Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Battle Of Lima

In over six years of traveling around the world, never has any city garnered as many warnings as Lima. It has been a topic for a long time for me and Azure. And we didn't think we were going to go, until we found out that Lima would be the last place for a while to get our hands on some new tires for Azure's Transalp that would have to get us all the way to Ushuaia and back up to "civilization". We weren't thrilled by this, until we got a message from our friend David (for those on ADV Rider: Junya). “Where are you and what are your plans”? He was about to backtrack 1240 Miles / 2000Km to Lima to assist another rider who had had a bad accident in the crazy Lima traffic. “Are you going to Lima? and can we finally meet up again”?
There is ALWAYS a silver lining.

After a day of welding racks and crash bars with Tim and Matt we pack up and hit the road. The white capped mountains in our mirrors make us all want to turn around and stay as there is still so much to explore and see in this stunning region of Peru. Soon all five bikes have pulled off of the road for one last photo op of the Cordillera Blanca.
We will have to come back here one day...

It is a sunny day but it is cold as we throw the bikes into corner after corner, slowly loosing altitude.  We are planning to hit Lima as late as possible so the traffic will be lighter. The landscape levels out and vast stretches of agricultural land form the horizon. Although we are “twisted” and “turned” out for a bit, we soon long for Peru’s mountains again. Layers come off and all the vents in our KLiM gear are opened. Damn it is hot down here!

Enjoying the corners as long as they last.
Who needs a U-haul van when you have the whole family to move the house.
Desert as far as the eye can see.
The PanAm is straight and boring and it leads through dirty, soulless towns. The clean mountain air has changed into an ever-present brown layer of smog and sand dust. We have a hard time imaging anyone living here. The lifeless sand dunes stretch as far as the smog permits the eye to see. When we think it can’t get worse, immense chicken farms dot the sand and the horrid smell that comes with it fills our nostrils. As we ride by the massive shanty towns, where the people who work the farms “live”, an intense sadness comes over us. Here in front of us is an extreme showpiece of what we are doing to the world. The exploitation of the earth, the animals and human beings is horrific. I conclude it is the most awful and ugly part of the world I have seen so far. 

Riding along a massive shanty town in the middle of the desert. What drives these people out here!?!
The long white structures on the right are chicken farms. The smell and sensation seriously made me want to be a vegetarian.
The road widens. Traffic gets more intense. The smog gets thicker and the heat is unbearable. And then we are stuck. Traffic has completely stopped. It takes a while before we start looking for options. The majority of the traffic consists of old cars, buses and trucks and the exhaust fumes make us sick. We have to move! We split lanes for a while but the loaded bikes and the lack of care for bikers make it slow going and dangerous. To our right some vehicles start using the four lane wide patch of dirt along the road. Little stores make up the border of the sand. Cars are parked in front and people and animals are trying to get from A to B. We decide to give it a try. We are not the only ones though. Few rules apply to traffic in Lima but the sand turns out to be a lawless “Arena”. Buses and trucks go left and right. No indicators and no respect for life. The sand gets soft here and there and the dust completely blocks our vision. Cars cut us off and claxons are used more regularly than in any city in India. It is a complete madhouse. Especially when a fence or a ditch in the middle of the Arena pushes all the traffic back to the main road. It is exhausting to keep going and the bikes are getting extremely hot.

“I am not doing this anymore!”, I hear over the intercom. Azure is done. She can hardly reach the ground with her feet, especially in the sand, and the terrible drivers are freaking her out. I try to calm her down and stay closer to try to shield her from the other traffic. A switch in my head is flipped as another car cuts Azure off. I use the maneuverability of the Twin and start making room for Azure, making sure to make eye contact with every driver and giving them the don’t mess with us look. The engine makes overtime, making people aware of our presence. I almost get knocked off the bike by the mirror of a merging bus. My blood is boiling by now and I give the bus's mirror a good slam. The driver hits the brakes and wants to get out of his chair. The look I throw his way makes him sit down and act like nothing happened. We continue and notice we have lost the other guys. Although I feel safer being with more bikers it is just impossible to stay together in a safe manner.

The traffic starts flowing a bit more and soon we are actually up to third gear. What a relief! We spot the guys waiting for us on a side road and somehow we manage to get back together. As we get closer to the old center of Lima, the traffic gets better and the vehicles are newer. We ride around the Plaza des Armas and feel like we just stepped into another world.  Quite a contrast to the shanty towns on the outskirts of the city. The air is cleaner, the colorful colonial buildings are beautiful and the atmosphere in the square is warm and lively. In no time, we get swarmed by people asking questions and taking pictures. A professional photographer sets up shop next to our bikes with a mobile photo printer and makes a killing capturing families and kids with our bikes and then charging them cash for the printed photos. (Great idea!) The police are ok with us being parked where we are at first but as the crowd grows they change their minds and we are sent off for safety reasons. What a crazy experience. 

Slightly different scene from chicken farms and shanty towns in the middle of the desert.
While Azure and the guys were being famous, I managed to sneak out to see the square.
Well worth dodging all the Lima traffic. What a city! We say GO!
Stunning architecture and people everywhere. The Plaza Des Armas has great atmosphere.

Upon return Azure is still busy.
The crowds got too big and the police call in reinforcements. Time to go! ;)
Via a beautiful area of the city we make it to a hostel where we can safely park our bikes and where David is waiting with a few ice-cold beers. As we sit down and start relaxing, the craziness of the ride into the city sinks in. My eye falls on my Zarges case on the bike. One of the stickers on the case says, “Dalton Highway Survivor”. A smile comes to my face as a thought runs through my mind. Try Lima…
After many months of separation, reunited once again! It was fun to catch up on all the "border crossing beers". Thanks!

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