Touring South America: Racing the Dunlop Truck
Chapter 5: March 28th, Tacna, Peru.
I ended up making pretty good use of the medkit I had been urged to bring. I popped a couple of pills and by morning my intestinal situation had been… contained. I rushed out of my tiny room at 8am to a cloudy sky. I skipped breakfast dreading a repeat of the previous night’s misery. My meal that morning consisted in a packet of oral rehydration salts that I had dumped into my water bottle. Not my finest moment, especially being my fourth day on the road. I cranked up the volume on my jams and sped off.
I remember I took a picture of that place but I’m sure I deleted it in hopes of burying the memory of the whole ordeal (Yes, I’m well aware that writing about it defeats that purpose). Even though I was still feeling ill, my sweet, sweet roadtrip playlist was doing wonders for picking up morale. It somehow felt like the day and the music had synced up, and as the rock and roll beats increased in intensity, the sun crept out from behind the fog.
My next stop, Tacna, was about 500km from Ocoña. A quick estimate indicated that it’d take me about 6 hours to get there. My mathematical model did not take into account the long wait time behind an endless single file of trucks, or the toll that steep inclines were taking on my little 200cc engine, or having to go slower around the countless hairpin turns. I didn’t even take into account the little breaks I’d need to take along the way. Let’s just say I severely underestimated the time it’d take to get there, but there were several things that kept me entertained along the way. Among them:
- Reaching the 1000km road marker.
- Trucks with heavily thorned branches wrapped around their side mirrors. This is a measure to prevent hijackers or “road pirates” from hanging off of them. Just like putting broken glass on the tops of your walls.
- Two enormous buzzards flying right beside me on my last descent into Moquegua.
- The street mutt that disproved the old saying the dog that barks doesn’t bite. This thing ran after me as I was leaving Ocoña and sank his teeth into my boot. Luckily I wasn’t hurt. I do not know if it lost any teeth while biting down on my steel toe.
- Truckers that drove without a partner but not without “company.” One of them had a life-sized cardboard cutout of a Pilsen girl (a local beer brand) in the passenger seat. She even had her seatbelt on. The trucker gave me a lusty, knowing smile as he sped past me.
Yet, the most entertaining part of that day’s ride was the big yellow Dunlop truck I came across between Camana and Arequipa. I was taking a roadside break and drinking some water. I waved at him and he honked twice. Later, when I caught up to him, I overtook the truck and honked twice. He responded by creating his own honk sequence. Many more kilometers ahead I stopped to get some gas. You’ll never guess who rolled lazily past the station.
I’ll give you a minute.
It was my boy in the Dunlop truck! When I managed to catch up and go past him again, I repeated the same honk sequence he had thrown at me last time and mixed in a little extra at the end. He repeated the tune and added his own thing. Every time we caught up with each other we had a little honk-off (please refrain from quoting me out of context). It was good fun until we had to part ways some 40km before reaching Moquegua. I never saw him again.
I took the detour into Moquegua to stock up on gas and water. It caught me by surprise how nice the town was. There were several parks and plazas and everything was clean and really well taken care of. If I had not needed to be in Tacna that same day, I would have definitely stayed there a night.
It wasn’t much longer to reach Tacna at this point. Some 80 kilometers from the city I zoomed past a familiar spot where I had been working a few months back. From this point on I knew there wasn’t much of a distance left.
It’s funny to how a stretch of road on a motorcycle can seem so much longer than in a car. I remembered traveling this same segment when I was working here and I’d reach Tacna in less than an hour. On the bike, it seemed to be taking forever. On the way down I stopped in front of a military base where I tried to get a picture of a tank at the main gate (not a functional tank). A nearby guard cradled his rifle hinting that taking pictures of a military base was not in my best interest. I turned back, but not before snapping a pic from far away. I sure showed him!
After what seemed like another two hours, I stopped by the Alto de la Alianza. It’s a large monument in remembrance of the fallen heroes of Tacna during the War of the Pacific (not to be confused with the Pacific War).
I finally reached the city of Tacna just before sunset. It turned out that my initial assessment of six hours of riding was short by three and a half hours. After a delicious dinner in the city center, I went back to the hotel and passed out on the bed.
If you must know, my bowels did not act up during the entire ride.