Doug Ruth's 1996/97 Trip Reports
Date: 22 Feb 1997
To: BMW -GS motorcycles mailing list
Subject: Trip Report - 970222.rpt
Sunday February 16 65052
Well, today was my Waterloo, so to speak. I had 3, I guess I'll call
them, spills. They were more than drops, since in each case I was moving,
but not severe enough to call them crashes. If Noemi were here, she would
tell me what they were, since she has the description of drops, spills,
and crashes down to a science. If she were here, I'm sure there would be
photos of the incidents as well. As it was, the last thing on my mind
after such an occurance, is to dig my camara out of the now prone bike to
get a photo. Afterwards, I often think I should have got a photo, but at
the time it doesn't cross my mind.
All three crashes were very similar in execution, i.e., the rear tire
breaking loose, coming around, and never hooking up again until I low-side
with the bars at almost full lock, but 2 of the 3 occurred under different
circumstances. They also all happened very quickly.
I left Huaraz about 8:30 with the intention of trying to ride up to Lago
Llaca at an elevation of more than 17000 feet. On the way, the road
passed the ruins of Willcawain, a Tiahuanaco-style temple dating from AD
1000. It is constructed of stone in 3 levels, and each level has a
seperate low entrance doorway, forcing you to stoop to gain entrance.
Inside each level are a series of rooms interconnected by hallways and low
doorways. There are only 2-3 "windows" in the whole structure, all on the
top level. Most rooms have, built into their walls, protruding flat
stones to hold candles or torches. Small airways are built into the
walls and ceilings to vent air into the rooms from the outside. Several
larger "tunnels" connect several of the rooms on different levels,
presumably for communication between the different levels.
I asked about the road up to Lago Llaca and was told it was difficult
because not much traffic used it, and that it would take 2 hours or so.
It was already 10AM, and going to the lake would probably mean spending
another night in Huaraz, which I didn't really want to do. But I decided
to proceed and see what the road was like and play it by ear.
I hadn't gone very far and the road became worse, basically two rutted
tire tracks seperated by a grass-covered mound of earth. The area was very
wet as well. Just after crossing a small bridge on a righthand corner,
the rear tire managed to slide over to the outside track, and between the
wet conditions, the grass-covered mound of earth between the tracks, and
the lack of agressive knobs on the sides of the Pirelli rear tire, the
back end just kept coming around and I low-sided on the right side, the
bike ending up pointing in the direction I had come from. No real damage
as I had only been going about 20mph at the time, and I had the bike back
up on two wheels in short order.
I continued on a bit further, but the road didn't get any better and I
hadn't even crossed 12K feet yet. I still had almost a mile in elevation
to the lake. That, coupled with my reluctance to spend another night in
Huaraz and wanting to get on to Lima, and undoubtably with my spill in the
back of my mind, though I never like to admit that as a factor, I decided
to turn around, ride back through Huaraz, and then take the road west back
across the Cordilleras Negras to Casma on the coast. I never like turning
back like that; I always feel like I've been defeated and it leaves me
feeling a bit depressed or bummed out.
At the bridge crossing the Rio Santa, just outside Huaraz, there was a
police checkstation and I stopped to ask about the condition of the road
on to Casma, 150 km away. The officer pointed to the road around me,
which was reasonable dirt, and said similar. That just goes to prove
don't believe everything you're told.
As the road climbed up to Callan Pass (13858 feet), it was one of the most
washboard roads I've encountered on this trip so far, interspersed with
stretches of mud, which were slippery but manageable. The summit was a
wide open gently sloping area of grassland, and had clouds covering the
surrounding grass-covered peaks. It was raining lightly and about 43F.
As the road switchbacked down the other side it continued to be potholed,
muddy and slippery, but manageable for 10 miles or so. Then the road
became the drainage system for the whole mountain (or so it seemed) and
the mud became quite thick, and 2 times within a mile I went down, both
times the rear tire loosing traction in the mud and coming around,
resulting in a lowside, once on the right side the other on the left.
Fortunately both times, despite the mud, I didn't have to work too hard to
get the bike back up. Three times in one day and I had it down to a
science. Squat down beside the prone bike, back to the bike. Bring the
handlebar pointing towards the ground in against the tank. One hand grabs
that bar, the other hand the grab bar behind the seat. I had learned back
in the Yucatan (boy that seems like a long time ago) not to grab the
bottom edge of the seat when I had ripped the rear latch off. Then slowly
stand up while walking backwards a bit.
Fortunately, as I proceeded west, things became drier and eventually the
road transitioned into a good graded dirt road. In this area the Andes
were huge linear, triangular-profiled ridges, dropping away to rivers far
below in deep V-shaped valleys. The road paralleled the ridgeline for a
long distance before again beginning to switchback down to the valleys
below. Indians could be seen tending small flocks of sheep on the steep
hillsides and alongside the rivers far below.
The surrounding mountains became barren, with very little vegetation. I
was always amazed, after having come through so many mountains in the past
2 hours, and having dropped so much in elevation, to look down at my GPS
and see I was still at over 8000 feet, with mountains stretching away to
the west as far as I could see. At one point where I stopped I noticed a
casualty of one of my spills: the electrical connector to my Givi topcase,
which provides power for charging my palmtop and also provides the serial
connection between my GPS and the palmtop, was broken. The pins were still
intact, but the rotating collar which locks the two parts was broken. I
tested the connections and everything still functioned, but the plug was
just a press fit now with nothing holding it in. All the pieces were
still there and I hoped I could glue them back together later.
As I approached the coast the terrain became again reminiscent of the
Mojave, with a barren, sandy desert floor and barren, craggy peaks away in
the distance. Approaching Casma, on the coast I came to the ruins at
Sechin where I stopped late in the afternoon. The ruins are set against a
backdrop of a huge, barren, rocky mountain which rises immediately behind
the ruins. The square temple is completely faced with carved stone
monoliths, more than 500 of them, depicting Sechin warriors and gruesome
battle scenes such as dismembered arms and legs and blood gushing from
eyes and mouths. The carvings were very well preserved as the whole
complex had been covered by dirt, some think intentionally, others say by
a natural disaster.
In Casma I got a room at a hostal on the main drag, for S15. There is
definitely a difference in prices between the highlands and here along the
Pan-American Highway. The night was warm, and the room had no fan, and I
was back to sleeping with no covers again.
Monday February 17 65170
In the morning before leaving town, I bought some instant glue to try to
repair the electrical connector. I should have examined it closer before
buying the glue, because it turned out, that while a couple small tabs had
broken, the collar snapped back on, and everything worked as it should.
South from Casma was more of the same, desert broken intermittantly by
small desert oasis villages and towns: Huarmey, Paramonga, Pativilca,
Barranca, Supe, Huara, Chancay, and Ancon. The Pan-American is in very
good condition and I blasted along at 75mph, twice having to haul on the
brakes to stop for police checkpoints. They could care less about my
speed, and the document checks were routine. Twice I was passed by luxury
cars doing at least 80 mph.
At Paramonga I stopped to visit the Fortalezade Paramonga, the ruins of a
Chimu-culture fortress/temple. The ruins sit on high ground with views of
the ocean and rise in several tiered levels. The lower levels have no
apparent use other than to provide walls and a base for the higher levels.
Only on top are there any structures and rooms.
I had been feeling guilty about not having done a better job of cleaning
all the mud out of the engine fins after yesterday's spills, so spent
about 45 minutes, removing the bash plate and cleaning out the now-baked
mud. Overall the bike was still a muddy mess, and seemed to attract more
stares than usual when riding through towns.
At 5pm I stopped for the day in Ancon, a seaside "resort" 30km north of
Lima. The first hospedaje I stopped at charged S15 for 12 hours or S20
for 24 hours for a room with shared bath. I could have it for the 12 hour
rate, but I couldn't get the bike through the narrow doorway into the
courtyard. The next hospedaje, Hostal Las Brisas del Mar, had nice rooms,
with private bath, in a new, modern 2-story building, but wanted S20.
They had secure parking, and the room was nice and clean, so I took it.
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Ancon was a posh seaside resort for
the wealthy from Lima. Along the seafront Malecon are numerous
well-preserved 19th century wooden homes with ornate wooden porches and
balconies. Alongside these elegant reminders of the past rise tall 10-15
story luxury apaprtment buildings. I think many of these are used by
todays well-to-do upper-middle class as weekend and holiday getaways from
Lima. They were clearly very posh and luxurious compared to anything else
I had seen in Peru. Several posh restaurants lined the Malecon, near the
more luxurious complexes. The Malecon itself curved around the small bay
which had numerous yachts and powerboats anchored offshore. A large
grass-covered plaza with palm trees and benches faced the Malecon, and
there was a lot of activity with people enjoying the pleasant evening. It
wasn't too difficult to distinguish the wealthy upper-middleclass from the
other residents. The wealthy kids were wearing baggy pants and clothes,
very similar to what you might see such kids wearing in the US. Mountain
bikes, and roller blades were much in evidence.
I went to the cheap part of town, away from the Malecon, for my dinner.
S3.50 for a large bowl of soup, a large plate of rice, beans, salad, and
filet of fish, and a glass of chica morado, a common Peruvian softdrink
made of purple maize. It sort of tastes like Kool-Aid.
Tuesday February 18
In the morning I washed the bike out front of the hotel. The hotel had a
large cistern of water under the garage, and an electric pump to power the
hose. The man who owned the hotel and his young daughter watched me wash
it. He is in the process of adding a 3rd floor to the building, with more
Two blocks away was a store selling oil, and I bought two quarts of
Castrol 20W-50 and changed my oil and installed a new oil filter out front
of the store. A group of kids gathered around to watch, and I provided
English translations of numerous Spanish words. One young girl,
accompanied by her girlfriend, wanted to know how to say "chica mal" (bad
girl) in English.
Bike maintenance took me into early afternoon and I hung out on the beach
the rest of the afternoon. In the evening, around 5pm, fishing boats
began to bring in their catch to the pier. There were many booths selling
fish and other seafood, brought in by the boats, and open-air restaurants
where you could have fresh seafood.
Wednesday February 19 65387
Lima was only 30 km southeast of Ancon, and my late start, after checking
my driveshaft oil level, brought me into Lima in noon rush-hour, if that's
what it was. Traffic was terrible, probably the worst on this trip.
Bumber-to-bumper, stop-and-go on the PanAm Highway. If you got rid of all
the disabled trucks blocking the lanes, it might have been a bit better,
but not much. The were also numerous lane closures, for no apparent
reason, and many detours and construction areas. That combined with the
warm temperatures, and the bike was really hot and idling roughly.
Without too much trouble I found a Banco de Credito, and started to park
on the wide sidewalk out front, but the guard said I couldn't park there
and indicated along the curb across the street. He said he would watch
the bike for me while I used the ATM machine, which was inside the bank.
ATMs really make it easy to get money.
>From there I headed to the Hotel Roma, several blocks from Plaza de
Aramas, which the guidebook indicated had motorcycle parking. Rooms were
S25 (US$10) with shared bath. Parking was just inside the front door
(locked at night) in a small entrance foyer. It would be a bit of a tight
fit for my large bike.
Before parking the bike, I rode to the SAEC clubhouse, not too far away,
but far enough that I didn't want to walk. Alex, the manager, said he
would let me use the phone once a day to check my email. Fair enough. I
got my incoming email, but didn't send any trip reports since I was
waiting to hear from Dave Doudna, if he had had any problems with the
compressed and encoded test message I had sent him from Quito, the last
place I had checked my email. His message said everything worked fine, so
I planned to send a large batch of compressed and encoded trip reports
At the clubhouse, I again ran into Rob, who I had met at the clubhouse in
Quito, where he had been volunteering. He was now travelling in Peru, on
his way to Bolivia, with his girlfriend. They had just that morning,
ventured down to the area around the Japanese Embassy where the hostage
crisis was still going on, and got into an area where only journalists
were permitted, then stopped by some Peruvian soldiers, who gave them a
lot of hassle until some nearby journalist began taking pictures of them
and the soldiers. After the soldiers saw the journalist taking the photos,
the soldiers simply escorted Rob and his girlfriend out of the area.
I met another traveller (forget his name) from Connecticut, who was
driving a shiney, silver Mercedes Benz, which I had seen parked out front
of the clubhouse when I arrived. I'm not sure I'd choose that particular
marque and model if I was travelling by car through South America. He
said he often slept in the car. He was in his mid-40s, and said he had
done a similar South American trip by car when he was 20. He wasn't
using a Libreta and hadn't had any problems.
At some point we got talking about guerrillas and whether they posed a
danger to travellers in general and Americans in particular. He had an
interesting take on the situation, which I must say, makes sense. He
said, during his travels, both on his earlier trip as well as on this
trip, he had travelled in some remote, rural areas where guerrilla
activity was known to exist. And he had in fact got several flat tires in
those areas. His view was the guerrillas know that if they target
American travelers, it will result in an influx of military personnel into
the area, endangering their operations and supplies, and that their main
interest is to get you on your way as soon as possible, and out of their
areas of activities. On several occasions, guerrilleras had helped him
fix his flat tires. He pointed out that the guerrillers are a military
organization themselves, with a well-defined chain of command, and that
even if a low-level member may harbor more fanatical anti-US sentiments,
he knows that if he does something, he will have to answer to his superior
officers farther up the chain of command. It sounds like a good theory to
me, but I don't plan to actively try to test it out.
He related another story from his earlier trip in the '70s, of how after
crossing the Honduran/El Salvadoran border he had pulled over to the side
of the road to sleep for the night. A military officer knocked on the
window and said he couldn't stop there. So he drove on a little further
and pulled over. Another military officer approaches and says he can't
stop there, so he drives on a little further. The third time a general,
knocks on the winow and says he can't park there, and that he should
follow him into the next town where he will buy him a room in a hotel.
Early the next morning Honduran troops, crossed the border, invading El
Salvador (or it may have been the other way around). The troops had been
massed along the road where he had been trying to park. He also said,
unbeknownst to him at the time, as he drove north the next day, the small
towns he drove through were later being bombed in retaliation.
I bought a replacement map of Peru, to replace the one I had lost on my
way to Caraz. Just as I was getting ready to leave, a non-SAEC-member
wanted to buy a map, but they are sold only to members, so I volunteered
to buy it for him, and he insisted on giving me US$5 for my favor. I
turned around and used the money to buy another map of the Arequipa/Colca
Canyon area which I had been debating whether to buy.
Back at the hotel, I rode up the front steps a bit too quickly and
bottomed out on the top step, taking a small chip out of the top step.
They didn't seem to mind too much.
After dinner I bought some rolls to snack on tomorrow.
Thursday February 20
I awake at 7am with an upset stomach & intestines. By 9am I have a fever,
and my whole body is hot but I feel chilled. All my muscles begin to
ache. It gets progressively worse and I spend the whole day in bed. I
don't have much of an appetite and snack on the rolls I bought last night.
I sleep off and on for most of the afternoon.
At 8pm that night I venture out briefly to buy some water and more rolls,
then return to my room. I try to sleep, but between the fever, my achey
muscles, and having slept most of the afternoon, toss and turn for most of
the night. Finally at 3:30am I fall asleep and sleep till 6:30am.
Friday February 21
I still feel terrible, with a fever and sore muscles. For a while in the
morning I start to feel a bit better, but then it gets worse again. I
spend the day in my room again, drinking lots of water and munching on the
bread I bought. At 7pm I venture out again and buy more water, but am not
hungry and pass on dinner. I hadn't slept during the day, instead having
read and written in my journal, so I had no trouble falling asleep, but
didn't sleep that well during the night.
Saturday February 22
I awake and the fever and sore muscles are gone. Not haven eaten much the
last two days, I feel a bit weak, but other than that, whatever I had
seems to be gone. Probably a minor case of food poisoning of some type.
My stomach and intestines are still not 100% up to par however, and I have
a light breakfast.
I'm not up for a big day of walking around and sightseeing and limit it to
sights around the Plazas de Aramas: the Palacio de Gobierno on the
northeast side with the colorful Palace guards stationed out front, the
Cathedral and Archbishop's Palace on the southeast side, and the
Municipalidad and Club Union on the northwest side. A large bronze
fountain dating from 1650 dominated the center of the plaza, and the
grounds were covered in red flowers. The plaza was crowded with people
enjoying the sunny weather, and it was almost impossible to find an empty
bench. Just off the plaza was a large bronze statue of Francisco Pizarro,
the founder of Lima, on a horse.
Near the plaza a folk music group was performing, and as I watched them,
an attractive woman in a long pink backless dress came up to me and
started talking. Immediately I get a bit suspicious and wonder what the
scam is going to be. That is the unfortunate side effect of bad
encounters while traveling. It turns out there was no scam. Jacklyn was
a nurse at the local hospital and was also studying English for use in her
work. She had in fact just come from her English class and was carrying
her English books and dictionary with her. She asked if she could
practice her English, and we spent the rest of the afternoon walking
around the area, visiting some museums and several historic churches, she
practicing her English, me my Spanish. At one point, she started to ask
me something which came out as "Can I have you?" , but then she pulled out
her English book to look something up, and we got off on another subject
and, the original question, whatever it was, was never asked. It did
bring to mind some interesting possibilities however.
Her parents were of Indigenous descent, originally from near Puno on Lake
Titicaca, but she had been born in Lima. She was 25. Interestingly, her
parents were Mormon, though she said she was not. She lived with her
family in Miraflores, the more modern, more affluent area of Lima near the
ocean. There are a lot of restaurants, bars, and nightclubs in
Miraflores, and we decided to take the bus there for dinner and to see
what else was going on there. It was a beautiful Saturday evening, and
the Parque Central in Miraflores was full of people and artists displaying
their work. A local music group was performing in a small amphitheater in
the center of the park. Miraflores was definitely upscale, and there were
a lot of hip, well-dressed people enjoying the sidewalk cafes and
restaurants. Jacklyn suggested an Italian restaurant across the street
and I ordered the lasagna. It was above my usual budget, but I considered
this to be one of those splurge meals.
I had left most of my money and credit cards back at the hotel, and the
dinner wiped out most of my cash, so after dinner we agreed I'd go back to
the hotel for some more money and meet her and a friend of hers who had
joined us, back here in Miraflores. It was 11:45 when I got back to the
hotel. I laid down on the bed for what I told myself would be 5 minutes.
I woke up at 4am. Oh well. I had been fairly tired, not having slept
real well the last two nights. I kind of hoped she'd call the hotel the
next day, but she didn't.