Trans Andes Amazon Journey by the New Bohemians


When we arrived in Lima, Zippy’s cardboard box, a good one, looked bad. We had to tear it off to get him in a taxi, and the pallet wrap seemed intact. That spent the afternoon building him up in Kaminu, a backpacker hotel in Barranca; several supervisors and a huge farting dog made it interesting, that and the comments on my skill or lack thereof, in Spanish. After two days in Barranca, south end of Lima metro area, we were ready to leave. We stopped at the South American Explorers Club for info, and got a little bit. It mostly seems to be pushing discounts at hotels and tourist services.

The traffic in mid-town Lima seems a bit better than most large Asian cities, but still a challenge. Claire claims I get a little macho in city traffic, and she might be right. It does take a bit of aggression to get anywhere, always with a bail-out in mind; she doesn’t always see that from the back seat. She’s the brave one, and I listen when she says “enough.”

Lunch was pollo, frijoles, rice, carne sopa and a sweet tea we didn’t recognize. $2. We were exhausted with city riding after 11k, it seemed more tiring than 100k, and we were both coughing up diesel black. We found the Hotel Europa across from an iglesia, $12 with a huge room and bright lights to write and read by. We showered and snuggle-napped. Nothing like a snuggle and a nap to make me feel at home. I much prefer the local low-end business hotel to backpackers, where you pay more for less space, no in-room shower/toilet, and have to suffer 20 year-olds and their pop music.

We both looked at Zippy, all set up for touring leaning against the room wall. I understood why people are so attracted to him; he is so perfectly balanced. Claire opined, “Your eye just is drawn back and forward, forward and back.” We sound like parents. Sort of. Familiarity, family breeds love = beauty

We walked to dinner late and discovered the beautifully lit old buildings of the Plaza de Armas, photographed a bride being photographed, found another great cheap meal and rooted for the Peruvians as they beat Mexico on the television. We told our new amigos we were happy because Mexico beat U.S.A. in futbol.

The next day was our worst in a while. Out of central Lima, we took a parallel road to the Pan American northbound, jostling with busses of all sizes in rush hour. There were bus stops every ½ kilometer and we had to wend our way through the mess without getting pinned. It was fun for a little while, but got old very quickly with all the stopping and starting. We missed the turnoff to the Pan American and it took an hour to find our way back. The pollution and stress had us both out of sorts and ready to quit by 28 kilometers. We had fish by the sea at Ancon, tourist prices, then backtracked to Santa Rosa for a hospedaje. The freaky thing about the place was you had to ring a bell to be let in through an iron door with a huge lock. Securidad, we were told. And, this is the freaky part, you had to ring the bell to get OUT! I felt trapped. We made plans for a fire, none of them good, for getting down from our second floor room. The food in the restaurant was good, and the owner friendly, but we wonder about the excessive, it seems to us, emphasis on security. Every bank is guarded by several police, some with automatic weapons, all public squares and quite a few normal businesses. The armored trucks look like tanks on wheels.

Fellow Traveler

South America seems to me so far to have a very different feel than Asia. The people are friendly, but they are very fearful. We hope it is a cultural thing, unfounded.


That’s funny, I thought it felt a lot like Asia. I still don’t know where I am, where we’re going, or what people are saying. That and we are suddenly tall again. There are lots of horns beeping all around and they mostly are indicating “I’m here.” Our little ding bell seems not to have made the flight, I pawed through the discarded pallet wrap, but didn’t find it. My thumb twitches every time I try to respond to a beep.

So I knew we were in for it when we stopped to ask a soft-spoken gentleman for directions to the Panamericana: he blessed us when he finished. Next, a school teacher crossed the road to warn us to be careful on the Panamericana: Cuidado, muy peligroso. At our lockup hotel, the matron, who had been up answering the doorbell for most of the night waved goodbye with a concerned look on her face. The highway was not too bad, though one section without many police seemed a little more like the Wild West. We’ll be glad to get off of it anyway. Though it’s going to be cold where we’re going.


We detoured off the highway for a night of camping in a fog forest (Reserva Nacional Lomas de Lachay). We snuggled in the sleeping bag to the soft patter of a fine mist. The gloom was quite eerie because we could hear voices nearby.

Caral is an archaeological site that has been dated to 3000 BC. According to our guide, it is second only to Mesopotamia as the most ancient civilization known. We splurged on a tour and on seeing the route in, we both felt sure we could not possibly have found it coming in by bike. We probably would have turned around at the one lane track and definitely would have had second thoughts at the low water river crossing. That’s correct, there is no bridge to pyramids that are older than those in Egypt; though there is not much point if the site only gets six visitors a day, as was the case the day we visited.

Ruth Shady is the archaeologist who developed this site starting in 1994; early on she was attacked by bandits on the access road (she survived). Today, a hand painted sign along the road says “Ruth Shady, No Te Quieres”. The surrounding Supe Valley, lush with irrigated agriculture, is set among 20 known settlements that were contemporaneous with Caral.

There’s a magazine story here.

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