Doug Ruth's 1996/97 Trip Reports
Date: 25 Feb 1997
To: BMW -GS motorcycles mailing list
Subject: Trip Report - 970225.rpt
Sunday February 23
I was still recovering from the effects of the stomach flu, so decided to
stay one more day and take it easy. That way I could also send some email
from the clubhouse tomorrow morning before I leave Lima, something I
wanted to do last Thursday and Friday, but didn't because of being sick.
I bought a USA Today, dated Feb. 28, and the current issue of Newsweek and
caught up on my current events. The English newspapers are generally
taken off the arriving airplanes, and you could clearly see where the
"Complimentary Copy" sticker had been on mine. The headline was about the
death of Deng in China.
I looked around the Old City and Miraflores some more, but for the most
part was content to take it easy, do some reading, and write a few email
messages to be sent out tomorrow.
While sitting in Plaza de Aramas, a family sat down on the bench next to
mine and we spoke for a while. One woman was originally from near Lake
Titicaca in Bolivia, and spoke Ketchwa (sp?), the local Indian language,
in addition to Spanish. The man knew several phrases in English. As they
left they handed me a wallet-size card, with a '97 calendar on one side
and some scriptures on the other side. I believe they were Evangelicals,
of which there seems to be quite a few in Lima. Last night on the bus, a
woman saw me carrying my guidebook, which I keep in a zippered book cover,
and asked if it was a "Biblia" (Bible). As she got off the bus she handed
me a copy of a religious poem.
Monday February 24 65425
Till I finished breakfast, packed the bike, and composed a couple email
replies to be sent this morning, it was already 10:30. I rode to the SAEC
clubhouse where I talked with numerous people including Ron Brown.
Ron, from Littlerock in Southern California, had been down here a month in
Lima, visiting his girlfriend. He had met her when she was vacationing in
the States. At one point, after I commented that I was only "two years
behind" his 40 years, Ron replied something like, "Geez, here I'm 40,
divorced, with two teenage kids, and a mortgage, and you're travelling
around South America for a year." True, but he has the kids and they are
now "out of the way" so to speak, allowing him to travel if he so wishes.
He did comment, that, depending on how things went with his new
girlfriend, and he said things were going well and she may visit him in
the States in October, that he may find himself in the same position as I
do, deciding if he wanted to have kids again (for me, not again) at 40.
Lisa, one of the women working at the clubhouse commented she'd be really
glad when February/Carnaval was over because she was really getting tired
of being the target of water balloons. She said at times it seemed like
she was the only target. Just yesterday I saw a female tourist get doused
with a bucket of water. She definitely was not ammused, and turned to go
after her assailant, before having second thoughts.
I sent out a slew of email, mostly trip reports for January and February,
which basically gets me caught up to date through February 15. Actually I
haven't sent December's weekly reports yet, but have sent the December
Summary. I still have to send most of the GPS data since Costa Rica, and
hope to do that in Northern Chile, where I hope to stay at the home of the
woman I met in Popayan, Colombia. It took 20 minutes to send 207K bytes
at 14400 baud. Does that add up? I'm not sure I want to see that Sprint
I started getting behind in my journal in San Jose, Costa, Rica at the
time of the robbery, just jotting notes to myself, and haven't been caught
up since. Obviously, having lost my modem cable, I couldn't send any email
until I got a new cable in Quito, and that diminished my incentive to
write complete trip reports. Once I had the cable back, I had a lot of
catching up to do to have email-ready trip reports, and only now, here in
Lima, feel caught up, more or less. Remembering this is a good incentive
not to get behind again in the future. It's a real pain-in-the-ass.
I didn't get away from the clubhouse until 1:30, and then drove the short
distance to Miraflores, where I found an ATM machine and grabbed lunch at
a Burger King, my stomach still not fully recovered, and I wanted some
familiar food. On the outskirts of Miraflores I gassed up. It was now
3pm, but I still had 3 hours of light and I hoped to get as far as Ica.
Once out of Lima, the terrain was desert. The first hundred kilometers
had quite a few small beach resorts, and one, with a natural rock archway
on the beach in a small semicircular cove was particularly pretty.
As had been the case along the PanAm Highway north of Lima, there were
numerous sites with large battery chicken coops alongside the road. These
consisted of row after row of long, low chicken coops, out in the middle
of the desert.
I arrived in Ica about 6pm, but at the last traffic circle in town, turned
west and drove the 3 km or so to the oasis village of Huacachina.
Huacachina is a small village of only 100 or so people, built around an
oasis nestled between two giant sand dunes. At the center of the oasis is
a small lake, around which all the homes and 2 or 3 hotels are built. A
Malecon is built around 3 sides of the lake, and when I arrived at dusk,
numerous couples were strolling along it hand-in-hand, or sitting on the
numerous benches along it, watching the fading light play off the lake
Tuesday February 25 65622
Today's entry is being written from a hammock on a beach on a remote cove
along the Pacific. My tent is pitched nearby. 50 feet away the surf is
pounding on the beach. It is dark out but I can just make out the white
froth as the waves break on the sand. A light overhead, powered by a
generator some distance away provides the light to write by. The
generator is turned off at 9pm after which this little community of 10
cabanas, a restaurant, and 2-3 houses presumably will go to sleep.
Campimg cost S5 despite my guidebook saying it would be free. It' still a
pretty good deal.
What makes it even neater is that I'm sleeping at the bay used by the
ancient Incas as a port for their capital city, Cusco, in the Andes. This
cove, 10 km north of Chala, is known as Puerto Inca. There are ruins here
of an Inca city built to support the activities of a port city. The ruins
were only discovered in the 1950s.
The surrounding landscape looks more like a lunar landscape with wierd
rock formations and jagged, craggy hills rising up from the north side of
the bay. Set back from the beach, against some low rocky hills on the
southeast side of the bay are the ruins. A stone storehouse with a long
row of small 2 foot square doorways into the individual rooms. Numerous
underground, stone-lined, domed circular chambers, resembling igloos or
beehives in shape, are found throughout the site. Some are almost
completely buried, except for a small hole in the top of the dome. Others
are more exposed and tend to have more of their walls crumbling and
falling apart. Many of these have bone fragments at the bottom. One area
is a maze of rooms, some of the walls as high as 6-8 feet. From the hill
behind, looking down on these ruins, with the bay in the background, it's
a thought provoking sight. To picture the activities that must have been
going on here, where I'm now walking, how many hundreds of years ago.
The south side of the bay, out to the point, is a rocky promenatory,
interspersed with well-trod paths. Throughout the area one finds the
remains of walls and buildings of unknown purpose.
My day started in Huacachina by being awoken by an earthquake about 5am.
It was big enough to shake the bed and the building a bit. Tonight, a
couple, from Arequipa, 100 miles south of here, and staying in one of the
cabanas, said 'quakes are common in this area.
I slept for another hour after the 'quake and then got up and climbed the
huge sand dune rising from across the street behind the hotel. It took me
about 25 minutes with numerous stops to rest. It was a good workout as
the sand would continually give way from beneath your feet. The result
was your effective mileage was probably twice that actually walked.
I had thought about carrying my GPS with me as I climbed the dune, just
for the novelty of having my track as I traipsed around on the dune. Also
to get an idea of how tall it was. In the end I forgot to take it with
The views from top were spectacular, both of the oasis below, nestled
between two huge sand dunes, and of the dunes and desert stretching off
into the distance. At the center of the oasis is a good size lake
surrounded by palm trees. A wide, concrete walkway goes around 3 sides of
the lake and homes and 3 hotels line the sidewalk. Between the walkway
and the lake itself was a narrow strip of beach and grass. Hotel Mossone
at the east end of the lake was quite ritzy and looked very nice. Of
course I had checked into the cheapest hotel, the Salvatierra (S12 with
private bath). Around the outside of these hotels and homes, but only on
the north, and east sides, ran a palm-lined street. There were a handful
of other buildings further back from the lake on the east end, but that
was it. The waiter at the restaurant last night said only a 100 people
live in the village itself.
While sitting on top of the dune enjoying the view, I could see someone
climbing up the dune way to the east. Eventually he walked out along the
crest to where I was, continued on past me to the west to where the dune
fell away, descended the dune almost to the western lakeshore, then
climbed the dune on the south side of the lake. Do that everyday and
you'll get your leg muscles in shape.
Descending the dune was easy. Take one step and slide down 2 more. Once
down on pavement, walking felt abnormally harsh after the cushion-like
feeling of walking down the dune. It's possible to rent sand-boards from
the local food stands, They're basically the same thing as snow-boards.
Not knowing how to snow-board, plus carrying a camara, I decided to stick
On the way out of Ica I stopped at the Regional Museum which has good
displays of artifacts from the Paracas, Nazca, and Inca cultures found in
this area. They had quite a few mummies, including several in which they
were able to determine the cause of death as tuberculosous, trichonosis,
and several other diseases. On mummy was of a child, in a sitting
position, only about a foot tall, with all it's hair, and fingers and toes
clearly distinguishable. Kind of creepy. Another display was of
trepanned skulls. Trepanning is the practice of cutting or drilling holes
in the skull, while the person is alive, for various medical treatments.
There were mummified limbs with elaborate tattoos still visible on the
now, gaunt, taught skin.
But the real reason I went to the museum was that, behind the museum, was
a scale model of the Nazca lines and an observation platform to view it
from. I thought it would give me a good orientation and help me decide
whether to take a plane flight to view the lines. Inside the museum there
was also additional information on the lines. In the gift shop I bought a
small book describing the latest theories on the lines and showing photos
and drawings of the designs. I basically decided not to pay the US$30-50
for a plane flight, but to observe the 2-3 figures visible from an
observation platform built along the PanAm Highway.
Several miles south of Ica I passed a motorcycle traveler heading north.
I turned around, shortly caught up with him, and we both pulled over to
the roadside. Gunther was a German riding a Honda 650 NTV. It looked
sort of like the Honda Hawk imported into the States for several years. It
was very muddy, he said, from the road from Santa Lucia to Arequipa, a
road I won't take until possibly on my way north. He had shipped his bike
to Buenos Aires, Argentina in October, had gone south to Tierra del Fuego,
and was now working his way north. It was kind of funny, because the name
"Tierra del Fuego" meant nothing to him. and drew a blank look when I
asked him about it. He simply talked about the town of Ushuaia, which is
the southern-most town on Tierra Del Fuego. He hoped to be in California
in April, then continue on north to Alaska, getting there in July or
August. He had had no mechanical problems so far. His main difficulty
was getting new tires for his bike. The rear was a particularly large tire
and the alloy rim was of a design that he said required a machine to
change the tire. He asked about the places I had bought tires and if they
had tire changing machines. I haven't been following sport bikes closely
in a number of years, but the rims on his wheels had very little, if any
lip, and seemed to blend right into the tire. I can see where these would
get screwed up quickly with a set of tire irons. Since they were
tubeless, I guess he didn't plan to change any tires alongside the road.
He had met Roger and Gordon, the two New Mexico bikers I had flown to
Bogota with, many weeks before, farther south, but couldn't remember
exactly where or when. They were still headed south at the time. We
compared notes, and he showed me his route and gave me tips on which roads
were good and which were bad. I answered some of his questions about the
trip north, both in South and Central America, though the latter strained
my memory a bit. He pretty much camped the whole way. His bike had a
large, tall, German-made tankbag, two leather saddlebags and a huge bundle
bungied on the back of the seat which he said was his tent. A pot handle
stuck out of one saddlebag. We shook hands, wished each other luck, and
headed off in our separate directions.
In this area an irrigation viaduct paralleled the road and I saw about
every use one can imagine, including women washing clothes, people sitting
in it taking a bath, and people washing their cars and bicycles alongside
The road continued southeast to Nazca. The area was desert, but at an
elevation just high enough to be above the coastal fog and clouds which
predominate near the coast. Small oasis were occasionally passed, but
they were generally small. There was a region between Ica and Nazca where
cotton was grown and the town of Palpa had numerous orange groves in the
About 20km north of the city of Nazca I stopped at the small Maria Reiche
Museum alongside the PanAm Highway. It had interesting displays about the
Nazca Lines and the work of Maria Reich, the German researcher who devoted
more than 30 years of her life to studying the lines. The site was
located at the small one room house she lived in for most of those years,
and it was open for viewing. She is now 93, and lives in Lima.
The Nazca Lines are etched into the desert floor over an immense area.
There are both figures of animals, such as a monkey, spider, heron,
hummingbird, lizard, a spaceman, and numerous straight lines which run, in
various directions, for miles as far as the eye can see. The straight
lines frequently end at small hills, some of which are thought to have
been burial sites. Noone is really sure what the purpose of the figures
or lines were, though there are many theories, some of them quite far out
in left field. Those of Maria Reiche are given most credence. She claims
they form a large astronomical calendar, and gives numerous calculations
to support her claims.
A couple of miles south was the viewing platform, built and financed by
Maria Reich, on the right side of the road. It was maybe 30 feet high and
offered slightly oblique views of 3 of the nearby figures, a tree, a
deformed human, and the lizard. The lizard, which the PanAm Highway split
in two, was far enough off, that it was difficult to make out, and if I
hadn't known that it was there, wouldn't have been able to pick it out.
About a mile farther south was a group of 3 small hills with trails to the
top. Numerous straight lines, radiating in various directions, aligned
with various points on the hills, and by walking around you could line up
with them and see them stretch away to the horizon.
Both the figures and lines are called geoglyphs and are cut into the
desert floor, exposing the lighter colored earth and rock beneath the
As I passed through Nazca there were numerous small charter air companies
offering flights over the Lines. But having seen what I had, at the
museums, the observation points, and with the small book I had bought,
decided my time and money would be better spent elsewhere.
South of Nazca the road turned south, continuing through scenic desert and
eventually regained the coast at Lomas. It had left the coast back at
Pisco the previous day. At one point the road went right along the beach,
with strong gusty winds, and low overhanging clouds, and it was quite
cool. Drifting sand was blown across the road in several spots. The road
then switchbacked up to a low plateau a couple hundred feet above
sealevel and more-or-less would follow the coast 350 km south to Camana,
my intended destination for tonight.
The plateau was relatively flat and one could see the road stretching
away, straight, in the distance. But it was deceiving, as numerous
gullies with dry streambeds cut through the plateau down to the sea, and
the road would suddenly make a 90 degree turn inland to climb down into
and then back out of these ravines. One had to be careful to watch the
road and not the scenery. More than one corner caught me by surprise going
a bit too fast.
Passing Puerto Inca, it was already 5pm, and while I could have pushed on
to Camana and made it by 6:30 I decided to stop and camp at the bay at
Puerto Inca. Maybe it was talking with Gunther today that triggered it, I
After exploring the Inca ruins I had dinner at the restaurant just off the
beach. I had a covina fillet, which is fish with white meat. The couple
from Arequipa, dining at the table next to mine, offered me a ride south
in their pickup, loading the bike in the back, to which he quickly added,
unless I preferred riding. I thanked him for the offer, but said I did
prefer riding, and besides I wasn't sure we could get my bike in the bed
of his pickup, even if I had wanted to. It was a brand-new pickup, but
had one of those short beds.