Days 440-455: Flat, Dusty and a little Confusing

More peaceful riding

Macara to Trujillo 606 km

It is a little hard to believe that we have only been in Peru for a couple of weeks.  It seems like we are worlds away from Ecuador now.  We have finally reached Lucho's famous 'Casa Ciclista' in the Northern Peruvian city of Trujillo, after pedalling through flat desert lands for the past two weeks.  The first portion of our ride was very pleasant, we were able to stay off the main highways, enjoy some desert camping, and we even had our radio debut!  For the second portion of the ride we joined the Pan-American highway...with all of its traffic.  In addition to the heavy traffic, there has been a pretty consistent headwind sweeping across the bleak empty desert. Needless to say, this has resulted in some pretty challenging riding... But it is all part of the journey.  We have discovered that travel by bicycle allows us to experience, not only the most beautiful of landscapes,  smells, and sounds... But also some of the most difficult. This last week has been full of loud truck horns, the strong odour of dead animals, and a lot of garbage.  But, even amidst this, we have encountered incredible kindness and generosity. 
Unfortunately our progress has been slowed somewhat, as I have been sick yet again.  Now I am feeling much better, but we will will stay in Trujillo for a couple more days, in order that I can have some tests done.  Glenn's derailleur has also died, so Lucho is helping us to order a new one from Lima.  In the meantime, we get to hang out with some other cyclists who have also come to stay at the Casa Ciclista.   Upon arriving at the Casa, we also learned that our wonderful cat Juniper, who has been living with my sister, was very very ill and ultimately passed away.  We will miss her a lot.

Peru: Part One

**** More photos too come, we are having some trouble finding wifi fast enough to upload them. 

Macara, Ecuador to Las Lomas, Peru 56 km
The border was only a few kilometres from Macara, so we made it through by about 10:30 am.   As with every time we are about to enter a new country, people warned us that Peruvians are 'different' and we should be very careful.  Although we didn't pay too much attention to this, I have to say that in our first few days I have had to put a little more effort into connecting with people.  Sometimes it takes waving a few times, or saying 'Buenos Dias' more than once to get a reply.  We also discovered that many  road workers are very interested in where we are from, and will shout out 'De donde son?' (Where are you from), almost as if they are doing a survey of all the cyclists that pass through.  When we arrived in the town of Las Lomas, we decided to call it a day as the next town was another 40 km down the road and we wanted to get a feel for Peru when we weren't completely exhausted.  We found an extremely good value place to stay. It took a little time to find a vegetarian dinner, but eventually a restaurant would do our old standby of rice, beans and eggs.  Despite lovely accomodation, our first night in Peru was not full of sleep.  A Saturday night dance party next to the hotel kept us up late into the night... This may turn out to be a theme... 

Las Lomas - Chulucanas 75 km
We were off a little later than normal, but the morning was nice and cool just the same.  We carried on the more major highway we had been travelling on for another 40 km, making excellent time.  We then turned onto a small paved road to the town of Chulucanas.  In retrospect this was probably the lovliest road we have been on in Peru yet (although the competition is not too stiff).  It gently winded through little villages and farmers fields, and the condition was great. We found another nice place to stay in Chulucanas, hoping that tonight would be a little quieter.  That night, being Sunday, we had a hard time finding somewhere opened for dinner. Finally we found a big empty restaurant... Not always a good sign... But the son of the owner had recently finished culinary school and he made us a delicious dinner.  After talking with the owner for awhile, he invited us for an interview (in Spanish!) on his radio show the next afternoon. We were due for a day off, and thought it would be a fun thing to do so we agreed to do it.  That night as we were just drifting off to sleep loud music started again!  We looked out of our window and saw that a Moto-taxi was parked out front on the empty street with its radio blasting.  We called down asking him to turn it down, but he ignored us.  Finally I went down to talk to the driver.  He was a little cavalier just saying 'I like music' when I asked him to turn it off, or at least down.  Finally he explained that we works nights (though I'm not sure how he gets much business...) and if he doesn't have the music playing he will fall asleep.   After some time and bargaining, he agreed to turn it down as a compromise... So at least we could sleep and he wouldn't fall asleep! 
The next day we had our radio debut... Which was very interesting and little embarrassing! Glenn made a recording of it, so maybe we will add a link to it soon, and hope our Spanish speaking friends do not judge us too harshly! We then wandered the town to get supplies and get a feel for Peruvian prices, products and norms.   That night the mototaxi came again, but kept his music low :) 

Chulucanas - Desert camping 83 km
We planned to camp tonight as there were not many villages, let alone towns along this stretch of road.  It is infact the old Panamerican highway.  The new one cuts through an expanse of desert, and apparently has no food or water sources for 140 km or so.  At least this route had some access to water.  The road was peaceful, we had lovely views of the mountains to the left.  It got quite hot in the afternoon.  We had one hill of any consequence all day, with a couple of switchbacks.  It was such an anomaly that there was even a road sign indicating that it was coming up !  Around 5:30 pm we pulled off into the dry forest, mostly hard sand with thorn trees and shrubs, but lots of space for stealth camping.  It was really nice to camp in the wild... It felt that it had been far too long since we have done it! It was very early to bed, as It got dark around 6:30 and our flashlights were low on batteries.    And at last, a silent night. 

Desert camping - Motupe 69 km
As I rolled my bike back onto the road, I pulled out a couple of thorns and realized my tire was very low.  Ugh!  We have super strong tires, so we rarely have to patch flats.... It has been months and months since my last flat!  I pumped it up a bit knowing that we would need to stop soon to get some water, and I would patch it then.  When we stopped to filter water a a restaurant, my tire was still hard so I put off patching it some more!   As we rode on we discovered that the water we had filtered was very salinated...making it very unpleasant to drink!  But we pushed on, and had lunch in the junction town of Olmos.    My tire still seemed it be hard.... So I delayed the patching even more!   We had another short hill, as that road turned West towards the ocean and finally we stopped in the little town of Motupe.  It was a very pleasant and relaxed town.... We had a lovely quiet evening.  
Motupe - Motumi 59 km
The next morning, my tire was actually flat... I couldn't ignore it any longer.  Glenn very kindly patched it for me while I filtered water and did breakfast clean-up.   The traffic on the road had become heavier, and we were forced onto the rough shoulder much of the time.  So far in Peru the vehicles honk a lot.... Loudly, repetitively, constantly.  When we were on quieter roads, it was actually kind of endearing, but when the road got busier it became aggravating and stressful.  About 20 km into the ride, I noticed my tire was low again.   We pulled off and found another hole and patched it....and we're off again.  We stopped in the town of Tucume, were we visited ancient pyramids made out of sand.  They were quite impressive, but they also looked a little like sand dunes....   We were hoping or camp near the ruins, but they were charging about the same as it would cost to rent a hotel room so we carried on.   We ended up in the next town, and the only place to stay was a boarding house, mainly catering to temporay workers.  Fortunately they did have a room available for us.  That night, however, I began feeling very unwell and discovered that I was running a low grade fever.   I was in bed early and slept through the night. 

Motumi - Chiclayo 43 km
In the morning I was still running a little fever, but I was feeling better. We made the decision to ride to the the city of Chiclayo, which we had been planning to bypass.   In Chiclayo I would be able to see a doctor if necessary.   The traffic became heavier and heavier as we approached Chiclayo, so we took a side road in order to approach the city from a smaller highway.  The road was very rough, but no traffic .... So it was actually a bit of a relief to ride on!   We then connected with a paved road and made our way into the chaotic city! Mototaxi's everywhere, no lanes to speak of, constant honking, and just about every road had been torn up ... I guess in the anticipation of new pavement?   We eventually made our way to the central plaza, and caught our breath a bit.  Then we began to search for a place to stay... It ended up taking longer than was ideal, and we had just about decided to just bike to the next town when we found a reasonable place to stay near the market.  Phew!   
We ended up staying two more days in Chiclayo, and had a nice time exploring the huge market and eating almost every meal at the Hare Krishna vegetarian restaurant.... Where for $2 we got a set menu of soup, main course and juice... So delicious!   I also saw a doctor at the 'Hospitale de la Solidaridad', it was recommended to us by the hotel owner.  It was an interesting place, from what I gather it is an outpost of a large hospital in Lima.  It operates entirely out of shipping containers are that are spread out along two city blocks.  But, despite the strange building style it was very clean and well organized.  The doctor I saw said that I had a throat infection and prescribed antibiotics.

Chiclayo - Chepen 75 km
After a couple of days I was finally feeling well enough to carry on.  We headed onto the busy and bleak Pan-Am highway.  The trucks were fast and loud, the wind was strong and the most interesting scenery of the day was large garbage dump with a huge cloud of black smoke billowing out of it.    We arrived in Chepen mid afternoon and found the Bombero station, where we were gladly offered our own room!   It was a very friendly station.  Unfortunately I had a fever again that night so I went to bed early while Glenn cleaned up from dinner. 

Chepen - Pacasmayo 35 km
It was only a short day because I decided that I needed more rest and perhaps it would be prudent to see a doctor again.  We headed to Pacasmayo which was right on the ocean.  Again, the ride was pretty boring...but it was very exciting when we got to Pacasmayo and saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time since Buenaventura, Colombia!  The town itself was lovely with a relaxed feel and brightly painted buildings.  As we were looking for a place to stay, Glenn met Carlos and his son who generously offered us a place to stay at their home.   We were a little reluctant, and explained to Carlos that I was sick and may need to rest for a few days.  He was happy to have us stay as long as we wanted, so we could not refuse.   We followed him out to his house on the outskirts of town, and we were given a room in home.   I spent the rest of the day in bed, and The family periodically came in to check on me.  
The next morning I was feeling a lot better,  but Carlos took us to the health clinic anyways.  We waited for a couple of hours, but when I finally did see the doctor he said that the other doctor had prescribed me too much of the antibiotic, and that my fever was because of 'the climate'.  He then prescribed me a different antibiotic and a steroid anti-inflammatory... We looked up this medication online and and found that it is also used for 'sports enhancement'! Needless to say I decided not to fill the script, as I was feeling better.... Although the sports enhancement feature was a little tempting....We spent the rest of the day hanging out with Carlos' charming daughters and granddaughters, Who were full of hugs a d smiles!   

Pacasmayo - Chocope 66 km
What a long day! We got a early start after saying a sad goodbye to Carlos and family and giving them some parting gifts.   Today we would ride through the notoriously dangerous town of Paijan. If you looking up ``cycling and Paijan, Peru`` online you will find a plethora of mostly second and third hand stories of cyclists getting robbed by a mototaxi as they leave the town.  Truth bet told, I have been a little stressed about passing through this place for months!  Many cyclists just take a bus through, which makes sense especially given the depressing scenery and headwinds.  But, we have come all this way by bike and really did not want to take a bus if we could avoid it.    We had read about some cyclists who recently passed through without problem, so we decided to give it a go.  We arrived on the edge of the town around 1:00 pm and stopped at the police station, as some cyclists had gotten a police escort.  The officer that we spoke with told us that it is now safe, and patrol car goes down the highway every ten minutes.  So, with some trepidation we carried on.   Luckily all was well... And we arrived the next town unscathed!   
We found a hotel, and rested for the rest of the afternoon.  Later in the evening we went out to get some food, and when we came back a large portion of the hotel, including our room - was flooded! Turns out they had left the water running too long when filling the water tank.  A strange scene ensued.... The two hotel workers were madly cleaning the halls, but paying little attention to our room or the fact the our things that were on the floor were soaked!  We asked for towels to dry the floor, but they just sort of ignored our requests.  Finally, I asked if we could just change to a different room as ours was very wet.  They said OK, but that we would need to pay more as the bed in the other room was bigger.  This is when I started getting upset, and tried to explain to them that their approach to running their business was less than ideal! Finally they agreed to let us change rooms without an additional cost. Phew.  
Too add to our interesting experience of Chocope, I was up a good part of the night with diarrhea.  In the morning I was weak, and generally fet up with being sick... I wanted to just carry on to Trujillo and the Casa Ciclista....but by the time packed up my bike, I needed a nap.  So I spent the day sleeping and rehydrating.
Chocope - Trujillo 45 km
At long last we made it to Trujillo and perhaps the most famous Casa Ciclista! It certainly feels like a bit of a milestone, especially because I have been so sick for the last while.  When we arrived we were warmly welcomed by Lucho, the famous owner and operator of the Casa.  We were also introduced to a big crew of cyclists including: a family of four from Switzerland (including two children under three!), a family of three from Korea (a father towing his six year old twin sons!), Joanna from Scotland, Garett from the US, and Tom from Holland.   It is very exciting to commune with so many interesting folks!
We will be here a few days so I can have some tests done.... And we can rest up a little :)