From the arid Nazca area it’s back into the Andes. Temperatures plunge and it’s not long before my heated grips are back on again. There are many toll booths on the major roads and here I come across another that has been burnt out by local rioters, protesting government corruption.
They’ve been targeting any government buildings used to generate income. One lady I spoke to said that the people are sick of the level of corruption that exists through all tiers of government. I asked about police corruption and she said that yes, it is rife, but we must remember that the police are paid very little, and sometimes must put fuel in their police vehicles from their own pockets, because the government infrastructure is so broken, and so much of their time is spent trying to generate income, and motorists, especially tourists, are an easy target.
Just down the road I get my first introduction to the Peruvian police as I’m waved to the side of the road by officer Vasquez who seems satisfied with an inspection of my NZ drivers' licence. Later that morning I’m introduced to Sargent Sanchez, who was keen to see if I’d purchased Peruvian 3rd party insurance, or SOAT as it’s known here.
Higher into the Andes and the reason for the drop in temperature becomes clear.
After a couple of breathless days I’m looking for lower altitudes again, and I choose a goat track that has me headed in the general direction of Lima, the Peruvian capital.
The goat track turns into a great mix of dirt and gravel as it plunges down beside a river through many tunnels and switchbacks.
On this road I meet a young Canadian girl on a pushbike. She has ridden from her home on Vancouver Island, alone. She is nine months into her trip to Ushuaia at the very bottom of South America. She’s mostly wild camping and taking secondary roads. It’s taken her four days, climbing all the way, from Lima to get this far. I’ll be in Lima by nightfall. I take my hat off to her.
In a small rural town I buy engine oil and complete my second roadside service. I paid $25 NZD per litre! I think I just got ‘Gringo Taxed’ again…
Further along the river I pass fields of chili peppers, and in a nearby village they are drying by the roadside.
It’s common practice, I’ve seen the same with coca, rice and corn.
Back on the Pan America for the run into Lima and the roadside rubbish is once more apparent. I’d read that Peru’s love affair with roadside rubbish was worse in the north, and so it proved to be.
Football was until recently the national sport of Peru, and they had some international success in the 80’s and 90’s, but recent years have seen Peruvians develop a passion for the sport of Fly Tipping.
Fly Tipping was, until recently, mainly practised in Central African countries like Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and to a certain extent India, who for the most part would transport their bagged household refuse to the edge of town and leave it for the dogs to tear apart and the wind to scatter the nicely coloured plastics, which were then caught in the nearby bushes and trees, fluttering like a welcoming wave to incoming visitors.
However in the early 2000’s, both Bolivia and Peru decided to have a crack at the World Fly Tipping Champs, and their keen rivalry soon had the neighbouring South American nations well ahead of the traditional champions from Africa and India. It was however the Northern Peruvians that would adopt breakthrough techniques in 2017, that would propel Peru to the top of the leaderboard.
One of these was to dump their rubbish on the banks of the nearest river and wait for a flood to remove it for them.
This technique gained them international accolades for working hand in hand with nature. But the real breakthrough was like many great ideas, simple. An idea, in fact, so simple it had the whole nation wondering why they hadn’t thought of it earlier. Instead of transporting their rubbish to the edge of town or to the riverbank, why not just open the front door and biff it directly into the street? And so they did, to national acclaim.
Thus Peru, in 2018, became the Fly Tipping World Champions, and have held the title ever since. Not many people know that...
My trip into Lima is uneventful. With a population of 10 million it’s hard for me to get my head around the size of this city. I spend two hours lane-splitting and battling my way through to my destination, a B&B in the affluent suburb of Miraflores near the city centre. It’s a charming old single-story building, set amongst the newer high-rise apartments. A survivor from a bygone era, as is its lovely hostess. It reminds me of the hotel in the movie starring Judy Dench and set in India, called ‘Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’. Lots of old-fashioned charm with a good layer of patina.
I shared my breakfast table with my English-speaking hostess, and she was bemoaning the fact that climate change meant Lima was constantly in cloud these days and seldom saw blue skies. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that three hours either side of the massive Peruvian capital the skies were bright blue, and that the cloud she thought she was living under was in fact a thick brown blanket of smog.
I spend the next few days on the Pan American, heading north, not far from, but never quite seeing the ocean. It’s mostly desert here and there’s not a lot of traffic, mostly large trucks. Now and again I see another motorcycle traveller, occasionally a foreigner on a small local bike laden down with gear, and now and then a North American rider. They’re easier to see, usually traveling in convoy on their BMWs, spotlights ablaze. It’s nice to get a wave from a fellow sufferer.
It’s a long way between towns with any decent accommodation. I stay in Trujillo and enjoy the best spag bol I’ve ever tasted at a great Italian restaurant.
The town square (Plaza de Arms) is busy in the evening.
But as always, venture far from the centre and it’s back to the depressing reality.
The Pan American reminds me of some roads in Outback Australia, with vast distances between roadhouses. Australian outback roadhouses are something to look forward to and almost compulsory stops for a break from the road.
Pan American roadhouses don’t quite have the same Outback charm...
At last we reach the coast at Mancora and I stay in a resort not far from the ocean. It’s winter and I’m the only guest. But it’s blue skies and 29 degrees and they have cold beer and a pool. It’s $40 per night including breakfast. What’s not to like?
In the morning I carry on up the coast.
Towards noon I reach the border with Ecuador. It’s a rather confusing border crossing with Peruvian immigration now inside Ecuador and customs still in Peru, but eventually all the paperwork is completed and I’m on my way.
So, how was Peru? Well, it’s a bit of a shithole really. On Muzza’s shithole scale, Peru receives an 8 out of 10, the same as Bolivia.