of people gathered along the cliff staring at a car 300 feet below that had gone tumbling down just an hour before we arrived.  (The guy was carried off to the hospital before we arrived, but I doubt anyone would survive something like that).

As we continued, on the now more appropriately named ‘death road,’ it got dark and we were still more than an hour away from real civilization. Just as I was thinking to myself how lucky we’d be for making it to the next city without any accidents, I realized I couldn’t make out Chase or Mckay’s headlights in my rear view mirror. I pulled over. Waited 30 seconds. Then turned around with my heart in my stomach.

In one quick instant while Mckay had attempted to pass a small semi, the road suddenly got thinner, the semi compensated and unknowingly smacked mckay’s handlebars and forced him to the dirt. When I made it back to him he only had a bloodied knee and some scraped fairings to show for the incident. Lucky bugger.

20 minutes later we arrived in Huanuco and splurged on a hotel ($8.50/person).

It had been a long day. 12 hours of riding. 5 of it either on dirt or on a single lane highway trying to stay alive. My brain and my body were done. A slight fever was my body’s way of telling me I had pushed it a little too far. Lesson learned.

Ready for tomorrow!

More sneak shots of the locals...sorry.
More sneak shots of the locals…sorry.
And more...
And more…
On our way up to Huascaran National Park
On our way up to Huascaran National Park
Entering the Park.
Entering the Park.
Pretty unbelievable stuff.
Pretty unbelievable stuff.
The lake had the coolest light turquoise color. I imagine from some weird glacial water melt off reaction.
The lake had the coolest light turquoise color. I imagine from some weird glacial water melt off reaction.

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Cruising through Rohan. Strangely enough, we were warmer at 13,000 feet than we were at sea level. Typical Peru...
Cruising through Rohan. Strangely enough, we were warmer at 13,000 feet than we were at sea level. Typical Peru…

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Lunch break. We went with the chicken instead.
Lunch break. We went with the chicken instead.

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One of the last photos we got before we got REALLY high in the mountains. The memory card on Chase's camera got full and we didn't realize until the way down. But we got to the snow level you can see in this shot.
One of the last photos we got before we got REALLY high in the mountains. The memory card on Chase’s camera got full and we didn’t realize until the way down. But we got to the snow level you can see in this shot.
FINALLY. on our way down the mountain.
FINALLY. on our way down the mountain.
The road goes from one lane to 1 and a half.
The road goes from one lane to 1 and a half.
Arriving at the scene of people trying to get a look at the car that had gone off the cliff.
Arriving at the scene of people trying to get a look at the car that had gone off the cliff.
This is what we could see 300 feet up.
This is what we could see 300 feet up.
Really excited about this road after seeing that.
Really excited about this road after seeing that.
The crown of the Incas.
The crown of the Incas.
The last photo before it got dark and Chase's camera died. We were pretty trigger happy the past two days. But this is what we were dealing with. Just imagine a 80-degree cliff on one side the whole time.
The last photo before it got dark and Chase’s camera died. We were pretty trigger happy the past two days. But this is what we were dealing with. Just imagine a 80-degree cliff on one side the whole time.
Mac's battle wounds from "death road"
Mac’s battle wounds from “death road”

6 thoughts on “PERU THE ABSURD, PART 1

  1. Guys – this is Nan Osborne. Chase’s sister’s husband’s mother. Our family has been reading your blog since the beginning of your wild journey and have LOVED every entry! We feel like we are with you – riding on the sketchy mountain roads, laughing at the craziness, enjoying the local food, and crossing our fingers that you’ll get through across the next border. Thank you Aaron for taking the time to take pictures, describe your adventures, and post it all online. We hope that the next time we’re in SoCal we can get together with all of you and hear the rest of the story! thanks!

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