This is the story of a tough trip up the coast from Lima, Peru to The Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. Tough, because much of the Pan Pacifico Highway is still an arid, lifeless desert. Tough, because some of it has hills and dales. Tough, because in the midst of enjoying Peru we were accosted and ROBBED at GUN POINT. Hey, that’s an old story but it’s having a lasting affect. You’ll meet plenty of new friends and a few old ones, too. The culmination of this leg of our Odyssey is a long time dream, a visit to The Galapagos Islands. Share the pain of the road and the joy of discovery. Meet giant Tortoise and Iguana. Swim with SHARKS. That and more is waiting for you in the following pages. Have a great read.
An e-Mail FROM RAUL
hi!!! i was wondering where would you be months from now...well im sure all around the world...because the importan thing about travelling around the world...is to leave something important about you in the place...and make sure that someone knew you un the other part of the world...make sure that someone is going to remeber you even after you leave the country...i am gald to ever know you and talk to you...i wish to you both the best of lucks....people like you is the people that changes the world...the ones that doesnt wants to leave the world without knowing how beautyful can it be. I hope you answer me soon and i hope most that your journey ends up not just being a journey ti the world...but a journey into yourselfs...
i once read in a grave..."i am not dead...im steel alive if someone out there keep remebering me"...that is what you both are gona ritch...INMORTALITY!!!
ps send me photos from the mercury restaurant!!
Raul, a young guy working in a music store in Lima, Peru helped us choose a traditional Peruvian CD to replace the one taken by the Banditos. When he heard the story of our lose he became interested. Later we received this wonderful e-mail and it seems to reflect a part of our basic philosophy of life. Sure, family and friends are important but its actions and deeds that lead to change in the lives of people around us, maybe even in the world. We believe these eventually become the hallmarks of our lives, just helping, teaching and giving of ourselves. So, we hope that you’re one of those who find something in these journal pages that makes even a small difference in your life. You see, we believe that when you get a thought or idea from us and pass it along to another you are perpetuating our chain of thought. Others downstream in the chain may not even know you or us yet through you and our experience they may change, learn and grow. Isn’t that a form of IMORTALITY?
Perhaps small changes prompted by our observations will lead to a better understanding of people or places in the world. We agree with Albert Einstein’s theory, “Peace can not be won, it only comes through UNDERSTANDING!
Thanks Raul, your kind thoughts may have earned you a piece of immortality.
Lima, Peru to The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
March 24, 2005
A Day in Lima
The breakfast here at Casa Andina is worth waiting for. Our room is comfortable and quiet. Saw a fellow traveler trying to sleep with his window open. There are rooms that face the walkways. Has to be tough. The only feasible answer is to close yourself in and use the AC. He may have the same sinus problems that we’ve suffered from in the cold blast of air.
The bikes have been tuned and are ready to go. We didn’t really even know where the bike shop was located, had to call our friend and fellow cyclist Jorge in order to find the place. The owner whose name escapes us has a t-shirt that we admired. It simply said, “Impossible is Nothing”.
My Real Estate Brokers License has expired. Base Camp Charlie mailed a package of study materials so that I may complete the required courses for renewal. For the sake of ease he chose to ship DHL? We had it addressed to Bob and Linda, the couple we met in Cuzco. That was a mistake. Now DHL wants them to sign an affidavit as to the contents to satisfy the Aduana. Of course they’re leery, we would be too. They don’t know us and definitely don’t know the contents of our package. I asked DHL, on the telephone, and they can’t release it to us. I asked about changing the package to our names, they say that id impossible. Damn DHL!
Lots of typing for me, Cat explored Miraflores. They say this neighborhood is safe. With the number of Policia and Private Security Guards standing around it’s easy to see why. She found bread, ham and cheese and set the spread in our room for lunch.
More of same this afternoon for both of us. Cat wants me to see the Larcomar, a huge Shopping Center on a cliff above the Pacific. She scoped out an Italian Restaurant. We took a taxi and she guided me into an Orange County, California experience. Music and lights fill the cool night air. Store after store, small shops to big department stores. A huge food court and a separate group of upscale restaurants. Our place was there and had just opened para la cena. (For Dinner)
Cat had a great Pizza, I chose Oso Bucco, veal with a rich gravy. Fantastico!
March 25, 2005
Another Lazy Lima Day
Awe the breakfast, well, the French Toast. If we stay here too long we’ll be too heavy to pedal.
Decided to take a taxi into downtown Lima searching for sandals and a swimsuit. The freeway drivers run fast and furious. Our taxi driver was either an expert or a retired kamikaze pilot. The taxi could almost be WWII vintage. We held on and hoped his tires would hold up.
Downtown has it’s moments but most is a lot like Los Angeles, just another big city. There are fewer homeless looking people on the streets here than LA. We did get some good photos of the nicer areas.
The quest for sandals and suit led us to a pedestrian street lined with shops of every description. One area seemed to specialize in shoes. Funny, we both have a problem. Cat’s feet are too small and mine, too big. Every shop dug to the bottom of their supply then ran up and down the walkway trying to find sandals to fit. I got lucky in a large department store. They had a pair size 46 that fit fine. They’re yellow and stand out like a sore thumb but then, sometimes I like that. Cat had to settle for a pair of children sized sandals. We’ve avoided the sandal scene but now, we’re faced with almost a year of tropical and desert heat.
Lunch at a cheap diner featuring mediocre spaghetti. Then back to Miraflores and the journal for me. Cat concentrated on reading and answering messages on the Internet.
Dinner with Bob and Linda at Larcomar. They brought the package of bike parts and water bottles that our friends at LandRider had sent to us. Strange, the shipper had no problem with Customs and didn’t require hoop jumping? Damn DHL!
We sat on the deck, overlooking the ocean and drank in the cool sea air as we talked. Sharing travel experiences is always great fun. Bob has been with the Caterpillar Tractor Company for several years. They’ve lived in lots of out of the way places around the world. His current task is delivering and installing new equipment to a Gold Mine near Cajamarca, a mountain town in the North that sits above 4,000 meters. (13,200 feet) The customer is trying to force him to live there but he negotiated that option out of his contract before taking the job. He spends several days there then back here, to reality. Linda stays here in Lima but is tired of it and hasn’t felt well recently. She’s decided to head home to Australia later this week. Bob will batch it until the job is completed in December. We think there’s a bit of homesickness mixed into Linda’s malady.
Good food and a great night with nice people.
March 26, 2005
Last Day in Lima
Just another lazy day in Lima. Breakfast the computer. Cat watched her favorite TV shows then took a walk. I pecked away at the journal.
Taking a break in the afternoon we did lunch at Norky’s. A place down the street that reminds us of Denny’s Restaurants back home except they specialize in Chicken and its quite good. Next adventure, a search for sandals and exploration of downtown Lima. The square is much more than we thought it would be. The reports from guide books and locals makes it sound like Hell City. We watched our backs and kept the camera out of sight but the place didn’t seem that dangerous to us. In fact we found it quite picturesque and we found sandals that fit.
Back to Norky’s for dinner, of course we enhanced the chicken with a bottle of so-so, Peruvian, Chardonnay.
Easter Sunday, March 27, 2005
Lima to Ancon
Lovely last breakfast with French toast and syrup then bikes down to the court and load bags. There we were surrounded by a group of Belgians we’d met at breakfast. They were taking pictures and asking questions, we had to have a pic of them. Then we got the staff together and posed for our Andina Photo in front of the Hotel. It’s almost like leaving family behind. They all shake our hands or hug and kiss cheeks in almost emotional goodbyes.
A slow start then Cat’s shifter began to act up. I tried to adjust it and the belt tension. We pulled up in a parking lot on a cliff, overlooking the beach. As I puttered with it a couple cycled up and started a conversation with Cat. Marisel and Carlos live here and love cycling. They offered to take us to a friend who works on bikes but we declined. Their friend would only say, “I’ve never seen anything like this before”.
No fix, the shifter is stuck? It’s new, either the Bike shop played with it or I’ve got it adjusted wrong? Onward, despite the difficulty. We’re following Jorge’s written directions and moving along fairly well. Found ourselves in the midst of a 10k race, guys and gals came galloping past at break neck speeds. As we pondered direction at a corner a cyclist, Omar, rode up and offered to help. He’s a Cycling Tour Guide. He took command and led us to the main road before saying goodbye.
The traffic is thick, maybe families headed to Church or brunch for the Holiday? Warned over and over, we’re happy to report that we met no thieves on our way out of Lima!
A Shell Service Station seemed a good place to have a soft drink and fix Cat’s bike. She was struggling on the up hills due to lack of gears. After moving the umbrella off the ice cream machine we had a little shade while we sipped. Yes, as we move inland it heats up. Cooled down, we pushed the bikes around back and I installed a new shifter with the help of Jose, a guy who was washing a truck nearby. He held the shifter in place while I tightened the bolt. Surprisingly little time lost, thanks to Juan the change was a quick one. I also think it was I who caused the problem. Cat’s frame is bent slightly, probably from airport handling? Trying to compensate, I have loosened the shifter up, too much.
Preparing to ride, a guy pulled up in a MBZ Roadster. Martjin works with CitiBank in Lima but is really tired of the job. They want to transfer him, he’s spent the weekend away, thinking about it. His decision is to refuse the transfer even if they threaten to fire him. He says he’s only an employee number to them. From Holland originally, he’s lived in Lima for 10 years and likes it. His friends are here and he doesn’t want to start over.
With the shifter clicking along we really clipped along. The route flattened then made a slow decent then a fast steep down to the beach. Ancon is near the Camino, we rode through the streets then asked direction to a Hotel. The staff at Casa Andina had called a place and made a reservation. There was a band playing and people dancing at the church. The beach was loaded with sunbathers and there are some big yachts in the harbor. It was a beautiful, sunny Easter afternoon: Directed around the point, we drew a dead end then cycled back. A Hostal, La Posada de la Pirata looked like the only game in town. It’s a 180 year old house. The owner, Jose Daniel spoke English, he’s lived in States. He attended University then worked in the Hotel and Restaurant business. He claims that the Hotel we asked about has been closed. We showed him the telephone number, he shrugged and said, “Maybe they re-opened”? Then he pointed up a really steep hill and told us to head that way. After a moments hesitation we asked what his room rate for the night would be. . .
Cheap, we took a table and were his only late lunch customers. Cat checked the room, it was one of those, “Hey it’s only for 1 night” kind of decisions. While we ate Jose Daniel called out to a passerby. Victor, from Lima lives his summers here but is headed back to Lima, tomorrow. Easter marks the end of summer. He had a Kayak paddle in his hand but told us he’s also a cyclist. Their group is called “Bad Boys”, no women riders. They ride hard and fast. He invited us to visit when we get back to Lima.
Cold showers, twin beds and a few local channels on TV. Well, only 1 night and only 60 Soles or less than $20. Dinner at the same table we had for lunch, out on the front porch. The crowd has disappeared, the beach is deserted. The food was like frozen fish dinners. Probably fresh fish but dipped in batter and fried.
Surprise, somehow Jose Daniel had tuned us to CNN. We caught Larry King then drifted off to slumberland.
March 28, 2005
Ancon to Chancay
46 Kilometers (6 out and back to Truck Route)
A decent breakfast and send off into a foggy morning. There are 2 roads out of Ancon, one for trucks and buses, the other for cars. We’ve been warned by cyclist friends not to take the truck route. So, we cycled fast out what was marked as the Pan Americano only to reach a Policia gate and find that we couldn’t go further, this is the truck and bus only route? So, back into Ancon to the overpass then around and down onto the Pan Americano for cars. An additional 6 Ks, 3 out and 3 back added to what we thought would be a short, easy day.
Instantly out of town and into the sand dunes. Then a long slow climb that terminates as the highway separates and swings left. At that point we were on a long steady push for the next hour. This is the 500 meter (1,650 foot) climb that Martjin had warned us of. As we rose above the sand it was a clear view of the half finished or half falling down Pueblo, below. The fog had dissipated yet when we rounded the corner near the top of the hill the area back to the left, where Ancon lies, was still enshrouded.
The long push made the simple looking ride on the map stretch to a 4 hour push and pedal. The Pan Americano cuts through the west side of Chancay. The Policia at the round about indicated that a hotel is off to the left. We made the circle then stopped and dug out the guide book to look at the little map. A guy walked up and started talking in halting English. He became excited when I described our journey and handed me a booklet with info on Chancay. He works with the Officina de Tourismo. He confirmed that we’d find 2 hotels further down the street.
Down was the word, we rolled easily in moderate traffic, right up to the door of the Hotel While waiting I even got a picture of the bikes in repose against a planter. Cat checked the room and decided it would be okay for the night. There is a restaurant here and an Internet Connection, all under one roof.
The room is at least okay. The shower felt great. A long walk to the ocean front, a cliff overlooking what could be a great strand. However, it is either in disrepair or under construction and looks pretty bad. The road down is steep and dirt. The roadway along the strand is also dirt. Looks like a great opportunity for some forward thinking person.
Dinner down, a slow process. The woman who appears to be manager seated us. We were the only customers in the place. After 20 minutes we got her attention and asked if we could order? That taken care of, we sat back and waited, 20 minutes, 30 minutes, then asked again. She seemed a bit indignant and indicated that food was coming. Lo, in another 10 it was in front of us. Not bad, not great, definitely the slow delivery dinner winner of the trip.
A Fall From Grace, At The Internet Place
They have an Internet place adjacent to the Hotel Lobby. We stopped in to check messages. Cat scanned them then decided to head for the bed. I continued answering and writing. Suddenly, the rickety chair folded in mid sentence. I crashed down to the hard floor, on my back. The young guy in charge and several others rushed to my aid. They all started trying to lift me, unaware that my legs were stuck beneath the desk. I started yelling, they kept tugging. Finally I yanked my arms free and scooted back. At last, their help was appreciated. I logged off and took my aching back up, to bed.
March 29, 2005
Chancay to Huacho
After a pretty good breakfast we rolled the bikes down the stairway and out, onto the street. It’s a one way and it ain’t goin’ our way. A guy on the sidewalk told us we had to go 2 cuadras over to the left. It was a push on a rough dirt street then a ride back up toward the Highway in heavy traffic.
A little medical update, my back is really sore. Both elbows ache, we’ve decided that I’m getting too old to do comedy routines like the collapsing chair last night. Yet, we do laugh as I recount the moment, laying there unable to get up. Yes, too old!
Once back on the Camino, we fought for space on a narrow, bumpy road. The traffic at first was bumper to bumper but thinned as we got to the edge of town. Then, we were thrust onto a 4 lane divided road. Its all ups and downs, some small some not.
At the top of one hill we witnessed a family placing a wreath at a cross. Probably a memorial of what must have been a family member, before the crash. From that point we could see only brown, the green that has been lining the route has dried up, completely. These areas are amazing, completely void of any plants.
Rolling down a long hill at good speed we came upon a terrible crash scene. Approaching, we could see two trucks, one in the median, the other off to the right, on its side. We cycled into the carnage, hundreds of chickens, some loose some still trapped in cages. Some dead, some dying. A crew of highway workers were scurrying around, trying to catch those still living. The road is covered with blood, feathers and dead chickens. We had to pick our way through the mess. It looks like the truck in the median must have crashed into the rear of the chicken truck at very high speed.
Then, as we pulled through the chicken killing field we saw an even more brutal scene. The driver and helper were still trapped in the cab of the other truck. The nose of their rig was crushed back, into their bodies. The guy on the passenger side was almost free, they hooked a cable to the crushed truck and began to pull. The cable snapped and in the backlash, almost hit him. Sometimes the rescue is more dangerous for the inured than the crash it’s self. We only stayed a few minutes, too brutal to just stand and watch. Oh yes, as in all things in life, “Some good comes from this terrible event”. Several locals were chasing running chickens, thinking of the meal they will mean for their families.
The crash was still visible in our mirrors when we pulled into a restaurant that looked like a temporary shack. The guy didn’t seem to mind that we had sandwiches made day before yesterday. He was happy that we bought 4 soft drinks. After our first was guzzled down we helped ourselves rather than interrupt his lunch. A woman rode up on a bicycle followed by 4 large dogs. She interrupted him and bought some little item. It made us happy to see her and her pups move on just before we finished eating.
The ride is still bland, brown sand even though we’re cycling near the sea shore. Getting into Huacho was another challenge. Rolling along we fell in behind a herd of goats being driven right down the highway. The herdsmen were running with them, trying to get to the open field and off the road. Our share of the roadway is now covered with droppings. Little chocolate drops that stick to our wheels and fly up toward us.
We had to cycle all the way through town to find the only Hotel. The room was okay and there’s an Internet connection just down the street.
Hot, we were happy to see a small swimming pool in a crowded courtyard. We suited up, took a quick cold showered then dove in. Not very clean but very refreshing. We lay in the sun and watched as a young girl dressed in white pushed an old guy through the door and onto the poolside deck. She got him situated then helped him eat, or pretty much fed him. He is bent over and has tremors. Our poolside diagnosis is Parkinson’s Disease. The nurse either loves her job or the old guy. She treats him very gently, brushing his hair back out of his face and pulling his stooped back up straight and holding his head upright, over and over. Then, when he had finished his food she took him for a walk. She had to hold him, he leaned against her and shuffled down the pool deck. When she turned to bring him back he proved to be too much for her. She called out and another gal came running. They both worked to keep him upright as they got him bad to his wheelchair. Our interest may be rooted in the knowledge that we may be in the same condition, some day.
We showered, a cold shower in our room then ate at a place next door. After a quick check of our e-mails we took our tired bodies to bed.
March 30, 2005
Muacho to Barranca
Coffee and bread then off to Barranca. The exit is typical, tough traffic in town then back to the divided roadway.
The brown ground gave way to agriculture. The road is now lined with chili pepper, sugar cane and corn fields. Also large fields of chili peppers and corn drying in the sun. A brick oven smoldered and belched smoke as they fired and finished their product.
Raimund Rides Into the Wind
A cyclist rode toward us then crossed and greeted us. Raimund from Germany is on a difficult journey from Venezuela to Lima. He rides 150 kilometers daily. These days the wind that has been our friend has him struggling at times. If we understood correctly he has been cycling from Alaska doing it in 2 month legs each year. He gets off work and rides hard, every year. When we told him that he must be tough to ride so far against this wind he pounded his right thigh and said, “I strong, I go okay”! He has a girl friend but she isn’t into this extremely regimented style of cycling. Raimund says that he will finish his big ride next year. He reminds us of Harley, the Professor at UC Berkeley. You may remember him? He rides across the US every year, heading east from California, cycling as far as he can go in 2 months.
The short distance we’re traveling put us in Barranca by 1:00 PM. Hotel Chavin is purported to be the nicest place in town. It surprised us, as we rode in there it was, right on the main street. They have a driveway under part of the building leading to a parking lot. Once checked in the bellman helped us take bags inside then store the bikes in a garage area out back.
They originally had us n a room overlooking the main street. I did the look and came back asking for a quieter place. After a lot of study and discussion they took me to see another. It overlooked the pool and parking. Nicely furnished, this would do, just fine.
Showers, lunch in the café downstairs then Internet down the street for a couple of hours.
A relaxing hour watching subtitled TV and sipping a glass of wine then dinner down. A family, Mom, Dad and two boys seated nearby were speaking English. We didn’t bother them, too tired and too hungry. .
March 31, 2005
A day in Barranca
Brain Dead Girl Dies Terry Schiavo
The gal, Trish and her two boys, Josh and Nicholas, that we saw at dinner last night were next to us a breakfast. Thought we’d heard English being spoken and it was. They’re from Vancouver, Canada and the Dad and husband, Henri, works for the Large Gold Mine in Cajamarca. They’re here on a few days off but he had to work this morning. The Mine has a Port here for shipping the ore. They live in Huarez, Peru a town at 10,000 feet (3100 meters). They’ve been here for 2 years. There is a third son age 14 who is at
a boarding school in Canada. They have an American School in Huarez but it only goes to grade 8. Really a nice family.
We found an Internet connection just around the corner. The morning of reading and writing e-mails passed quickly. Back to Hotel Chavin for lunch by the pool. We dressed for a dip but didn’t. Trish and the boys were there. The guys were into swimming and sliding down the twisting water slide. We ordered hotdogs and talked with Trish as we ate. Only out for a little over and hour but both of us got sunburned.
One Way or the Other, You’re Off to a Better Place!
I spent the afternoon typing journal pages and watching CNN out of one eye. The big news of the day, Terry Schiavo died. She’s the brain dead girl who had told her husband that she didn’t want to be kept alive if in a vegetative state. Her parents have fought him for 7 years regarding whether it was her wish or not. Our Christian Right led government let the separation of Church and State grow narrowly thin when they attempted to circumvent the years of decisions up to and including the State and Federal Supreme Courts. For some reason TV always said that the Husband wanted to take her feeding tube out but the “family” was against it. Isn’t “the husband” family? Someone did quote the Bible, stating that when the woman marries the husband makes the decisions for the “family”. Sounds like something that our Southern Baptists friends would agree with except in this instance. Here they, and many zealots, want it the other way. It’s not about the right to die, just who has the right to make the decision.
Dinner down, we had the place to ourselves. Pasta and good Pasta it was.
Tough to hear the TV, the guys in the next room were throwing a very noisy party. We dozed off but were awakened at 3:00 AM by a woman crying and a man shouting “Puta”, whore. I put up with it for a couple of minutes then pounded on the wall. That stopped them for a few minutes, the voices lowered then the fight was back on. I really pounded then called the front desk. There’s no reason not to report abuse and this sounded like abuse. We heard the knock on their door and words being spoken then the party and fight were over, at least for this night.
Some time during the good times and bad next door I came down with the Guff Guff. Cat has had it for a couple of days, now I join her.
April 1, 2005
A Day of Diarrhea in Barranca
Between the toilet trots and the noise next door it was a very short night. So, tired and drained, literally, we made a decision to sit out a day. Try to heal and rest.
Breakfast then a short walk to the beach. It’s down a cliff and looks pretty simple. We just looked over but chose not to go down.
Another Hot Dog luncheon poolside. Another hour with the Canadian family. Even Henri was here, and talked between dips.
A little typing for the journal but most of the afternoon was spent laying around, watching TV. A typical sick day for WR2.
Dinner down, again. The family came in and we had another nice chat while dining.
April 2, 2005
Barranca to Huarmey
A Good Man, PJPII Died Today
A bit of sad but expected news this morning, Pope John Paul II died during the night. A good man, I attended and audience with him when cycling Around the World in 1988. Yes, 8,000 other best friends and I gathered and listened as he spoke in 8 or 9 languages. There was a delegation from Yugoslavia and he spoke of the hate and waste caused by religious factions there. It was very touching. Then at the close of the service he walked down the aisle. People, struggling to touch him, were calling out, “Papa, Papa”. I have a nice little clip of video I’ll have to share here when we get back home.
Breakfast at 7:00 but try as we might for an early start it was after 9:00 AM by the time we were loaded and ready to roll. Henri, Trish and boys came by for a goodbye then we rolled. It’s 100 Ks today and we are worried about the heat and potential for hills. Henri did say that the road is fairly flat. They also recommended the Yellow Hotel in the middle of Huarmey. They have stayed there and prefer it but the other place just outside town has a swimming pool. They can’t pass up pools.
At least a dry 90 degrees in the shade and no shade in sight. We sat with our backs to the blazing sun and ate the very dry sandwiches the Hotel had packed for us.
The final 15 Ks was a downhill run into Huarmey. The Pan Americano is the main street. It was easy to spot the Hotel, the big yellow building on the right, just as Henri and Trish had described. The gracious owners, Sylvia and Peter greeted us with enthusiasm and in English. He had studied in the US, she lived there, in Boston for more than 10 years. They had us bring the bikes in, sit and chat while downing a huge pitcher of cold lemonade.
Yes, we were a little tired after riding 99 Ks but it had gone well. The last downhill run helped. So, we relaxed and showered even caught a movie, before dinner.
And the dinner was delicious. Peter and Sylvia want their guests to feel at home, actually this is their home. They live here in the Hotel and have since buying it 4 years ago.
A short walk around the corner and a quick check on the Internet. The place was full of kids, curious about two Gringos. As I finished a note on e-mail Cat sat out front and talked with 3 young girls. They even escorted us back to the Hotel to get our cards. Then, big hugs and good wishes full of promises of e-mails they’ll send our way.
Sunday, April 3, 2005
Huarmey to Casma
A tasty and filling breakfast and we were ready for the road. Peter was in attendance and was wishing us well when Sylvia came in wearing her nightgown. We wanted a picture, she felt under dressed. A compromise, they stood behind the counter.
Off, into the wind and blowing sand. Today was Cat’s day for the Guff Guff. She began feeling nauseous and the feeling increased as we climbed away from the sea. Not a bush in site, she had to squat behind a little rock. A passing truck honked, they may have seen her but vanity was the last thing on her mind, at that moment. The Guff Guff urges came in surges. Two more stops in quick succession.
A Solid GOLD Oasis
An oasis, rows of green trees and fields. We would have thought it only a place where water is abundant if Henri hadn’t told us about it. The mine, high above in the hills, uses lots of water to separate the gold from the tailings. Rather than waste the water they pipe it down and use it to make things grow. Yes, an oasis, a solid gold oasis.
Peter had told us of a Restaurant out here, in the middle of nowhere. At kilometer marker #348 we found Restaurante La Balsa and Clemente. We have the 2 day old left over sandwiches. He smiled and invited us to sit at a table and eat. We ordered soft drinks, he served them then brought out a treasured possession, his photo album. Clemente has been serving cyclists for several years. No one can pass here on a bike, it’s just too far from anywhere. His book is full of photos given him by cycling visitors and their words are written on the tattered pages. We saw the photo and words of French friends, Frederick and Laurencia, you remember, we met them in Uyuni, Bolivia. I wrote down the e-mail addresses of several and told Clemente that I’d try to contact them. He asked us to tell them he says hello. When it came time to pay up he refused? In Spanish with a few English words he got his point across, “Bicis stay and eat, no pay”.
Cat was beginning to feel better as we pulled the next big hill. On the way up a 4WD passed, honked and slowed. They had several flags flying from the roof. When they topped out they pulled over and waited for us. A family, Raul, Ariela and their son, Heuyerbert are from Venezuela. They’re making a big circle tour of South America. Our ignorance of the Spanish language and their lack of English made talk difficult. Raul has a Bible lying on the dashboard so we figured they must be meeting friends of the same denomination or, spreading the word?
It’s been all up and away from Clemente’s place until we hit this down. Then a slight turn into a crosswind and it might as well have been up all the way. (Cross as in from our right side and cross as in angry.) The sand dunes were shifting and drifting about on the Pan Americano, blowing into our faces, up our noses and into our eyes. A problem for me, a real pain for Cat who wears contact lenses. We passed a local cyclist struggling along in the wind. At the top of a slight rise I pulled up to get his picture. He had dismounted and was pulling his overloaded 3 wheeler through the drifting sand.
Casma is a simple Peruvian town. Lots of MotoTaxis buzzing around. A steady stream of traffic to deal with. Then, the mystery of the missing Hotel. The signs for Hotel Farol led us to the Plaza. From there we had to play the ask, ask game. After a couple of bad directions we learned that it was sort of hidden, a couple of blocks off the Pan Americana.
After a nice shower we walked around a little, even found a bottle of wine. A real bonus since the restaurant at the Hotel El Farol has none. Dinner was fair, thin, pounded steak and canned veggies. We’ve had a lot worse!
April 4, 2005
Casma to Chimbote
Breakfast and a new friend, Miguel. He works with Sunshine Exports, a fruit and vegetable grower. They specialize in Mangos and Avocado. He’s lives in Lima but is headed toward Piura where they have farms. When we told him how we love Mangoes he shook his head and said, “Too bad, season just ended”. Interesting, he has a very Peruvian first name and very Chinese last. His parents immigrated to Peru, he was born here. They may own Sunshine Co.? His brother lives in Canada. When I asked if he’s involved in agriculture too Miguel said, “No, he works in shipping. He receives our exported fruits there, in Vancouver.” As we snapped a picture with Miguel the woman who had served us breakfast ran out with a camera. She started to take our picture then I asked Miguel to take one of her with us. She was so excited that we had to have one, too.
With the exception of one big hill that required one long push, the ride was pretty uneventful. At least until we were about 15 Ks out of Chimbote. There, the wind began to howl. It has been present almost all day but really picked up after 2:00 PM: Then it became cross again. Even more forceful than yesterday. Trucks passing to the south would almost blow us off the road. This sand was more than an eye full. It stung our arms and legs. A real painful hour.
We’ve been sort of dreading Chimbote. Many have told stories as though it’s a terrible place. A fishing town, full of canneries, we’ve heard the story of it’s bad smell from at least 5 sources. The more worrisome stories are of legendary theft and robbery.
At the stoplight we found ourselves in a fairly large town with the usual traffic and trash blowing around. However, no smells, bad or good, and no attempted theft, at least not yet.
A couple of young guys pulled up on bikes as we surveyed a mediocre looking Hotel. They insisted that Hotel Libertador was the best in town and costs the same. At least that was the message they seemed to be trying to get across. They urged us to follow. Cat was nervous, is it a trap? They led us back up the Main Street and around the corner. We had read about Hotel Tourista but no one seemed to know where it was or if it existed? Libertador has gone through change. It’s now called Tourista. Maybe the Libertador chain lost confidence or money? The boys appeared to have led our of the goodness of their hearts? The elder told me that the young one was a bici racer and they were training. They got us to the door, stood and watched as Cat went in and checked on rooms then waved, shook my hand and rode off smiling and laughing.
The Hotel is old and tired but located on the beach front. Well, not really a beach, a sea wall. From the room we can see the fishing fleet but can’t smell the evidence of their catches. We drug the bikes up a wide and elegant stairway, 2 full flights. The Bellmen tried to help but insisted on lifting the back of the bike rather than rolling up the stair. When they lift the rear wheel it makes it impossible to roll the front and I end up having to lift, too. That really puts pressure on my torn rotor cuff. I stopped and asked Cat to come show them how it’s done. With a little struggle we got my bike up to the 1st landing. The guys got the message but grabbed her bike and jus carried it up.
It was 2:00 PM, we ate our ham and cheese in the room then showered. Off to the market, an old guy, 92 years young, stopped us at the doorway and tried to chat. He gave up but insisted that it’s too dangerous to walk around in Chimbote. He and his helper made us come with them. At his apartment he dismissed the helper to continue guarding us. Very nice of him but we felt no threat. He did lead us directly to a Super Market where we found a great bottle of Chardonnay, crackers and cheese.
The balance of the afternoon we hovered over a keyboard in the local Internet place. The unescorted walk back was uneventful. Chimbote isn’t living up to it’s reputation, thank goodness.
Dinner down, the only patrons. Food as quite good.
April 5, 2005
Chimbote to Viru
A Prince of a Guy Dies
Yes, we learned in Spanish that the ailing Prince Rainer of Monaco died. You remember him, he married Grace Kelly the well known American actress who became the really famous Princess Grace. Later, we heard a quote we loved, “Monaco, a sunny place full of shady people”
The streets of Chimbote were awash with cars, Motos, trucks and buses. They stirred up the dirt and dust. At the edge of town we pulled into a service station and bought sandwiches for today’s lunch. It was 9:30 AM by the time we pedaled away. Our nostrils had been spared and our wallets were still intact.
The brown sand began to green up. Fields of sugarcane lined the Pan Americana. Suddenly it felt tropical, even a little rain squall. Little ups and downs but the change in temperature and scenery had an uplifting affect on our spirits. The long downhill run toward Viru didn’t hurt, either. Funny, a sign at the gate of one of the many farms said, “Temperatura 22 C., Humididad 82 %”. It was painted on, so we assume the weather is the same, everyday.
At Viru, we saw no sign of a Hotel of any kind. Just a small crossroads Pueblo. Asking, we finally found a bus driver who told us that Viru is 2 Ks off the highway. The rain began to drizzle again as we rode through the tropics. Viru is another small place but in an out of the way location. At the Central Plaza we found a group of Policia. They all spoke in unison and pointed to the next corner.
The Hostal is a simple place, almost a family home. The portly woman was full of smiles and Spanish words that went right over our heads. She had us park the bikes under the stairway. Our room is really small, twin beds with just a narrow walkway between. The bath is just as space conservative. Hardly room to turn around. There’s an old water heater at the top of the stair so we were heartened. However, the new hasn’t been installed. The smiling lady told Cat that they had termal heat. Hopes that she meant thermal or maybe even solar faded as the cold continued to spew. So it was boat showers again. You know, wet down, shut down the water, soap down then a hasty rinse down.
A stroll around the square led to the conclusion that the Hostal was the best bet for food here in Viru. There was a Pizza place and a Chicken place but neither looked very clean.
We sat alone in the dining area and ate our so-so chicken and rice. The other guests and family ate together and watched TV in the living room. We’d spotted an Internet place on our stroll. It opened at 7;00 PM. An hour at the keyboard then back to our tiny abode and early to bed.
The only window opens to a sort of courtyard. The building is 5 stories high, the courtyard little more than a shaft for light and ventilation. We can see in the room across from us. It’s really a mess of clothing and junk. Made sense when we saw the smiling owner’s son come in and pull the blinds.
April 6, 2005
Viru to Trujillo
It was easy to awaken early. The kitchen is directly below our window. Sounds at first then smells of food pulled us reluctantly us out of bed. We’re anxious to get to Trujillo, a larger town with deep history, a good place to take a day off.
The other guests, working people, were already leaving as we came down for breakfast. The still smiling lady made eggs, no bacon or ham but a generous plate of bread and unlimited Nescafe instant coffee.
We were making our way back the 2 Ks to the Pan Americano by 8:00 AM. The usual hubbub at the crossroads then across the bridge and we were off to Trujillo. The scenery remains tropical.
As we reached a series of ups and downs we witnessed a crew cutting sugarcane. They saw us and as I raised the camera they did little performances. Dancing around, waving and shouting in a friendly sort of way. They were also burning the fields. The smoke filled the air, our noses and eyes. It was a time to pedal hard and hold our breaths. Finally the wind shifted.
The higher we rode the fewer the fields and the browner the sandy earth became. Climbing one of the more difficult hills we were overtaken by a group of Road Cyclist. Local guys from Trujillo out for a workout. Of the four, Jorge, Daniel, Fabio and Alang only one, Fabio, spoke enough English to understand our terrible Spanish. They did get the point across that there’s only one more up then it’s all down into Trujillo.
The one hill seemed to be attached to several but at last it was like flying, in to town.
Traffic thickened and we were soon ducking and dodging trucks laden with Sugar Cane, Buses, cars and a swarm of MotoTaxis. Just as we were preparing to stop for directions we came upon 2 of the cyclists, Fabio and Alang sitting in the shade of a building. They hailed us down and offered to guide us into the heart of Trujillo.
They are experienced and pretty pushy with the other traffic. At first we held back but as we watched them bob and weave we too became more aggressive. At one point a Taxi turned and cut me off. I yelled out and almost hit the side of the car then thought better of it. I remembered when I’d done just that back in Latvia and the angry driver pulled over, jumped out, raised his fist in the air and threatened to strike. Okay, once in that position is probably enough. And, these are the rules of the road, here.
There were no signs guiding us. The guys took us through small street, even back alleys trying to avoid traffic. Then suddenly we burst out of a shady little street and into the sunlit Plaza de Armas. Our Hotel of choice, the Libertador, with flags and banners flying, was directly ahead of us. The guys were in a hurry, Alang has to get to work. He has a small Printing Business but works nights at a restaurant. We shook hands and thanked them profusely. It would have taken us hours of asking and riding in circles to get here.
As we pulled up in front of the Hotel a guy, Tom from Connecticut, stepped through the door and asked where we were going. Nice guy, he follows the surf, around the world. Our new friend wanted a photo with us then he took one with the cathedral in the background. He really wants to stay as the surf is building and hasn’t been that great since he arrived but his niece is marrying this weekend and he has to be there. He’s a Flooring Contractor, sort of semi retired who loves to fly to exotic beaches and experience waves of the world.
We wanted luxury and the Libertador was just that. Our room is spacious, well furnished with a huge bed and it overlooks the Pool. They have satellite TV, even CNN I English. We took quick showers, our first real showers in 2 days, then walked to a sandwich shop for lunch.
A relaxing afternoon of TV News and typing journal pages then dinner down. The restaurant is as nice as the room and lobby. Though the prices are more than we’re used to, the quality is great. Both ordered Northern Cabrito, young goat prepared in a sauce with vegetables. Mmmmmmm, Mmmmmmmm, good!
The CNN News Show, Aaron Brown was on. We’ve gone through another time change and didn’t even know it.
April 7, 2005
Oozing in Luxury in Trujillo
The Breakfast Room is adjacent to the pool. Taking a seat in the sun we began to enjoy ourselves just as our table neighbor lit up. Why would they put the smoking section on the scenic side of the room? Sort of ruined the ambiance of the moment. The buffet was a wonderful spread.
Cat headed out to scout the lay of the land with a bag full of dirty cloths under her arm. Apre the Lavanderia she trolled back and forth on the shopping street looking for a swim suit without luck. She did find a supermarket and bought wine and lunch things. A name, Michael White, jumped off the page of our Lonely Planet. An English speaking guide, we called and made an appointment to tour the ruins, Chan Chan and the 2 famous temples.
Sandwiches in then she was off again on her quest for a swim suit. I was hunched over the computer trying to catch up on the Copa to Lima segment of our journal.
Dinner at an Italian place around the corner. Pizza, of course. Too expensive and too much food. We could only finish half hence half for lunch, tomorrow.
April 8, 2005
Michael’s Tour to Chan Chan, and Temples
PJP II’s Funeral
Today, Catholics and the world celebrated the life of Pope John Paul II. World leaders including GW and Laura attended. More than 2,000,000 admirers stood in silence or prayed at the appropriate times. He was strict and didn’t always agree with modernizing ideas but he was a beloved leader. I remembered being at St. Peters back in 1988 and watching him speak several languages including Croatian in honor of a group of suppressed Yugoslavians in attendance. The crowd shouted, “Papa, Papa” as he strode down the aisle touching their hands.
A group of Brothers dressed in white robes stood in a line outside the Trujillo Cathedral. Then young people marched as speakers blared. They too were celebrating his life here in Trujillo.
Mpeg 028 PJP II Parade
A quick breakfast and Michael was here, on time. Nice guy, very British. He came here 16 years back to study and write about the ruins, met Clara and the rest is history. She too guides tours.
The drive took us through dirt roads and local housing. People who have carved out places on little patches of land. Small farms with green crops and animals surrounding the simple homes.
Our first stop was the Moche Temple of the Moon. A giant place built entirely of mud. Much of it had deteriorated but is currently being reconstructed. Excavation has revealed 6 layers or building stages dating back to 600 AD. Adorned with amazing paintings and drawings. Bricks of mud with signature marks of the brick makers. Temple of the moon is nearby. Michael tells us that the Spanish found and took tons of Silver from the Temple of the Sun then later discovered beneath that area some 20 tons of gold. He says, with a wink in his eye that the amount was documented for tax purposes so no telling how much actually left here. Geez, they were cheating the Tax Man even back in the 1500s.
Mpeg 029 Michael
Sebastion, Travel and TRUE LOVE
a German guy, opened conversation, asking about our shirts. He remembered seeing
us at Machu Picchu. After having wandered around the world for more than 3
years, he’ll soon head home. He met a woman, the German Girl of His Dreams,
while touring near Titicaca. They traveled together here after meeting. His
travel bug has been defeated by the Love Bug!
Off to Chan, Chan. There’s a ticket office and a disappointment to learn the price until they explained that it covers the museum, Chan Chan, the Rainbow Temples and La Huaca Esmeralda. More giant mud structures that once included 10,000 dwellings. No lunch for the tourists, we snacked at the ticket office then pressed onward. Michael gave us a full day, 9:00 until 4:30 and too much info to absorb.
Starving by the time we got back to the Hotel, we wolfed down the left over Pizza with a little wine. Dinner later, we were so full of Pizza that we just had soup downstairs.
We’re now hooked on an Attorney TV show. Well, two of them that seem to be related. One is on daily, in the morning and this one airs weekly. Some of the characters flow back and forth. One n particular, Alan, has just joined the morning show and isn’t getting along with some of the Partners. The other features the actor who played Captain Kirk in the Sci-Fi series. (Note, I’m terrible about remembering actor’s names.) Part of the joy is that the characters remind us of members of law firms we were involved with back home. Guess it proves that most Attorneys are cut from the same cloth?
April 9, 2005
More Time in Trujillo
Our Beautiful Granddaughter Aubrie is 10 Years Old Today
First Order of Business, and E-Mail to Aubrie on her 10th birthday then another great breakfast. (Deysayuno) It’s hard to believe that it’s been 3 years since we’ve seen her or any of the rest of our families for that matter. Yes we miss them but we also love what we’re doing. We think of them and thank them every day for putting up with our crazy odyssey.
After another wonderful buffet breakfast Cat went back on the circuit looking for a swim suit. I went back to the self imposed drudgery of the Journal. She had no luck with the suit, I did several catch-up pages. She did find empanadas. We sat near the pool and ate, carefully shielding our faces from the burning sun.
Cat found a hair stylist and got a short cut. With a little urging she convinced me to do the same. The girls were fun and funny. The one that cut my hair said that she wanted to go with us around the world. When I explained that we’re on bicycle she began to back pedal.
My afternoon was journal. Cat repacked the bags and we made ready to roll. Dinner at 7:30 PM. A small restaurant that our guide, Michael, had suggested. Cabrito and beans, again. Great but we will both develop diarrhea before mornings light.
**Footnote, Though they had to delay by a day due to the Funeral of PJP II, Camilla and Charles Prince of Wales, were married today. The end or beginning of another ROYAL SCANDALL? **
Sunday, April 10, 2005
Trujillo to La Pirata
An Armed Assault
A Highway Robbery
Up early, breakfast at the Buffet Trough then bags down to the bikes. One little glitch, someone had tried to move our bikes with the camp bags attached and pulled the seat loose. Communication, I have been as specific as possible these past 3 days, teaching, warning the guard in charge not to allow anyone to try to move the bikes. He played coy when I showed him the broken seat. He was amazed that I could take it apart and repair it so quickly. So were we! I’m getting to be a pro.
We cycled out the door and around the Plaza. Another flag raising Sunday morning. We took a couple of photos then struck out north toward Pacasmayo. It’s more than 100 Ks but we feel strong and confident. The traffic is heavy and the MotoTaxis seem to play a game of chicken with us.
Once beyond the bumps and potholes of Trujillo the road widened and smoothed out. With a light tail wind we made great time. A Police Roadblock and our first pull over in Peru. They checked out Passports and asked questions. One told us that he’s cycled competitively in California. It seemed nice to be among friends.
The Pueblo of Paijan is just a dusty main street that’s also the Pan Pacifico Highway. We pulled up, leaned the bikes and ate lunch in a typical roadside place. Truck Drivers came and went, most stared. We ate fairly quickly as we have another 50 Ks ahead of us, today. Exiting town we rolled into sugarcane and green fields. The friendly wind continued to push us along and we felt confident that we’d get there long before dark.
Then at about 8 Ks out a MotoTaxi coming toward us swerved and as it came toward us 2 guys pointing pistols jumped out and ran to me. I tried to turn around, to see what had happened to Cat but one of the guys pushed the gun against my temple. I did see Cat, who had been down on the ground with the third guys gun up her nose, get up and start to say, “No, no, don’t do this”.
Not so funny then but we do laugh now at the way these 3 tiny teenagers with big pistolas tried to push then ride our bikes. The heavy load threw them off and they couldn’t get a leg over our high seats to ride away. They quickly gave up and began ripping the bags off. We watched as they successfully pulled the bags with the computer and camera off and threw them into their Moto. Yes, they’d fired shots, no we didn’t give chase. We just stood there feeling sort of helpless. Funny, I asked if Cat felt okay. She said “Yes” then we wondered at the strangeness of the situation. We weren’t shaking like we did in Ica during the foiled pickpocket attempt. We were just resigned to the fact that we had lost a few things but we were okay. Thing are just things but health and life are the only things that mattered at that moment.
The following is an account written later about the events of this afternoon, late night and into the next morning. We owe a great debt of gratitude to Lucho, Igel and Alain who selflessly went with me, back to Paijan searching for our things, the TRUTH and THE BAD GUYS..
2:00 PM, Sunday, April 10, 2005
Robbed Near Paijan
Guns in Our Faces
Our philosophy is that some good comes from all things. As we stood helpless with guns pointed at our faces or as one of them fired shots at my feet it was difficult to see what good could come from this situation. The 3 young guys first tried to take the bikes but couldn’t get them on their MotoTaxi. Then we watched as they ripped half of our Ortlieb bags with Computer, Camera and other things off the bikes, throw them in the Moto and flee. A car had stopped nearby but the occupants wouldn’t or couldn’t do anything with all those guns around. They did drive up and signal that they would send the Policia. A small crowd gathered and talked among themselves. When the Police arrived they checked to make sure that we were okay and spoke with the people gathered around us. Then they drove down the road that the Robbers had taken, searching for them or our things. We cycled back into Paijan and filed a Police report of the events during our assault including a list the items stolen. Still shaken by the event we loaded the bikes on a taxi and came back to Trujillo.
The Good That Came From This Terrible Event
3:00 PM Monday, April 11, 2005
Inspector Lucho and the Paijan Vice
During our previous 2 days in Trujillo we’d wanted to stop by the World Bicycle House and meet the famous Luis Ramirez. Neither of us felt well so we stayed in our room most of the time. Cyclists as far away as Africa had told us how he and his wife Angela welcome cyclists to their home. Many stay for days or weeks. Luis, who is Secretary of the League of Cyclists of Trujillo, was very alarmed when he heard our story. He wanted to help us and make sure that this doesn’t happen to cyclists passing through this area, in the future
A Strange Circumstance!
As we talked a friend of Luis’s from Paijan came in. He told of bicycle parts being sold and knew a guy who had bought 2 inner tubes. Feeling sure that we could find the Robbers or our things he insisted that we go to Paijan, immediately. The 4 of us were on a bus and headed there in less than an hour.
A Night With New Friends
Two of Luis’s current cyclist guests, Igel from Germany and Alain from Canada, volunteered to accompany us back to Paijan. They would help translate for me. All three dropped what they were doing and came to our rescue. We hopped on a bus and were in Paijan by early evening. In minutes we were talking with the guy that had bought the 2 inner tubes. That led to another young man who later admitted he had driven the Moto for the robbers. Luis talked with him about getting some of our things. He said that he was afraid of the Police and the other guys. The door to door search finally ended at 11:30 PM. Sometime during the house to house search we began calling ourselves “Inspector Lucho and the Paijan Vice”.
Morning’s Light and Another Amazing Coincidence
7:00 AM Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Too late to return to Trujillo, we slept at a taxi driver’s place, 2 on the floor and 2 in a bed. It was a short and tough night. More door to door visits, the mother of the Moto driver was angry, her other son had been arrested, he ran his Moto into a Police car. So, with this amazing turn of events we hurried off to the Police Station.
There in the courtyard was the blue Moto, probably the same one they used to rob us? The 17 year old boy was surprised to see us and soon confessed that his brother had driven for the Bandits. The Mother was soon there, begging us and the Police to let him go. They didn’t, in fact El Mayor de Policia, M. Ortiz, along with two of his deputies, drove us around to the doors we’d visited last night and questioned all the family members. The brother was now nowhere to be seen. He and the other 3 had skipped town. More filings at the Police Station and the day slipped away. It was 6:00 PM by the time we got back into Trujillo. What great new friends! What a way to find “some good in an armed robbery”!
A Meeting With El General, Octavio Salazar Miranda
April 14, 2005
Friends in Lima had made contact with General Miranda. Luis arranged an appointment. With Alain along as our interpreter we met El General and discussed the events of our assault. He was aware of most details but called to check with El Mayor, M. Ortiz in Paijan. When he heard that they had released the MotoTaxi he insisted that they impound it as evidence. It didn’t take an in depth knowledge of Spanish to understand El General’s demand for Capture, he said it several times.
We told General Miranda that some Peruvians say they want Police reform, we feel that the Peruvians must increase the budget and pay for much needed equipment, maybe even better wages for the Police force. In Paijan they do their reports on a manual typewriter and have no Internet Connection? Computers for word processing and Internet connection are essential for solution and prevention of crime!
Observations After Cycling for 3 Years
One Nightmare Will Not Spoil Our Life’s Dream!
Yes, we’ve been on the road since April 12, 2002. Having visited 42 counties and talked with thousands of people we find that the vast majority of them are good. This kind of terrible thing could happen anywhere, even in our own home town. We’ve cycled from Puno, across the Andes, through Cuzco and visited our dream, Machu Picchu. Then, on down to Nazca and along the coast through Lima, to Piajan and our fateful meeting with 4 bad guys and lots of good people here in Trujillo.
All’s Well That Ends Well!
Our trip would be completely incomplete without this visit to Peru. We urge others to come here, see this fantastic place and meet these wonderful people. Crime has nothing to do with poverty. I was raised in a poor family but my parents would have beaten me if I took things that belonged to someone else. Most crimes against tourists, here and in the world, are crimes of opportunity. If you’re careless you may be a victim. Always be cautious but don’t spend all your time looking over your shoulder. AND, don’t give up travel, one of the best things that life has to offer, because of isolated events like what has happened to us, we certainly won’t!
April 11, 2005
Another day in the life and times of WorldRiders2. Another unexpected bumper buffet. First thing on our agenda this morning is to contact our families and let them know about our event and that we’re okay. Struggling for words, as we sat at the computer, the walls and floor began to shake. We jumped up and ran to the door. A woman standing there said, “Small Earth Shake”. It didn’t feel small to us but then, maybe we’re jumpy? When the dust settled we began to laugh. An armed robbery and an earthquake, this is “So California”.
On the way to Casa Ciclista Mundo we stopped and talked with Reporters at the local newspaper. They were interested in our story and wanted pictures. Since the bikes are once again unloaded they accepted the picture from our remaining camera. The one that our surfing buddy Tom had shot of us in front of the Cathedral. .
Our meeting with Lucho and friends is outlined above. Igel and his wife Paola from Germany have been traveling by bicycle for 4 years. They’ve just added a new member to their family. Rambo is a Rat Terrier pup. They’ve now rigged up a trailer for Rambo and are preparing to get back on the road after a 2 month layoff. Alain is from Toronto, Canada. They’re all headed for Ushuaia. There’s also a Japanese guy, Jin and Spaniard, Gabrielo, staying here at Casa Ciclista Mundo. What a generous couple Lucho and Aracelly are.
As you know, the guys and I rushed off to Paijan. Cat shopped for replacement clothing. Nothing to her liking but she did compromise and buy shorts and a couple of t-shirts.
She spent her evening worrying about me and watching TV. I had the guys find a phone, the only working pay phone in Paijan at 11:00 PM. At first Cat was almost angry because I hadn’t called. Then she broke down and cried. She has been sitting and imagining all sort of terrible possibilities, all evening.
April 12, 2005
Front Page, Local News
3 Years on the ROAD!
I called Cat from Paijan at 8:00 AM. She’s been worried that we might have found the bad guys and they’d harmed us. With little or no sleep, she is anxious to have me get back to Trujillo. She will eat the wonderful buffet this morning. Lucho, Igel, Alain and I settled for coffee and bread in a noisy café.
Web-Master Wally has posted a notice that today marks the 3rd anniversary of our Voyage then tagged a note on abut our robbery. Cat spent much of the day answering the more than 300 congratulatory and condolence messages from friends. We heard from some that we weren’t even aware were still following our journal. Another good from the bad.
Front Page News
I called Cat again when we took a break for lunch. She filled me in on the message we are receiving and that the story of our robbery including the picture, had made the front page of the Newspaper, La Industria.
The boys and I got back from Paijan by bus at about 5:00 PM. I’d discovered that in my haste to get money before we departed yesterday I left my Debit Card in the machine at the bank. With Lucho’s help we found the right person to talk with. Yes, they had it but bank policy won’t allow her to return it to me. She says she must send it to CitiBank? Lucho presented her with a copy of the Front Page News of our robbery. She talked with the Manager and they bent the rules. We really do owe Lucho a huge debt of gratitude. Somehow, someday, we’ll repay it to him and his family.
An emotional reunion with “The Cat” then dinner at a wonderful place, DeMarco’s. A little TV then, much needed sleep for both of us.
April 13, 2005
Lucho, Aracelly and Casa de Ciclistas.
After another leisurely poolside breakfast we rolled the bikes out and rode to Casa Ciclistas. Lucho has wanted to see them. He can’t grasp how a bike can shirt automatically. We got pictures of “Inspector Lucho and the Paijan Vice” then with Gabrielo’s help Cat wrote a list of items we’ve lost, in Spanish. Lucho wants to take it to General Octavio Salazar, the Chief of Police, when we meet with him tomorrow.
Stuck in a Peruvian Prison
The Casa is a truly remarkable place. Another guy, Jean Claude from France, came in. A frequent guest of Lucho and Aracelly’s he has a very sad story to tell. A Professional Photographer, 7 years ago he brought his girl friend with him here, on assignment. When the job was completed and they were at the airport preparing to board a plane to France the Police discovered Cocaine in their luggage. The girl friend had stashed a bag to take back home. She had a little son back home and Jean Claude couldn’t bear to see here sent to jail so he “took the wrap”. He spent the next 5 years in Peruvian Prisons and as he says in limited English, “They’re not a pretty places”. His teeth have rotted away but his outlook on life remains bright. His sentence includes 2 years of Parole. He can’t leave the country until next October. What of his girl friend? Indebted forever, she has married another and moved on.
The GOOD from his BAD experience is simple. He has to live on what little his relatives can send as he can’t get a permit to work in Peru. So, he bought a bicycle and has ridden most of the Caminos and visited the beautiful places of Peru in the past year and a half. And, thanks to Lucho and Aricelly he always has a place to stay and food to eat when he returns to Trujillo. So, life and love dealt him a terrible hand. However, he didn’t shrivel up in a ball of hatred or self pity and he’s not bitter. He’s found good and beauty in the world and though he is anxious to return to his native France he has a new life and lots of friends in Peru.
April 14, 2005
A Visit With El General Octavio Salazar
Our appointment with General Salazar is 9:00 AM. Lucho wanted us to meet at his place at 8:30. He was late, futzing around with a bicycle. I told him that I like to get to appointments on time. He scoffed and said something that may have translated “Peruvian Time” and El General. I reiterated that El General’s time is his own but we should show at 9:00.
Alain came along as interpreter, The 4 of us piled into a taxi and were at the Main Police Station at 9:10 AM. Then began the wait, a two hour wait. Finally the Chief swept with an entourage, like a Rock Star. This morning they raided the Black Market and confiscated tons of stolen merchandise. So, he had a good excuse. We’re hoping that they got some of our things. He didn’t think so.
After listening patiently to Lucho, he called Paijan. The Chief there is subordinate to El General. When he told El General that he’d let the confiscated Moto go back to the Driver whose brother took part in our robbery he started to yell. Maybe just for us or just to exercise his authority? At any rate he made it clear that the Moto was evidence and must be impounded. Lucho loved hearing that. With our limited Spanish and the help of Alain we learned that El; General had told the Chief of Paijan, in no uncertain terms, that he wants these guys brought to justice. Well, it all sounded good but turned out to be all talk. We did pose for a picture with El General for our journal.
Lucho led us to a Kodak Shop where we had prints made of it and several others. I had our photo of Lucho and Aricelly enlarged, too. Oh, and we had 50 copies of the photo of us at Abra La Raya made. A neat trick we’ve seen used by other cyclists. Handouts for interesting people we meet along the way. I also had the picture of Clemente, the Restaurant owner at Kilometer marker 348, who loves cyclists enlarged and will find a way to get it too him.
A sandwich lunch and a relaxing afternoon that included some Internet time. Our inventory of photos is complete. Because we had just unloaded the cameras we only lost the few that were in the camera. Wally is going to make copies and send them via e-mail so that we can place them in the text of our next journal pages.
Steak and Cabrito downstairs, again. Pretty good stuff. Met a guy, John from Ottawa, Canada. He too is connected with the mines here but has Motorcycle toured most of South America.
April 15, 2005
Transcription to Spanish
Preparing To Get Back Out There!
After a leisurely breakfast looking out onto the pool Cat went back to the shopping street to buy another pair of shorts and an extra t-shirt. The article above was prepared for the Newspaper but they would only accept it in Spanish. I felt it was worth the effort and money so, with the help of the nice lady at the front desk we found the Institute of Culture and a guy who could translate it.
Then, back to Casa Ciclista. We have photos for Lucho, Igel and Alain and we’ve put messages on the back of the Abra La Raya pics for all of those staying there. Lucho and Aricelly were ecstatic over the big picture of them. We have to sign the guest book but it’s so interesting to read that it’s hard to write.
Aricelly insisted that we stay for lunch. Angela, daughter of Lucho and Aricelly came in from school and joined us. She’s a cute 12 year old. Igel and Paola and Daniel a young guy who works on bicycles with Lucho, sat in, too. He lives in Lima and cycles back and forth making the trip in as little as 2 days albeit long days. He volunteered to take the picture to Clemente. They know each other and Daniel often sleeps there when commuting.
Back to our pit of luxury and the included Internet for most of the afternoon. Well wishes and good thoughts continue to pour in from friends. Inspired by Aracelly’s home cooking we decided to have Chinese food in, for dinner. The Girls at the Front Desk helped us order and we took a to pick it up. Some pretty shady looking back streets but the food didn’t taste second rate.
A very relaxing evening of food and entertainment. Even our favorite Attorney show.
Nervous As a Cat On a HOT TIN ROOF!
Cat has been edgy in crowds, always nervous and looking over her shoulder since starring down the barrel of the Pistola. Her dreams or perhaps nightmares involve clunky old cars pulling up, taking our things and beating me up. One of our friends, Sharmain in South Africa, has suggested that she should have counseling. Tough to do here in this Spanish speaking place. My dreams differ, I see myself standing up to the robbers, taking their guns and beating them. Could it be one of those differences between the sexes? She feels afraid, I feel ashamed that I didn’t do something heroic like Rambo or our Governator might have. Then I try to remember that the guns pointed at our super heroes are shooting blanks and they know it. They have a script, they know the outcome before the shooting starts. So, I Placate myself by repeating the old adage, “He who shirks and runs away will live to shirk another day”.
April 16, 2005
Article to La Industial, Photo to General
Another lovely breakfast, we’ve been lucky, no smokers to spoil the view and air. Then, off to the Institute to pickup the finished copy of the article in Spanish. The young man that did the work wasn’t there but left word for us to pay the cashier. The paper looks very professional. The Lavanderia was nearby so we did double duty and got the clean cloths.
Rushing back to meet Lucho by 10:30 AM. He was again running on Peruvian time. It didn’t really matter, we were just taking the enlarged photo to El General Salazar as a memory of our bad luck. Cat struck off in a different direction in search of an envelope to put the photo of Clemente into. The General wasn’t in and wouldn’t be back until late afternoon. We left the Photo with a guy who claimed to be his Secretary.
Lucho questioned the Secretary about the things recovered in the Black Market raid. He told us where to go to check on our items. Another Police Station a few blocks away and it was busy. They were unloading bicycles, hundreds of stolen bicycles and wheeling them into a courtyard. We found the Captain but he told us that they didn’t find any laptop computers or Sony Cameras. He insisted that we look for ourselves. Too bad we weren’t in the market for a TV, they had hundreds stacked wall to wall in a huge room. We think he was just placating us by walking around and pointing out the few desktop computers. Nice guy but no cigar.
We dropped the article off at La Industrial then I dropped Lucho and fast tracked it to the Hotel and the toilet. Yes, the Guff-Guff has returned with a vengeance. I sat at the computer most of the rest of the afternoon. Cat did more Internet and e-mail things downstairs. It is so handy to have Internet Access included in the services of the hotel. Makes us wonder why some smart operators give it and others try to make it a tiny dollar profit center. The aggravation of deciding whether to pay their excessive amount or find a nearby Cyber Café should make them wonder, if they’re even aware?
Lucho dropped by to check on us. I gave him a tour of the Hotel. We’d thought about inviting he and his family to come swim. It might have been intimidating but beyond that, Angela is in school until after 4:00 PM.
A Long Jump Past a Bad Place!
Our pals at Casa Ciclista convinced us not to cycle from Paijan. Cat was sure she didn’t want to anyway. Our first plan was to bus to Chiclayo, spend the night then mount up there. They all urged us not to ride across the hot arid Desierto de Sechura. Too isolated, we’d have to camp and security isn’t that great there. That’s all it took for Cat to make up her mind. Not wanting to put Lucho out anymore we took a taxi to the bus station and bought our tickets for tomorrow’s journey. It was a quick trip with one necessary comfort stop at the station for me as Cat made the deal. With tickets to Piura in hand we hustled back at Libertador, I climbed into bed, she returned to the Internet. It was dinner of white rice for me, in the room. Not feeling well at all, I couldn’t help Cat prepare our bags for tomorrow’s bus trip.
Sunday, April 17, 2005
Big Igel and Paola Send Off
300 Ks on a Bus to Piura
Up and at em’ early. Our last great breakfast then off to Casa Ciclista by 8:00 AM. Igel and Paola were planning to leave early this morning to beat the heat. Using a taxi we arrived right at 8:00 to find that they were running on Peruvian time. They’re not even packed yet. We decided to go back and get our bags ready then return at 10:00, a more realistic departure time for them.
Back to the room and a packing frenzy. We were ready to go and on our way back before 10:00. A crowd has gathered. Lucho always gets friends to ride the first few Ks with departing guests. It was quite emotional, we were saying goodbye to all of them, too. Igel and Paola have been here for a couple of months but had also spent time before they went back to Columbia to get Rambo.
Finding the Perfect Dog in The Drug Country
Igel and Paola cycled into Trujillo then got word from a friend that he was flying from Germany to meet them in Columbia. He hadn’t seen the update on their whereabouts so they decided to take a bus and meet him there. During their visit they began to plan on buying a dog to accompany them. Their first choice was a Jack Russell Terrier but they decided that a Jack Russell would be too small to withstand such a journey. Then they discovered a larger variety known as Rat Terrier.
After answering ads and disliking the conditions of the breeder’s kennels they found a guy on the Internet who had only Rat Terriers. Traveling by bus they found him, liked him and the look of the place. It was clean and the dogs well groomed. They asked if they could camp on his property while they studied which of the dogs he offered for sale would best fit them. They slept in their tent the first night then the guy invited them into his home. A few days later he came to them and said, “Take any of my dogs, even my favorites, even ones not for sale. I want to give it to you for a gift”. Of course they fell in love with Rambo, the guy, his family and Colombia. In fact they are going to move to Colombia when time comes to settle down. They love the place and have urged us not to be afraid. They say that the stories we hear of drugs, guns and kidnappings are way overstated. For them it has been the nicest cycling in all of South America.
Another Case of the Best and Worst
This is another case of the best and worst experiences of our Odyssey. Venturing into the unknown, exploring new places and meeting new people is the Best. Always saying goodbye to good friends is the Worst of it. After the tears, the hugs and kisses Igel loaded Rambo into his new trailer, we posed for photos with the group then they rolled. Back down the street at first so we could have a pic of the pack. Then with waves and shouts they were off, down the street, around the corner and into the next leg of their adventure. Jin, Gabrielo, Jean Claude, Daniel and Alain were among the group. Tough for them to maintain the slow pace set by the two carrying such a load.
(Matt can you bring this up to 70% so we can see the cyclists?)
It was a melancholy walk back to the Hotel. We bought lunch items along the way. The Hotel has arranged for a taxi at 11:30. We brought our things down and were ready to go when he pulled up. We’d asked for a Van, the guy’s driving a small car but he has a roof rack. Somehow this driver reminded us of The Keystone Cops, an old silent film comedy. He would tighten one side of the rack and the other would pop up. The clock was ticking and the cushion of time we’d allowed was being wasted. Finally he decided to jam everything into the car. I was irate, Cat was cool and tried to calm me. I began trying to hail a larger taxi. Then, he got the 2 bikes into the trunk and the bags across the back seat. So, Cat sat sort of on my lap and the semi incompetent driver felt her leg each time he shifted gears. The good news, we did make it to the Bus Terminal with time to spare.
The bus was there, we placed our bags near it and checked in at the desk. Then the driver and his helper drug the bags and I pushed the bikes around to the rear. They opened a door and we found a guy, sound asleep on a piece of foam in the luggage compartment. Our guess, he’s the second driver and they’ve rigged this bed to catch a little sleep between shifts. He got out and we lifted the bikes in, over his bed, and stacked them. The number two guy climbed back in and lay down. The Driver slammed the door back down.
A very pleasant surprise, Lucho and Daniel came cycling in. They leaned the bikes and we sat, trying to talk. They’d accompanied Igel and Paola for about 10 Ks, The pace was slow as they worked to regain the strength in their legs lost over the past few months. Lucho also said that Igel had a little problem adjusting to pulling the trailer.
The guys waited then gave us final hugs as we boarded. As a final gesture, they rode along beside the bus, almost like an honor guide, for the first few blocks. What a wonderful man, this guy Lucho. And, Daniel must feel the same way as he cycles almost 400 miles just to work with him.
Sandwiches on board. The ride was non-stop to Chiclayo. A brief moment to pick up passengers there then the balance of the 6 hours through extremely dry wastelands. Igel and Paola had been right in their assessment that it was not a good place to cycle.. This was a good idea, to jump over the Desierto.
The Terminal at Piura is inside a 15 foot high wall. Outside the fortress were dozens of taxis, waiting like vultures for a scrap of food. They pulled the bus in and shut the huge gate behind us. After retrieving all our things I went to the pedestrian gate and stepped into the eye of the flurry. At least a dozen taxi drivers waved their hands into my face. I said, “Combi o Van con rack”! One pushed through and proudly proclaimed he had the right equipment. He pointed to his rig, a small station wagon with a sturdy roof rack. I agreed with his price and the Bus Company allowed him inside their fortress. We were loaded and headed to town in minutes.
Our anxiety of arriving after dark was dissipating and the driver’s music and few words in English were soothing. Off loaded and inside the Hotel by 8:00 PM, we were tired and hungry. The Restaurant is at best so-so. The food wasn’t great but as Mr. Wang in China had said, “If you go without food for 3 days the food you dislike most will appear to be a banquet to you”. No, we haven’t gone without food for 3 days but my body is depleted from this current bout with the Guff Guff. Fortunately things held together during the bus ride, There was no toilet on board.
One good thing, they do have CNN in English. After dinner we filled up on news then sleep.
April 18, 2005
Readying in Piura
A group of Missionaries was exiting the Café as we approached. The leader, typical of Southern style preachers, was talking loud and repeating often to his interpreter. Yes, as we Americans tend to do, he was speaking loud and slowly in his thick southern twang. He also put his face close to other guys, in an effort to be better understood. The bad news for us, this group of Christian Mercenaries had stripped most of the food from the already skimpy buffet. The waiter seemed almost joyous when he told us that there was no more food. Geez, 30 more minutes of breakfast and they were out of food? We ate the scrapes and leftovers then, as we were leaving the smirking waiter began filling the empty buffet. A communication problem?
I spent the morning at the Internet Computer. Cat explored, found a fair bottle of wine and goodies for lunch. Another picnic in the room, huddled under the Air Conditioner. I continued work backing up photos on their computer while Cat prepared a package.
Walking together we found the Correo (Post Office) and sent the backup photos home. The more expensive Hotel we’d considered was next to the Post Office. We took a look, thinking we may come back for dinner. The restaurant is nice with tables outside next to the Swimming Pool with waterfall. The prices were as high as the summit of the falls and they only had a white wine that doesn’t suit our pallets.
Ron, the Ophthalmologist
A very American looking guy, Ron, walked up and said, “Hello”. He’s from Grand Junction, Colorado here with a group of Ophthalmologists to perform surgeries on needy eyes. He says that his group is pretty disgusted with Peruvian Customs. Their equipment and supplies are being held by the Aduana. He thinks they want a bribe. We shared our tail of woe about my Study Materials with Ron. It seems a shame that good and talented people volunteer their time and talent only to be stalled out by bureaucracy. (Later I sent Ron and e-mail suggesting that they work with local Doctors, even teach them and help them get the necessary equipment to eventually perform the surgeries. You know, “Feed a man a fish and you’ve fed him for a day. Teach him how to fish and you’ve fed him for a lifetime. Although we’ve heard from Ron via e-mail he didn’t respond to this thought?)
At 6:00 PM, as we sipped a happy hour glass of wine we got hooked into a TV show, American Idol. A talent show of National proportion from the US. Judges from the Music Industry, including Paula Abdul, listen to the best and worst of voices across the US. Some move on to the finals in Hollywood. Others face blunt criticism or even rejection from one particular judge, Simon. Maybe it’s our Band background or just love of music and people who perform but, we’re hooked. It shows on Sundays and Mondays. This began a new quest for us, to be in a place with satellite TV on those days.
Dinner down, again. Steak for me, still attempting to solidify things. Cat had a tasty fish.
Larry King Live and News then off to sleep.
April 19, 2005
Piura to Sullara
A New Pope on Timothy Buck’s Birthday!
Yes, today our Grandson Tim is 14 years old, today. The new Pope, Benedict XVI, is 78. A tough time in life to start a career as Pope. Being a teenager is always a tough time in life. There are moments when we wish that we were closer and able to be a part of the grandkid’s lives. Today is one of those them.
We hustled to breakfast at 8:00 AM, hoping that there would be food. It was not to be, another large group had just cleaned out the trough. We asked for more food and the same surly waiter smirked and said, “No mas”. Cat says that I lost it but I think I just accentuated my feelings. I threw down my fork and said. “Desayuno a 9:30”? He shrugged and turned away. That was it, I jumped up and walked out to the Front Desk. The one girl who understood English tried to calm me. I asked her, “Is your Hotel going broke? Are you out of food and can’t buy more? There’s a Market just down the street, go get eggs there”! She called the waiter in and sort of scolded him then said, “He will bring food”.
In a short time we had fruit, eggs, bacon and bread in front of us. A second waiter had come in and served us. The other guy must have a problem with foreigners?
We were paced and loaded by 10:00 AM. The bikes look like they have teeth missing. Igel and Paola had loaned us some of their old bags with the proviso that we mail them to Lucho when and if we ever get replacements. Maybe another good thing, the bikes feel so light, even the little pull up to the Camino seemed a lot easier.
Traffic was light but we’re riding very cautiously. At the edge of town there’s a Police Station and check point. We went inside, explained our situation and asked them to have the officers keep and eye on us. Though we weren’t sure that we got a point across we were soon being shadowed by a Carretara Jeep. They would pull past and wave then pull off and talk with locals. We’d pass and they would pull by again and wave. This went on for more than an hour until they finally turned, honked and waved and headed back toward Piura. Whether they were there for us or not we will never know but it did bolster our courage.
The area is very tropical looking along the river. Once up and above it we’re back into dry desert. Another Police Jeep came past, honked and the guys waved. They went ahead then pulled over and parked. We stopped and tried to ask if they were watching out for us. They didn’t get the entire meaning but seemed to be saying that they are just on regular patrol. One way or the other it feels good to have them around us.
At a Service Station stop for soft drinks we drew a small crowd. Two guys in a blue Moto pulled in and began asking questions. “How much do bikes cost? Where are you from, where are you going”? Then the one that made Cat real nervous, “Have you been robbed”? Smiling, we just feigned ignorance of language, drank up and rolled on.
The road is now flat and fast. We were in Sullana by 2:00 PM. The Hotel Siesta we’ve read about in our Lonely Planet is on the outskirts as promised. We’d hoped that it would be on the far side, closer to tomorrow’s destination, Talara. The girl warned us that the town is dangerous, there are many robbers. Our book confirmed her message. We sat on the patio, near the pool and ate a tasty lunch.
The lock on our room doesn’t work. They said they’d fix it tomorrow, we reminded them that we would be leaving tomorrow. A nice maintenance guy came, hollowed out the space around the latch and installed another plate atop the original. It worked, we felt more secure. Of course all locks and chains do is give you a warning when someone is coming in but we needed that feeling.
We relaxed then when they finally got their computer to work we spent time writing and answering e-mails. Dinner was okay, another steak for me and pasta for Cat. A little TV, finally a show in English with Spanish sub-titles. No news, maybe that’s good news?
April 20 2005
Sullara to Talara
The included breakfast was light but we took seconds and paid for eggs. Fortunately the highway clings to the edge of town, we were spared the agony of cycling through the town with a bad reputation. Again, farms surround Sullara. Rice paddies and sugar cane fields of brilliant green. Soon though, we were back in the familiar brown of desert.
The road is again, flat and fast. Cat still shudders each time a Moto approaches. Making phenomenal time, we stopped for lunch at a service station just 15 Ks from Talara.
Talara is an Air Force and Oil Field town, 7 Ks off the Pan Americano. The wind that had been propelling us along became our adversary when we turned toward Talara. The road loops past the runway then around and down a steep hill, into town. We spotted the Hotel Gran Pacifico from the hillside. Highly rated in the guide book, it turned out to be okay at best. They provided a spot in a room behind the front desk for the bikes. Our room is large but poorly furnished. We’re stuck with 3 local TV Channels and the worst, no hot water. The girl promised warm water later so we took a walk into town. Our quest was for two items, an ATM and bananas. We found both and an Optica with Contact Lens Solution for Cat.
A Service Station Mini Mart just a block from the Hotel is well stocked with things we like and need. I ate 3 Popsicles while we shopped. The power failed and they couldn’t run their cash register. This must happen often as the girl just pulled out a tablet and began adding up the bills in the darkened store. They did have a reasonable selection of wine. We bought enough for tonight and tomorrow.
Dinner in the diner down. Pretty good, we both had Chicken Cordon Blue and fries.
A little TV to challenge our slowly growing Spanish vocabulary then it was off to dreamland.
April 21, 2005
Talara to Mancora
The breakfast included bacon and eggs. We’re not sure but we may need the energy today. Bags down and we were out the door by 9:00 AM. Our map tells us that we can go down to town then off to the right and back up to the Camino. The girl at the desk confirmed this but insisted that it is too dangerous to ride bicycles there. I asked if she meant traffic and she told us in no uncertain terms that she was talking about robbers. The push back up the steep hill seemed easier with that thought on our minds.
With the wind, except for the 3 Ks from the runway back to the highway then we really flew. Tailwind and flat, great combinations for touring cyclists. With just 30 Ks to go we pulled into a Service Station at a cross roads known as El Alto.
We’d just purchased soft drinks when a car pulled up. One of the passengers got out, came over and said, “Hola”, as if he knew us? Then we realized it was Rafael; the Manager of the nice Station near the Hotel Gran in Talara. In fact he told us that their Company also owns this Station and one in Piura.
He is business manager for all three. We had to have a photo. His friendly
manner brings back the point that there are so many nice people in the world.
Though the Store in Talara was well stocked this one didn’t even have any food. We rode on to the town of Oranes, pulled off the highway and found a nice restaurant. It’s hot and humid. They kicked on the ceiling fans upon our request. We perused the menu and made a choice. The nice girl wrote down our order, disappeared then returned and told us that they only had Chicken. So, we had the Peruvian staple, Chicken and Chips, again.
Our friendly waitress and a couple of customers worked hard at getting through the language barrier to tell us how to get to Mancora. Our map shows that the Hotels are on the old highway and it is dirt. We wanted to find a way to cut down from the highway to avoid the rough ride. They made sure that we understood, there is no road other than the beginning and end of the old road. We had two choices, take the first turnoff or go on into town then backtrack. They did tell us that there are a few Hostals in Mancora but the nice Hotels are along the beach between here ant there.
The turnoff is well marked, the road is rough dirt and hilly. It reminds us of Cabo San Lucas at the tip of Baja California, Mexico. Desert sand and cactus right down to the shimmering blue Pacific. This part of the ride was a real struggle. Hot, dusty and bumpy. Cat’s choice of Hotels was at the 5K mark.
It had the look of a cheap Motel. We pulled the bikes onto the walkway and up to the door. A guy stepped out and scolded us, I moved them back a couple of feet to satisfy him. Cat checked out the room, pretty basic with only a partial view of the water. Then, the clincher, he said that they have no TV or Computer. He says we’ll only find Internet in town. I didn’t care for his attitude, Cat didn’t care for his room. We made a slight spectacle, turning the bikes and going back to the road. He just stood there starring.
Don’t Always Believe What You’re Told!
Onward, for about another 2 Ks and up to the doorway of Sunset Italiano Hotel and Restaurant. We loved the name, the girl, Aiesha was cordial and confirmed the other guy’s assessment, there is no Television along the coast. They do have a TV but only to play Videos. Then the Clincher for us, they have a computer and Internet access at no cost to us. This is our kind of place.
Aiesha Manages the place. Her Husband, Pepe, does maintenance. They’re from Venezuela and have only been here a few months. They followed her Sister and Brother-in-Law here. They have two kids, a girl about 5 and boy just over a year old. The Hotel is only 5 rooms and one is under re-construction. No big crowds, a small pool and beautiful beach below.
After a refreshing warm shower we took a Moto into Mancora, dropped off the laundry and shopped for essentials.
Dinner down, we were the only diners. The restaurant has been famous but the original Chef moved back to Lima. His understudy has taken over and does a great job. The only problem we have is that the prices are fairly steep. They did allow us a bottle of our own wind hence saving at least $10.
One local that they say drops by almost every night, popped by as we dined. A Fox comes to the bird bath for food. Yes, they place tidbits there for him but what a treat, for him and us. The sunset, as advertised in the name of the place, was spectacular. We sat in the dusk then hit the sack early.
April 22, 2005
Sunny Day at Sunset
Aiesha worked hard at it but the breakfast was pretty poor. Weak coffee and dry toast. They had a blended Papaya juice that was just okay. She apologized and told us that the menu is set by the owner.
I found the pictures on our e-mail from Wally. He and Matt have reproduced the entire bunch we had sent and put them up on a separate site. I thought I’d just copy them to a CD but, the computer here doesn’t burn CDs. Aiesha called her sister and told her of our needs. She suggested coming over this afternoon when her husband is home and he will do the copy. Amazing, though Pepe struggles with it, the sisters both speak great English. The sister, Einale, is married to a guy who has lived in the States. Henri, originally from Holland, is and artist. Einale gave us directions to their place.
Pepe volunteered to drive us into town. As we neared the fishing pier the car began to sputter and cough. We were out of fuel. Pepe and I pushed and Cat steered to the top of the next hill. Then with the help of a couple of locals we got it over the hump and
hopped in hoping it would coast up the final hill and into town. Our luck and forward inertia ran out half way up the hill. Pepe got the car over to the right s far as possible then we hailed a passing Moto that took us right to Einale and Henri's door.
They live in a 2 story place. Downstairs is living area and the kids bedrooms. They too have two. Up a spiral stairway and you’re in the Master Bedroom and Studio of an artist. Henri’s art, surprisingly, is Southwestern US, North American natives. He had a thriving business but has been demoted, by George Bush, he says. The weak dollar and the shroud of fear has driven art buyers back into the woodwork. Now he survives by painting Native costumes then inserting faces of non-natives, people who like the look of themselves or a loved one in Indian garb. He paints the native looking clothing first and bases it on things the client says are important to them. Lastly, he adds the face taken from a photo. Well, it is nice looking work, not especially to our taste but easy to see how some of our friends and neighbors could love it.
Henri is having his computer worked on by the local guru. It will be an hour or so b before he has completed installation of new programs. We decided to walk back into town and do a little shopping. Mancora is a single street lined with stalls, shops and restaurants. The local Mini Super Market had blank CDs and a good selection of wines. Cat finally found a swimsuit and sun glasses to replace her broken pair. After a fried fish lunch we took a Moto back to Einale and Henri’s place.
Try as we might we just couldn’t get the pictures down loaded to a CD? After an hour we gave it up, gave them hugs and headed back to town. The local Internet Café manager came to our rescue. He spent at least an hour copying the pics, one at a time, until we had them all on a CD. This way I can work on them off line, any time. When finished the guy only charged us for computer time. We slipped extra Soles of the same amount into his pocket. He smiled and didn’t object.
Instead of a walk on the beach we opted for a dip in the little pool. Cooling, soothing and refreshing. Later a glass of wine on our balcony then we headed out to town for dinner. Downstairs we found two new couples. Greg and Rosio live in San Francisco. They’re here to visit her family and for him to surf. They have two kids about 4 and 1 ½ years old. He’s a surfer so they took a few days away from so that he can test the Peruvian waves. The other couple are Peruvian, Flavio and Marjorie, he too is a surfer. She body surfs and soaks up sun. They both look extremely healthy. Though they live in Lima they attended University in San Jose, California.
We Motoed to Chan Chan Pizza. The place is owned by a German guy. He told us that he and his wife returned to Peru from Europe when the old family home was left to her. They sat around for a while but couldn’t stand retirement. He set up 3 tables on the porch and began making Pizza. Just for fun at first then they expanded into their living room later dining room and suddenly the whole house was a restaurant. They’ve now added a second floor for living quarters. He says that they still do it just for fun. We reckon it’s more fun when it’s profitable. The Pizza was good, the Apple Strudel was fabulous.
April 23, 2005
Sunset Beach, New Friends
Today we added some supplements purchased yesterday, to our breakfast. Donuts and a cake with dulce leche and bananas. Pretty good. Greg and Rosio were there, we had an enjoyable chat then they were off to the beach and surf. As we finished our goodies Flavio and Marjorie came back from their morning surf and sun session. They both thought they would live in the US but his Father’s ill health brought them back to run the family business. They mill cotton to yarn and thread. Specifically Egyptian cotton that has been introduced to Peru in the past few years. They are successful and are now looking for property to raise their own cotton. They visit their farmers about once a month and always end the trip here with a little sun and surf. They still occasionally think of moving back to the States. Marjorie says that she’s spoiled by their lifestyle and with prices as they are in the US she’d have to cut back. That sort of keeps the idea on a back burner.
Later in the afternoon Greg and Rosio with the kids, Sophia and Vasco, came in and they all splashed together in the pool while I worked pictures on the Hotel Computer.
We went back to town for lunch and Cat stayed to work messages at the Internet. I Motoed back and continued the Picture work.
Cat brought a cold bottle of wine back and we enjoyed another sunset on our balcony. Hoping that our new friends would be eating here and being too lazy to go back into town we did dinner down. Again, we were the only customers.
In bed before 9:00 PM.
Sunday, April 24, 2005
Sunset Beach to Zorritos
With the remaining cake and bananas we got enough food on the table to provide the strength we’ll need, today. Another gab fest with Greg and Rosio as we ate and enjoyed good food and company. Flavio and Marjorie were already surfing and sunning. We hated to part without saying goodbye.
The goodbye with Aiesha and Pepe were typical hugs and single cheek kisses but they seemed especially sad to see us go. We have begun to feel like family, they are strong family people. So, with a last wave we set off down the dirt ruts toward Mancora and the North. The road seems better today? Maybe we’ve gotten used to it, too?
Back on pavement and into the heart of the Pueblo en la Playa, Mancora. We stopped at the ATM to gather cash. As we struggled with the machine a familiar car pulled up. Flavio and Marjorie parked and we did get our goodbyes with them. Our projected schedule for return may leave us time to meet again in Lima. (As it works out we returned just a day after they departed for Miami, Florida and a niece’s wedding.) Somehow in just a short time we have become old friends.
Another quick stop and more goodbyes at Einale and Henri’s and it was 10:00 AM by the time we hit the highway. The road clings to the coast, a beautiful coast. Thousands of Vultures, Pelican and the interesting looking Frigates shared the skies above. Each seeking new heights, heightening their search for brunch.
Our own hunt for food led us into Florida Beach Resort. They have Cabanas and a small restaurant. With only one couple staying there, the Manager was happy to see us. He was hoping that we would be his second guests but settled for serving us lunch. He did make a bit of a scene about where to park the bikes. All I wanted was to have them available visually. We compromised.
Another guy, Oscar, came in and sat next to us. He spoke English and Real Estate. He is a Broker in Lima. Soon we moved to his table and enjoyed discussions about Property, his land near here and his plans to develop something similar to Florida Beach. He’s here to contract grading of the lot and fill material to raise it above the flood line. Strange, because of the rural location the only heavy equipment is owned by the County. They move the dirt and do the grading for a reasonable fee. One big difference between developing here and in California is utilities. Before approval you must have Electricity, Water and Sewer connections. Here you can build with only a septic system plan. Water is hauled in and you live without power. Oscar, who is 61, sees this project as his retirement plan. And it will give his boys a reason to visit, often.
Oscar is a surfer. His skin shows the effect of constant sun over the years but his outlook remains young. One of his sons has competed internationally with the Peruvian National Surfing Team. We asked if he knew Flavio and he instantly used Flavio's last name. He didn’t know him but knew of him. Both have surfed since their younger days. There must be camaraderie amongst the Senior Surfing Set?
Oscar told us he was staying the Costa Azul Hotel in Zorritos. We vowed to see him there then waved goodbyes as we struggled back up the dirt driveway to El Camino. The roadway remains flat and continues to run adjacent to the beautiful sea. The 27 remaining Kilometers seemed to fly by. Following Oscar’s direction we easily found the Costa Azul. The rooms are just fair but the location is superb.
Once the bikes were tucked safely into the room we donned swimsuits and went to the beach. The water is warm and refreshing. The rip tide feels dangerous. I tried to swim beyond the breaking surf but gave it up because of the feeling of being pulled out to sea. We showered off the sand then dipped in the pool and sat in the sun to dry off. This is the kind of place we dreamed of on all those cold wintry days in Patagonia.
Oscar only eats fruit for dinner but he suggested we try the place next door. It’s upstairs, overlooking the beach. We climbed the stairs only to find that the crew was locking up. They only serve lunch this time of year so it was back to Azul.
The little restaurant is overlooking the pool. Dinner is simple but tasty.
April 25, 2005
Zorritos to Tumbes
Breakfast with Oscar was unhurried. We enjoy listening to him, his accent is infectious. His stories of surfing and Real Estate are interesting. Since we only have 27 Ks to ride today it was nice to just leisurely eat and talk.
The ride was again along the shore, short, flat and fast. We were in the busy streets of Zorritos The map in our guide book told us the street to turn away from the Pan Pacifico on. We stopped and had a soft drink in a sidewalk Café. AS we sipped a crash then pandemonium broke out. A car had smacked into a Moto and turned it onto it’s side. Several guys quickly lifted it up and found the driver, a little skinned up but otherwise, okay. The crowd seemed to be siding with the Moto driver and turning on the driver of the car. An interesting event to witness, the Policia finally arrived and got things under control.
It was a push up a pretty steep hill to the next cross street. We rode off to the left just to get a look and photo of the Plaza de Armas. It has the obligatory Church at one end, a garish looking monument and water fountain, too. The center of the square is dominated by an amphitheater and open, tiled area.
Back up and past the street with the steep hill and on to another Plaza. The Hotel Cost Del Sol is the same group as the one the Hotel in Piura. The staff is friendlier and the rooms nicer. The bellman pushed and I pulled the bikes up a long stairway and into the room. They’re re-doing the flooring in the lobby and stairways. Taking out the clay tiles and installing marble. It doesn’t fell like a match with the rest of the décor. Perhaps an upgrade due to the recently opened Casino next door?
Un Jarra (a pitcher) of frozen lemonade to refresh with then another to wash down a very nice, poolside, lunch.
A cool shower, a couple of hours at the Internet Café across the Plaza then a relaxing hour, glass of wine and off to dinner. The restaurant is under an overhang to protect from the sudden rains. The tables feel like a formal setting yet we can still see the pool. Our food was as good, perhaps better than lunch.
April 26, 2005
Tumbes to Machala
Ecuador, Our 43rd Country
Breakfast was a winner, too. Much better that at the sister hotel in Piura and without the hassle we experienced there.
Out the door, down the steps and off to the left to the cross street then an even longer and steeper hill to get us back to El Camino Pan Pacifico. Another right turn and we were off. The ride remains fast and flat. The Ecuadorian border that we’ve been dreading was a simple crossing. Cat took both Passports inside, they stamped them without question and we were in our 44th Country. The streets were crowded but everyone seemed intent on scurrying about and tending to their own business.
Disculpe Pacha Mama (Sorry Mother Earth)
One of the worst scourges we’ve seen and we’ve seen it throughout Africa and much of South America is plastic trash along the road. This are seems to be plagued. How can people in poor countries afford the stupid luxury of being a throw-away society? Here they have the usual roadside strewn with plastic bottles and Styrofoam but the worst is the sheets and sheets of blue plastic. The stuff they use to wrap the banana stalks while ripening. Why don’t they put a stop to this? You know, our roads used to look like this until we started to impose heavy fines on letters. At first some felt it was an infringement of their personal freedoms. Come on, what freedom is there in throwing trash on your neighbors land? Eventually everyone has become interested in keeping our roads and waterways clean. Let’s hope they get something going here. Maybe incentives for picking up and fines for dumping? Forgive them Pacha Mama for they know not what they do!
Bananas and Port Hueneme, California
Out of the congestion and into a countryside lined with banana plantations. The stalks of fruit hang in blue plastic covers. Protection from insects? They look like decorations. A Banana Packing Plant at roadside drew us in for a photo. The crew laughed and even danced for a little video. Cat went across the street to get a soft drink. A girl at the plant offered me a plastic cup of Orange drink. I had to accept and she seemed almost excited to just stand and stare as I sucked it down. We sat in the sipping in the shade and enjoyed the throbbing music from the Banana Plant. Port Hueneme, California is a Port where many bananas are received form Ecuador. We wondered, as truck after truck of the green fruit passed, whether any of it was destined to arrive so near our home?
Cat was happy to find that they don’t have Moto Taxis here. However the roar of approaching 1970s Muscle Cars became her new nemesis. They seem always to be loaded with guys that look as menacing as the old jacked up cars.
The road surface improved and we found ourselves on a marked bikeway on the shoulder. Our intended destination, Santa Rosa, was ours by 2:30 PM. We lunched and rolled onward.
More flat, more banana plantations, more heat and more sweat. Machala, a middle
sized Pueblo, had it’s share of traffic. And, the Pan Pacifico divides into two one way streets. And, it becomes bumpy and hard to ride. Our guide book had only one hotel listed. We rode up to another, it looked okay, we were home for the night.
They let us store the bikes under the stairwell, the room was n the 4th floor. Well, here they call the 4th the 3rd because like in Europe, what we call the 1st floor they call ground. Thus it’s an extra climb to the 3rd. (Does this make sense or is it just babble?)
A nice COLD shower, yes they have no hot water, today or any day. Next a walk to an Internet Café. The machines were slow to load and couldn’t seem to connect to Yahoo. Another place just down the street had very fast machines but, just as we got on the server went down.
Back to the Hotel, a glass of Happy Hour wine then down to the Cafeteria for dinner. Simple but tasty faire. The 3 TV Stations only understood and spoke English. So, an early to bed evening.
April 27, 2005
Machala to Naranjal
Breakfast exceeded our expections. Fried eggs and bacon, good toast and juice then a strong cup of coffee. The best or worst show of the breakfast, was a couple who ordered bacon, eggs and beer. The waiters had to hustle around but they did find a couple of cool ones to get the day started for them. Even though I’d demostrated how to lift the bikes to avoid pulling the seats loose, when the maintainence guy dug into his storage area he lifted Cat’s bike and pulled her’s loose. Dissappointed I worked on repairing while Cat checked us out. I must say, my technique is now fast and simple. We were back in business and on the road by 8:45 AM.
The Pan Pacifico narrows a bit, here. Bananas continue to be the main roadside plants. Slowly they gave way to other fields of green then long swamp grass that grows in the ditch.
Lunch in a simple roadside place then onward. By 4:00 PM we were in Naranjal. A rough looking place with only one place to sleep, Hotel California. Cat questioned the cost and the guy, a fellow of few words, pointed to the corner and indicated there was another place. We cycled down the street, around the corner into an even rougher looking neighborhood only to find another Hotel California. Yes, the price was less but so was the quality of the room and surrounding area.
Back to the Original Hotel California and a taste of humble pie. The silent one smiled a smirky smile and handed us the registration form. The room is large enough to get the bikes in. That’s about the only good thing we can say about it. The bed is a mattress on a concrete stand. There are no window but a fan, that sounds like a small airplane taking off, stirs the air around. The toilet, like so many of these cheap places, has no toilet seat just the pocelain bowl. The cold water shower is slimy and the water spray is just a pipe sticking out of the wall. Good enough for a boat shower and thank goodness it’s only for one night.
The Silent One didn’t know of an Internet place. He pointed back to the same corner he’d sent us around before. A couple of Policemen came toward us, they pointed back around the corner and indicated just a block or so past the Hotel. Yes, there it was, Cyber Cafe on a big sign and just across and half block down from Hotel CA.
We checked out restaurant row as we walked. There was a Chicken Roti that looked pretty good. After an hour of Internet action we picked up one of our “on board” bottles of wine and walked in the darkened street for dinner. The chunky girl indicated 10 minutes until the birds on the rotissierie would be cooked. We sipped wine and watched the crowd come and go. They seemed to enjoy watching us, too. Finally half an hour later they brought a whole chicken to the table. Wonderful taste accompanied by rice and beans.
Back to the dreary room, a little Spanish language news then lights out at 9:00 PM. The end of a rather un-memorable day.
April 28, 2005
Naranjal to Guayaquil
An early start was no problem. Loaded and rolling out the door at 7:30 AM, the wordless one pointed up the street in the direction we’re headed when we asked about desayuno, (breakfast) The little open air place seemed to be a stopping ff place for Policemen just starting their day. They came in threes, all three riding one motorcycle.
They took tables of 6 and talked incessantly. All were armed, most with rifles. Breakfast was greasy eggs, bread with margarine and hot milk with a little coffee in it.
We hit the road and rode into a mist at just minutes after 8:00. We’re anxious as this is our last day of cycling until we reach the end of the Amazon River, We started our South American ride exactly 8 months ago, August 28th in Ushuaia. The misty rain thickened but we rode on, talking back and forth about how the rain and snow felt back then. This tropical drizzle actually felt good when comparisons were made. A quick stop and a grilled cheese sandwich at 60 Ks then back aboard and on down the banana tree lined highway. There are huge sprinklers showering the trees. One even got us in it’s overspray.
The sun broke through, we dried out and pedaled on. Stopping only once, we sipped coke at a small stand. There didn’t seem to be any cafes, so we rode on. Making good time we found ourselves on the longer of two bridges linking us to Guayaquil. Though there are 2 lanes of traffic the bridge is under re-construction and buses leave little room for bicycles. I began riding in the middle of the outside lane. Cat was nervous and kept yelling for me to move over. We couldn’t stop thus I couldn’t explain that if we hugged the side of the road the buses wouldn’t pull over and might brush us off the bikes or worse yet, off the bridge.
Stressed to the max, we pulled over near the end of the bridge and rested. The clouds were thickening and Cat wanted a nice room with a hot shower. We rounded a corner and found that we were facing another even tighter bridge. This one is cut to 1 lane each way by construction. Drivers often expressed irk and ire in honks and gestures. We just ignored and pressed onward. On the far side of the bridge the situation went from bad to worse. We were spirited down a ramp and onto a Freeway. Not the shoulder, but into the center fast lanes. Fortunately we found a break in the traffic and worked our way to the right.
The first exit split, we thought we should take the left side but traffic made the lane change impossible. Surface street traffic was almost as thick and maybe even a little more aggressive. A nice guy at a stoplight outlined a route to the City Center. Too complex to remember, we made the first two turns then found ourselves in a downpour. The first opportunity for cover was a Continental Tires Shop. It was now 2:30 PM. So close and yet so far. The crew at the shop tried to explain a simple route into Guayaquil but there was none. Somehow we’ve taken a turn to the north and are almost at the airport. The rain began to slow so we set off in the direction the tire guys had suggested.
More tight streets. More cars, trucks and buses. This place is definitely not bicycle friendly. A new friend, Lester, who we’ll introduce later, had suggested a couple of Hotels. Struggling to find the cross street we pulled up in front of The Hampton Inn. A modern, well located place connected to a Casino. Though it looked beyond our meager budget we leaned the bikes and Cat went shopping. The original quote, $110 US was too much. Then the young girl told her that they have a weekend special for $60. Cat questioned why they couldn’t just charge us the weekend rate starting today, Thursday. The girl told her to ask a woman who was taking her to see the room.
Of course the room is gorgeous. The woman played hard to get and a big discussion developed at the desk when they returned. I’d been passing out our cards and telling the staff of our journey around the world. They sort of ganged up on the gal and she relented. We were home I a beautiful place, a 5 Star place, for $60 including a full buffet breakfast. Heaven and, CNN, BBC and 24 hour hot water.
The attentive staff helped us take the bags off the bikes and up to the room. After a brief struggle about not wanting to park them in the garage they helped us get them to a huge storage room. I locked them to a table and headed for the shower. For the first time in weeks we were both chilled. The hot water felt clean and good.
So, Who’s This Guy, Lester?
Remember when we cycled through Sacramento and stayed with friends, Mike and Kat, in Rocklyn, California? Well, Mike has been telling us for months now about a relative of his in Ecuador. Not exactly a relative in US standards, Lester’s sister is married to Mike’s nephew. We’re now learning that marriage here greatly extends family and this is an example. He recently gave us Lester’s e-mail address and telephone numbers. We called and he was genuinely happy to know that we’d made it safely. He wanted to come over after work but we told him that we were tired and frazzled from the 2 bridges and freeway ride. He set a time to get together tomorrow then asked if we need anything, anything at all. After the abridged version of our robbery we let him know that our main thrust was to buy a camera with telephoto lens to take to the Galapagos. He told us that he’ll research the best places and take us there tomorrow. It’s good to have relatives in all the right places!
It was now 4:00 PM and I was starving. When Cat jumped into the shower I went next door to Pizza Hut and got a medium to go. We wolfed it down with wine and watched the news in English. What a treat. I usually don’t like shower water too hot. Today the stinging needles of heat and steam really penetrated, loosened stiff muscles and relaxed me to the core.
Another glass of wine then off to dinner downstairs. A piece of seared tuna for The Cat and smoked pork chops for me, fabulous.
The bed is bigger than king-sized. The TV is big screen. We lay back, relaxed and watched then fell asleep. I awoke to a blaring movie in Spanish at 12:30 AM. Hope we didn’t keep our neighbors awake.
April 29, 2005
New Friend, New Camera
A breakfast buffet that may even out do Casa Andina. Toaster waffles, eggs to order, bacon and sausage, fresh juices and a huge variety of fruits. Oh, and the coffee, a strong blend that suits our taste, well.
Another Hampton Inn advantage, Internet Service is included. They have 3 high speed machines. The only problem, the room is as cold as a meat locker. We spent hours, Cat working messages from friends and I organizing the pictures for the Copa to Lima segment of the journal. Our goal is to have it completed before we leave here, after visiting the Galapagos.
While I pecked away Cat took laundry out and marketed for lunch things. A picnic in our lovely room then back to the computer for me. Cat caught up on some of her favorite TV Shows.
Lester pulled up out front at 2:30 PM. What a great guy. He drove us around to a wonderful shopping center where the Camera Shop had a Sony 8 Mega pixel with a 14X telephoto lens. It’s not as simple as our other but will produce richer pictures and features that will enhance our pics, if we ever learn to use them. Yep, very expensive. It would probably sell for half this price in the US but then, we’re not in the US. And if you add on the Customs Fee and shipping it may be the same, even less?
Our next request was to find the least expensive way to see the Galapagos. Lester spent 2 years in the US as an exchange student. One of his fellow exchange students is now Director of Tourism for the Galapagos. We went to another friends Travel Agency first and learned that the package boat tours are very expensive and Air Fares aren’t cheap, either. Lester decided to call his friend, Ivonne, on Santa Cruz Island and get her input. We got the Lester tour of Guayaquil from the windows of his car then he dropped us at The Hampton. Dinner down, great food. Then off to our luxurious bed and English language TV.
Oprah, Sex Changes and Memories of A Cold Night in Helsinki
I dozed off but Cat shook me awake. Oprah at midnight? Yes, she was featuring a couple, one where the Husband had a sex change. Shades of our friend, Carla-la-la. Remember her? She and her friend Wayne were partying at the Helsinki Airport the night before we flew out of Finland to Portugal in November, 2002. Cat asked if they were married and Carla said, “Wayne’s not but I am”. Cat has a real problem with the unfaithful spouse thing because of her last marital experience. When she asked why she’d split up Carla said, “Think of the worst reason you can”. Of course Cat said, “He Cheated” Nothing that simple, after 10 years and 2 kids he decided that he needed to quit pretending and become a woman. Her story is pretty close to this one. She and Laura, her husband, separated but found it too expensive and they both love their boys so they are now two women living together and caring for their offspring. WOW, we have to get in touch with Carla, see if she’s seen this show? She and the kids are caught in the middle. Laura may be a great guy or gal but the results of the surgery have taken a toll on the family.
With visions of the quandary dancing in her head, Cat couldn’t get to sleep. I went right back to dreamland.
April 30, 2005
A Web-Site and Clean Laundry Day
We were both glued to the computers all morning. Our plan to meet Lester changed, his wife had to work this morning and he’s watching the boys. Cat picked up laundry and lunch things. A quick break for picnic and CNN then it was right back to the meat locker for me.
My afternoon was spent in the meat locker again. At 6:00 PM Cat brought a glass of wine down then went next door for more Pizza. Dinner on our grand bed accompanied by Larry King and a movie,
Sunday, May 1, 2005
Tickets to The Galapagos
A Day With Lester, Marcella and Family
Another fantastico desayuno then off to the Airport. Another wonderful included feature at The Hampton is Airport Shuttle. Lester’s friend at the Travel Agency suggested that we just go to the counter and buy our tickets. So, we’re winging it.
Tickets, round trip cost $600 for both of us, just as Lester’s friends had said. The shuttle driver waited for us and whisked us back home, with tickets in pocket. I went directly back to the computers. Cat began the packing routine for tomorrow’s departure.
Another New Family Member
Lester and family pulled up at 11:30 AM. When we got into the car Lester told us that it’s a happy day in their family. Marcella just learned yesterday that she’s pregnant. Is this their Girl for the 2 brothers? They took us on a wonderful city tour. We walked along the riverfront, The Malecon. Then up the 500 stairs to the top, the lighthouse and Chapel. Marcella walked the entire stairway. She did sit a time or two but she’s insistent that she needs the exercise. What a cute couple they are, a perfect picture of family. The boys, Lester Jr. and Eduardo, are real boys. They run up the stairs then back to Mom and Dad. The Lighthouse and Chapel at the summit were a welcome sight. Marcella wasn’t the only one tiring.
Back to the Malecon and along the riverfront to a kid’s playground. Lester Jr. climbed on the bars and swan on the swings while Lester went for the car. While we waited a huge Iguana crawled down the tree nearby. A new and exciting event for us.
Starving, we lunched at TGI Fridays. The same venue as we have back home, family oriented and very kid friendly. It was 6:00 PM by the time they dropped us back at The Hampton.
I went directly to the computers. Cat watched American Idol and almost cried when they eliminated her favorite, Hadia. I gave up the keyboard at 10:00 PM. We sat nibbling crackers and cheese and watching TV until midnight.
May 2, 2005
Off to the Galapagos
Wine Bottle Casualties
Green Back Dollars and The Bird Woman
Sorry, we haven’t mentioned the strangest thing about Ecuador, yet. The official currency is the US Dollar. They dumped the local currency 2 years ago during another spiraling inflationary period. We’re not sure how it has affected the locals but it’s great for us. At first we would ask, “How much is that in US Dollars”? The locals would laugh and remind us that we’re talking US Dollars. Maybe the strangest thing about it is the prevalence of the Sacagawea Dollar. They really never caught on in the US. She, Sacagawea, also known as “The Bird Woman”, was a young girl that accompanied Lewis and Clark on their expedition in search of a Continental waterway to the Pacific Ocean. When the Sac Dollar was issued many groups protested. Yes, she was a courageous woman, if you consider a 15 year old a woman. In some eyes she was a slave. The coin projects her carrying a baby. It belonged to her and a French Trapper, Charbonneau. She was kidnapped at age 10 from her Shoshone Tribe and later she and another girl were sold to Charbonneau. She was 14 and pregnant when Charbonneau joined the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1804. That drew ire from many. It’s said that she died at age 22? So, the value of the coin is that it’s used everywhere here and nobody cares. They don’t even know who poor Sacagawea was!
Cat bolted out of bed ant 5:00 AM. She remembered that we need to get cash, good ole US Currency, before we go to the Airport. From that point on, neither of us got a wink of sleep. Another banner breakfast then we had the bags brought down. The bikes and camping things will remain here. I stood the guard and waited for the Shuttle while she ran nervously up and down the street. Every ATM Machine within close radius rejected us. Of course this brought her to a frenzy. She explained the problem. Our shuttle driver overheard and told us that there are machines at the
Airport. Time was waning, we had to take our chances.
The process at the Airport was simple. Even the ATMs, a whole line of them, like us well enough to spit Green Backs into our hands. Easy that is until we approached the counter with only carryon luggage. They put it through the x-ray and saw our toiletries bad with the scissors and nail file inside. Well, no problem, just check the bag. As it disappeared on the conveyor belt we realized that the 5 bottles of wine we had packed inside for emergency use only, were in jeopardy.
The plane was packed. There was a stop, for 30 minutes while a few folks departed and a few more came aboard at San Cristobal then a short 30 minute flight to Isla Baltra. There we had to choke up $200 from the loot collected from the ATM, for Park Fees. Strange, the Airport on Baltra requires a bus ride down the length of the Island then a short boat ride across to Santa Cruz. There another bus takes you up and over a 3,000 foot hill and down to Puerto Ayora.
A Terrible Discovery, One Darwin Couldn’t Have Dreamed Of!
As we retrieved our checked bag we noticed that it was leaking. Oh no, it reeked of Fume de Chardonnay. This could be a fate worse than death by thirst, 5 days without wine? Further inspection and we knew, we’d lost 3 bottles of our precious cargo.
The good news, a friendly guy holding a hand made, “Welcome Pat & Cat” sign rode up on a motor scooter. Tity is Ivonne’s husband. He hailed a pickup truck taxi for us then followed us to their house. We met Ivonne and their two girls then she gave us suggestions about things to see and do, here. She’s arranged for a stay at a place called Finch Bay Hotel at a lovely discount. She also booked a boat tour for us to a small Island for hiking and snorkeling.
Back by taxi to the boat dock and surprise, we have to take a boat across to get to the Hotel. The taxi boats only charge 50 cents per person. We took the deal and motored across and down the channel to our new home. The bay is full of tour boats and upscale yachts. Once on dry land we found the walk to the Hotel down a path and then wooden walkway to be pretty lengthy.
Starving, we through our bags into the room and headed for lunch. They stop serving at 2:00 PM, we just made it. Great food and we met a couple of guys from the States. Steve is quiet, a Stock Broker from Florida. Burt from New Jersey, is animated and loves to engage in conversation. They’re College buddies, both divorcees so they began traveling together several years ago.
Back to the room, we unleashed the bag of wine soaked cloths, rinsed and hung them out on the porch rail. Even as they dried we knew that they would have to be laundered. So, we bagged them up and did the walk back, boat back to town routine. The Lavanderia is down a dirt street then behind a store building. As we walked we asked and asked. At last we were on a walkway in front of apartments. One with the door open had a washer whirring away. We walked in and called out, “Hola”. A woman’s voice said, “Una Mas Puerta” and a hand waved from behind a shower curtain. We’d interrupted her bath.
When we finally found it was a real find. The gals there weighed our things then factored out the water in them and charged us $2.00 do wash and dry. Okay, they won’t be ready until tomorrow afternoon but a bargain’s a bargain.
The Super Market near the boat dock has a surprising albeit expensive wine selection. Saved, we stocked up and carried this precious cargo back to the boat, up the stairs and down the path to Finch Bay.
The Shape of Pens to Come?
Burt dropped off a bottle of what he called #40 DEET bug spray. We put it on over our own lesser brand. Yes, there are mosquitoes here. Quite an interesting guy, he’s an inventor. He did manufacture a product, Cigarette Papers, for several years, back in the days when they were used for much more than just tobacco. His current project is a ball point pen. Awe sure, they’re not new, they’ve been around for years. It’s the shape that’s new. Kind of a rounded plastic that fits into the ball of your hand. He’s just received an endorsement from the American Arthritis Association because it takes less strength to hold and use..
Dinner in the open Restaurant on the pool. Great food, we shared Caesar Salad then I had turkey and Cat tried the crab cakes and fish. Pablo and Susan stopped at our table and chatted. Cat wanted to go Kayaking. They have them for rent and Pablo said that there are some great spots to Kayak to then snorkel. He suggested that the 4 of us go out on Wednesday. Cat was ecstatic.
We watched a gal doing a photo shoot of the food as we ate. Pablo told us that they’re preparing a new brochure. Cat tired and headed for the room. I stayed and chatted with 3 Pilots, Andres, Graeme and Michael for almost an hour.
May 3, 2005
South Plaza, Iguana, Giant Sea Turtle and Sea Lion
Start the day with a power breakfast. The included faire is fantastic. They even had pancakes. The 2 guys at the next table are from Sweden. They’re here refurbishing boats. They stay for 3 months, doing finish wood and metal work as well as electrical.
We were surprised to learn that the boat trip Ivonne has arranged included another couple staying here, Tony and Erica from Washington, DC and Miriam, the photographer who is from Italy were going, too. The 5 of us were ushered to the small boat, dropped at the Harbor then bused across, back to where we’d crossed from Baltra, yesterday. On the way we picked up another couple, Jesus and Paola from Madrid, Spain. Our dive boat stood waiting, we boarded and were off to South Plaza Island.
After an hour cruise we disembarked and hiked on the Island. The place was crawling with Iguana, both Marine and Land versions. Cat was disappointed. They seemed small after seeing the big guy in Guayaquil. I reminded her that these had to make a living from this sparse Island. Our guide, Fabiano, explained that they don’t feed or medicate them. They want this area and the animals on it to remain natural. The shore is lined with families of Sea Lions. Our pictures should speak for themselves.
Back to the Boat and they fitted us with snorkeling gear. This is an experience that you won’t find in many places on Pacha Mama. We swam with a giant Sea Turtle, a few small tropical fish and several Sea Lions. One was especially large. I swam close and the surge pushed me right up to his face. I was back pedaling like crazy, he seemed unfazed. The water is slightly murky and cool. Before long all of us were ready to get a little sun and food.
Lunch and the table conversation were both great. Tony and Erica are here on their Honeymoon. Miriam will leave tomorrow. She confided with Cat that she loves her life but wishes she could find a man to share it. Then, a co-incidence, Miriam told us that she flies our for home, tomorrow and she has a fear of flying. When I asked Jesus what he does he laughed and said, “I’m a Pilot, a Capitan”. They too were leaving tomorrow. I asked what plane he flies, expecting him to say something small or private. Surprise, he’s Capitan of a 747. Then the big surprise, he’s the Pilot on Miriam’s flight. He invited her to sit in the Cockpit. She was fearful, we hope he convinces her.
Lunch, ceviche, shrimp, muscles, pasta and rice and fresh pineapple. It was extremely well done. Then, we spent an hour enjoying the sun as they cruised around North Plaza and Gordon’s Rock. The trip was good, the company of kindred souls, great! They dropped us at Ayora Harbor.
Meeting Marvelous Marguerite
After picking up our laundry we made an easy taxi boat ride and walk back to Finch Bay. Tired, we rested, enjoyed a little Happy Hour Vino then Dinner in the Diner, a wonderful Buffet. The highlight of the evening was meeting Marguerite, an 85 year young woman. Born in Paris, she and her Russian husband moved to Anaheim, California many years ago. Their home of more than 50 years is just a stones throw from Summerwind, a new homes project that we managed.
Twice annually, for the past 40 years Marguerite has been venturing to beaches around the world, studying and documenting sea shells. She is concerned about global warming. Some of the Islands she visited years ago in the Pacific have disappeared in the rising waters. Concern about her advancing age and sea levels drives her at a fevered pace, to visit and study low lying places near the oceans of the world. She must surely have already achieved a place in Sea Shell Immortality!
May 4, 2005
Charles Darwin and Swimming With Sharks
The sun is bright and hot by breakfast time. Another scrumptious spread. It was time to say goodbye to new friends. Burt and Steve are headed toward Machu Picchu. Tony and Erica will be in DC tomorrow and back to work on Monday. Miriam is nervous, she says that she probably won’t accept Capitan Jesus’ invitation to the cockpit. (We hope he convinces her and she looses some of her fear, although I’m not a great airlines passenger, myself.)
I went onto the Internet to explore computers. It’s time, we’ve been struggling, using Hotel and Internet Café machines for too long. We’re now 45 days behind in our journalizing and working pictures is almost impossible.
At 11:00 AM we walked and boated into town. Underwater cameras are a must, we hope to get photos of our kayak and snorkeling adventure. After shopping up and down the street we found and bought two. Ivonne’s office is just around the corner so we stopped in to once again thank her and tell her of our experiences. How lucky for us to have met her. Thank you, Lester! We made a dinner date for tonight.
The Darwin Center
The short walk was longer than described and the hot sun didn’t help any. At the gate to the Darwin Center we were greeted by a couple of casually dressed guys in a little office. They didn’t ask for an entrance fee? They didn’t offer any information, printed or verbal. They just pointed up the roadway and indicated a left turn. There is no crowd, in fact we seemed to be the only people there until we met a young Japanese guy. He smiled, nodded hello then scooted off down a side trail toward the beach.
The lack of signage or guidance is almost frustrating. The grounds are extensive and divided by rock fences containing Giant Tortoise and Iguana. It’s all chance encounters with several Tortoise of various sizes and Iguana that looked a lot healthier than those poor scavengers on Plaza South. After searching, even walking through a couple of buildings, we decided that there is no “Center”? Our quest was two fold, information and air conditioning. We found neither.
Walking back into town we met an Englishman, Peter. He’s here with a British couple on a sail boat. He’s a Pharmacist that loves sailing. His friends have been living aboard and slowly traveling on their boat. Peter meets them as he can. This time he will be with them on the “Big Reach”. They’ll leave here, sail to Isla Isabela then set off across the Pacific to Marquesas Island. They’ll be in open seas for at least 30 days.
He decided to have lunch with us. We enjoyed his company and stories. They left the Caribbean and sailed through the Panama Canal then down the coast of South America. Service in the little Café was slow. When his sandwich finally arrived he wolfed it down, he is supposed to be filling their Gasoline container then meeting his tow friends. We were glad he took time for us and sorry we didn’t get a picture of him. He thinks we’ll see each other again, on Isabela.
Strapped for cash we found the ATM only to find that it isn’t working. The bad news, we had to wait in line at the bank for an hour. The good news, the bank is air conditioned.
Making our way back to Finch Bay, Cat is excited about kayaking. She headed for the room, I went looking for Pablo to confirm our adventure. He was apologetic, the tide is going out and we won’t be able to get the kayaks back into the bay. So, he suggested that we snorkel in the bay. I told him that Cat would be disappointed.
A Kayaking, Snorkeling Adventure
I went to get suited up, Cat had been looking so forward to kayaking that she almost decided not to go snorkeling. I convinced her that Pablo would make sure that we have a good time. When we got to the beach Pablo was there, with two kayaks. He has arranged for a boat to meet us outside the rock barriers so, we will be kayaking. Cat is ecstatic. Outfitted with snorkeling gear, we followed Pablo to the beach.
Getting out of Finch Bay wasn’t easy. We had to closely follow Pablo as he wound his way through the narrow channels to the outer barrier. The water is pleasant, the sun hot. Once in open seas it was a strong paddle to the cove where Pablo say’ that we may see sleeping sharks. The spot is beautiful, sheer rock walls jut up 50 or more feet into the sky, leaving us in cool shade. The water surges in and out of the narrow natural channel. Though the water is churned up and murky due to the heavy surf, we did manage to see 2 sharks. One, a six footer, slowly passed us, moving up the channel. We tried to follow it but once it felt our presence it sped up and left us in the murk. Oh, and another sea turtle. This one was smaller and faster than the one at South Plaza. It quickly disappeared in the shade and murk. There were a few tropical fish, even an angel fish or two but they we’re abundant. We did find ourselves in a huge school of small black fish. They swarm near but when you reach out to them they make a hole. Almost form a tunnel around your arm.
***Sports Camera, 2 photos
Back to open water and a rendezvous with the Hotel panga, the one used to shuttle guests to and from town. They helped us aboard and lashed the kayaks to the side of the hull. The reason we’re being rescued is easy to see, the tide has continued to drop and the open channels we rowed out in are now gaps between rocks above the water. The guys dropped us and we walked across an isthmus and down a sandy lane, back to the Hotel. At one point we had to cross a single board bridge above a 15 foot ravine. This has been a pretty adventurous day, kayaking through narrow rocky channels, swimming with sharks then crossing this barranca without a safety rail.
After stowing the gear we showered poolside to get the sand off. Cat did the 100 yard dash back to the room. Even running didn’t keep the hungry mosquitoes off. She had 10 huge welts on he back. This seems to be proof that Deet does work.
Warm showers and a glass of wine then off to town and dinner with Ivonne and Tity. The restaurant, Red Sushi, feels trendy and is on the waterfront. The sushi is all local fish, nothing we’re used to but, delicious. Tity is a fisherman, he explained each type of fish, using Ivonne as an interpreter. He’s so fit that I asked if he works our with weights, he laughed then told us how he stays in shape His current job has him down below, diving for Lobster. He spends hours each day at the end of a tether hose, gulping air and run/swimming after the bugs. Ivonne worries because he spends too much time under water and it can be damaging to his health.
What a great evening, how good for us to have met and gotten to know this couple.
Straight back, across the channel, down the path and to bed.
May 5, 2005
Off to Isabella
Breakfast, good again, of course. I hit the keyboard, working our pictures on Pablo’s computer. I downloaded and sorted them on the house computer before realizing that it wouldn’t burn CDs. Pablo saved the day with his magic memory stick. He was able to off load the pics then download them to his computer and copy on CDs.
Cat headed to town to buy return air tickets to Guayaquil and for the 2:00 PM boat to Isabela, today. Our first choice was to fly Sunday but the flight was completely booked. So, we’ll be cutting it close. We’re can only hope that the boat from Isabela will get us back in time to fly.
We packed, hugged and made promises to meet Pablo and Susan again then headed fro town. A quick lunch then onto the lesser of two boats heading for Isabela. The other had tourists, we were on the local run. The Captain kept saying, “Speed Boat” but once out of the harbor, his twin 75s didn’t wound too healthy. It was a rough ride, up on e wave then bang, down the next. One woman has a package of groceries. She keeps reminding a small boy that he is breaking her spaghetti when he puts his feet on her box. The one next to it is seeping blood, must be her fresh meat? A rough 2 ½ hour ride punctuated with moments of engine failure.
Isla Isabela and Puerto Villamil
Mimino, a guy that Pablo suggested as a guide, met us at the boat. He helped get out bags into a jeep then led the way to the Wooden House, a small Hotel Pablo also recommended. Part of the allure was the couple that own the place, Felipe and his wife. They were off on a vacation of their own. That and the condition of the place were both disappointments. Pablo and Susan had raved about the food, the staff let us know that the kitchen is closed until the owners return. Another difficulty is location. We’re about a kilometer walk from the center of Puerto Villamil, this tiny Capital city. Maybe we were spoiled by the Finch Bay and Santa Cruz Island.
Mimino told us that the high surf has ruined possibilities for snorkeling in the famous tunnels created by volcanic action. He wants to book us for snorkeling tomorrow and trekking to the Volcano the next day. That means spending not only an extra day here but another on Santa Cruz then flying on Monday. We decided that we’ll just trek with him and cancel the snorkeling. It would be great but, the high surf doesn’t seem to be flattening.
We walked in and found an Internet place. The machines were like me, old and slow. Unlike me, they were expensive. A cruise of the few streets led us to a Restaurant we will have dinner at, later. The town is really small, not much to it. A few small stores and homes. We did see the gal, Maria Del Carman, with the pasta and bleeding box from our boat, she owns a small B&B.
Dinner was disappointing but we did find ourselves seated next to a group of French people. They’re staying at Hotel Casa Marita and recommend that we stop and take a look at it. Pounded steak and fries, the typical faire, was only okay at best. We had brought a bottle of our own Chardonnay and it did help to enhance the taste of dinner and expand our minds.
On the walk back to the Wooden House we stopped at Casa Marita. It’s colorful and full of art and life. The gal, Marita, is outgoing and colorful, too. They even have Internet access included, here and are on beach front. She has a room available tomorrow, we booked.
With no entertainment or other guests to talk with, we went to bed, early.
May 6. 2005
Climbing a Volcano
Early to bed, early to rise. We lay and talked about the snorkeling trip and pretty much convinced ourselves to stay if we can change our flight tickets. Breakfast was quite good. We told the gal that we would be checking out this morning. She anted to know why and another guest, Lori, asked her in Spanish if she’s ever been in Casa Marita. Lori and her husband Juan Miguel are making the move, too. Mimino came in and put us back to plan #1, leave tomorrow. He says that the seas are still too rough today to get to the Tunnels. Lori and Juan Miguel weren’t surprised, they’ve been here twice now and not been to visit them due to high seas.
We asked Mimino about going to the Volcano today. At first he said, “No, the horses have already gone”. Asking why we have to ride horses, Mimino finally decided that we could be driven up then trek to the rim and back then see penguins this afternoon. So, no tunnels, but we will have an adventure today.
Lori and Juan Miguel own and operate an exchange students program in Quito. They met while in University, fell in love and married then returned to Juan Miguel’s home in Ecuador. They’re both teachers but soon gave that up, instead combining a Spanish language emersion course with cultural experiences and adventure trips like this, to the Galapagos. Their main clients are from Ohio State University.
We carried our bags and walked to Casa Mirata. What a difference a place makes. Our room is called Naranja, the Orange Room. It feels full of life when compared to the brown, drab walls of the Wooden House. So, we’re off to the Volcano with Mimino and they’re taking a boat trip.
The truck/taxi that hauled us up the mountain had a stalk of bananas in the bed. The driver was holding his small son as he drove but dropped him at home before we began the climb. Yes, the 40 kilometer ride was one heck of a climb to over 3,000 feet (2,000 meters), out of tropical heat, into cool damp mountain air. The driver pulled up at roads end and parked, he’ll wait while we walk.
The trail is narrow, the grass and brush wet. A 12 kilometer round trip, we experience great views, interesting flora and fauna including the famous Darwin Finch. Sierra Negra is the oldest volcano in the chain of 5 that make up the Galapagos Islands. The caldera measures 10 Ks (6 miles) across. It is full of lava rock and plants found only in this area. Other than sore feet from my boots, we had a very good time and enjoyed the physical exertion.
The BEST of The Galapagos
On the way back to town we visited Tortoise Breeding Farm. They have Giant Tortoise of every size, even eggs just hatching. We were able to feed them, too. This was a much better experience than the Darwin Center, don’t miss it when you come to the Galapagos.
A Tale of Gluttonous Waste
As we drove Mimino told of an early rancher. A guy that came here, cleared land and planted. He was proud of his spread and hated the Giant Tortoise. He thought that they would eat his crops and his ego needed a token of recognition. He killed the Tortoise wholesale. The meat was left to rot, he only wanted the shells, to line his 10 Kilometer Driveway. More than 40,000 of the wonderful old beasts lost their lives to decorate the road to his ranch. Let’s call it EGOLAND, okay? How many natural wonders have been squandered for stupid reasons like this? Fortunately these days more and more of us oppose wanton waste of Pacha Mama’s marvels?
Though our boat trip to see penguins was canceled due to high seas we enjoyed a simple local lunch with Mimino, his wife and his son, Alfredo.
Back at Casa Marita, we immersed ourselves in the positive atmosphere and attitude of the place. Oh yes, in the included Internet, too. They have the movie, The Motorcycle Diaries, the Che Guevara story. It had English language subtitles, too hard for me to concentrate on. Cat had to interpret.
Lori asked us if we’d like to take a special boat back with them. She has arranged for it and though it will cost slightly more than the local boat it’s faster and will get back in time for the flight. We bought in.
Adventure With a Capital A!
Surprise, the sailor, Peter, from England and his shipmates, Lillian and Barry stopped in at Mirata. He’s filled them in on our voyage, they talked as if we were at much greater risk than they? We don’t think so, tomorrow they set off in Tagora, their 42 foot sailboat and will be on the high seas for at least 30 days before reaching the Marquises Islands. That really sounds dangerous to us! What nice people. Lillian and Barry set off from Mother England several years ago. They have spent 3 years in the Caribbean. Peter has joined them from time to time. These last few weeks they sailed through the Panama Canal then along the South American coast to Guayaquil and now, across open water to the Galapagos. That’s adventure with a capital A. They relate to our robbery, they worry often about pirates, people who might do them harm in order to steal their boat, yet, like us, they carry on. .
Another bonus at Marita, we learned that they will prepare dinner. A simple pasta sounds good to us. We enjoyed the atmosphere while sitting on the upper balcony, sipping our Char, savoring the pasta and the sounds of French language.
May 7, 2005
Isabela to Guayaquil
A Rough Boat Ride and Smooth Flight
Up before the alarm at 4:30 AM. Bread and a cup of coffee then off in the dark to the boat. Arriving at 5:30, Lori was upset, the French family had fallen victim to the whining Captain of the same boat we came over on. So, Lori and Juan Miguel and their friends have to pay more. She didn’t really ask us to put more in but we did, at least a little. She is extremely worried that the French family will miss the flight.
The Boat Trip From HELL
Our special boat pushed off in blustery winds at 5:30 AM. As the sun began to peak over the horizon we got a glimpse of a flock of Penguins. No photos but we can confirm, they are here and this is the furthest north that they’re found. Once past the breakwater we were in very rough seas. The boat has 2 new 150 HP engines. It feels overpowered, we’re up on the top of a wave then slamming down and climbing back up, again and again. The wind and waves were creating a spray that comes up and over the boat. Most of us were taking some water, Cat and the guy across from her, Jean-Luc were getting soaked. The movement of the boat was so extreme that we couldn’t even move forward to avoid it.
None of us got sea sick but the kids looked a little green from time to time. There was
a threat at one point but Lori just got another homeopathic pill down them and they sort of slept through the worst of it. There were times when we wondered whether we’d make it or not. Both Cat and I have been out in rough seas but this was beyond rough. The water finally flattened as we entered the harbor at Puerto Ayora. Our expected 2 hour voyage finally ended after 2 ½ hours of sheer hell. We are so glad to have made it.
Lori immediately hustled us off the boat and into a bus to that takes us across Santa Cruz. At the little channel between Santa Cruz and Isla Baltra we waited then she cut a deal with a small boat to get us across. Then we piled onto a bus and she convinced the driver to take us to the airport even though he seemed to be complaining that we were too small a load.
At last, the airport. We hustled to the counter, made a deal for the Airline to take our cuticle scissors and wine opener through and give them back to us in Guayaquil. We were checked in and waiting around to board in short time. Even sat and had a sandwich before takeoff. The French family did get there before takeoff but the Airlines gave their seats away when they missed the last call, 30 minutes ahead of takeoff. Now we owe Lori and Juan Miguel for Casa Mirata and though rough, the rapid boat ride back in time to fly. The French Family told Cat that they thought they were going to die at sea. The boat was taking water and the motors were cutting out. It took them more than 3 hours to make the crossing and they will have to wait until tomorrow to get back to Quito. Now they’re faced with the ride back into Ayora and a search for Hotel.
A Smoooooth Flight!
Our 11:30 flight finally got in the air at high noon. AeroGal gave us a very smooth flight, they even provided a sandwich and glass of wine. Yes, we did wine at lunch, we needed it! The flight back was non-stop and took only 2 hours. We re-set our watch to Guayaquil time, and hour ahead of the Galapagos, waited for a little while for the shuttle then hailed a taxi. It feels so good, being back home at The Hampton Inn.
We settled in, did some Internet on the wonderful machines then got Pizza from Pizza Hut, next door. Pizza, wine and too big a selection of TV Stations. Cat was going nuts with the remote.
Tired from the early rising and tough riding, we hit the pillows, early.
Sunday, May 8, 2005
If the breakfasts at Finch Bay were great those they serve up here are fabulous! Boy did we miss our waffles. We both hit the computers hard right after filling up on the wonderful smorgasbord. The only machine they have that will write our pictures to a CD is sick with a virus. You can turn it on but it won’t boot up. Just keeps showing one terrible e-mail after another. The young guy, Alejandro, tried everything including calling the tech. Nothing worked, the machine is out of business until tomorrow morning.
So, we decided to take a tour of Guayaquil. Time was flying so we stopped for a chicken sandwich at our new favorite, Burger King. Good grilled chicken, fries and cola for a very good price.
An Art and River Walk
The Riverfront, or Malecon as they call it, is full of folks celebrating Mom’s day. We walked to the end and visited the Art Museum. The importance was to be an exhibit of an important local artist, Tabara. It was slightly disappointing, he is known for his work using human legs as the focal point. There were only 2 “leg” paintings, the rest are nice but not spectacular. There are several other artists being featured, including Luigi Stornalolo. My favorite piece of his is a larger than life called “ATM”. After studying it for several minutes I felt a huge desire to be part of it. Carefully we pulled the camera out, I positioned myself in the line and the result is seen here. Pretty cool, eh?
Back down the crowded Promenade then a walk to Parque Bolivar. They call it the Iguana Park and Lester told us it’s a must see. Iguanas galore, every size and shape. Very large compared to those poor creatures on Plaza South. The first we saw being fed was a tall handsome fellow. A guy seated on a park bench held part of a sweet cake up and it stood on its hind legs balancing with its tail and took the morsel from his hand. Watching the kids pull them around by the tail and feed sort of made us feel sorry for the creatures. They are so tame, most of this discomfort must be old hat to them? We bought a sweet cake and Cat fed. Fearful at first that they would bite she became quite skillful toward the end of the feeding session. She gave the left over bread to some nearby kids and they had a ball trying not to be afraid, wanting to be brave.
A quiet afternoon, relaxing in our wonderful room. The computer is still out of commission, maybe a good thing. I need this break. TV and a glass of wine then dinner down. Another Cabrito night, delicious.
May 9, 2005
Just Another Day Slaving Away, At the Computer
Another great breakfast and another day, at the keyboard. I was wedded to the thing all day, finishing our photos for the Bolivia to Peru segment of our journal.
A short break for lunch at our new favorite place, Burger King. Then right back to work. Cat retrieved our fresh laundry and repacked the bags in preparation for tomorrow’s journey.
I took a break and visited the bikes. I was getting ready to put extra tape on them when Juan, the Head of Hotel Security brought a roll of plastic wrap in. He and a couple other of the guys wrapped and wrapped them. I called it putting them in a cocoon. What great guys. More of the fantastic service we’ve grown accustomed to.
More computer, I’m dedicated to getting the pictures into the mail before we leave, tomorrow. Cat says it’s the most boring day she’s spent since we began our Odyssey. Lester and Marcella stopped bay after work. They sat in the computer room, he had a beer and she sipped tea. Not a very good final goodbye but then, we’re sure we’ll see each other in California. What would we have down without them? What would this leg of our trip have been? They made it all possible and we can’t thank them enough.
Cat faded back to the TV. I continued to copy pics. We took a break at 7:30 PM, Cat has walked back to Burger King. Sitting on the bed, watching TV and eating a tasty Chicken Sandwich. Does it get better than this?
I stayed at the computer screen until the last photo had been copied. It was after midnight when I finally shut the machine down. Cat was sound asleep in front of the blaring TV screen. It was easy to join her.
Could you taste the DUST of the DESERT? Feel the pain of the HILLS? Then there was that damned robbery thing, too. Those fantastic Giant Tortoise and the boat ride from Hell. All in all a wondrous learning and now sharing experience. Isn’t that what life should be?
So, how do we top these experiences and this adventure? How about a ride down the Amazon River? We’re headed back to Lima for reasons to be explained later. Then over the Andes again, this time in a plane to Iquitos, Peru and the head waters of the world’s largest river. You’re Invited!
If you’ve been keeping score we have now visited 43 Countries. This leg of the journey rolled up 1244 Kilometers or 771 Miles. Add that to our existing distance and you find that we’ve now come 27,863 Kilometers or 18,950 Miles. We’ll keep on pedalin’ and hope that you’ll keep on readin’!