Since Phil and Ward were heading south and I was still unsure about the bike, I decided to skip the eastern crossing which ended into the mountains of Peru and go for the more major road in case of failure.
Phil, his KTM and The Beast
Ken and Chip caught us the next morning at the gas station just before we crossed the border, and easy process and a quiet crossing. K, C and I had that nervous tic about fixers but this place was like paradise in the hell of border bullshit on the trip. There wasn't a fixer in sight, nor even money changer!
Checking out of Ecuador was easy and maybe fifteen minutes, then Peru was similarly easy, that is until Ward had to get his bike through the Aduana. His papers didn't match the passport and it stalled the process, the Aduana agent staying on the phone for an interminable amount of time. In the meantime, the quiet place developed a build up of people waiting and it wasn't too long before the natives were getting restless, three gringos at the head of a line holding up the entire process. A few times I heard "Americano" and turned to see some angry faces.
Previously, on the Ecuadoran side, a man had come up to me and asked about the bike, telling me he had a 1200 in Guayaquil and we had good but limited conversation. He ended up in line behind me and we continued our conversation in Peru. A few folks decided to try and cut the line, but were eventually shooed away. 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 worker and slip his in. Finally the agent told Ward to go outside so he could deal with the 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. As Ken said, the most satisfying sound in the world for an expedition is the thump of an official stamp, and it came fairly easily for the rest of us.
Ward, Chip and Ken checking out of Peru...
Ken and Chip hit the road for Chiclayo where we agreed to meet that evening for dinner. Ward's issue wasn't resolved for another 2 hours and while we waited, a crew of three Germans arrived in 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 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 bikes. Turns out he was the biggest seller of fake Viagra online and was taken down by law enforcement. They never got the bikes back.
The guy from Guayaquil I'd spoken with came over to wish me well, gave me a big hug and then told me he owned a hotel there and invited me to come stay for free next time.
Phil had told me to go on ahead with my plan and go to Piura or Chiclayo and not to wait for them, but I decided to hang out since we were traveling together. Finally the agent signed off on Ward's bike and we got going, only to be stopped a few km's down the road by the aduana checkpoint. Phil got a phone call and Ward needed to do some things with his bike, so Phil shouted at me to go on. About an hour later I saw no lights behind me so slowed significantly for a while, but I knew Ward was with him, so I continued on.
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 on and solo now, I kept remembering Hank's stories of being shaken down by the police a few times in Peru after crossing over, and as this rolled in my mind, I pulled to the right of a semi truck and caught a glimpse ahead of a lone police vehicle waiting. I whipped back behind the truck quickly and did the perfect "Smokey and the Bandit" pass keeping the truck between us and getting in front of him. I'm sure it was absolutely unnecessary but my paranoia was the ticket to a perfect move I'd always wanted to do :D
At the turn south outside Piura, I waited for a while in the heat for the guys to show in case they'd finished their stuff but saw no sign of them and headed on south towards Chiclayo. Delays and slow running had put us very late the previous night and I didn't want a repeat if possible.
South of Piura, the landscape really changed. From the 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. 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 lean was the norm, to be broken crazily when passing a truck or even a tree, with 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 wind. 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 insane.
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 across me, the bike and the windshield. Despite the barrenness and sense of being alone, I enjoyed the hell out of it, cutting the wind and rolling was all I cared about. After so long, I had no desire to shoot images or stop, just wanting to move and move and move.
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 river. Trash and garbage were piled along the streets and litter was everywhere, along with the accompanying smell. 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 Chiclayo to meet, so I pulled over in front a trike shop to try and 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.
Messaged Ward and Phil the name of the hotel, knowing they'd hit town and get wifi somewhere. I sent Ken a Whatsapp message and he immediately responded that they had hit the edge of town and were getting gas. Love that T-mobile.
I went for a walk, the town's sidewalks swarming like Manhattan at 5:30, a wild, crazy place of activity, noise and bustling people. Peru was quite different than Ecuador.