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Posts tagged ‘Miraflores’

Caribbean Escapade

Caribbean Escapade

Riviera Maya, 3-Feb-2011

The Llama show is taking a few weeks break:  I need to attend 2 of my friend’s wedding in the Caribbean and the faster (and cheaper) way to get there is by taking a plane.  I debated a lot on if I should ride with Llama to Mexico but a few things held me back: First, the cost.  Not only the actual trip through Central America but also shipping the bike to Panama.  It’s a U$D 880 to cross the Darien gap by sea for both of us, more expensive if we want to fly.  The problem is exacerbated when you think that I have to ship the bike back to Colombia or Ecuador.  The other factors were the rough seas at this time of year: I met so many riders who had a miserable trip, sea sick and all, while crossing the ocean and a few of the bikes needed a tune-up once on land because of all the salt and waves hitting it.  And finally, time.  I hate being rushed, I don’t want to run crossing 7 borders and no way am I going to miss my friend’s wedding.

My first stop was Panama; most flights to Central America will stopover in Panama City’s airport, a huge hub in the region.  Otherwise it is via Miami and hell no, I am not dealing with the US immigration and airport security.  Imagine this: a Lebanese (these guys forget that I am Canadian too) travelling by motorcycle and now on a 3 week loop from Colombia to Mexico. Yeah, that sounds fun.  Beside, I will have the opportunity to visit Panama so let’s just forget American Airlines!  I took the early morning flight and my only comment is: nothing beat flying on Llama :).  I had one main destination in Panama: visiting the San Blas archipelago.  San Blas is a cluster of around 360 small islands on the eastern coast of Panama in the Caribbean.  The image of this archipelago is straight out of a beach paradise movie; most riders crossing south took a boat through the archipelago and their story pushed me to explore it myself.  So the next morning I hoped on the jeep heading to the Caribbean coast where a “lancha” (i.e. a ~12m long wood/fiberglass boat) would take us to the island of our choosing.  As we reached Miramar, we were met by severe winds forming a 4m high swell and the police’s marine unit closed the port… for tourists at least.  Locals can still come and go: the sea is their livelihood but then again we all share the same danger.  We later found out the reason of the port closure: a lancha cap-sized, luckily everyone on-board was unharmed.  Taking this into account, the police closing the port to tourists was more about not dealing with an international incident vs. safety; if local dies, no one is going to come after the marines.

Not all was bad though.  The (unique?) village hostel offered to take most of us in.  We were treated like kings: Special food was prepared for us and a few villagers joined us for lunch before being offered to go to a luxury hotel just off the coast: No one was there at the moment and we could use the beach front pool.  That was enough to convince us and we spent the afternoon chilling and laughing by the pool side: Our gang was made of 2 German girls Tamara &), a Swedish couple (Michael & Jessica), 2 fellow Canadians (Josh & Gaven) and a Spaniard (Blash).  At night, we got treated to a BBQ in the hotel courtyard, the cooler had cold beer and the music filled the air.

Next morning, the seas were “relatively” calmer and the hotel owner got a boat ready to take us to San Blas.  It was a very rough ride: the boat was riding up the waves before smashing down hard.  The boat might take it (although a couple of us were questioning it) but our backs surely didn’t; my whole back vertebra up to my neck felt as if it was squashed. Add to that plowing through 2-3m high waves meaning we were constantly splashed by sea water.  But 2 hours later, as we crossed the barrier reef and entered the archipelago, the sea was calm and serine.  The outer edge of the barrier reef act like a shield, a port’s harbor if you wish, blocking all the waves and offering us smooth sailing in between these palm filled islands.  San Blas belongs to the Kuna, an autonomous native culture who owns and manages the archipelago.  An island is owned by 1 or 2 Kuna families who live here and choose to build a few huts to cater for tourists: absolute basic lodging and 3 meals a day, mostly fresh sea food.  What else do you want? Oh yeah, rum :). How does $7 the bottle sounds like?  Entering the archipelago, we had the choice to go to any of the surrounding islands in the vicinity of Porvenir.  The girls chose to be dropped off at Iguana Island, a very small and isolated island with a couple of huts while the rest of us chose between a few other islands capable of receiving a dozen or so tourists thus offering a little bit more “life” but still being less than 100m in length.   I stayed at Senydup’s, sharing “my” island with several other cool tourists (Cray and Kate from Oz, Matheas from Deutshland, Marie, Andrea from Austria) all out here to relax and have a few drinks.  So what to do on an isolated palm island? Well first, watch out for falling coconuts.  Honest, these things can kill: 4 or 5 times a day a coconut will fall 15m down, the sound enough to send shiver down your spine. Second, just be :): Relaxation and fun are the motto here.  It’s truly a piece of paradise on earth.  Nights are even better:  we huddle around a bonfire, drinks are passed around, jump for a midnight swim (or skinny-dipping ;)) under the moonlight,…   During the day, I managed to organize a tour via lancha to a few surrounding islands so we can explore more of paradise, go snorkel, leave our footsteps on sandy shores and swim in different beaches.  We even visited the main community island to get a feel on how the Kuna go about their daily lives.

Unfortunately I had to head back to the mainland soon and due to the bad seas I wisely (read “reluctantly”) decided to have a 1 day buffer.  It will also allow me to continue my visit of Panama city: I wanted to check the Panama Canal in action at the Miraflores lock, visit Panama Viejo which was famously and ruthlessly sacked & burned by captain Henry Morgan (Ever wondered where Captain Morgan Rum name comes from?) and party in the trendy Uruguay street of new Panama.  BTW, new Panama City is a city of high-rises and wealth: A lot of money flows through these streets, not only because of the Canal but also because Panama is a major trade hub with all sorts of goods funneling through here (legally or illegally – and I am not talking about prohibited stuff!).   Even El-Donaldo (Donald Trump) is building one of his major Casino/Hotel complexes.  The sad part is new Panama stands next to the poorest slums I have seen.  The ironic part is that all of these skyscraper apartment buildings are empty: the 3 nights I spent in Panama City, the majority of these building had no lights… ghost town.  Inquiring with the locals taxi drivers and they are quick to point: these buildings are great money laundering tools.

Panama photo album

l left to Republica Dominicana the next morning and checked in into luxury.  Carol and Ravi will be getting married at the Paradysus, a prestigious beach resort.  Poor me, switching from hostels and dorms with skimpy breakfast to an all inclusive luxury resort.  Let me put it in another way: 1 night here will allow me to live almost a month in Bolivia.  At least Jaime and Kifa7 arranged that I share their room and soon after I was chilling on the beach with my good TO friends.  That alone was worth the trip.  During the 3 days leading to the wedding we hanged out by the beach, enjoying the tourist “scenery”, gouging on exquisite food, drinking Piña Colada, Mamajuana and CocoLoco before the group re-gathered for our nightly dinners and party.  As for the icing on the cake, well of course it was Carol and Ravi’s beach shore wedding.  The setting was truly magical and it was a sweet little ceremony surrounded by family and good friends.  These 2 were dating for more than 11 years and this ceremony was long in the waiting: you could see the joy exploding from the parents faces as much as the newly wed.  BTW, Ravi “was not worried” ;).

Carol & Ravi's wedding - Rep. Dominicana

I didn’t sleep that night as after the party I headed directly to the airport: my next destination was Cancun for Becky and Jason’s wedding that same afternoon.  All was going according to plan with the flights and timing… except I forgot about Jason’s cool and relaxed way of living :).  I was checking my e-mail at Panama’s airport to see how to meet-up with the boys prior to the wedding when I saw an e-mail from Jason.  It was sent yesterday, Thursday morning, informing us that the wedding day has been moved to “today @ 14:00”!  Oops, I missed the wedding :(.  The local weather channel predict a thunderstorm to lash Cancun on Friday and Becky made sure the wedding will still go ahead by having it moved one day earlier to Thursday. It was utterly disappointing not to be by Jay’s side on his wedding day and I felt disheartened, I really wanted to be part of this special occasion especially when you think the reception was purposely held to accommodate less than a dozen very close friends including family.

We made it up though.  The next 3 days, as the bride and groom’s parents headed back to Canada, I spent most of the days with Jason and Becky as well as Barry, Ryan and Sarah.  Becky even offered to wear the wedding dress at their beach hotel so I could be in the wedding picture.  The final day was spent chilling at their honeymoon resort before I let the newlywed enjoy their new life together (like their neighbors were ;)).

Becky & Jason's wedding - Cancun, Mexico

Now it’s time to stretch my legs – other than on the dance floor.  Since Cancun is an overhyped, rather anonymous and uninspiring beach city I decided to head south: my first stop was to head to Guatemala to visit the famous Tikal ruins.  Ever since I visited Palenque’s Maya ruins on the Mexican side I was eager to explore this other Maya marvel.  When I arrived to Flores, the base city to visit Tikal, I was in luck: a young British/Oz couple (Claire and Toby) were heading for a 3 day trek to reach Tikal (BTW, you can also directly visit Tikal via a 1 hour bus ride from Flores).  I happily joined them and the next morning, our guide Julian and ariero Carlos took us through the forests to our first campsite: Zots.  Zots means “bats” in the Maya language and the temples here, although overgrown by vegetation gave us a glimpse of the grandeur of the Mayan cities in current day Guatemala.  And the name “Zots” comes for the nearby cave where thousands of bats hide during the day before rushing out in a swarm at sunset.  Unfortunately for us (and even more for the bats) the cave crumbled a couple of days before we came.  But we still managed to see the surviving bats exit through a small whole in a furry buzz.  It lasted around 1 minute and we could hear the loud whistling sound and feel the wind resulting from this bat convoy.

At dinner time, we found out that Tikal actually lays 10hours away from Zots and our camp 2, the last permitted and safe campsite prior to entering the dense jungle is only a 3 hour walk from here.  That mean on our 3rd day, we will arrive late and tired at Tikal, only allowing us a few hours to visit the site.  We got tricked by the agency… and this was on top of finding (the painful way) that the food we got served at breakfast/lunch was expired! All of us, even the guides, spent the first night holding our stomach.  Next morning, feeling better  we decided to go for it: we will walk the 36Km separating us from Tikal (for me it will be a total of 43Km as I woke up early in the morning for a 1 hour walk to visit other Zots pyramids).  But Julian and Carlos were not in agreement with our decision and tried their utmost to make us stay at the 2nd camp.  Their fear was walking at sunset or in the dark in the jungle to reach Tikal: deadly spiders and snakes abound and incidents have been reported.  Carlos even “disappeared” on us for half an hour at lunchtime, leaving us with the task to light a fire and prepare lunch, otherwise it would have been impossible to carry on with our journey. Only by 14:00 we finally hit the road again.  We knew we had to rush and do 6 hours in less than 4.  And this was not your usual walk in the park: we where zigzagging through thick jungle, watching for overhead branches, avoiding spine filled tree trunks  (I grabbed one once trying not to fall… damn it hurts) or lianas littering the soil.  But it was a spectacular walk: the flora and fauna are stunning.  Every once and a while we hear the frightening (yet harmless) sound of howler monkeys and at other times we cross under a group of spider monkeys.  These guys were sometimes not too happy by our presence and start shaking violently the tree branches, breaking some of them and throwing them at us.  It’s even known that spider monkeys ill actually pee on you although it didn’t come to that today. We reached Tikal by sunset to the great relief and astonishment of Julian: he was really worried about us but all is good.  We entered the site and Toby and I even climbed the famed Temple IV to witness the warm sunset colors.  We then treated ourselves to a nice dinner, a good shower and soon thereafter we were fast asleep.

We woke up early morning to go witness the sunrise on Tikal.  Toby and Claire decided to go to Temple II to see the sunrise light up temple IV while I went to the later to see the actual sun rising.  None of us got their wish as it was a cloudy day.  Soon thereafter, Toby and Claire joined me on top of Temple IV and since we were alone, we took advantage of the moment, absorbing this magical sight, gazing at the complex in front of us while listening to howler monkeys and having our breakfast.  Once people started showing up we left to visit the site.  It’s really extensive, Tikal used to house an estimated 90,000 people.  Temples, platforms, altars and stelae abound and I strolled around the site up to closing time.  Pictures say it all and I really struggled to choose which ones to put.  A notable highlight was seeing and listening to howler monkeys when I returned (yet again) to Temple IV in late afternoon.

Tikal photo album

That night I had dinner with Claire and Toby and in the morning we said our goodbyes.  I was heading to Belize while they were further exploring Guatemala.  In Belize, same as in Guatemala, I only wanted to visit one site, this time the island of Caye Calker for some scuba diving.  During the Llama show I took pleasure in spending relaxed time and not rushing, enjoying my destinations to their fullest.  Belize with Caye Calker will be the same and I will spend 4 days here.  I first went snorkeling on the nearby reef, swimming with nurse sharks, rays and a multitude of fish before going Scuba diving.  On my first diving day, I went to dive the outside wall of the coral barrier before heading out the following day on a 2 hour boat ride to Turneffee Atoll for a 3 dive trip around some pristine coral reef and the oceans wall.  We saw turtles, sharks, spotted manta rays, moray eels,… but the best part was the astonishing coral floor.  It is an absolute marvel of submarine life and vegetation, in startling shapes and colors teaming with fish and small cretaceous.  I was joined by Perrine and Jocelyn, a French couple whom I met in Tikal.  It was an even more special moment for them:  Jocelyn just proposed to Perrine (congrats guys!) and the celebrations and photo taking was in full swing, even underwater.  I was lucky enough as Perrine took a few pics of me and shared her pics & videos!  Even if my scuba experience was remarkable, I have to admit that seeing a dolphin swimming freely in the ocean was a particularly special moment.

I decided not to dive the famous Blue Hole.  It was very expensive trip and diving 8min to a 40m depth after 2 hours of open water boat ride was not my cup of tea.  Instead, I decided to head back to the Riviera Maya to dive with Tiger sharks… although that didn’t turn out well either: the Tiger shark season ended a month ago (who didn’t do his homework?).  Ah well, next time.  But it really wasn’t all that bad. I went diving in a couple of cenotes off Playa del Carmen with Chac Mool internal air filled cavern full of stalactite being absolutely amazing.

Deep Blue photo album

And that’s it.  Tomorrow I will rejoin my baby and get my show on the road again.

Ride up!

Sami

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Diversity

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Diversity

Lima, 20-Sept-2010

Peru is an amazingly rich country, cradle to many cultures, home to an incredible diversity of flora & fauna (it boasts to have 84 of the 117 recognized ecological microclimates in the world, and 28 of the 32 world climates) and is inhabited by welcoming and warm Peruvian.  So my decision was easy:  I will take the beautiful road on my way to Lima vs. the short & easy one.  I will pass by Abancay before veering north through unpaved roads and breathtaking scenery toward Ayacucho.   From there, I plan to head to Huancayo before turning west to Lima.

Kilometer 28,633; Cusco, 14-Sep-10 @ 9:45: The trip started on beautiful fresh tarmac along an undulating road passing again next to Cachora and reaching Abancay (Kilometer 28,833; Abancay, 14-Sep-10 @ 13:05).  Not much to see there, Abancay being a crossroad between Nazca to the West via an asphalted road and Ayacucho to the North via a beautiful off-road.  I kept heading north as my plan was to ride as far as possible today, stopping in Andayhualas for the night (Kilometer 28,981; Andayhualas, 14-Sep-10 @ 17:00) and reaching Ayacucho the following day in the evening.  My route turned out to be spectacular, a real sweet ride and the off-roads good enough to fully enjoy the surrounding nature.  The only hick-up were the on-going construction: some stretches were pure loose gravel & sand and many road blocks ensued.  Twice I had to ask the locals for detours and avoid the hours of blockades mandated by the construction crews.  However, just an hour before Ayacucho, a major construction site blocked the road for 1.5 hour with no way around it.  We were only allowed to continue by 18:00, sundown.  It is one thing tackling these roads during daylight but a totally different ball game to do so at night: it’s hard to distinguish the perturbing rocks popping up from the ground, the sand patches I need to slowly cross and the best/safest path for my tires to ride over.  But this is how the game is played and I’ll tackle whatever is thrown at me.  I arrived late to Ayacucho and immediately went ahead looking for a hotel with a built-in garage (Kilometer 29,237; Ayacucho, 15-Sep-10 @ 19:30).  After knocking on a few doors and explaining to the owners that I sleep wherever my bike sleeps, I finally found a hotel which allowed me to park my baby inside the main hallway, safe and dry.  They were so nice they even brought me a hose the next morning so I can clean my bike’s chain from all the sand and dust accumulated.

Ayacucho is a nice small city, with many lovely churches scattered around and a beautiful plaza de Armas surrounded by colonial buildings.  The churches in Peru and worst, in Bolivia, have unpredictable opening hours, if they open at all during the day that is.  So I long figured out the best way to visit is after sunset during the night masse: so go ahead, go confess all your sins J.  Back at my hotel, I hooked up with Jacob and Yagna, a polish backpacker couple and we decide to visit the major Wari ruins outside Ayacucho (it was the capital of the Wari state) before continuing further afield toward Quinoa.  So my bike will stay put today and we will take the combi to our destination.

The Wari culture was renowned for their expertise in urbanization and social planning.  Their cities were very tightly ordered, organized in square sectors, crisscrossed by wide streets and surrounded by high walls (sometime a double set of outer walls with a street in the middle) and harboring up to 20,000 people.  The Incas took much of the Wari urbanization expertise and further improved it, allowing them to better build and manage their cities.  Even the famous Inca roads were actually built on top of the earlier Wari roads and then further extended to cover the Tawantinsuyu (i.e. Inca empire).  Although not as well preserved (read “reconstructed”) as Pikillacta, quite a few sectors, walls and temples are marvelous to see and I spent a couple of ours just strolling a tiny part of this huge complex (estimated at 10 sq.km).  Our trip then took us to Quinoa, a tranquil little village whose inhabitants are masters of ceramic work, renowned to decorate their house’s rooftops with their sculptures.  It’s a joy to stroll Quinoa’s small cobble streets before heading uphill to the plains were the major battle of Ayacucho occurred back in 1824.  It is here where General Antonio Jose de Sucre (him again :)) fought the larger and better armed royalist forces in a final and decisive battle.  His victory on 9th December 1824 finally granted Peru it’s independence from the Spanish after years of civil war which started back in 1809 and the tide only turned in favor of the Nationalists following San Martin initial attack from southern Chile back in 1820.

Today I will head to the sea :)! …and what an exciting thought it was.  I left the Atlantic coast more than 4 month ago and now I’ll finally reach the Pacific.  All I was thinking about was the endless extent of blue sea, the smell of the ocean and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore.  I decided to stay in Paracas, next to the peninsula of the same name renowned for its beautiful dunes and shoreline.   To top it all off, the excellent asphalted road from Ayacucho to the coast provided an amazing track of twisty roads that went up and down mountains until reaching Abra Apacheta @ 4,750m before starting my long and winding road down toward the Panamericana.  The strong Pacific winds met me again on this final stretch bidding me welcome back to its territories.  Just before reaching the Panamericana, I stopped at Tambo Colorado, an ancient Inca city and a major resting place for the travelers up to Cusco (Kilometer 28,543; Tambo Colorado, 17-Sep-10 @ 15:00).  It’s one of the few, definitely the biggest, Inca city built from adobe vs. the usual stonework.  But Inca signature abounds with its typical trapezoidal doorway, baths, zigzag motif and the 3 level Chacana.  The dry weather of the coast even preserved a few walls with the original red, yellow and white painting adorning the city (hence the name).

Kilometer 29,602; Paracas, 17-Sep-10 @ 17:25: To my surprise Paracas is a very touristy beach town.  In the morning, heading to the quay with July and Helen for a tour of Isla Ballestas, hordes of tourists, mostly middle aged, were waiting at the dock.  It felt like a retiree reunion of some sort and I couldn’t help but compare it to some Florida beach towns.  Here, everyone wanted to marvel at the tens of thousands (maybe hundred thousand?) of birds living on the islands.  A half an hour boat ride took us there (no one can disembark as it’s a protected area)  and I was surprised, even shocked, to witness such a huge number of birds: they were using nearly every free sq.inch of the island to stand on or doting the skies above us while flying (watch out for bird dropping!).  To give you an idea on the number of birds in these islands, the guano, i.e. bird excrement, was so abundant that in certain areas it was up to 50m deep!  The Incas used the guano as fertilizer to increase crop yield but the European only discovered its benefit back in the 1800’s.  Because of the regions’ dry weather (it barely rains) the guano preserves its properties and especially its nitrate content making it the much thought after fertilizer.  And so started Peru’s guano golden age:  from 1840-1880 Peru had a tremendous boon exporting ~20 million tons of guano and earning around U$D 2 billion in profit.  To put it in perspective, it exceeds current Peru’s GDP numbers!!  The advent of synthetic fertilizer killed this golden “fecal” mine and the birds were left to do their thing.  Guano today has a second breath as a natural fertilizer vs. all the chemicals we use:  it is harvested once every 7 year (for it to accumulate and for preservation of the environment, the birds and their habitat).

Once back on shore and after a quick breakfast with Julie and Hélène, I loaded all my stuff on my bike and headed toward the peninsula.  The scenery was high in color were dunes, red volcanic hills, sandy beaches and blue water mix.  I took my time riding this 21Km circuit and admiring its beauty.  By mid afternoon I stopped at the tiny fishing hamlet of Lagunillas where a few restaurants conglomerate near the shore and waiters fight to offer you their services (Kilometer 29,641; Paracas, 18-Sep-10 @ 14:35).  A delicious grilled fish with a Pisco Sour was to culminate my excursion and I headed (late) toward Lima.  I arrived on its outskirt after nightfall right in the middle of the drive home rush hour.  Crazy drivers & aggressive buses were my welcoming committee.  It was such a stressful stop-and-go ride that I completely missed my exit; I was more concerned about the cars surrounding me, forcefully trying to make their way passed me.  I exited the highway, did a u-turn and asked for directions.  And that’s the other nightmare: Similar to Bolivia, everyone will tell you to just go “recto”, i.e. straight.  But buddy, the roads split in a “Y”, left & right, which way?  “Recto amigo, siga no mas”.  Great… and then?  “Just turn and follow the road”…  O-Kaaay… the name of the road?  Where do I turn?  “Just turn this way” gesturing in the air.  The way I understand it is that people won’t tell you they actually don’t know the route, instead just gesture their way out of it.  You ask someone about a certain direction and just 100 meter later someone else tells you something completely different.  Even taxi drivers throw you on a zigzag trail (well, they know all the shortcuts, so can’t really blame them).  And I was asking to reach a very famous roundabout, not even the street I wanted to get too!  I played this ping-pong game (me being the ball) for a good half-hour, slowly honing-in to Miraflores and miraculously I stumbled upon Avenida Arequipa.  That’s the major thoroughfare that crosses Lima from its center to past Miraflores.  All I needed to know now was which way to head: left or right?  Once I had 3 different guys telling me the same way to go (OK, I am exaggerating now 😉 I just rode in that direction.  And I knew that I will remember exactly the streets I needed to take once I reached the neighborhood I stayed in back in January.  Sure enough, my visual memory never fails and I was happily making my way through the streets up to my hostel, Kilometer 29,939; Miraflores, 18-Sep-10 @ 19:35.

I only stayed for a few days in Lima: it was Saturday and I hit Barranco club’s street again and the following day just visited the Museo Nacional de Arqueologia.  On Monday I went to visit Suzuki Lima and managed to get a meeting for Tuesday morning with Juan Pablo, general manager of Peru’s Suzuki motos.  The plan is to continue straight on to Huaraz; the summer might be arriving into the Southern hemisphere but in the cordilleras, it’s the winter and rainy season is at the doorstep.

Ride up!

Sami

Photo Album

or click on “page 2” below to see the photo album.

Changes For The Better

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Changes For The Better

Arequipa, 20-Jan-2010

Having stopped in Barranca the night before because of, in between others, all the cops’ delays, I took the opportunity to go visit Caral in the morning (Kilometer 3,592, Caral, 14-Jan-10 @9:15).  Caral is the site and name of the oldest known civilization in the Americas, dating back to ~2,500BC.  To put it in perspective, that’s the same time as the Mesopotamian and early Egyptian cultures.   It is suspected that Caral was a “peaceful” society of around 3,000 people built around religion as no weapons, no violent destructions or wars and no sacrifice rituals were found (only one child body).

It was a very interesting and beautiful visit and I only made it back to Barranca in early afternoon where I quickly saddled up and hit the road to Lima (Kilometer 3,634, Barranca, 14-Jan-10 @ 14:25).  What started as being a little funny is now putting a chill on my trip.  The Peruvian police are just too much.  Now that I am riding solo, I am getting stopped left, right and center. .. and for whatever reasons.   Once I got stopped because I went through the green light at the toll, while bikes should go through the red “X” closed lane… don’t even ask.  Another time was because I have daylight running lights on my bike!! What gives?  The police just take your paper and ask for $$.  One guy asked for a $100 USD otherwise he will keep my passport! (the first and only time I gave my passport.  From that moment on my passport does not leave my pouch and I made color photocopy + plasticized all my other documents to look like original.  The cops (a.k.a. “guzanos” can keeps them as souvenir :)).  AnywayZ, with the police I always act as if I do not know a single word of Spanish.  But I have to keep a straight face and try hard not to laugh when I hear them talking between them figuring out a way to make me understand they want money.  Well, I am out of chickens 🙂  Remember the Louisiana man? “No more chicken?!? What do you mean no more chicken!??  Aaaaahhh, you mean you RAN out of chicken!” 🙂 .  Well, I let them tire themselves trying to explain and in the end, most of the time they let me through.  But it’s just delaying my trip by couple of hours every day.

Kilometer 3,853, Miraflores, 14-Jan-10 @ 17:50:  My highlight of Lima was receiving a Skype call from Yasmina who played me a mini-concert of 3 songs on her violin :).  Pretty impressive, even drew a few on-lookers in my hostel.  Bon, back to Lima, well it changed for the better.  Still not my favorite city but it’s a little bit more secure, cleaner and the preservation & maintenance efforts of the historical monuments are yielding great results.  I spent 5 nights there.  First few days I just chilled and partied around Miraflores and Baranco (it was Friday and Saturday and I needed to move some other body muscles ;).  On Sunday, it was Lima’s day, celebrating its 475 years.  I went to the Plaza de Armas where all the festivities were happening.  They had a parade were every city of Peru had a “show” to celebrate Lima.  I saw kings from Lambayeque, Inca’s from the imperial city of Cuzco, tribes from the jungles,… un spectacle vraimment haut en couleur.  I managed to squeeze some time to visit a few of the downtown attractions.  I even got lucky to see the change of the guard in front of the presidential palace where 30 or so soldiers were marching and juggling with their rifles for a good 15 minutes.  Imagine 30 Peruvian Michael Jacksons ;).  Finally on Monday, I actually did my tourist part and visited a couple of museums.  If you are in Lima check out Museo Larco, displaying a fine collection of ceramics and jewelry from the many cultures that inhabited Peru.  The best part is you can see the evolution of art, metallurgy, ceramic,… spanning from 1,000BC, through the many pre-Colombian cultures up-to and including the first years of the conquista.

Tuesday: time to hit the road again.  I stopped in the morning by Kelly’s place, a friend from Canada and one of Alisson’s best friends.  Kelly also decided to move back to her country Peru and she was just settling in (Kilometer 3,898, “Kelly’s beach house”, 19-Jan-10 @ 11:00).  A short visit though as by 13:00 I was on the road again.  There was a bus strike in Peru a nightmare for all tourists but for me it was great to ride without all these crazy bus drivers.  The road to Nazca (and then to Arequipa) passes through Peru’s different deserts: rock and stones desert, red dirt desert, golden sand deserts,…  you name it.  While riding, every once in a while, like a mirage in the horizon, a village starts materializing.  As I get closer and the village grows ever so bigger, the wavy view soon clears up to reveal a lush valley dissected by a river where trees abound and green field lines the river shores.  People here live out of agriculture and farming.  I enter this green paradise, pass through it in few seconds only to see it disappear in my rearview mirror as I ride away and find myself driving again through a dusty and windy, arid and desolate land.

Kilometer 4,323, Nazca, 19-Jan-10 @ 18:15:  I passed through Ica, Pisco and only stayed 1 night in Nazca as I’ve been here before and visited the Nazca cemetery, aqueduct and flew above the famous Nazca lines.  And since the prices skyrocketed I just didn’t feel like flying over the lines again even if I would have liked too.  The following morning I continued to Arequipa:  Thank god, no cops.  Actually there was barely anyone on the road.  But the winds were ever so ferocious blowing sand onto the highway nearly blocking the Panamericana at a certain point.  It took some careful, strong and “tilted” driving 🙂 to face the wind and getting through this.  Kilometer 4,918, Arequipa, 20-Jan-10 @ 17:50, Arequipa is the 2nd biggest city in Peru and somehow I ended deep inside it’s suburb, not at all an inviting place.  Arriving late, in traffic, no street signs, I was just like a blind man there.  So I paid a Taxi 4$ to take me to the Plaza de Armas where I checked-in into a perfectly located hotel with secure parking.

I ended up staying 7 days in and around Arequipa.  It’s a beautiful city and a perfect hub for many activities.  I managed to do some amazing and extreme things, you got to hear about it… so check out my next e-mail 🙂

Ride up!

Sami

Photo Album

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