Peru, Where the kindness reaches the sky while the faith was great as the desert!
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February 26, 2003

We were about to leave the first country of South America and entering the second country “Peru” from last town of Chile which was Arica which is 20 Kilometers. Leaving Chile was not much of the trouble but we had to only fill up the bike’s ownership paper with reference to the serial number and the dealer of our bike. However it was a bit strange because the form can be purchased from the Fruits trolley at the US$ 0.25 but not available from the officer! When the officer got everything checked which mean our time was up in the southernmost country of South America, we Goodbye to the farewell sign of Chile and next to the Welcome sign of Peru. About 1 kilometer from the welcome sign there was an immigration checkpoint with a big different in many thing such as Offices, the tidiness with lots of people and not really trustworthy.

When we parked the bike, there were peoples surrounded and stared at us, WAN went to the immigration office, they just gave her a stamp easily without a single word or question or even a single record, well the stamp was not really clear but we still had to do more with the bike. We showed the paper that we got from the Border of Chile to proof our ownership which was quite difficult because the officer were sitting on the fence, when we finished with the first one we then had to go to another one until we got 3 signatures, but they were not in the same place and took us long time to find them all, they might be working outdoor or even in a mobile office.

In the mean time there was a person came to ask us with lots of paper about our vaccination whether we already got every injection needed or not!? So we just showed them our injection list, they then asked us “Would you throw away your grape??!!” We replied “ No” “If Not then you can not enter the country!!”
So we just ate them all right in front of them so that every thing would be done.

Having a brake in the shade in the middle of the desert like this was really refreshing to us, not long after that we started rolling we then got to Tacna where 150000 people lives


The temperature in this late morning was very scorching hot, there were a sight of hot desert every where here which was apart of The Atacama desert from Chile which is the Driest Desert on Earth, from the Skyline to the sand there was on the road that drew a line on the endless sight of the desert. Our next destination was the first town of Peru which was “Tacna” another 35 kilometers away to the Southern most town, on the way I was very exhausted because of the diarrhea yesterday with not much energy left so I just biked slowly. This road is still the same Panamericana but in another country. I’ve biked for about 20 kilometers and started to feel more exhausted, the sun was very strong and got us very dizzy, not long after that we got a sight of trees which was very rare in this area, so I just took a brake immediately while WAN was still fit enough to keep on going, but I really really could not go on.

 

But before we actually got to the downtown we faced with my pressure from a big mental adjustment because everyone in every car that passed by would look at us as a single eye and whistle to us, some of them would even turn their head around to us if they really could, we felt quite stressed now because there are no such behavior in Thailand which was very very rude at all.

Well we really have to find out the cause of such bad whistle behavior!!!

 

The first thing we had to do after arriving into town was to look for accommodation because the night was coming very fast but we still had only Chile’s Pesos so we had to get them exchange to Peruvian money soon or else have to get the cash from ATM machine and decide what we would like to do tomorrow morning. Our idea on the issue was totally different, I thought that we would better off doing the exchange tomorrow while WAN insisted to exchange now because the currencies in South America would be useless in another countries or could be only as a Souvenir, from our research this was what the exchange rate should be.

 

700 Chile’s Pesos equal to US$1 and 3.50 Peru’s Sol
The exchange rate along the border line was 220 Pesos to 1 Sol only and there might be a small variation for the profit.

WAN insisted on exchanging the money without taking money from ATM by went to Casa de Cambio instead of going to the crowd who were standing on the corner of the street as they looked not so reliable. After we exchanged 49,000 Pesos we then hurried to find the accommodation before dark, even though this was seemed be a long day but because the time here was 2 hours behind Chile however we wasted a lot of time at the border checkpoint, anyway the timing here was quite good because it was exactly 12 hours different from Thailand just switch between day and night. After visited 7 hotels we then got the good deal and looked quite safe in the small street called “Inclan” which was near the Plaza.

 

 

 

February 27, 2003

Our first night in Peru was a sleepless night for WAN because of the anger after she went over the exchange bill last night “we must have got cheated” the first thing today was to check for the rate with several place, they all said the same thing that 220 Pesos equal to 1 Sol which made WAN even more angry and ran back to the exchange place last night immediately and show the following rate


We got 49,000 Pesos with exchange rate of yesterday and we got 153.125 Soles. She began to explode her anger to the cheater yesterday, he began to lost the color of his face, she said that this is the first day in your country but why you did like that to me??!! You overcharged me with a very bad rate, No Bueno, you two were very bad to me man !!, They were no explanation or excuse from them but they began calculating the new rate to us 49,000 Pesos with today’s rate at 220 Sol so we should get 222.727 Soles

Eventually they gave us 69.607 Soles more or US$ 20!!, WAN turned smiling immediately and they apologize to her quietly so WAN replied that “Well your country is not too bad because you still know of what is right or wrong, this incident teaches us a lot on values of money.

 

March 2003

We stayed in a cheap hotel in Tacna for a month to plan and search information for our trip from the south to the north carefully because we started to feel from our first day here that this was not a really safe country. There were so many poor, burglar kids every where we went there would be people asked for money, every time while we were having a meal there would be people singing or tried to sell candy or even asked for our food, it looked very pity but also scared us.

We had to stay quite in the hotel, the owner was very nice she also told us that her 5 set of TV just got stolen even with an officer on duty which made me imagine about the skill of all the thief here.

 

We slowly recompiled our Journal New Zealand and finished our Journal Chile l but still could not get moving again because the situation here and around the world were in a big change, some time when we went out for food all the shop just closed down altogether in order to prevent the protestor from coming in and destroy everything.

Not only once but over and over again, there were 2 main reasons for the protest here which are poverty, high living cost, the government officer want to get their pay raise nationwide same to everyone here and it all happened together around the country, the next one was the American war against Iraq, even thought the they were really poor here but they were always protesting against the war, we had to keep our widows and door locked tight whenever there was an protest went on with a worries and paranoid, at last the war in Iraq broke out and the protest over the salaries in Peru continues…..


 

April 14, 2003

We started rolling again with difficulties because of the too long break also with dry heat and we would not see any tree throughout the journey, immediately after leaving Tacna we climbed up the mountain so to our tiredness, but everything were still ok we still able to keep going ahead with some flat road along the way and some of the green in some villages for only 2 kilometers, the rest were just the same with a only 40 kilometers in total for today.

Tonight we spent the night in the far from the road sand dune right at dusk to hide ourselves from the passerby but were still not even sure of the security because there were nothing covered us at all, we were just put our tent quietly in the middle of the desert.


Next morning we got up quite early and we were quickly enough to get back on the road again before anyone would see us pushing our bike back to the Panamericana which would lead us to Moquena in another 120 kilometers away. From our estimation from the map I didn’t think that we would get there today because we were not in shape yet also the road seemed to be more up and down along the shoulder of the mountain than before.

On the way we stopped by the military base which was in the middle of the desert so we asked for food shop, they told us there would be a small food shop ahead down the hill, finally we found one where we had a boiled corn with Soda pop drink and spared lots of water for our further trip. 7 Kilometers after leaving the shop we ran into a small town in the middle of the desert with food, Snack, tire- service shop, petrol station where we really filled ourselves up with food, we also bough a kilo of orange and 2 apples and hurried back to the up and down hill road. today we’ve made only 55 kilometers and the sun was coming closer to the sand while we tried to find the place to hide for another night in the middle of nowhere, well the night was good though with a big contrast from the day time.

 

April 16, 2003

We started moving since 5 am and rushed to the road against the coming of the sunshine in the foggy morning of the desert, the road just got steeper and steeper from 700 meter above sea level last night. We could climb up slowly at only 10kmph and the corn that we bought yesterday was still working well as a source of energy for us with some fruits for refreshing.

 

The road was now twist and turn on the shoulder of the mountain which we could never predict on which direction was going to, in the late afternoon with only last 15 km we started to see the green color running along the oasis and the water stream while side by side with deserted mountain, the moisture were only where the water was running through with abundance of farming activities and supplies of products.

Our last 15 kilometers took much of our energy because of the steepness of the road especially when we about to get to Mogewa when the road got even more steeper so also to our energy which were all exhausted by the time we got there in the evening.

Well today we made incredibly short distance of only 60 kilometers in a day at the elevation of 1,412 meters above sea level where the air was a bit cold. After we got the place for ourselves and bikes to stay, we visited the town for a while, well let us stay in Mogewa for a day because the past 3 days was tough ride and the People told us that what lies ahead will be even tougher than what we’ve been through.

From the information we have was that Mogewa is the Driest place in Peru because it connects to Atacama Desert of the Chile with much of its influence here, no matter how dry the area is the Mogewa Valleys grown the first class grapevine which produces the country’s famous “Piso Liqueur”, the agriculture was good here where people were smiling and friendly, their house were roofed with sugar cane and covered with clay, we had a good time visiting and taking a break in this town.

 

 

April 18, 2003

Right after leaving Mogewa, it was just downhill for 5 km all the way to Mogewa river then turned left over the bridge with heading north, from here the road condition became normal again, the heat started to rise quite quick when we passed the morning.

Not long after we start biking my tire got a puncture so we got to fix it on the side of the very hot road, the geography hasn’t change much where mostly the rock and cave with no sight of trees, just rock road and sand, our ride got harder later in the day because the road got steeper with some tunnel to avoid the steep road and not far from the tunnel we got to the highest level the road in this area then the long downhill was waiting for us also the darkness was coming quickly.

Here we had saw a house and when we got closer it appeared to be a small food shop, of course we stopped there for energize ourselves while the sun was leaving the horizon, we left immediately because we were not sure of which direction we will go, finally we decided to put up our tent in the darkness for 500 meters from the road with all the light off because of the security reason and slept in the middle of the desert under the clear sky with the twinkling of the starlight.

Woke up next morning with only 6 degree Celsius which was totally different from the daytime when it was always very hot while the night was freezing cold, it was still not much of the sunshine yet when we hurried pack up our stuffs check our bikes and found that the tire of WAN Bike got totally flat so we had to unpack every things which was a waste of a good morning time. While we walked our bike back to the road we felt that it was more difficult than yesterday and amazed of how we got where we slept last night, yesterday we made only 38 km but today we had some luck because the road has both of Up and Down the hill.

During the trip today we got scared because of the quietness of emptiness, suddenly I saw a man laid down on the side of the road with his face down but we could not decide weather we should stop or not or it might be their trick to stop us and rob us, lots of the reason came to our head now, because of the paranoia we decided to pedal very fast to pass the area, from his cloth didn’t seem to be accident at all and he was still alive, well we do not want to prove anything here.

After the big space of the desert for 20 km we were in hug of the mountain with a police check point and a policeman, near the checkpoint there was a small food shop with the chicken’s spirit soup, here we got recovery after being in the sun for all day, the checkpoint seemed to be real which made it almost impossible for the criminal to escape because of this only road and the desert, the person at the shop warned us that there were lots of criminal everywhere especially in the big town.

The road was down the hill again after we left the checkpoint with a zigzag on the shoulder of the mountain for about 10 km until we had a sight of the Oasis with green grass field behind and a stream passing through the valley, we made a few stop to enjoy the beauty of the scenery, this was the El Fiscal according to our map and we were really happy when the road was at the same level as the stream where there were beautiful green grass on both side of the road, even thought it was the endless sight but look quite amazing because there were bold and emptied on both side of the mountain but it connects by the greenness for about a kilometer on the shoulder of the mountain with stream and river in the middle, all of them creates a very unique 5 km scenery on this flat plain.

We rode slowly to see where we could take a rest until there were a small gas station and a small shop with a small shelter just for the sun shade, no worries about the rain here, we asked them about the way ahead, they told us it would be the same as where you came from where the road will lead you up to the mountain again.

We made up our mind that we should stay here for tonight so let have some good food here, the fried fresh shrimp from the stream was great dinner and very rare because it could only find in the Oasis, after the meal we asked the owner of the place of where we could stay for tonight? He replied “Right here” you can put up our tent after the shop is closed! Emmm… sounded quite trustable. So we stayed here with 2 guard dogs outside near the gas station where we could get to the toilet anytime, what a wonderful and safe night.

 

 

April 20, 2003

Our 65 km that we made yesterday was a satisfied one, not too hard or easy, this morning after we got up and packed up we supported our nice owner of the restaurant once again with a big course of fried fish and shrimp and rice same as yesterday, before we left we thanked him for everything and good bye.

Right after we left at about 9 am, we had to climb up through the cave in the very hot temperature, some time we got to walk the bike instead because we got too tired, the road was still zigzag thought the endless cave, passing one cave after another. At 3 pm we’ve made only 15 km so the average speed was at only 3 km/h!! Which was very bad, the road seem to be very long from the elevation of 200 meters from the restaurant this morning and now we were at 1100 meter, after all the tiredness we took a brake and took some picture along the way.

 

After we got better we started rolling against the time again after we’ve wasted lots of time on biking up hill, but after some thought we did not regret with what we’ve done but amazed and proud of how we’ve over come the difficulties, it was unbelievable that how could the small human like could’ve done it.

The road has gradually get steeper and steeper without much or our notice, the timing was still not good but we were keep on trying with a hope to get to the small town “La Joya” , ahead of us we had a sight of green grass field in the middle desert, it was unbelievable, there was military camp, vegetable plantations and many kinds of corns, this was incredible, finally we got the answer with the sight of the irrigation system which supplies water to all plantation in the middle if this desert.

At last we could not make it to the town before dusk, so we tried to look for the place to stay for tonight but it seemed to be difficult be cause were peoples along the parking area.

Until we got the km number 990 from Lima, there was a security guard house with a fence with lots of people entering and exiting the gate, we asked them for the accommodation from the guard, they told us to wait for a moment because they had to ask their boss inside first so we waited for quite a long time for the answer with a hope that we would be able to put up a tent next to their place, closed to the security guard house there was a big sliding gate and every car passing through must run down through the pond to clean the wheels with the purpose of sterilization because inside there was a big farm “Lideres En Crianza De Ganado”.

According to the name it seemed to be Dairy farm and finally we did not allowed to go inside probably because of the hygienic reason, but Mr. Nice guy allowed us to take over the security guard house for tonight, so the bike and its owner got away from the coldness, thank you very much Mr. Officers and trust.

 

 

April 21, 2003

We were so fresh this morning because of the very good sleep last night, there were still green around here in the beginning of our trip today, the greenness was hard to come by in this desert with difficulties to irrigate the water from the Andes along the Panamericana across Peru, it reflects the effort, ambition of mankind to over come the impossibilities and they successfully created the green carpet in the middle of desert.

We have to say that water is life, water is occupation, water is living and could even say water is everything, what he, the nice old man has done to us was also the cool and cold water from his heart which we would never forget to thank him before leaving this morning.

10 km after we left the greenness were swept away by the strips of sands and the heat always doing their job perfectly, the wind blow created the beautiful sand dune which was too beautiful to be created by any of us, not long we arrived at San Jose where there were communities on both side of the road for about 500 meters and there were so many food shop all along the way even though this was in the middle of the desert, we’ve seen many big trucks and traveler stops here for refueling themselves, so did we, we stopped here for a short break with for lunch which again were hot steamed rice with fried fish which everywhere in Peru and spared ourselves with lots of water.

Leaving San Jose on the up hill road and heading east, we climbed slowly with a picture of the snow capped mountain which we believed that it must be the important city “Arequipa” which is the second in the number of population after Lima, we got to the intersection to the city, suddenly the Panamerican turned left to the north again, the road now were down hilling.

There were big communities on both side of the road with lots of plantations along the way which mostly Onion in a very big field, well if we don’t look carefully it would’ve been some kind of young seedling, in every meal of the Peruvian there must be a slice of Onion with a squeeze of Lemon, a drops of salt and spring of oil, now we’ve seen the real big producer around here, also there were cactuses, herding fields, corn fields. Finally we got to La Joya after rolling down the hill, actually we plan to be here since yesterday but we could because of the energy limitation.

Õ The crowd got more lively now because there were children started going back home from school which looked very lively and lovely, we sat in a small food shop where there were fruits and vegetables stalls nearby and started spare the food again even though we were not hungry now because there was no certainty in the desert, we should eat when we could.

From La Joya the road was a straight downhill again, when we look down to the canyon, the scenery were very beautiful with all the color of the rock, one after another beautiful view until we got down to the Oasis with a stream flowing slowly “Vitor” was another small nice and quiet village with not much to buy from, just green grass field on both side of the stream, once again that we crossed the stream and the road took us back to height slowly, when we looked back at were we’ve been, there was a picture of zigzag stream in the middle of the green grass, over the horizon there was also beautiful snow capped Mountain of Arequipa which has a distinctive beautiful.

Suddenly the road took into the dark and deep cave, of course we scared a bit, after leaving the tunnel there was another 4 km straight uphill, after we got to the top we took a short brake with the fruits that we got from La Joya, the small town that was 10 km away.

when we start biking again, my tire got flat, we unpacked our tool and we had to be very quick because the sun was coming down very fast, we left immediately after the bike got fixed, the road now was quite flat with just small hills, we also looked for the place to stay, the area around here was quite difficult to stay invisible, so we kept on biking until the darkness slowly replaces the sunlight.

We still kept on biking to an unknown destination until there was a light ahead but we didn’t what it was yet, we kept going to the light with a hope, when we got closer we saw a building with a decoration of an old restaurant but seemed to be empty

Next to it there were 3 fuel nozzles but everything around here looked lifeless which reminded me about the old cowboy movies with gas station in the middle of desert , well this was Peru so we have to find out what does it look like for Peruvian cowboy and that was our only hope now, before we start saying anything here came the voice “Buenas Noches Amigo Amiga” from the real 100% Peruvian man who was standing in dark, we just followed his invitation easily like we were enchanted or spelled by his words.

We parked our bike in front of the building which had the name of this place “Santa Rita” which was 931.50 km away from Lima, this was the only gas station in the middle of desert, the nice Peruvian gentleman looked very nice with a smile on his face all the time and his eyes reflects the concern to people in difficulties like us.

He walked to the car which parked nearby where there was a big and seemed to be respectable old man, he asked him “can they stay here?” He was emmmm OK!, we then got to stay in a nice small house near the gas station with very comfortable bedroom, after we finished the shower all the washing we asked him of why he has this place? His reply was to help the passerby, there used to be a Japanese biker stayed here, he got here in the evening as well, he was happy to help, and he helps people with his heart which was the heart of giving.

We felt a great respect for him which made it very difficult to give or do some thing in return for them, we finally gave him 2 bottles of Peru Cola that we found in our pannier which we bought for our trip tomorrow.

 

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