Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Day 189 (299km): Into the Sierra

We said our goodbyes to the family and hit the road. It was hot to be riding again with all our gear on. The Panamerican Highway was its usual craziness. A police officer pulled us over. He went walking straight past me, but I said hello so he paused and shook my hand. He shook Alberto's hand and then went straight to asking him to take his helmet off. Alberto said no, it's a lot of work. A legit police officer would first identify why he pulled us over. After unsuccessfully trying to get Alberto's helmet off he asked where we were from. Alberto answered and the cop let us go on our way. The traffic was terrible. Lots of slow moving vehicles clogging up the road.
Alberto and his niece
The soulless road
Returning from my bathroom break
Sand as far as the eye can see
Just before the turn off for Cajamarca I noticed some grain being dried at the side of the road. My first thought was, oh my I hope I'm not eating that grain, all the pollution it was getting from the road was a little unnerving. Then a little further up the road there was more grain at the side of the road also drying. This time there was people walking around in it in their bare feet (to mix it up?). Either way I was doubly scared of that grain.
Leaving the sandy coast behind
It took a while for the temperature to cool after we turned off to go into the mountains. Also the whole experience reminded me of Mexico because there were so many speed bumps. The road quality would suddenly deteriorate, also a very Mexican characteristic, so that kept us on our toes. There was some nice valley/mountain scenery thrown in with some crazy drivers. Overall though pretty good and I guess a typical experience for a busy Peruvian mountain road.
A mountain with interesting geology
There was only one traffic interaction of note from the drive. We were in the mountains, but on a straight stretch out of nowhere a car suddenly turned into my lane right in front of me. I think my heart stopped beating for a minute or two since it came totally by surprise (most other attacks are well telegraphed). I later identified the problem, after some hand gestures in the driver's direction, as being a tiny little rock in their lane. I pictured the accident conversation sounding like this:
Driver: “I know I killed a biker officer, but there was a rock in my lane. What was I supposed to do?”
Officer: “I understand. Peruvian cars will turn into dust if they drive over even the smallest of bumps. You had to do it. Bumps must be avoided at all costs.”
It felt really ridiculous that I was almost run over because the driver of a station wagon couldn't continue driving in their lane because of one small rock, but such is the driving culture.

There was a tiny bit of fog in the pass leading to Cajamarca but it soon cleared and we were overlooking the city. We got some gas and decided to quit while we were ahead (no rain so far). We figured that staying in Banos would be cheaper and easier so we went on the search. At first things were looking expensive but the road leading to Cajamarca was very populated so we thought it might be difficult to find a good place to camp if we continued. That and it looked like it might rain. We tried one last search and found a really cheap Hospedaje, so we stayed in Banos del Inca for the night.
Cajamarca comes into view
Our parking spot for the night

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