Thursday, November 6, 2008

Chiclayo, Desert Odyssy, and Cops: November 4 - 5

Living in Panama has given me a real appreciation for quality driving. Panamanians are wonderful, friendly people until they get behind the wheel. Then they turn into complete maniacs who will do anything to get 5 feet ahead. But compared to the drivers in Peru they are absolutely fantastic! In other words, Peruvian drivers make the Panamanians seem like Canadians (¨You go, eh.¨ ¨No please, you go first.¨ ¨No please, after you, eh.¨) . The Chiclayo drivers are some of the worst in Peru, and arriving in Chiclayo was a bit of a nightmare, but eventually I found a hotel in my price range that had parking. This is always a major consideration for me, and is often difficult especially in city centers.

The major attraction of Chiclayo was actually in the adjacent town of Lambayeque: The museum of the Lord of Sipan. This was a series of tombs from the Moche culture that were found in 1987, and had not been raided. The tombs contained both the bodies of the Lord of Sipan, and those who were ¨volunteered¨ to accompany him into the next life, as well as many objects of ceramic, gold, and jewels. It´s Peru´s version of finding King Tut´s tomb, and every bit as impressive.

Odyssy in the Desert

Leaving Chiclayo on the Panamericana, I soon came to a roadblock and was told that the bridge was out. I would have to take a detour through the desert. You have to realize that I had now hit the vast expanse of Peruvian desert that I would deal with for the next few weeks. All of Peru´s coastal area is sand... lots and lots of sand. And it extends from Chiclayo all the way to Chile! Miles and miles (and more miles) of empty sand!

Finding the detour was tough enough. Of course there are no signs, you just keep asking enough people and eventually you find the detour. And then begins a dirt/sand track of about 25 miles through the desert. It would have been tough enough given the ¨road¨, but the trucks made it a nightmare. Basically, because of the trucks in front of you visibility was about 10 feet. Couldn´t see, couldn´t pass, and couldn´t breathe! By the time I came to actual pavement (more than an hour later) I looked like I had been dropped in a vat of talcum powder. Then it was a few more hours of more desert to get to Trujillo.
As an aside, a few weeks later I met a couple of Brits who had come to the same roadblock. A couple of kids told them that they could get past the bridge if they rode their bikes down the stairs and back up the other side of the dry river bed. They tipped the kids a buck and that´s just what they did. Boy, was I pissed when I heard that! But then, of course, I would have missed out on a good story. And more desert scenery, which actually was in some ways spectacular (although I did get my fill of it.... but I still have the entire Atacama desert in Chile to ride through).

A Note on Cops

I had been warned (common knowledge among bikers who read the web sites) that the cops north of Lima were the most corrupt in the country. Up to this point I had had nothing but good experiences with police in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. I was frequently stopped at police check points (and just as frequently waved through), but usually the police were just bored, curious, and pretty friendly. The questions were always the same: Where are your from? Where are you going? How big is the motor? How much does your bike cost?

These guys even wanted their pictures taken with me. It also doesn´t hurt if I tell them I used to be a cop.

I have only had one experience on this trip with a cop actually trying to get a bribe from me. The conversation went something like this (and by the way, I wasn´t speeding... I knew that the cop was there and was following a truck doing exactly 60 kph):
  • Cop: You were speeding
  • Me: No I wasn´t. I was doing 60 kph just like the truck in front of me
  • Cop: The speed limit is 45
  • Me: No it´s not, I just saw the sign and it says 60
  • Cop: There´s another sign that says 45 over there
  • Me: That may be, but you had a big truck pulled over there blocking the sign
  • Cop: I can confiscate your license until you pay the fine
  • Me: That´s fine, but I wasn´t going any faster than allowed
  • Cop: Well, give me some gas and I´ll let you go
  • Me: I can´t, I only have enough gas to get to Trujillo
  • Cop: There´s a gas station down the road. You can get more there.
  • Me: I don´t have any more money. I need to go to an ATM in Trujillo
  • Cop: Get the hell out of here.

It´s a game. Kind of like bargaining with the vendors. Most of the cops have been great, but occasionally you have to play the game with them. so far I´m up on points. Let´s hope it stays that way.

Next stop, Trujillo.

No comments: