Wednesday, October 24, 2012

San Ignacio

We left Valladoid and traveled through the small city of Palanda and as we approached Zumba we were stopped by the police at a road block.  They were all quite young and none spoke English.  He asked where we were going and we told him Peru.  He looked over the bikes and motioned towards my cases.  I said; “no habla espanol!”  He motioned more aggressively and said something in spanish.  “no hable espanol” shaking my head.  Then he knocked on my cases, motioning to open them up.  “no habla espanol”.  Finally in frustration he just motioned my on.  That’s all it took, I was out of there and Chuck right behind.  The next checkpoint before the border, the guard was much more friendly, asked where we were going, how long we had been on the road, took our passport information and finally told us which way to go. We were only about 8 kilometers from the border but it took us the best part of an hour to reach the border.

By the time we reached the border it was around 11:30a.  We had done well; we had traveled about 90 kilometers in about three hours.  We found the border agent at a small cafĂ© eating lunch.  We followed him back to his “office”, he stamped our passports and we thought we were out of Ecuador.  Back to the bike, and waiting for someone to lift the gate.  The agent came out and said “Adunas” or bike check.  So we got off and went back to the Adunas agent.  Here is where it got a little difficult.

Apparently, we needed to have the paperwork for the bikes when we entered Ecuador, where the VIN’s had been checked and bike import authorized.  Now, we had asked about this when we came into Ecuador from Colombia.  We were both told that it was unnecessary.  Well, don’t ever believe them!  We should of gotten our bike authorization and the Adunas agent at the Peru border was not going to let us leave without them.  He said we needed to return to Loja (Low’ ha) to get the proper credentials.  It had started to rain hard and the roads were turning to mud.  To return to Loja meant about a two day ride.  There had to be another way. 

The border agent came by and seemed to be advocating for us.  We asked if the Adunas agent could call someone for special permission; “no!”.  We asked if there were a “fine we could pay there?”; “no!” with an emphasis of cutting ones throat.  Chuck, in his best Spanish whine asked “por favor, special excepcion!”  “No” again with the throat cutting.  Finally the border agent got him to call “el hefe” and there was a long, long conversation with the outcome of el hefe telling the Adunas agent to let Peru deal with it J!  We were through without having to go back to Loja.  But it had been raining hard now for an hour.

Next came the other side, Peru!  We stopped at the Peru side of the border bridge.  We walked to the Adunas building on the Peru side and the agent said we must go to the Passport check primary.  So down the sidewalk we go.  No agent.  We wait, and wait, sit more, walk across to the restaurant ask for a coke where they say “si” then sit down and watch television.  We sit there for thirty minutes and finally leave for another restaurant, where we finally get a coke.  Still no passport agent. 

Another person, of unknown authority tells me the passport agent is a home, points out his house and tells me to go knock on the door.  I didn’t know who this person was, so I didn’t go.  Turns out this is apparently very acceptable behavior, that many times people at this crossing go find the agent.  Mean time the Adunas agent takes pity on us and starts filling out the motorcycle import paperwork.  About the time he is done, someone has finally gotten the Passport agent out of bed an up to the office.  He fills out my passport paperwork but there is one more step.  I must be checked out by the police. 

Down the hill with my paperwork I go, to the police building.  Huh?  No one in the office!  No one in the back room, no one in the kitchen, so around the corner to the sleeping quarters I go.  Ah, there he is, asleep in the cot.  Clear my throat, nothing!  Perdon! Nothing!  Hola!!  Hola!  Hola! Finally, some movement.  “Una momento!”  “Si!” and back to the office I go.  He finally comes into the office with his uniform half on and fills out my paperwork.  Back to the Border agent and he stamps my passport.  All in all about 2 ½ hours.  Did I mention it had been raining!

After Chuck completed the same cycle we returned to the bikes, this unknown person I mentioned, unlocked the gate and let us into Peru.  Finally!  It’s about 2:30p, it had taken only about 3 hours but it seemed like an eternity.

Only 25 kilometers to San Ignacio, as the crow flies.  We are quickly learning though that 25 kilometers as the crow flies here in the mountains is probably more like 75 kilometers.  And, had I mentioned it had been raining.  Now everything was mud.  Not a real deep mud, but a very slimy, slippery mud. 

This is, in my opinion, the worst conditions to ride in.  Worse than snow, rain, sand or anything else.  The back end will just not stay behind you.  Your brakes work marginally but sometimes when they do they cause the front or back end to slip out.  We struggle, we push on in the rain and then we come to stopped traffic.  Apparently, due to the rain, there had been a mudslide that blocked the road. 

An hour and a half later they finally let us through, but the road was an absolute mud pit. 

Now it was getting dark.  We still had about 15 kilometers to go.  Chuck wanted to pitch a tent, I didn’t.  It was muddy and the only place was on the side of the road to pitch it, which, in my opinion would not have been safe.  We decided that we would just take it easy, work slowly towards San Ignacio.  But the mud was bad, it had been worked over by all the traffic including large trucks.  It was now dark and I watched in my headlight as a large 2 ½ ton truck tried to make it up a small incline.  Two spotters, one on each side, pushed against the truck frame to keep it from sliding sideways, but it still did.  But he eventually made it.  Now my turn, feet down, light on the gas, keep the back wheel behind me, slowly, clutch, gas, adjust and eventually success.

At the top of that hill, a French guy in an RV came out and waved me down.  We talked a little of the road and the mud, but he said he had had it and was stopping there for the night.  He could, he had an RV.  Chuck and I pressed on.  More and more mud, slow, slow in the turns, a little speed in the straight aways.  Eventually, we made it to San Ignacio around 8:30p.  We had started in Valladolid around 8:30a, so 12 hours to go about 150 kilometers or about 100 miles. 

In San Ignacio we started our pattern of looking for a place to stay.  We had asked on the road and had been told the best place was the Gran Hotel.  Asking for directions to this hotel just got the RCA dog look.  Eventually I asked a police man who took us to a hostel.  I tried to get them to tell me where we could park our bikes and they told me we could put them in the restaurant next door, but that didn’t close until 10p.  About this time, a German pops his head up from a computer there in the lobby, there are three of them there.  He says they are staying in a hostel down the road, but there is a big hotel just down from them.  Chuck and I have a long chat with the Germans, they are riding a couple older K100R’s and an Africa Twin.  Finally they help us find the Gran Hotel.

We check in, drag mud across everywhere, the lobby, the stairs into our room, then order some dinner, but they are closing and the only thing they still have available is Carne Seca, or dry meat (think beef jerky).  I was hungry but more tired.  I eat a little but it upsets my stomach so I go upstairs and go to bed.  A very long day!

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