El Fin Del Viaje …for now

Almost 60,000 km and 14 different countries, the second leg of the incredible journey comes to an end.

After two rough weeks in Lima, a quick bolt down to Bolivia to sell my bike, a couple bus rides and a flight back to Lima, I fly home today, May 1st as I write this in the Starbucks at the Lima airport…and then it’s back to reality. This unforgettable adventure has been filled with incredibly memorable experiences and it’s shares of ups and downs. Overall it’s sad to see it come to an end but exciting as well to come home and share some of my experience with friends.

Here’s a recap of the final 3 weeks…

The food in Lima was excellent but for a city of 7 million, there was a surprising lack of street food and what there was, lacked variety (a lot of bony chicken empanadas). Even in the Mercado Central and Chinatown, a 12 city block market in downtown Lima was a bit of a disappointment, but did sprout a handful of interesting moments, including a guy trying to sell me a strange looking, live sucker fish on the sidewalk before a Chinese guy pushed his way in and bought the whole lot, and the tasting of an excellent Almeja a la criolla, a clam ceviche served in it’s shell with choclo, aji, mushrooms and onions. A real treat and something I plan to reproduce back home.

funny looking fish

Lima’s a modern, cosmopolitan city with a strong western influence and seemed to lack a lot of the character I’ve seen in other Latin American cities and towns on my trip. I stayed in the trendy, gringolandia area of Miraflores, which was expensive, touristy, and too posh for street food vendors. You couldn’t even get fresh juice on the sidewalk, something I’ve become addicted too and expect everyday. Luckily, not far outside of the ritzy district, lay the markets and vendors I’ve grown accustomed to in my Latin American travels so I could still get my juice fix in the morning. That said, they were far less impressive than I’ve seen in much smaller towns.

The historical district of Lima is beautiful and I did have some memorable moments including visiting the gastronomical museum of Peru so I’m probably not being fair to Lima. I went there knowing the trip was coming to an end, and with plans to fix stuff on my bike as well as figure out a solution for shipping her home. Neither fun activities. …and it started like this.

I got pulled over 4 times coming into Lima as it was getting dark, during rush hour traffic, with some of the least friendly cops I’ve met in Peru, and all looking for a kick-down. The final one pulled me over for going through a “red” light. It was barely yellow, and I was forced to go through, pulling evasive maneuvers as a bus was backing into me, going the wrong way down the highway. It became a waiting game, and I hate to admit it, but in the end he won, and I paid my first police bribe of this whole trip.

He first claimed they had me on camera and that I won’t be able to exit the country. When I asked, “if that’s true, how’s giving you 350 soles gonna get me the pics and clear my record?” Back and forth the arguments went, and I caught him on no less than five different lies. He didn’t seem to care and kept changing his story. It was clear he wasn’t giving up until he got some money and stubbornness was going to win. My favorite excuse was the one where he said that “on Semena Santa, going through a yellow is the same as a red”, after he admitted the light was yellow. After about 20 minutes and already dark, I finally caved in and said, “you’re not letting me go ‘til you get some money, right?” He nodded. “So how about 20 soles?” (about $8.00). He said ok and off I went.

I’m never a fan of driving into a new city, in particular a city of 7 millions, after dark and during rush hour. With this in mind, I had done a little research, and thinking it might be hard to find a place with motorcycle parking, I had picked out a hostal that catered to motorcycle travelers. After an hour of bumper to bumper traffic, and getting a bit lost in the city, I located the address, only to find the building torn down, a construction sight in it’s place and a sign for condos coming soon. Doh! I shortly located another hostal close by, and parking was far easier than I had feared, though the prices were higher than expected. I only planned on staying in Lima a few days so it didn’t seem too bad.

The next morning I left the hostal on my way to the motorcycle shop about 2 km away, when I was forced onto the expressway by a series of buses turning left from the right lane. I was on the expressway for only 2 blocks and trying to get off, when a police officer waves me over. Damn, I thinking, I’ve left my papers at the hostal. Not only did I not have my papers on me, motorcycles and trucks weren’t allowed on the expressway (I didn’t realize this until the copper told me). I’m thinking I’m screwed this time, and I really am at fault, and of course he’s also looking for money. I pull out my wallet to start negotiating the bribe and pay him off, when he pushes my hand down and tells me we can’t do this here, it’s too public. He calls a friend and tells me to meet him two blocks passed the off ramp. I agree but once I get off the off-ramp, I quickly pull a U’ey before the corner and drop my bike off at the shop without any further police harassments. Phew!

The bike shop held the bike for a week, charged me $200, about what it would cost in the US, and in the end didn’t fix any of the problems.  Grrrrrr….

With the bike in the shop, I spent the following morning in the bureaucratic customs office at the port of Lima. After about 4 hours, I got recommendations for three logistics agencies for shipping quotes. I spent the afternoon at those agencies, as well as a trip to the airport customs and another logistics company there.  It took three more days and two more trips to get the quotes, with the winning bid at $1,230.00 USD, which was said to cover everything. I agreed and was told to come back on Saturday to get the bike crated, customs forms filled out, and the bike would go out on Monday. Feeling pretty good, I booked a flight home for Tuesday April 24th.

I showed up Saturday morning at 9:00am and by 8:30pm, 10.5 hours later and 7.5 hours after the customs office had closed, the bike was crated and ready to go. I asked if it was wise to crate the bike, “won’t customs need to see the bike and verify the VIN number and do an inventory? “No te preocupe” I was told, a phrase I find Peruvians use way, way, way too loosely (means “don’t concern yourself about it”, or more simply “don’t worry”). I got back on Monday at 9:00am, and of course I had to uncrate the bike, remove the battery, siphon the gas and run the bike dry, remove the windscreen, mirrors, front wheel, cases, inventory all items in the cases, and re-crate the bike, and after all this was all done, was casually told there’s a $350 additional charge for combustible goods that I need to pay to the customs. …but no te preocupe, it’s only $350 and there won’t be any more hidden charges. I threw a mini hissy fit with the logistics company who swore, the $1,230 would cover everything, and how is this still combustible goods?, if you’ve made me remove the battery and drain all the fuel. Long story short, 2 hours of arguing brought the boss and I finally saw the real estimate which had been hidden from me, and it was for $2,490.00, over twice the $1,230, I’d been quoted. And this didn’t include the $500-$800 in storage, handling, and port fees I would need to pay in Seattle.

They knew of these charges all along and just quoted low to win the bid, with plans on making me pay these various charges one at a time, banking on me being too deeply involved to back out. They also new my flight was for Tuesday so I think they planned to hold my bike hostage until I paid. Furious I demanded why hadn’t they shown me this quote, and “no te preocupe” was the response. I snapped back at them I’m damn well going to “me preocupo” if you guys are planning on charging me $2,490 and then insisted on getting my money back (which took another two hours and a lot of “no te preocupe”). About the time it took to uncrated the bike and put it back together, and once again, left the agency 10 hours later. And now, after two weeks in Lima, I was back to square one. The next day I went back and started getting fresh quotes as I was already out $280 for the crate and hopped to still use it. I spent another 7 hours at various logistics agencies without much more success but that night I heard back from Sam, a Kiwi interested in buying the bike. SOLD!

The whole process of selling in a foreign country is a bit dodgy, and in order to make it work, I would have to exit Peru on my paper work, and Sam would need to enter a country on his, so it was time to gun it down to the Bolivian border and make this happen. The ride was stunning. It took me through the Nazca lines (which you can really only see from above but still cool), some stunning mountains ranges and high passes, and incredibly beautiful countryside, mostly in high plains of an average of 12,000’ (Damn cold). I had to cover about 2,000km in 3 days so not much time for stopping or picture taking but an amazing ride that left me with a very sore bum.

a cold but beautiful morning start in the Andes

Sam flew into LaPaz, Bolivia and bus’ed it up to Puno, Peru where we met.  We turned around that night and headed to the Bolivian border, only to find ourselves stranded in a dirty border town as the border was closed. We spent the night in one of the nastiest and smelliest hotels I’ve ever stayed in but kind of a fun experience and all part of the adventure. It certainly didn’t feel threatening as border towns can sometimes be. Up at 6:00am, we headed out in the cold and crossed into Bolivia at 7:30am. It all went smoothly, the deal was done with a handshake and a wink, and we spent the night in Copacabana, Bolivia where we both had delicious Trucha a la diabla, and quite different than any diabla sauce I’ve had before. I went back the next morning for brunch to get another and find out the secrets and get the recipe before bus’ing it back to Puno. Here’s some pics.

An amazing end to the trip!

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