Monday, April 25, 2016


After the exhausting day of trekking through mud and rain to the border, I was ready to relax a bit more. I can't say Chachapoyas was the best place to do it, but it's where I ended up.

I made the drive from San Ignacio to Chachapoyas with no problems. In fact, it ended up being some surprising and beautiful views - terraced green rice fields, rocky canyons, and flocks of birds all day long. I could get used to this Peru scenery if it's this good.

Rich, lush valleys surrounded by mountains.
Some of the fields were flooded - the birds seemed to prefer those ones.
This reminded me of Florida roads.
More terraces, these ones super green.
The fields were often separated by lines of palm trees.
At the top of a sweet set of switchbacks.
Once I climbed the switchbacks it was more of a canyon type of ride.
I arrived in Chachapoyas and got myself a hotel room - it was a room with three beds, but I was the only one in it and they still charged me the shared room rate. I'm not gonna attribute that to my flirting with the receptionist, but she did seem to blush and not be able to keep a smile off her face every time she saw me the next few days.

I settled in and sent an email to Steven, the guy I'd met at the border. We decided to meet up for some dinner (though the first place we went was closed down) and after both of us getting a good night's rest, we got up and went to the museum inside the cultural center. The museum is all of two rooms with a few display cases on the side, but it was still worth going just for the mummies.

After that, I decided to get some stuff done on the motorcycle - I'd been hearing a squeak when I was riding, and wanted to see if it was something that needed fixing. So I headed on over to a shop nearby, and gave them the list of things I needed checked out. They changed the oil and filter, cleaned out the air filter, checked the rear shock (and said it looked okay), and gave me some new brake pads in the rear, which explained why they felt pretty weak after extended downhills. They also loosened the chain up a bit, as it seemed to have gotten really tight, and they said that should fix the squeak as well. All in all a good service checkup.

While I was there, a guy walked by and was admiring my bike, and made the comment that it was "pretty big" after I said it was a 650. I pointed out that for the US, 650 isn't all that big - in fact I've got a friend from New York (Mitch) who's riding a 1500cc Victory. The guy working on my bike stopped what he was doing and looked up, and said "Oh yeah, I saw him here a few weeks ago." Small world.

I got everything fixed up on the bike, and then headed back to the hostel and parked the bike in the plaza again - to get back to the plaza behind the 2nd floor hotel, I actually had to ride through a restaurant, which was kind of cool. I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around town a bit, and got myself a nice ceviche dinner and pisco sour in the evening at one of the restaurants.

The main pedestrian thoroughfare.
Pisco Sour in a beaker and a gigantic pile of super spicy ceviche.
The next morning I woke up and started getting ready to head out - and looked outside the room to see that it was raining. I'd heard Mitch's horror stories about the roads up to Kuelap in the rain, so I decided I could be lazy and hang around one more day and wait it out. I'd like to tell you about the interesting things I did and saw while I was in town... but I mainly just sat outside my room in a chair and played guitar, with occasional trips out to get some food.

I did have a bit of a surprise at one point when the receptionist came up to my room and told me that my bike had tipped over, and asked me what happened. I was a bit confused as I hadn't been anywhere near the bike - so I asked her what happened in return. She had no idea, and said no one had been near it. I wasn't completely sure I believed her, but there was nothing to do about it now. Luckily it had just tipped onto the nearby wall, so it hadn't fallen all the way over, but it did crack one of the (new since the accident) plastic fairings.

But my laziness paid off, as it turns out the Clement was coming into town that night! He was traveling with two guys he'd met recently, Stefan from Austria and Gustavo from Chicago (but of Peruvian parents). We got together in the evening, got some food, and then went back to their place to watch the soccer game that was on. I don't remember who was playing, but Gustavo had some bet with absurd odds that one team would be ahead at half time and then the other team would come back to win - it didn't pay out unfortunately.

After the game, they all headed for the bars, but I just headed back to the hotel to get some sleep. We made some plans to get up and go see Gocta nearby, one of the largest waterfalls in the area. I woke up not feeling the best - we'd knocked back quite a few beers while watching the game - but soldiered through and got ready for a hike, and walked over to their hostel. When I got there I found out that Clement had changed his plans and decided to grab a bus towards Tarapoto. He had plans to possibly go to Iquitos, deep in the Amazon, and he had to get moving if he was going to get there.

So Gustavo, Stefan, and I met up and walked over to the market nearby to pick up some food to take with us and get some breakfast. The market was actually pretty big for a town of this size.

View down one of the aisles of the market.
One of the main streets seen from the upper floor of the market.
As we were shopping, I realized that I really wasn't up for a hike now. I hadn't really been in the first place, but was pushing through the fatigue to see Clement one more time before we parted ways. With him gone, I was a little keener on going back to bed than doing a bunch of walking. The guys and I made plans to meet up later, and I did just that, crawling back under the covers and getting cozy for another hour or two before getting up again.

After I spent the day playing a little more guitar, we met up for a little afternoon snack later in the day at the restaurant below my hotel, and then walked around town a bit, catching a rainbow in the process.

The afternoon drizzles seemed to sweep in every day regardless of how sunny it had been twenty minutes before.
We picked up some beers from a store nearby and then stopped by a little shop to get some movies - bootlegged versions of the newest Star Wars movie and the latest Avengers movie. Unfortunately when we got back to their room we discovered that the Star Wars movie was recorded on a handheld camera in the theater - and was the overdubbed version, so the audio was in Spanish. So we popped in the Avengers and sat back and enjoyed it, all the way up to 2/3rds of the way through where it refused to play any further and crashed the video program on Stefan's computer. Oh well. For $1 for both movies, what can you do.

The next morning I decided it was finally time to get out of Chachapoyas, after too many days of just bumming around. It had only drizzled a bit the day before and was clear this morning, so I was hoping the road to the Kuelap ruins wouldn't be nearly as bad as Mitch had made it out to be. With that optimism, I geared up and got the bike out to the street and started loading it up - only to find out that my rear tire was flat. And then I had a lightbulb moment as I was figuring out where to go to get the tire changed - when the bike tipped over the other night, it was because the tire had a slow leak. As the tire got more flat, the bike sank down - but the kickstand stayed the same. Eventually the bike lowered enough that it tipped it. So it wasn't anyone's fault after all.

I limped down the road to the shop I'd gone to, who pointed me to a tire shop around the corner where I pulled in and got my tube patched while we talked bikes and travels. I also had someone walk by and just outright ask me if I was selling the bike anytime soon - nope, sorry dude. This is my primary possession right now, not gonna ditch it in Peru.

Tire fixed and bike ready to go, I loaded up my gear again and headed for Kuelap - perhaps with a little less optimism after the flat tire.

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