On the Peruvian roads

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Peru is a country of 1 285 315 km2 and various landscapes and reliefs. Therefore, going with the sidecars from the North-West to the South-East offer various riding experiences.

At the North of the country, alongside the Pacific coast, we crossed for the first time a sandy desert over many hundreds of kilometres. From a side of the road to the other one, the sandy dunes are breaking the monotony of the road; the experience is amazing. The asphalt draws long straight black lines contrasting with the yellow of the sand. Sometimes, the wind is blowing away the sand going on the asphalt before to go under our wheels.

For our itinerary, we chose to cross Lima to reach Ica before to go to Ayacucho. For now there is no road avoiding the capital. The major road crosses Lima from North to South by passing by a few metres away from the historic town centre. In the trafic, from the highway, we can glimpse the bell tower of the cathedral. We needed almost 4 hours to cross the capitale (15 kilometers). We progressed, a few metres by few metres, between lorries and buses, the trafic being jam-packed.

At the South of te capitale, on the Pacific Coast close by the Pisco city, there are vineyards as far as we can see. Vines are very tall and have a shape of arbour over hundreds of kilometres. The parcels are disproportionate and cultivated by big wineries to make the most famous Peruvian drink: the Pisco. This alcohol contains about 40% abv and is obtained after the distillation of grape juice.

For us, this landscape was a breath of air after the deserted scenery of the North and the hard crossing of Lima.

Other geographic area and other scenery, we went alongside the “Cañon del Pato” during 55 kilometers when we wanted to reach the Huascarán Park from the coast. The road is narrow, not wider than a lorry, and weaves in the bottom of a canyon created by the river bed. A breathtaking landscape, we were feeling very tiny between these massive cliffs on each side of the road. Many tunnels with no light or any safety measures were spicing up the journey. As we were not able to see the other vehicles coming in front of us, we needed to play a lot with the horn. We understood at this moment the utility of the big South-American horns. Indeed if unfortunately a car didn’t hear our signal, we needed to go out of the sidecars to push and go backwards. After a nice half-day to follow the curves of the river, we reached Caraz city, the entry of the Huascarán Park.

In Peru, we also enjoyed to use paths again. The first time was to reach the Maras village. We wanted to use a major road but we saw roadworks 10 kilometers after the Izcuchaca city. A worker showed us the path going towards the right hand-side to reach Maras. Cautiously, we asked him the conditions of the road and the relief of the path. The nice guy wanted to reassure us: “the path is not very stony and goes up a little bit before to be flat to reach Maras”. Without a doubt, we used the path. But it’s at this point that we started to put his advice into perspective. The path was going up during over 10 kilometers. The descent was not a lot but the rain of the precious days was making the journey tough. Plus, a flock of sheep crossing in front of us made us stopped for a break in a slope, it was hard to move forward after this stop..

Towards South by going to the Colca valley from Espinar, we used one of the best paths from the beginning of the trip, between Condorama and Yanque. Its good surface allowed us to ride easily over its hundreds of kilometers. Being in the middle of the Colca park, the path offered a breathtaking view over its lake and the “Castillos de Callalli”, which are huge cliffs shaped by the wind.

Sadly and despite the beautiful Peruvian landscapes, we noticed again one of the major issues of our 21st century: the waste management.

With our personal and professional activities, we are very sensitive to this. Our wish here is not to judge a country but only to tell you what we sadly saw. In this fight for the environment, we know the part of responsibility of the companies of mass consumption. However, we wish to tell you the reality of what is happening to highlight the lack of investment by the Peruvian society and specifically by its local authorities.

Indeed, in Pérou there is everything to do for the waste management. We have been chocked to see open-air tips on the road for a dozen of kilometres. As they are indicated by signs, these spots seem to be tolerated by the local authorities. In the urban area, we didn’t see many bins and the recycled bins don’t exist. In addition, the waste is not collected regularly and its not rare to see bin bags ripped widely by stray dogs eating the content.

By chatting about this issue with Peruvian people, everyone was unanimous about the topic and regretted the presence of so much waste alongside roads and paths. In addition, we were not able to count anymore the number of people caught in throwing intentionally a packaging in the nature. In the next few years, we hope the local authorities will be able to invest in the awareness and eduction of gestures of eco-citizen.

We have also been surprised that the most modern building in each city or village crossed is the football playground (five-a-side) covered where the teenagers meet to share the « Pelotta » or simply to chat sheltered from the bad weather or the sunshine.

During our experience on the Peruvian roads, we also crossed symbolic vehicles of the country. From the first kilometres, we got used to the main local specificity: the rickshaw on the Peruvian asphalt. This is the main mean of transport for the inhabitants of villages and big urban areas. These three-wheel motorbikes are everywhere! Each driver plays with the design, the football clubs and superheroes are mainly shown on the stickers. There are more present than Nike, Adidas and the brands of energetic drinks. For the ones who have enough money they will opt for a rickshaw with a covered « cockpit » to shelter from the bad weather or the sunshine.

These vehicles are snaking in each small spaces, creating their own lane between the cars or alongside the sidewalks. The driving rules are subsidiaries. To simply summarize: despite the signs, the rickshaws have the priority even if they are coming in the opposite direction on a one-way street. Last thing to be attentive: the signals being not used, if you are following a rickshaw you need to be aware that he might stop at any moment to let the passenger going out.

On the Peruvian asphalt, we have been many times overtaken by old Volkswagen Beetle. These old models are being refurbished by local garages and get a new life from the North to the South of the country. Each one has its own character depending on the driver’s personality. They are sometimes repainted with funky colours or decorated with cute little flowers. Sometimes, it’s more “showy” with lower body frames touching almost the road, noisy escapes or big speakers in the boot, to draw attention.

Upon our arrival in Tumbes, first city crossed in Peru, we did a “race” with one of them in the traffic of the city. Each one in his own lane, we overtook him before he overtook us and so on… while a red traffic light was creating a trafic jam. We admitted the victory of this Beetle being the first at the trafic light. While waiting the green light, the driver went out of his car to give us a cap as a souvenir of this slow “race”.

The other king on the Peruvian roads is the coach. Main mean of transport to reach a city from another one, they are everywhere on the major and secondary roads to serve the smaller cities. Each one of them has it’s own coach station including a huge hall with a shop for each company saying loudly the next destinations available. Each one offers the same destination, but the times and prices are very different depending on the bus quality. This last criteria can be important as the big cities are usually separated by over ten hours (Lima-Arequipa = 16 hours for example). By going close by these stations, we cross regularly backpackers going back on the road for the next destination.

Maybe they will follow us alongside the Titicaca Lake in Bolivia, our next destination?