Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Chiclayo to Chimbote

Sun 27th to Mon 28th November

First stop today are the Sipan Tombs about 35 km east of Chiclayo. Off the Pan American and onto Peru's rural road network we left good tarmac for a mixture of pot holes and dirt

The discovery of these tombs in 1987 is considered to be the most important archaeological discovery in the previous 30 years.

The tombs, built with mud bricks, were originally much like pyramids but resemble little more than hills today as the weather has reduced them to a pile of earth.

Load of pottery pots discovered in the tombs

Bob in his rightful place (according to him at least)

Lord of Sipan whose tomb was discovered here, was head of the Moche culture that ruled the Northern coast of Peru from about 1 AD to 700 AD.

After visiting the museum and walking over the tombs, we decided to take a short cut (ha, ha) to Huanchahco via a road that didn’t even show on our sat nav’s.

All started well enough as we passed through some rural villages on dirt roads.

Unfortunately in rural areas rubbish is universally dumped at the side of the road and apart from looking awful can smell pretty ripe too.

A little later things got a little more difficult as Terry tried to negotiate a rather deep water filled hole. So far so good.........

Whilst the rest of us were sitting watching he then decided to drop it in the soft sand. After a quick scout ahead conditions didn't improve, so being the mature sensible folk we are, we decided to retrace our steps!

Perhaps we should use the local transport of choice in these rural parts.

We eventually found the safety of tarmac and the Pan American highway but we were then treated to a sand blasting from the desert being blown across the road by strong winds off the Pacific Ocean.

Our overnight stop was Huanchaco a seaside town of little note other than as a surfing beach.....

..... and where surfing was invented. The local indians apparently started the sport by standing up on these reed boats and riding the waves.

Monday - First off we visited the ruins at Chan Chan, the largest Pre Colombian city in South America, located just outside of Trujillo. The city grew out of the remnants of the Moche civilisation (Sipan) and was built by the Chimu around 850 AD and thrived until it was conquered by the Incas in 1470.

The city was built out of Adobe brick (mud bricks) and was decorated by intricate designs. At its height around 30,000 inhabitants lived in the city which due to the materials used in its construction has been largely destroyed by the passage of time.

Remnants of the intricate designs.

Leaving Chan Chan we headed back to the Pan American and South towards Chimbote. We have ridden through desert for most of the time we have been in Peru so far, however, vast areas of it are being reclaimed.......

Large Agro companies have bought huge areas and have spent millions on complex irrigation systems bringing water down from the mountains to enable all sorts of crops to be grown, such as citrus fruits, sugar cane, potatoes, maize and much more.

From what we can tell most of the people who work for these large agricultural companies are bussed to the plantations from communities such as this and must be paid next to nothing for their labours. I wonder how we'll feel about that when we get home and buy fresh veg or fruit in Sainsbury's and see 'produce of Peru' on the label.

On the road to Chimbote the desert scenery is quite dramatic.....

...... with a moon like appearance and no vegetation to break the starkness. It's quite stunning in its bleakness.

Our hotel at Chimbote was comfortable enough but was what I would have imagined hotels in Russia to have been like during the communist era. Cold, long narrow corridors with rows of doors leading into sparsely furnished rooms and staffed by elderly men who look suspiciously at you.

Tomorrow we tackle one of Roger's gravel roads through the mountains.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Catamayo to Chiclayo (Peru)

Fri 25th to Sat 26th November

The alarm went off at 6am and we were on the road within the hour (who said this was a holiday). It wasn't because of the distance we needed to cover but because you never know how long it is going to take to get through the border.

Once again we headed into the hills….

… and above the early morning clouds.

It was about a two hour ride to the border but before we got there we were stopped once again at a military check point. They were very polite and after seeing our documents and handshakes all round we were off again. This has been our experience of the Military & Police throughout this trip so far and long may it continue.

The border crossing at Macara was also a straight forward affair. People have said that the crossings are easier in South America and so far this has proved to be the case. Peru here we come.

Almost immediately it was a different experience to that of the past few days as we dropped out of the mountains onto desert plains. It was quickly apparent that Peru is a poorer Country than it’s Ecuadorian neighbour. The mud hut on the right with the black plastic roof is home to a family and this is upmarket compared to those built with stakes and reeds.

Our first view of the Pacific Ocean for a while. The destination tonight was a resort on the beach, Playa Colan Lodge.

View from the cabin

With trunks on it was down to the water thinking that a dip in the warm sea would be refreshing after a day on the bike. The idea was quickly abandoned on discovering the water was decidedly chilly. (I know, I’m a woose but why is it so cold so close to the Equator)?

Watching the sun go down from the beach.

The Kiwi has been with us a few days now. He is much more organised than us, I mean, he has got some maps of South America and a plan. Our Sat Navs leave us frustrated at times by contradicting themselves and the detail is also limited. We’ve therefore decided to kidnap him for a while and if he escapes make sure we have his maps as we have been unable to buy any since entering South America. Roger is 57, pretty much retired like the rest of us and started his trip in Alaska about 2 years ago but unfortunately got wiped out by a car in Guatemala which broke his leg and damaged his knee. Still not fully recovered, he flew into Guatemala in July, purchased a brand new Triumph Tiger and restarted his journey South exactly a year after the accident (now he's not a woose). check out

Saturday - Our plan today was to ride to Chiclayo. After leaving the hotel we first stopped at the local church which just so happens to be the oldest colonial church in Peru (built in 1537).

Iglesia San Lucas de Colan (you really wanted to know that).

Next stop was Paita, the nearest town that was likely to have an ATM.

Our celebrity status continues to grow. As we approached the town two Police motorcyclists saw that we were looking a little lost and took it upon themselves to escort us to a bank. Another policeman kept an eye on the bikes whilst we emptied the hole in the wall.

Roger negotiating his way back across the road. These motorcycle taxis breed like rabbits and are taking over Peru.

The now familiar crowd gathered before we were escorted back out of town by our friends in blue.

Handshakes all around and we are off

Back on the highway we start heading South through the Sechura desert. The landscape is equally as dramatic as the hills and mountains. It reminded me of Africa with small villages of mud and straw huts dotted along the roadside.

Hope we don't break down here. It looks like this guy has been waiting sometime for spares.

Giving way to the other traffic.

We don't see many fellow travellers on the road especially considering we have been on the gringo trail for much of the time recently. Like buses you don't see any for ages then a bunch come along all at the same time. Laura & Paddy are cycling around South America and riding to every Capital City (they're definitely not wooses). Both work in London and Paddy grew up in Alton (just in case any of you locals know him).

Then a lone yank from Wisconsin stopped. He is travelling on a 30 year old Yamaha 250 that made our bikes look pristine. Like us he is heading for the bottom and didn't have a plan either.

Heading South through the desert the road was pretty much straight......

.... and incredibly flat

Tomorrow we carry on South towards Huanchaco

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Quito to Catamayo

Wed 23rd to Thur 24th November

We left the hustle and bustle of Quito having spent three nights here and headed back up into the hills.

We rode into the Andes proper today riding to over 12000 ft at one point and being above 10000 ft for much of the time. For some reason I expected jagged peaks and dramatic mountains but..........

........ it was more rounded and quite intensively cultivated, with traditionally dressed communities working the fields with hand tools. These mountain villages looked very well kept and tidy.

One of the young farmers - any girls out there fancy moving to the Andes?

After a while the land became more arid and there was much less cultivation.

The scenery was quite outstanding. Unfortunately our photographic skills and equipment can never hope to capture the immensity of our surroundings and the pollution/heat haze makes everything look slightly opaque..

A village nestling between the mountains

An hour before reaching Cuenca the heavens opened and we arrived in the wet and dark. Once again the hotel we had picked was full. The manager said there were three festivals on here at the moment but perhaps he didn’t want four dripping wet motorcyclists walking through his hotel. We ended up in a somewhat seedy place around the corner but at least the motorbikes came into the foyer with us so were dry for the night too.

Thursday - In the morning we had a look around Cuenca, yet another World heritage Site. The city is more compact than Quito, with as much to see and probably better than its larger neighbour.

Traditionally dressed women in Cuenca

Our first stop was the Panama hat factory and museum. This pile of hats was waiting for the trimmer to do his business.

Roger was persuaded to part with his dollars but which one of these colourful Panamas did he walk out with?

No surprises, these Kiwi's are a conservative bunch!

The flower market.

The rag and bone man, Peruvian style.

There were a lot of well preserved colonial buildings in the city, mostly churches like just about everywhere else. Why is it that Churches always seem to survive the ravages of time, war and weather?

Unfortunately we only had a couple of hours to sightsee, then it was back on the road heading South toward the Peruvian border.

Today’s ride was much like yesterday’s, up in the mountains. We felt a bit like the Grand Old Duke Of York’s men as we were marched up the 12000 ft mountains and marched down again, up again, down again and so it went on until we dropped down to Catamayo. They don't seem to follow valleys in this part of the World!

Our poor old bikes aren’t the most powerful beasts on the planet and struggle a bit going up the steep mountain roads and breath a huge sigh of relief when we start coming down again.

View from the roof of our hotel in Catamayo.

Catamayo is a town improving (Lonely Planet is not very complimentary). They have recently refurbished the Town Plaza and a decent hotel with attached restaurant has opened.

Tomorrow we get up early (6am) and head for the Peruvian border at Macara.