Archive for the 'Peru' Category

16
Feb
09

CE: Moche, Chimu, Sechura, and Trujillo

SechuraHmm, feels like its been a while since I let you all in on what I´m up to these days. When I left Piura over a week ago I jumped headfirst into the Sechura desert, fulling planning to only do half the journey through the desert on the first day, camp in the dunes that evening, and finish the journey to Chiclayo the following day. But it didn´t quite work out that way.

As I was riding along through, well, nothing, I quickly realized that I was making great time and thought to myself ¨hey, at this pace I could be almost to Chiclayo by the end of the day¨. I wasn´t to keen on camping in the sand either, and don´t trust putting up a tent in places visible to the highway (and I don´t know if you´ve ever tried to push a heavily loaded bicycle through sand for very far, but it just don´t work). So, this in mind and the fact being that it was the one year anniversary of this lunatic adventure, I decided what the hell – lets break a record.

It was over 125 miles from Piura to Chiclayo and, although I had started riding at 4:30 in the morning and gone about half the distance by almost noon, I still had the determination to keep things rolling. But that´s when the s%$t hit the fan – or, actually, somebody turned the fan towards me to blow it at me. As if it weren´t enough that the entire white sand horizon was wavering under the intense desert sun, the wind decided to pick up as well. And which way did it blow? You can probably imagine.

So I rode, face-first into the howling, gale like gusts. What had earlier been a labor of passion for progress quickly turned into Saharan-Peruvian sand torture. I was physically pouring my strength into every rotation of the bicycle´s pedals and moving at about a quarter of the speed that I had been before. It wasn´t pretty.

Dead in the DesertSo to sum it up, around almost 9:00pm, after over fifteen hours on a bicycle and about 112 miles, I arrived in Morrope, a provincial village about 20 miles North of Chiclayo. Ironically, by that time all I could dream of was a shower and laying down – however things weren´t going to be that simple.

Apparently there was only one hotel in town and it was, yep, you guessed it, full. Oh for the love of Pete, what was I supposed to do now! I didn´t want to camp tonight! But thankfully, some friendly street kids came to my aid in my moment of despair. They told me that the ¨Comiseria¨ along the plaza could perhaps offer me a place to sleep for the evening. Comiseria? Hey, that doesn´t sound so bad – little did I know.

So in Peru Comiseria is what the call the police station, and although the gentlemen of the force happened to be quite friendly, it wasn´t the most inviting of accomodations. To summarize, I slept on a concrete floor in a dusty old room that opened to the back lot and, since there was no running water, poured buckets of cold water over my head to fruitlessly attempt to remove the fifty layers of sunscreen from my skin.

The Barber ShopHowever, the next morning I was up and at em bright and early and on my way to Lambayeque, a town just a tiny bit North of Chiclayo where two of the region´s best museums were located. After visiting the somewhat interesting Bruning Museum and the fascinating Tumbas Reales de Sipan museum, I was ready to get to the city and get settled in, so off I went.

I spent the next two days relaxing and recovering from the desert ride in Chiclayo, along with a nice visit out to the eroded old adobe temple of Sican about an hour Northeast of Chiclayo. Even after only so short a visit, I found little to do in the town and grew restless to make further progress down along the Peruvian coast. Plus, I was paying a whopping five bucks a night to sleep in Chiclayo, whereas in Trujillo the Casa de Ciclistas awaited lured me forward with promises of free and company.

So on the third morning in Chiclayo I was once again up and riding out of the city well before sunrise and on my way to Pacasmayo, a tiny seaside village halfway between Chiclayo and Trujillo. The day´s journey through the barren desert went by relatively insignificantly and by around noon-time I was rolling down the final hill to sea level in the little rag-tag town.

PacasmayoI found a place to stay for the evening right in the middle of town and then set off to see the ocean for the first time since the Caribbean coast of Colombia – which already seemed like an eternity ago. I spent the afternoon and evening hours in serenity, strolling through the town and down the wharf searching for whatever photo opportunities that decided to show themselves.

Then finally, the following morning came and it was the final leg to Trujillo, one of the cities of which I had been looking forward to in Northern Peru for some time. Sadly however, my glorious arrival didn´t quite go as smoothly as I had envisioned before awaking that morning.

When I tried to roll out of bed at the sound of my alarm in the wee hours of the morning, I felt groggy and ill. I heard the sound of rain pattering on the roof (yep, in the desert – go figure) and decided I´d sleep it off for the next hour or so and then hit the road. Well, about two hours later I finally got out of bed, still feeling like trash, and told myself that it was time to get going.

But as I rode along, things soon went from bad to worse. From the very beginning of my ride I had felt sluggish and as if I were working double-time for half the result. I was making painfully slow progress and didn´t have the energy to do anything about it. Several hours later it all went to hell.

Los AmigosMy stomach dropped and my guts churned (hehe) and I felt the desire to just fall off my bicycle and roll over in the desert dead. Something was terribly wrong.

I made about five stops in the space of one hour before finally arriving in Paijan, barely able to muster the strength to ride the last few miles into town. I got to the first place that sold cold beverages that I could find, stumbled in the door, payed for a coke, and then barely made it outside before collapsing on the concrete floor of the covered patio out front.

This was bad, this was real bad. I was still conscious but in agony, and I felt like I just couldn´t go on. This is one of those types of times that you just want to be at home in bed and not even have to think about getting out for anything or anyone. Too bad I don´t have a home.

Ladder BoyPlus, of all the places that I had been warned about in all my journey (aside from Colon, Panama and basically all the big cities in Central America), Paijan had been one of them. And here I was, completely incompetent and defenseless. Finally, I mustered up the strength to go back inside and ask the ladies in the restaurant for help (apparently in Latin America people collapsing outside of your place of business is pretty common and I think you just wait for the vultures to come and clean them up).

With their advice I found out where the bus station was, less than a mile down the road, and set off towards it. I was not going to let this beat me – and I was not going to sleep in Paijan. Thankfully, right as I was rolling (literally rolling) up into the center of town, the bus was just about to pull out. I managed to get everything loaded up in record time, climbed about our yellow El Dorado rig to Trujillo, and slumped down into one of the almost comfy bus seats, just thankful that it wasn´t a saddle and that in here there was shade and a breeze.

A little over a half an hour later we were arriving in the city of Trujillo – and thank God, I could barely take it anymore. I managed to get my things transfered from the bus and into a cab and we were quickly speeding towards the Casa de Ciclistas (oops, that means House of Cyclists, by the way) where I could hopefully find reprieve.

Another Hard Working GuardWell that was about three days ago, and now I´m feeling almost all better. It did take me the entire rest of the day and the following one to really start coming around, but since then I´ve managed to get out and start enjoying some of the sights and other pleasant characteristics that the city has to offer… although there has been some absolutely ridiculous drama going on at the casa de ciclistas since I got there (maybe more on that another time).

Yesterday I made an excursion out to the archeological site of the ancient adobe city of Chan Chan, which according to my guide is the largest pre-Columbian city in South America and the largest adobe city in the world – yeah, it was kinda cool. Then I headed to the nearby beach town of Huanchaco for a late afternoon stroll, some photography, and to watch the dreamy sunset over the South Pacific.

Alright, so other than my trip to the archeological dig of the ancient Moche temple of Huaca de la Luna earlier today, thats about it. Have made a wonderful new friend here in Trujillo named Paola with whom I have plans this evening and think I will be sticking around town for another two days or so.

After that I should be heading down one day´s ride to the port town of Chimbote farther along the coast, from which I´ll catch a bus up to Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca for a short visit and some hiking before coming back down to the coast. Apparently the Cordillera Blanca is the second highest mountain range in the world after the Himalayas – so yeah, I´m not riding my biking, if thats what you were wondering, you smug bastards.

Alright, love you all, more to come soon!

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07
Feb
09

CE: The Melting World of Piura

Southern EcuadorIts almost painful to walk the streets here during the day.  Perhaps thats why, as the hot afternoon sun beats down upon the city, only one sidewalk on either edge of the streets is ever populated with pedestrians, and even then the city appears almost desolate.  The meager daytime population melts lazily beneath that shady side of the street on only their most necessary of errands while the sun blisters everything else that it touches.  However, its not an unpleasant place, with its tree-lined boulevards and verdant squares, its just a sultry place.  And when the evening winds begin to sweep through the urban landscape and breath life back into its barren streets, the city comes back to life.

That was how it happened that as I walked here to the cafe at sunset this evening, the streets were miraculously teeming with life as if some secret quarantine had been lifted from the world.  So yes, basically what I’m trying to tell you is that this place is hot.  REALLY hot.  And although the daytime hours do indeed create quite a predicament as to accomplishing or seeing anything (since, of course, nothing in Latin America has air conditioning), it does make the luxuriantly cool mornings and ravishingly refreshing evenings that much more intoxicating.

Alright, so enough about the city, I guess you came here to find out what’s going on with me.  About a week ago I finally set off from Loja, in the South of Ecuador, with the intention of not stopping until I had reached the Peruvian border (and perhaps even a little further).  It was truly a torturous journey, turning from what many people had told me was “all downhill to the coastal deserts of Peru,” into endless green tropical mountains rising and falling (…and rising and falling… and rising and falling) inifinitely on the horizon – and of course, forcing me to cycle up and down each and every last one.

Downhill?However, it was also a magnificently picturesque and serene world, a land where the hand of modernization and globalization were truly completely devoid and there was only me and a narrow strip of road through the magnificent Andes for as far as the eye could see.

Well, the mountains didn’t last forever and, eventually, after one night camping in the thickest and most visually impenetrable blanket of fog which I’ve encountered in my entire journey (actually, I was sure that I was going to die for about an hour there, as I looked for a campsite anywhere before getting hit by one of the infrequent trucks that would appear out of the gloom only twenty feet behind me), and one night of camping in the humid lowlands between the mountains of Southern Ecuador (and gloriously bathing naked in the rushing brown rapids of a huge mountain river – to get fifty layers of sweat and sunscreen off my body before sleeping), I finally descended abruptly to the steamy border town of Macará.

I spent one night amidst the rice paddies of Macará, catching my breath, and the next morning set off for the nearby border crossing to Peru.  Unfortunately, I hadn’t remembered to try to smuggle anything across, as I certainly wouldn’t have been met with any suspicion or resistance whatsoever (then again, what the hell would you bother smuggling from Ecuador to Peru?), and within about fifteen minutes I had crossed the bridge into the new world (only took me that long because the Peruvian border official was so chatty).

After that it was truly smooth sailing.  Oh sweet Jesus, I can’t tell you how long I had yearned for that moment.  It was like I literally crossed the border and instantly the entire landscape changed.  No more craggy Andean peaks, no more endless mountain ridges along the horizon, just smoothly rolling provincial highway meandering through the countryside.  I just can’t explain to you, it changes everything.

Rice PaddiesLike a spark igniting a fire my speed came right back to me, after all of those months of doubting.  In only a short few hours I had reached Las Lomas, a small village with sand streets nestled into the rolling green hills around it – and which seemed to have forgotten that the world around it existed.  I had a blissful afternoon of deliciously cheap meals (I payed for soup, a full platter, and an icy cold panela with just one coin!), jubilantly flowing writing, and a couple of cold beers there among friendly people before settling in for the evening.

The following morning I set off bright and early, literally racing forward at a speed which I hadn’t accumulated since way back before arriving in the mountains of Chiapas, Mexico (literally the beginning of the end).  It was a phenomenal day, filled with gorgeous spring-green scenery and friendly smiling faces.  Eventually, however, I did begin to draw nearer to Sullana, my original destination for the day, and the landscape soon began to transform into arid semi-desert scrubland.

Well, Sullana ended up looking like a real dump while I was passing it (literally trash and scary looking people all over the sides of the road), so I decided to skip that one and continue onwards to Piura, another forty or so kilometers South.  After Sullana the road began to look more and more like desert until I was finally arriving on the outskirts of Piura, and although I was parched and (of course) sunburnt by this point, I knew that I had made the right decision.

So here I am, in Piura – and yeah, its a little toasty – but wow, its not Ecuador.  Ok, ok, maybe I paint Ecuador red, but the truth is that it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  And upon arriving in Piura, although it isn’t exactly the most cosmopolitan place ever, its amazing the difference in culture and sophistication which I rediscovered after these almost two months.  Oh, and did I mention that the internet works here?

Road CornWhat else?  Hmm, so I’ve decided to add the little CE to the header of these periodic updates, which signifies Current Events (ok, perhaps a bit cheesy but let me know if you think of some better acronym), since as Rachel was reading the site last time she menetioned that it was a little confusing as to what was a flashback from my storytelling of where I’d left off and when I was just making a quick update.

Also, for those of you who aren’t familiar to Twitter, I’m going to introduce you to it, since a friend of mine recently mentioned something to me which made me think that perhaps it might be a fun idea to share it with you.  Alright, so I’ve already been using Tiwtter on the website for some time now – its the little news blurbs on the right nav bar that I put up from time to time.  What it does is allow me to update the site from my cell phone when I don’t have internet access… however, it can do a whole lot more than that.

For now, I think that the element that I’ll share with you is that if you are actually interested, you can get my Twitter updates sent to you mobile phone.  I’m going to try to explain this in terms that even my mother could understand (if thats actually possible), so stick with me and open a new window (actually, its really simple… I think).

1.  Go to http://www.twitter.com

2.  At the bottom of the screen click on the green button that says “Get Started — Join”

3.  After you’ve filled out all of your info and hit “Create Your Account,” it should take you to your profile screen

4.  In the top right-hand corner of the screen click on “Find People”

5.  On the next screen, directly under the words “Find People.  Follow Them,” click on the little tab that says “Find on Twitter”

6.  Type in the name “ipedaler” in the text field that comes up and hit enter

7.  When my little red picture shows up, click the word “Follow” to the right of my profile blurb

Bam!  That’s it, you’re following me.  If you have any problems with this, there’s a little help tab up at the top right hand corner of the screen – I’ll let you handle it from there (although I suppose you can email me if you’re stuck hehe)

Ok, hmm, I think thats it for catching up.  Alright, so what’s on the menu next?

Two Japs & a DonkeyWell, as ridiculous as this might sound, I’m stuck here until Monday because….. I’m waiting for my laundry.  But to be honest with you, I think its probably for the best, as I just got here yesterday and need a few days of rest before what is to come next.  On Monday morning (probably at four or five in the AM) I’ll be leaving Piura and heading Southward through the Sechura desert.  Ok, this time when I say desert, I mean REAL desert.  Apparently there’s nothing out there – and it goes on for a long time.  The distance is about 200 kilometers, and although, because of the heat, I was thinking of taking three days to do the journey, I’m thinking that perhaps two would be better for my state of sanity.

What I’ll probably try to do is cover at least 100 kilometers each day and tomorrow I’m going to see if I can’t find a super-cheap beach umbrella to take with me, as there apparently won’t be anything to use for shade out there in the endless sand and to be honest with you, my tent gets real real hot when the air starts boiling in it.  Maybe that way I can stop and take breaks along the side of the road under the umbrella during the hottest hours of the day and just ride in the early morning, and, if necessary, in the later evenings as well.

So that’s about the lot of it!  Next stop, Chiclayo, Peru – and my first destination along the coast!  I can’t wait!  Things have been looking up since I got to Peru, so I’m feeling optimistic and ready for some ancient ruins (which are apparently littered around that city and a bunch of places from thereafter until the Bolivian border).  Will post another log from Colombia tomorrow and get some more photos up between now and when I leave.  Wish me luck, and if you don’t hear from me by Wednesday, hopefully its because I’m slung up somewhere along the Pacific coast and not a scorched carcass in the Peruvian desert.

24
Jan
09

Trapped in Cuenca – Thanks FedEx

CuencaHere I am, still in Ecuador, still making very slow progress.  I´m not sure if I´d mentioned in any of the previous posts, but the reason that its taking me so ridiculously long to get to Peru is because I´ve been waiting for my credit and debit cards to be delivered ever since when I was robbed in Quito.  Thanks to FedEx, which is now yet another week behind on their delivery, I can´t leave until I´ve received my delivery.  I won´t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that if you´re going to try to send something internationally, don´t bother wasting your money on the incompetence of FedEx – plus, once its departed the country of origin, FedEx there will no longer provide any support to you at all.

Ok, well, I needed to get that off my chest (using less profanity here than in the letters that I sent to them).  Apart from that, as soon as the delivery does arrive I´ll be back on my way and am now sitting within one to one and a half weeks from the Peruvian border.  Fortunately, of all the places that I could be stuck waiting for a package, Cuenca is one of the three most beautiful cities I´ve visited since leaving the U.S. – alongside Mexico City and Cartagena.

Since the last update I finally left Baños, continued onwards to Riobamba, waited there for my package for several days (before having to reroute it to Cuenca, due to FedEx´s incompetence), then caught the Nariz del Diablo train near Alausi.  Sadly the almost $8 that I spent on the train ticket was really a bust, since THE day that I went to catch the train was the same day that they banned roof-riding on the train, which is basically the entire point of taking the trip.  Then there was also the fact that the journey basically looked just like the places that I bicycle through (sheer drops over endless cliffs), so it wasn´t particularly exciting for me.  Oh well, live and learn.

Charlie´s AngelsAs far as here in Cuenca, I´m starting to get the photos up on Flickr, so hopefully soon you´ll start to get somewhat of an idea of the sheer beauty of the place.  Fortunately I´ve had my ¨Hollandaise¨ friend, Susan, here to live it up with me during my down time in Cuenca, and aside from our own trials and tribulations, we´ve managed to get some killer salsa dancing sessions in at a hip and sultry club here in town.

After leaving Cuenca it should be almost a straight shot to the border, however, with one stop in a small town called Vilcabamba.  Fortunately this town happens to lie right along my impending route, as everyone has said spectacular things about it, and now that I´m in the Southern Highlands of Ecuador it looks like I´ve escaped the all day rains of the Central Ecuador and am ready for some days in the beautiful spring-like hills before my next chapter.

Will Twitter you all in when I manage to get out of Cuenca.  Until then, happy January and enjoy the photos!

In Another Life

19
Jan
09

Lazy-Skates

RiobambaHey, yeah I know, it probably looks like I´ve been shirking off this whole time and hardly any new entries have made it up, but I´m a very busy guy! Actually, I really have been working on some important things this past week and I also got distracted by an eccentric Ukrainian who monopolized all of my time for three days.

However, I am working on the entry for Cartagena and the first few weeks in Colombia and should have them up tonight or tomorrow. Right now I´m in Riobamba awaiting the arrival of some backup supplies from the States but should be on the Nariz del Diablo (the Devil´s Nose) train to Aluasi on Wednesday if everything goes according to plan. I think that will also put my in Cuenca, the last major city in Ecuador (before I cross into Peru) on Thursday.

Also, plenty of new photos in the gallery, hope you enjoy and feel free to leave any comments. Saludos!

In Another Life