Updated: Dec 12, 2020
As previously mentioned, since I was still unsure about the bike's reliability, I had decided to skip my plan of taking the more easterly crossing into Peru which lead into the high Andes, and go for the major coastal road in case the unproven moto had problems.
Ron, his KTM and The Beast
Ken and Chip caught us the next morning at the gas station just before we crossed the border, an easy process and a quiet crossing. Ken, Chip and I had that nervous tic about fixers, but this place was like paradise in the hell of previous border crossings on the trip. There wasn't a fixer in sight, nor even a money changer!
Checking out of Ecuador was easy, maybe fifteen minutes, then Peru was similarly easy, that is until Ed had to get his bike processed through the Aduana. Ed had purchased the BMW F800GS in Colombia from another Canadian, and had done some wonky things to get it worked out. His registration papers didn't match his passport name and it stalled the quick process, the Aduana agent having to make calls and staying on the phone for an interminable amount of time. In the meantime, the quiet crossing had developed a line of people waiting, and it wasn't too long before the natives were getting restless. Their usual quick process was now lasting hours due to three gringos at the head of the line. A few times I heard "Americano" and turned to see some angry faces.
Previously, while checking out on the Ecuadoran side, a man had come up to me and asked about the bike, telling me he had a BMW R1200GS in Guayaquil and we had a good but limited conversation. He ended up in line behind me and we continued our conversation on the Peruvian side. A few folks decided to try and cut the line, but gentleman Ken was having none of it. I watched as one guy pulled some money out of his wallet surreptitiously and put it at the bottom of his paperwork to pay off the aduana worker and get his paperwork prioritized. Finally, the agent told Ed to go outside and wait so he could deal with the huge line. The bribe guy jumped in front of Ken and Chip, or rather tried to and was roundly yelled at by them and me. All our patience was running thin by then and he backed down, then disappeared.
Finally, as Ken said, the most satisfying sound in the world for a traveler is the thump of an official stamp, and the process came fairly easily for the rest of us.
Ed, Chip and Ken checking out of Peru...
Ken and Chip hit the road for Chiclayo, Peru where we agreed to meet that evening for dinner. Ed's issue wasn't resolved for another 2 hours and while we waited, a crew of three Germans arrived on old Africa Twins. We had a good conversation with them, as they'd been exploring South America for a total of seven years, storing their bikes in countries and returning for 6 or 7 weeks each year. At one point in the past, they'd returned to find they'd lost their bikes when the man who'd been storing them on his farm was busted by Interpol and all his property was seized, including their motorcycles. Turns out he was the biggest seller of fake Viagra online and was taken down by law enforcement. They never got their motorcycles back.
The man from Guayaquil whom I'd spoken with came over to wish me well, gave me a big hug and then told me he owned a hotel in Guayaquil and invited me to come stay for free next time.
Ron told me to go on ahead with my riding plan to either Piura or Chiclayo and not to wait for them, but I decided to hang out since we were traveling together. At long last, the agent signed off on Ed's bike and we got going, only to be stopped a few km's down the road at the aduana checkpoint. Ron got a long phone call while we were there and Ed had to do some things with his bike. Once we finally got going again, Ron was riding very fast, I could tell close to out of control because he was unfamiliar with the power and handling the big KTM was capable of. He was hitting the speed bumps or "topes" along the route with a lot of force. I kept a reasonable pace, knowing that a heavy and loaded adventure bike was at the limits of aftermarket suspension designs anyway, and was not going to risk blowing my suspension since I had to think about long term travel and had a long ways to go. Ed was traveling about my pace and somewhere along the way, he had to pull over once again. As I waited with him, Ron came racing back to us and swung around, pulling up and shouting at us angrily to speed up, with a few curse words thrown in for effect. They did have an effect on me, because after all the BS I'd been through with their various issues of unpreparedness and delays that took us into dangerous moments, I'd had enough. I had nearly 100,000 miles of motorcycle adventure travel under my belt and knew how to ride, and I wasn't in the mood to get cursed out by someone who had no idea what they were doing.
I shouted "See you later dude" and took off. He and Ed stayed on the roadside and disappeared behind me in the rear view mirror. After a month of stress and frustration, then the pressure to get on the road prematurely with them, only to get delayed and endangered by their lack of readiness, then to get screamed at as if I didn't know how to ride had just pushed my last button. I wouldn't have left either of them alone, but since they had each other and had planned to travel together anyway, I had no qualms about leaving. I wasn't angry, I just needed to get in my rhythm of travel and not be held back or distracted by silly things and make time south.
Just as I'd heard, Peru was dry, sandy and hot, with trash as far as the eye could see in many places. The change from Ecuador was substantial. Traveling solo now, I kept remembering all the stories and warnings of solo travelers that the Peruvian police were corrupt and shook down motorcyclists constantly, pulling riders over and taking their licenses only to hold them until they received a bribe. In most cases, I'd be fine with that, except that they radio down the line and every vehicle will stop you and extract another bribe. I had not seen any policemen so far but as I pulled to the right side of a semi truck, I caught a glimpse ahead of a lone police vehicle waiting under a roadside tree. I whipped back to the left side of the truck quickly and did a perfect "Smokey and the Bandit" pass, keeping the truck between myself and the police car, moving at a speed to get me in front of truck. It was probably unnecessary, but my paranoia was the ticket to a perfect move I'd always wanted to do :D
At the turn south on the outside edge of Piura, I pulled off and waited for a while in the heat for Ron and Ed to catch up but saw no sign of them. I had taken a less traveled route and realized they might have stayed on the main road for Piura, in which case I would miss them anyway. I headed on south towards Chiclayo. The delays and slow running that had put us so late the previous night I did not want to repeat and wanted to make a hotel at a reasonable hour.
South of Piura, the landscape really changed. From desert scrub it became vast stretches of windblown sand as far as the eye could see, tattered plastic bags and trash from horizon to horizon. I wondered how a country could be so trash covered and later found out the trash trucks merely pulled into the desert and dumped city trash onto the ground, not burying it. As a result, the constant winds blew trash all across the landscape of complete regions of Peru.
People lived amidst the barren, windy sand flats in houses made of reed mats, cane and pieces of plywood. It was hard to imagine how on earth they made a living, as well as how they tolerated the conditions.
Further south towards Chiclayo, the winds grew and a constant motorcycle lean was the norm, to be broken crazily when passing a truck or even a tree, the sudden jerk of acceleration and swerve towards the object, belying the force of wind so hard to judge.
Despite my constant focus and fears of the bike failing, it was hard to deny the fact of what a machine I was on, blasting through the winds like a battleship in an ocean of air. This was what the big GS was made for. Long, high speed hauls and I was glad I was on it.
The few small towns along the way introduced me to the little trike "motocars", motorcycles with a passenger compartment on the rear and swarming like ants in the towns and roadways. It was insanity.
As I motored further south, the winds increased, as did the epic scenes of desolation, huge sand dunes here and there, flats of sand that went to the horizon and constant sand pelting me, the bike and the windshield. Despite the barrenness and sense of being alone, I enjoyed the hell out of it, slashing through the wind with wheels rolling was all I cared about. I had no desire to shoot images or stop, just wanting to move and move and move after being stuck off the bike for so long. I'd kept up with my shipmates by text and Facebook, only to see them far ahead, some reaching Ushuaia and some already shipping motorcycles home, while I languished in Ecuador.
It was getting late when I finally made Chiclayo and turned into the traffic swarmed streets, engulfed in the trikes and insane driving like a nightmare steel river. Trash and garbage were piled along the streets and litter was everywhere, along with the accompanying stench. I'd been warned, but it was still surprising to experience.
I had no idea where I was going, since we'd made no plans other than to get to Chiclayo to meet, so I pulled over in front a trike shop to Google a hotel. I was met with several guys wanting to look at the bike and finally Google loaded, showing a hotel with parking a few blocks away. It took a while to get there, but I finally arrived and got the bike unloaded and parked a few blocks down the street.
I messaged both Ed and Ron the name of the hotel where I was staying, knowing they'd eventually hit town and get wifi somewhere. I also sent Ken a Whatsapp message and he immediately responded that they had reached the edge of Chiclayo and were getting gas. I was very happy my T-mobile account had worked so well in South America. I'd switched to the provider because I knew they were owned by the cell company that had built most of the cellular infrastructure in South America, and my international plan had worked almost flawlessly on the trip. For a $5 fee, I had unlimited text and data in all the countries with direct calls costing 20¢ a minute. Data meant WhatsApp, the main form of communication in Central and South America, was free for calls and messages. Texts made staying in contact easy as well.
I went for a walk, the town's sidewalks swarming like Manhattan at 5:30 pm, a wild, crazy place of activity, noise and bustling people. Peru was quite different than Ecuador.