Saturday, 10 November 2012

CHAPTER. NOS GUSTA PERU

We like Peru! And now dear reader we are in Cusco, the famed golden city of Inca and Spanish fame.

But let us backtrack a little because Peru is big and to get to Cucso we have travelled a long way across it from north to south.

Firstly, however, after Machala in Ecuador it was time to leave banana land and head south for a wee distance to the very nice border crossing between Ecuador and Peru. I say "nice border crossing" for two reasons. The first is that even purgatory would be nice compared with the Central America border crossings we did. Secondly, it was genuinely nice. The Ecuador and Peru authorities are all in one building and they sit side by side. I think their computers are linked and I think they interchange. Anyway it was very nice only to have to move one metre from the Ecuador emigration desk to the Peru immigration desk! Very civilised!

Then it is Peru. The first thing to notice is the dramatic change in scenery. Suddenly we go from lush tropical banana lands to desert where there is not a skerrick growing. No, not a skerrick! All in some 50 kms - it is a dramatic change in scenery.




However it was also a dramatic change in temperature too! You would think that being at sea level and entering a desert environment it would get hotter and hotter with a dry desert heat. Not so dear reader. It got cooler and colder as we rode deeper into the desert conditions.

Why is that you may ask? Well the current theory is that it is all because of current theory ! Let me explain. You see Mr Humbolt's current starts hitting the shores of Peru and since it originates in Antarctic waters this current is currently a bit of a cool dude. And thus as it strikes Peruvian shores it keeps it all cool and dry.

And this desert goes for over 1000km down the coast of Peru only really broken by the city of Lima which has good supplies of Andean water from the high mountains behind

Anyway back to out tripping thru Peru. Our first stop into Peru was Talara, a seaside town known for its oil refinery. Just an overnight stop really.

Then it was down thru the Desierto de Sechura which is about 200 kms of flat desert with sand coming to the side of the road and threatening to come across it. From there it was down to an overnight stop at the seaside town of Pacsamayo. This was a delightful stop with a hotel right on the beach. And lo and behold outside the hotel was a delightful local man selling jewellery including some from New Zealand Paua!

On the beach
It transpired through his smattering of English and my smattering of Spanish that he had befriended a Kiwi who had bought him back some shells from New Zealand. That night the chappie bought the Kiwi into the hotel to met us. It transpired that the Kiwi was "Curly" from Wanaka who spent a few months there each year surfing and more importantly kite surfing. We had a good old chat with "Curly from Wanaka".

The Paua man


From thence it was another day of desert riding conditions ,although the vistas were lovely , to the small town of Huarmey some 200 km north of Lima. Our hosts at the small hotel were David and Sylvia and both spoke good English and were delightful and helpful hosts. Huarmey had been devastated by the big 1976 earthquake that rocked Lima and all the northern Peruvian coast.

Thank goodness we were not following this one!


Then the day following it was crossing Lima (without stopping). Crossing Lima is easier said than done! It is a 8 million person city with traffic to match. Thus it was a 50 km haul from one side to the other with the inevitable stop start bits as we headed across it.

Just like Auckland really.


The post Lima crossing night was in another seaside village called Cerro Azul ( Blue Mountain). Again a delightful seaside village although very much a holiday place for the wealthier Lima residents, as it is only several hours south of Lima. Our hotel had a row of flags in front with even a New Zealand one in the line up.




And talking of line ups reminds me of line outs. One chappie we talked to there was an Irish gas expert. That is not the same thing as an expert on Irish gas although as he downed his many beers he became that, too. Anyway to cut a long story short he was a rugby enthusiast and several years ago he organized a Sevens rugby tournament on the beach where several Kiwis took part and apparently did our country proud.

South of Cerro Azul it was more cold desert down to the small town of Palpa just north of Nazca of the Lines fame.

And thence to the lines


Ancient Inca viewing platform


Yes Nazca does have lines drawn in the sand by the ancient Incas although their chief having drawn lines in the sand for many years apparently said, as we all do under similar circumstances, "enough is enough!"

From Nazca one abruptly turns right to the road to Cusco. This is 600 km of winding, winding,winding road with just a few straight bits on the very, very high plateau.

We knew we would be climbing into the Andes but this was climbing into the Andes on steroids!
It was up and up and up and up and up. Eventually we found ourselves on the high plateau at 4550m which is 15,000 ft above sea level. And that is straight up from sea level!
My "attitude to that altitude" was not too good as that is a potentially dangerous sudden ascent. We were affected in different ways. Ken went grey in the face. My voice went husky. Our bike clutches went funny and did not work properly. It was all a bit strange and a bit of a worry.

Getting high.


And higher


It is not just the tourists that get milked!


I sighed a sigh of relief then as the relief changed and we dropped off the high plateau to a mere 10,000ft before finding a " rustic" hotel for the night.

And thus the next we rode into the famed golden city of Cusco. It was back to cobbled streets (tough on motorbikes) and lovely stone buildings.





On arrival in the Plaza de Amanas in Cusco I went left the bike and wife and went on foot to find a hotel. I came back hot and tired some 30 minutes later to find my dear wife hugging and kissing a strange man! Well it turned out that the strange man was none other than Mike Ferris of Ferriswheels who was leading a group motorbike ride through South America. Mike and his lovely wife Denise run motorbike tours in different parts of the world and Mike took us on our Indian Himalaya tour last year. By the way I hugged and kissed Denise to balance things out!

But the coincidences did not stop there. At the same spot we also met up with "Guillermo" who is a Mexican psychiatrist who was on the 'Stahlratte' with us as we crossed from Panama to Cartagena. Another good reunion.

Then as we entered our hotel three young Kiwis called out to us as they recognized the origin of their favorite breakfast cereals. They were on their way back to NZ after their OE in the UK.

Then to top the day off we sat down in the hotel bar to have a drink ( as you do ) and another Kiwi couple from Epsom recognized us and came over to talk to us

And thus we talked to more New Zealanders (and Australians) in Cusco than we might do on an average day in Auckland. It was a good day... Nos gusta Cusco mucho !






S


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