Sunday, January 17, 2010

Desert desolation-Peru

On the dune where the desert meets the Pacific
Working on the Bike in Alex's front yard

The Klr looking larger than life, good thing Julie is tiny enough to fit on the back.

A man we stopped to talk to who had about 300 goats he said. Most of them were about 2yrs old

Small port in Chimbote with lots of colorful fishing boats where we stopped for breakfast and ate Tamales

Jan 16 & 17
Happy birthday to my Oma,

Trip Piura to Huanchaco: 430km
Trip Huanchaco to Lima: 580km

We have been riding in the sandy desert for the past few days and luckily for us it has been overcast and cool. The ocean this far down has turned very cold and the surfers opt for wearing wetsuits. I was wondering why there was a desert butting up against an ocean when after several hours of riding it dawned on me. Cool air blows off the Pacific saturated at its ambient temperature. When this air blows over the land in its typical westerly flow it gets warmed. The land has nearly direct sun rays and gets very warm. Warm air has a much larger capacity to hold moisture, thus the minute that the ocean air hovers over the beach it warms and begins absorbing moisture, whola, desert.

One of the greatest hazards of the road here in the desert coast of Peru for a motorcycler is the occasional plastic water or pop bottle that comes tumbling across the road in the persistant crosswind. I accidently ran one over yesterday and it made the bike jolt to the side. At highway cruising speed it didn't affect me too much. I thought that incident was an isolated case then it happened a few times after that. I see the bottle coming across the road, I weave, it rolles, I zig, It zags ...and boom I run over it. Its a freak occurance. I am happy that it only happened once and that I've been able to avoid the others.
We pulled into Huanchaco, a town built around the beach, and found a hostal. Julie was very excited to go for a swim so we headed down to the beach. To both of our surprise it was freezing so we only went ankle deep and watched the surfers in wet suits from the sandy shore. All along the beach were washed up Sea Urchins, some small and some very large ones the size of a baseball. I was worried that I might step on one so I was on Urchin alert while we walked in the surf zone.
In the morning we pulled out of Huanchaco and pointed it south to Lima. We left at 730Am so I figured that we had a lot of time to do the 550km or so. I didn't account for the the heavy cross winds or the head on wind. At times the cross wind was so powerful that the bike was leaning over as if we were in a tight turn and other times it was head on blasting in our faces. The force of the wind made the bike under powered and I pretty much had the throttle wide open for 3 hours straight. I was thinking to myself that the blowing sand that was drifting across the road like a snow storm had gotten into the cylinder and was ruining the compression, which would account for a power loss in my world. This notion was quickly evaporated when we passed our first transport truck. As we slipped into its draft the bike stood upright and accelerated with all 50 horses kicking, then we re-entered the blast and our speed dropped significantly as if someone threw down the fun boat achor.
Julie and I spotted a gradual slope into the desert towards the ocean. I saw tire tracks in the sand and decided that it was time to finally use the digger that I installed on the rear just for such an occasion. We diverted our route off the highway and entered the vast expanse of sand and desolation. The surface was friable and compacted by the wind which made for an interesting feel to the ride. I let Julie off the bike and proceeded to climb a sand dune in the distance. It was pretty fun and I toured around solo for a few minutes feeling the power of the bike which is absent with an extra 120 Lbs on the back.
I turned around and picked up Julie and we took off up the same dune that I just tested. Julie was scared for a moment not knowing if we'd make it as we crested the dune. From the crest we peered out over the hazy blue and white ocean with a foreground of yellow and tan colored sand. The sight was aweinspiring and we stopped for a few minutes to watch the pelicans and sandpipers hunt for food. In the tide pools there were people hunting for shell fish of some sort. I have no clue where they lived or how they got there.
We took a different way out of the dunes as we took in and there was a slope to contest with back to the highway. I was cruising at about 50km/hr when I sensed the bike slowing just before the engine RPM began laboring. I quickly opened up the throttle which only served to maintain the speed at about 30km/hr. We were sinking in the soft sand far from the road but I was confident with my experience that gunning the throttle in sand and keeping the speed up would keep us afloat. If we stopped we were dead. I hesitated for a moment, thinking that I could do a really large radius turn and go back the way we came. Instead I kept heading for the highway scanning for the best line where the slope was most gradual. I found the way perfectly and had to down shift to 2nd gear. This was the killer, the added torque dug the rear tire in deep and we were stuck. I could dismount the bike and it would stay up right. I had Julie push and I eased out the clutch in 2nd gear as I pushed from the handle bars. The bike easily climbed out of the hole and onto the asphalt highway only 10 feet away.
Back on the highway in the winds I was having a hard time maintaining 85km/hr. I looked at the trip-odometer and saw that we had traveled 275km since our last fill up. This was ok because several times we have filled up at 350km and once at 440km. We were cruising hard against the wind and the rush of the blast over our helmets was deafening. At 286km, just as we were descending a long hill and begining a slight incline, the engine made a crackle sound and immediately quit. I reached down and turned the petcock valve to off by mistake as we coasted to a stop. Julie confirmed that it souned like we ran over a pop bottle. This prompted me to believe that we had an electrical problem. I turned the valve to reserve and hit the starter for about 20 seconds......nothing. I looked north and south....nothing. I saw some houses and we pushed the bike to their yards. I saw a house with two motorbikes parked out front so I asked the family if I could " por favor mechanico" in their yard. They obliged. The owner of the house came out to greet me and help a bit. His name was Alex and he was a computer engineering consultant.
I began tearing off the panniers, the side pannels, the seat, I disconnected the fuel lines, spilling gas over the engine, and finally I lifted off the tank. At this point I noticed that the fuel tank was very light. I paused and in disbelief considered the possibility that I was plain out of gas. I pulled out the spark plug and installed a new one and put a clean airfilter in while I had the bike apart. I tilted the tank over to the drain (petcock valve) and temporarily connected the fuel lines. I hit the starter for about 10 seconds and sure enough the damn thing started. My pride was hurt but I made a new set of friends and did some necessary maintenance while at the same time.
We peeled out of there and headed to the gas station only 3km up the road. We filled the tank with 6.1 Gallons (the listed tank volume). At this kind of consumption I may as well be driving my Subaru!
It was now 430pm and we still had 157km to Lima. At about 30km from Lima the traffic started to jam up. After about 10 km we were at a standstill. A police SUV wailed its sirens beside me and blew its police horn and motioned me with his hand to follow. I pulled in behind him while he parted traffic with his siren. We were traveling anywhere between 120km/hr to 10km/hr through the entire city. There were 4 lanes of traffic which had 7 cars & trucks abreast. The city would have taken hours to pass through and we covered it all in 15 nerve wracking and exhilerating minutes. The police vehicle took an exit and we pulled along side and tooted to him with a big thumbs up! The officer had a huge grin on his face and thumbed up me back.
Night fall began to set in quickly and we got rerouted by a construction diversion and began getting all turned around in the city. We grabbed a hotel and hunkered down for the night before we try to find our way out in the morning on our way to Machu Pichu.


  1. Well, you two are certainly covering a lot of ground. Such an adventure.... great photos (and video). We continue to enjoy your blog..... great read on a 'coolish' January morning in NB!

  2. maybe what the "goat-man" was really saying is that he would give you 200 goats and his two-year-old for your beautiful girl!!!

  3. ahhhhh, Machu Pichu! I am so jelous. I can't wait to hear all about it!! Take LOTS of pics!