"And how do you feel right now?" - a rather unnecessary question, I can see for myself she is not well this morning. In response, Mirjam throws up again, and I know enough. We are in Chalhuanca, a small village with a few hundred people, halfway between Cusco and Nazca in Peru. The main street is broken up - they are installing a new sewer. It is rain season, and the village has been transformed into one big mudpool. The bikes, parked in the backyard of the hotel, will sink deeper in the mud today, I don't think we will continue our trip. This village is a dump - if Mirjam has to be admitted to hospital again, she definitely has to be transported to a bigger city. "You better rest a bit", I say. "I will return in an hour."
Yesterday we met Henrik, and yesterday evening we planned on traveling together for a while. Today I say goodbye to our European travel companion - it's no use for him to wait here. Henrik rides a 650cc MuZ, and is nearing the end of his trip. Within three weeks he will be back in Santiago, and from there he will return to Germany. Henrik continues the way he came: alone.
I walk up and down the main street - there is no clinic here, and I don't see any house with a doctor sign. Leaving the village on bike will be tough on Mirjam - the main street is inaccessible, and the parallel road behind the first row of houses is unpaved and very muddy from the massive rains of last night.
"And how do you feel now?", the same unnecessary question, but now a different answer. "We can't stay here", Mirjam says, "there is nothing here. Let's try to reach Nazca." We leave - there are two mountain passes both more than 4,000 meter high waiting for us, before we can descend to 600 meter, to Nazca.
Fortunately it's asphalt all the way, and of good quality as well. The scenery is gorgeous. We cross the Andes, riding into the rain. Here too they come from the sea, the Pacific Ocean. Up the high grounds there is little vegetation, and the landscape is arid. The monotony is only broken by a few llamas. The descends are inspiring. At times we drop 2,000 meter to reach a village or city. There is water in the valleys, and the vegetation visibly approaches harvest day. They grow lots of corn, ever since the Inca time. The rain clouds are heated by the sun and rise, until they drop again (like Icarus), sometimes in the same valley where they originated. During our descends we pass right through these clouds, and we see the process formin around us.
The region surrounding Nazca once was home to people who succeeded in making this barren place habitable. They had to build an underground water transport system. We have descended below the level where the rains fall. On average it rains here half an hour ... per two years! The desert is made of light sand, covered with a layer of dark sand, probably dust from past volcano eruptions. Because of the lack of rain erosion is almost absent. And today too the city of Nazca is fed by the ancient canals, even though the people only have water for two hours a day.
The ancient Nazca people made pottery, built a whole city, and was aware of the seasons. In Europe you can't miss the difference between summer and winter. But here, between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn, each day of the year is similar. We are 15 degrees below the equator - in the tropics. Although you can hardly notice that when you are at those enormous altitudes in the Andes: Lake Titicaca was rather European cold and dreary when we visited it. At lower altitudes, around 2,000 meter, the seasonal differences are negligeable.
For people who want to grow crops the differences in altitudes and those in seasons are important because of the rains. Near Nazca there are vast lines in the desert. If you stand at one of the extremities of a line you can determine precisely the place where the sun will rise or set. Some lines indicate the place of a constellation in the night sky. These lines probably served as a calender. There are some figures as well, so large you can only appreciate them from up high. It is a mystery how this civilization could construct these drawings without being able to see them.
There are people who believe these are some sort of alien landing strips. When that theory gained popularity some 30 years ago, many came to have a look, in their cars. The tracks are still visible.
Nowadays seven hundred square kilometers are preserved as archeological site, and so we are unable to check the time of year using sunrise. We have to make due with a flight above the area, in a few days when Mirjam can handle it.
"Just one bread roll", Mirjam says when we are at the breakfast table. I can imagine the chicken bouillion and jelly can't capture her culinary interest indefinitely. Oh well, an hour later we are at another hospital. Again Mirjam has pain, is nauseous, and throws up. It won't stop, but the pancreas is a sensitive organ, and an essential one at that. I don't want to take any chances, and so another physician starts pushing on her abdominals again. Fortunately, after some hesitation by the Pardo clinic, I have managed to take along Mirjam's complete medical dossier.
This physician doesn't speak English, but with the help of the dossier and lots of Latin names we agree: Mirjam is on a very strict diet. Very strict. More chicken bouillion, more jelly, more saltless cookies. The prognosis is good according to the doctor, this is a mild case. But it will take time. We get a pain killer (for intramuscular injection - luckily I can administer that myself), and pills against the nausea. And the advice to take a couple of days rest. Fortunately we have a nice hotel where we can use the kitchen.
Like on the unpaved roads of Argentina, here too the question arises whether it is wise to continue. In this reasonably sized city we can find the necessary food, but in the villages we pass we are forced to eat the local food, or eat nothing. For me that is one of the attractions in these kind of journeys, but now this is bad. No fat or oil, no meat except very well cooked chicken breast, no diary products, no spices, preferrably no salt - it can't be found in the pots and pans of the kitchens where the Peruan man eats. And who knows what will be in store for us. This could continue through all of Central America and Mexico.
We follow the advice of a few days rest, then we take the plane trip, another day of rest, and then continue to Lima. We have to reach Callao, the airport near the capitol of Peru. There the tires and filters are waiting for us, sent by Matthe van den Bersselaar, Petra Rolvink and Motor Houtrust. (All of you many thanks for your help!) Because Lima is a large city, with a seaport, an airport, plenty of infrastructure to rest, we can decide there what will be our next move.
The trip to Lima crosses the piece of land that separates the Pacific Ocean and the Andes. About 100 kilometers, and very dry. The moist air of the ocean is pushed up the Andes, and it releases its rain there, in the mountains. Here, at sea level, it doesn't rain. The few rivers that flow from the Andes back to the ocean feed the irrigation. In thos places there is human activity (and vegetation), but most of the landscape is much like the sand dunes of the Sahara. It is a beautiful sight, although we wonder how people can live here.
Mirjam endures the trip reasonably well. She is a bit nauseous at the end, but mainly she is tired. Indeed, the parts are at the Jorge Chavez international airport. We move in with Victor, the owner of a small hotel near the airport. Again we are allowed to use the kitchen, so we know for sure Mirjam gets the right food.
Importing the parts takes almost all of next day. And it isn't cheap - I pay 190 US dollars for document costs, import taxes, storage and mediation. The shipping costs were 100 Euro. Thankfully the BMW dealer Motor Houtrust from the Hague has an eye for the needs of the world traveler. They supply the parts quick and reasonably priced, and they helped by making a pro forma invoice, which keep the import taxes down. This way I 'miss' about 150 US dollar in taxes. Advice for other travelers: in Peru the procedure for temporary import of motor parts (which don't coswt you any taxes) takes two months, and is effectively impossible. You are better off chosing another coutry to forward your parts to.
From Lima we continue over the Panamericana, still further north. Behind every speed sign there is a Toyota Landcruiser with officers, but without radar. The first time we definitely went faster than 40, and they had every right, but they let us go after Mirjam talked to them. We missed a second fine, with sliming about the gorgeous scenery which made us 'lose attention'. The third couple of policemen didn't even bother: they started talking about engine capacity, the duration of the journey, etcetera. Oh well, I too would stop a couple of foreign bikers with any excuse, just to break the boredom in this desert.
We spend the night in Trujillo, in the center of the city. We talk the chef into cooking something for Mirjam - he creates a beautiful dish, and for the first time in weeks Mirjam visibly enjoys dinner. He went easy on the salt, but used more than we would do. Mirjam takes it well - we switch from saltless to salt-poor.
From Trujillo we want to go to Piura, another day's trip of about 400 kilometers. Halfway, when we pass the city of Chiclayo, I suddenly lose Mirjam. While I'm waiting a taxi driver stops and tells me 'the other biker' is stopped by the police. I ride back, and find Mirjam in the company of an officer, who holds her papers. Mirjam has collided with a minivan. Mirjam didn't fall, there is just a scratch on her front wing and headlight. In Peru they have traffic lights, but they are viewed as an 'advisery'. This crossing had no traffic lights, and here the strongest rule. A small corner of the rear fender has fallen off, and that's why the officer wants us to come to the police station.
"Por que?", I want to know. "For an investigation, and maybe a blood test", the officer replies. "And who is drunk here?", I ask. "We don't know yet", he says. He is the one that looks intoxicated the most according to us. I don't trust the situation. As soon as we enter the station, we will be separated from the bikes. and who knows what will happen then. "Just take our statements here." "Do you have an interpreter, because I don't speak Castellano." "What does this investigation entail: damage or guilt?" - I can ask the questions faster than he can answer them. And we are speaking in Castellano, obviously he forgets that. But by now he knows I am a difficult customer, and he will have to work long on an accident with a fallen off piece of plastic as the result, something which can be fixed with two little screws. And he probably feels I will be even more difficult when I find out he is corrupt and only wants money. He gives in and lets us go.
The damage is larger than we suspected. During lunch it becomes clear the left hand (the clutch hand) has been hit quite hard. Mirjam is still able to ride, especially because the road through the 'Desierto de Sechura' is nice and straight. But in the evening, when we are in Piura, her left wrist is swollen and very painful. We buy a pressure bandage, and simultaneously find out that many Chinese restaurants in the city center serve Wantan soup which fits Mirjam's diet perfectly.
And so next morning we arrive at a Peruan hospital for the third time. An X-ray shows no fractures, and we should be able to continue in about a week, when the bandage has done its work. Mirjam gets a creme with a pain killer, and pills with muscle relaxer, Again a week of standing still. For me Peru gets a bit dull by now. But we patiently pass the days in this searing hot desert city.
Will we continue towards Ecuador and Panama, or will we return to Belgium to recover? We still don't know. I like the sound of the United States. We would miss the rain season in Central America, have ample time to visit Alaska early in the summer, and visit Mexico and Central America at the end of our journey. But how to reach the US, with two bikes in a sea container from a monkey land, crossing closed borders of a country at war? We'll keep you posted.