Having soiled the hotel garage floor with oil and muck as we cleaned the dusty chains, we loaded up with a buffet breakfast (silly hotel) and headed out of Cajamarca on a decent tarmac road – HOORAY! Progress was swift, roads good and scenery amazing – especially the very welcome surprise of a picturesque green lake at the perfect swimming/posing for photos temperature. Our preconceptions of Peru were so far off – rather than consisting solely of mountains and llamas, Peru has everything from blasted Anden plateau to scorching, arid desert…completely different from how we’d imagined it to be!
Arriving at Trujillo proved more eventful than expected as Matt’s rear tyre deflated, necessitating a trip to a local “llantera” to have the puncture fixed. The mechanic was incredibly rapid and very deft – presumably from fixing countless lorry tubes – unfortunately his assistants weren’t quite as practiced as they “helped” us wrestle the fixed wheel back into place. Total puncture repair cost – 55p. Incredible.
The fixed innertube stood up well to the beautifully-tarmacced PanAmerican highway as we sped along, aiming for Lima. Unfortunately we failed to realise that the beautifully arid desert scenery and associated sidewind meant a vastly reduced fuel economy…the latter fact becoming evident when Matt’s bike conked through both “reserve” stages and into the “completely and utterly devoid of fuel” stage in the middle of the nowhere and the pitch-black Peruvian night. Oops. Probably due to extreme tiredness and annoyance, we proceeded with one of our dimmest ideas so far.
We carry about ten metres of high-tensile nylon cord for general use (lassooing cattle, restraining prisoners, etc) – which at the time seemed to be ideal for towing Matt’s bike. Struggling to hold onto the rope with one hand whilst balancing the bike with the other, Matt weaved from side to side behind Will as we resumed unsteady wobbling progress along the road and, to their great amusement, past two Peruvian traffic police who caught us up – just as Will had succeed in towing Matt off his bike and twenty yards down the road as Matt’s carefully engineered quick-release rope mechanism proved to be everything but. Expecting a good and proper dressing down, we were dumbstruck as the police laughed at us, told us they liked Elton John (also from England) and told us to follow them to the next village, where they woke up four families asking them for petrol. A local taxi driver, equipped with an old cooking oil barrel, sped off to bring back some fuel – we chatted to the policemen until he returned, filled the bikes up and eventually found a hotel for the night in Huarmey, the next town along the PanAmerican. What a day.
6am the next morning found us on the road towards Lima, probably the epicentre of everything truly manic about South American driving. Once one realises that being one of the swerving crazies is actually safer, progess is much swifter – welding a thumb to the horn button works wonders for the observation skills of other drivers. Our experience of Lima was rapid, distilled to the essence of terrible driving and a petrol station…we were spat out of the other side into more desert – still seems very strange to find that in Peru! – with some gigantic sand dunes marching alongside the highway. Will’s eagle eyes picked out motocross bike tracks across the dunes…so a quick right turn off the tarmac and we were racing the fully-laden XTs up sand dunes, straining to keep the fishtailing bikes in a straight line as they struggled for traction on the soft sand and steep slopes. Inevitable crashes proved hilarious as forward motion ceased and the bikes toppled sideways into the sand…great fun.
Civilisation deserted us as we continued towards Nazca into the desert, and as the sun set behind us, the sky took on a beautiful red-to-blue gradient, sweeping seamlessly from one to the other all around as the huge expanse of flat sand dominated the horizon…truly incredible. The sun had completely vanished as we descended from the desert plateau through tight canyon walls into Palpa, 30km short of the Nazca Lines – the next tick in the tourist attraction book.