Touring by Bike South America, Africa and Europe by Bicycle

Cycling on Peruvian highways
Day 5. Hitting the Road

Day 5, Friday. Hitting the road

Km today: 65 (?)
Spanish world of the day: Panamericana.
Man of the day: The Bolivian consul in Lima (for being helpful and understanding and for giving me the visa in a matter of minutes, from the moment I had all the papers filled in).

Today it was a full day. The initial plan was to go early in the morning to get the jab, however I didn’t wake up very early. While having breakfast, a Peruvian girl (leaving in France and now visiting Peru with her boyfriend), told me about another clinic where you can get the vaccination. After looking a little bit for the clinic, I found it, I took the yellow fever vaccination, this was pretty smooth, if we disregard the waiting time (that normally I wouldn’t mind, because the clinic has European standard conditions – air conditioned, comfy chairs in the waiting room, water, etc. – but I was in a rush).

With the vaccination and the International Certificate of Vaccination I ride towards the Bolivian embassy and I stop on the road to book print a hotel confirmation in La Paz, at a cheap hostel (part of the papers required to get the visa). I made that on the spot, from a small printing boutique. At the embassy a bored lady looks at me weird when I told her that I’m cycling through Bolivia, she asked me to wait until she talks to the consul. The consul is a nice person, he speaks a perfect English and he explains me that I need to fill an intended itinerary. I go to the same printing boutique, print the map of Bolivia together with the driving directions from Google Maps and come back to the embassy. The bored lady is now even more bored, when I’m about to fill the paper she gave me earlier she asked for all the papers I have. Of course, she returns me the unfilled visa application form, mentioning that they close at 1 pm (it was 12:48). I fill the form, but she returns me the paper again, because I wrote something wrong and had to correct it. This means filling another form, I cannot just cut the wrong word and write it in the right place, because “this is a visa application form, it has to be clean“. It was 12:58, I know because she didn’t look like the type of person that would stay a minute late. In five minutes she returns me the passport with the visa. the funny part about this: noone asked for the vaccination proof.

I ride to Plaza de Armas, to start my tour officially, there. On the road, I meet a Columbian couple that are cycling through South America as well. Look for sudamericarueda on facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sudamerica.rueda

At 6:00 p.m. I exit Marcello’s courtyard with the full loaded bike, heading for Panamericana (Pan-American Highway). I think the two days of cycling through Lima did help as a training, the traffic is indeed mad, but I can handle it. I reach Panamericana in about 45 min.- one hour and….south I go. The descent to the highway is pretty steep, so I have the opportunity to see how the bike handles at 40 km per hour. Very well, I should say. This is my first day with the bike fully loaded so I just let it go, I’m not pushing it over 40 km/h.

Despite the fact that everybody was recommending this as the way to go South, I was very afraid of cycling on the highway, for two reasons: the traffic and the police that would fine me for that. Well, the highway has a large shoulder, so I was away from the main traffic. Also, around Lima there are a lot of locals using highway’s shoulder as a street to cycle on . And I don’t mean bicycles, but some tri-cycles they use to sell of kind of stuff from. And the police didn’t say anything. After passing the third policeman that simply didn’t care I realized they tolerate the situation, as they do for all the cyclists there.

Cycling on Peruvian highways

Cycling on Panamericana Sur, Peru

Not far after departure from Lima, about 10 km on the highway, I wrongly took an exit and found myself on a side road, going west. In fact the road splits and partly because I was afraid to go with the traffic, partly because there is no sign to tell which way the Panamericana continues I took the street to the right, that goes under the highway and than heads west. Of course I realized that immediately and I wanted to turn back to the highway. First of all, it was difficult to cross the street – lots of cars and I had to take the bike on the sideways separating the two directions. That was when I first realized how heavy the bike is. I could barely put it on the sideways, first the front wheel and then, with some effort, the back wheel. When I finally found myself on the other side of the road I realized that was indeed joining the highway, but on the direction towards Lima; wrong!! In the meantime it was getting dark. So I took a side road (without asphalt) going parallel to the highway for a while. And I found a way to go to “my” side of the highway: a bridge over the highway. Just that going upstairs with my loaded bike is impossible. Soon, a guy crossing on the same bridge offers to help me, we manage to take the bike on the bridge and than he also helps me to go downstairs, on the other side of the road. Me, used to the closed highways in Europe was  anxious to see how I’ll enter the highway once on the other side, but there is a space right near the bridge – I think there was a bus station there. The only problem is that we disturbed the fenders while lifting the bike on the bridge, so now they are touching the wheels. I hate fenders – I always did, but now I was reading a lot about how helpful they are when you’re on a tour and that’s why they made their way on the bike.

I reach Punta Hermosa at about 9 pm and start looking for accommodation. My strategy is simple: I go on the city center (well, town center) and there should be hostels or hostals (a kind of cheap hotels). However, everybody I ask about the center is confused. Later I’ll find out there is no center. I take a room in Blue Hostal, negotiating it from 80 to 70 soles for the room (*thats about 22-23 Eur). Way too much for what it is. Of course no warm water (this is pretty rare in Peru). Diner at a restaurant with WiFi and decent food and an evening ride through the resort, accounting rich people’s houses concludes the day.

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