Touring South America: Pisco and Paracas
Chapter 2: March 25th, Paracas, Peru.
The first stop on the long road south was a camping site at a beach called Puerto Viejo, some 70km outside of Lima. I hadn’t been to this beach since the previous year and it was a great way to kick off the journey: camping out but somewhere familiar. Upon arrival, I quickly set up my tent and tossed my bags inside. I took the rest of the afternoon to relax and walk around. The night was spent alternating between being too hot and too cold due to the ultra-compact sleeping bag my girlfriend had lent me. It was designed for sub-zero temperatures.
The next day proved to be slightly more interesting. I packed my belongings and headed straight for Paracas, where I’d spend my second night. I hadn’t considered making a detour to go through the town of Pisco but as soon as I saw the sign for it, I felt inclined to check it out. It was a depressing sight. It had been almost 3 years since the massive 8.0 magnitude earthquake and there were still countless houses in ruins. Even important buildings surrounding the town’s main plaza were still barely standing and clearly uninhabitable.
As I stopped for a break at the town square, some people came to ask me about the motorcycle. One person in particular, Mr. Bravo, showed a deep interest in the bike and the journey. Our conversation led to his retelling of what he went through on that fateful August day in 2007.
I was in my house when the quake started. Shit!, I yelled as I struggled to put my shoes on due to the shaking of the ground. At first everything was shaking side to side and then up and down. It was almost impossible just to walk. I stood under the frame of my door for a while and then I walked out. My house was destroyed. I saw my neighbors dead on the sidewalk and walked very slowly trying not to step on any bodies.
He kept telling me more and more stories, not just about the earthquake but also about his time with the military. He recounted the story of how he met a terrorist (most likely a Shining Path or MRTA rebel) who seemed to know every little detail of his life, including his grandparents and children. He kept on going for a while but his narratives started to get confusing until I had no idea what we were talking about anymore. I thanked him for his time and for sharing his stories with me before heading off to Paracas.
I entered the Paracas Natural Reserve and headed towards “La Catedral”, a natural stone arch carved out by the ocean. It was gone. One more thing lost to the earthquake.
People had told me that my safest bet for camping in the reserve would be to head to Lagunillas as it was the only place I could actually find something to eat. To get there, I had to cross rough terrain made of sand and pebbles. My bike was taking a beating and I had to stop to pick up my water bottle which had flown off a couple of times. To save myself from the shocks of the uneven path (which has improved a lot since then), I decided to off-offroad it and cruise through the sand. My tires were wide and the sand was compact enough to have decent traction.
As you can tell from my pictures, my motorcycle is not built for a desert rally. Not only that, but it was my first time riding on sand. I failed to realize that the sand at the top of a dune is a lot more loose. I started to lose traction as I reached the top of one dune and my attempts to regain ended up being futile. I went down on the sand and saw my bike tumble down the dune. The extent of the damage was just a bent brake handle. Nothing a little rubber cement couldn’t help to reinforce.
I arrived at the beach before sunset, giving me enough daylight to get something to eat and set up my tent in the ruins of an old restaurant. As the light began to fade, the few people that were there ended up taking off, leaving me alone with the birds. I applied heavy quantities of glue to the brake handle to let it solidify overnight.
The night wasn’t too kind to me. I had to anchor down my tent with rocks to keep it from flying off. The wind was howling and dirt was coming in from the sides. I got out again and tied down the rain flap to some larger rocks which seemed to help the dirt situation. I treated myself to a little sandwich I had been saving and then fell asleep, exhausted from the day’s activities.
It seemed I went to sleep much earlier than I was used to because I awoke at 4:30am to the sounds of the fishermen coming in to start their day. I heard their small fishing boats leave the dock and their nets being thrown into the sea. I popped my head out of the tent into a dark sky filled with stars. Since I was wide awake at this point, I started putting my things together under the moonlight. The wind had died down so it was a relief to avoid having that battle. As soon as I finished loading the bike I tested out my handiwork with the brake handle. I squeezed it lightly and it immediately broke off. I stood there for a solid minute staring at the brake handle in my hand.
It was only Day 2 and my motorcycle was already falling apart.