You're here for a good time, not for a long time.

You're here for a good time, not a long time.

September 12, 2011

Diplomatic Power

Lima has delivered: new tires, lots of McDonald’s, and some expert motorcycling advice.  While Charlie and I weren’t originally too keen to spend four nights here, it seemed to work out pretty well anyway.  I’m well rested and energized to head into the Andes to see what all the fuss is about Peru.  The last 1,000km of dunes set the bar pretty low, so just about any change in scenery would get the ball rolling in the right direction towards Cusco.

Charlie and I got up at a leisurely hour Friday morning and hit the road for three more hours of sand, wind, and corrupt police.  We knew that Ty was having trouble finding our lauded Continental TKC-80’s in Lima, so we made our first destination in town the KTM dealer that was supposed to stock the tires.  We pulled up around 1:00pm letting Charlie’s Garmin lead the whole way.  Lima didn’t look too promising; the outskirts are several miles of sugar can huts built up on the sand.  Beyond that was a dirty industrial zone where we found KTM.  Inside the dealership we asked if the warehouse had our tires; they did.  Ecstatic, Charlie and I each bought a set right there.  We considered buying a spare rear ($170 for two tires is a smoking deal), but decided to wait and think it over.  We left the building beaming with satisfaction, excited to show off the fresh rubber to Ty at the hostel.

Outside KTM while we were lashing down our new tires a Spaniard pulled out of the garage on a cherry KTM 990 Adventure R.  It’s a cool bike, so we had some questions for him.  Charlie and I picked Nacho’s brain for a bit about where to buy gear.  Before long he was leading us across town to his favorite shop.  Nacho immediately began giving us helpful advice.  He was very aware of what a foreigner would and wouldn’t know.  He warned us that Lima doesn’t have a bike culture, so we have to protect ourselves more on the road.  Also petty theft seems to thrive here.  I asked Nacho how he ever arrived in Lima; turns out he’s a diplomat for the European Union.  Not a bad guy to find in a city of 9 million. 

The more we all hung out the more information Nacho had.  After the gear shop he had a couple hostel recommendations.  It wasn’t Ty and Jill’s hostel, but it was nearby and we wanted to ride his coattails a little further.  Nacho brought us to a nice location in the Miraflores district, Lima’s first class downtown.  Charlie and I checked in, showered up, and half an hour later walked down to the corner to a bar that Nacho had in mind.  He took us in, ordered us his favorite drinks, and called Ivan.  We sat there for twenty minutes listening to Nacho’s previous adventures on his bike all over South America.  As a diplomat, he is deployed to different places around the world for years at a time.  In his spare time, he gets to know them via one of the coolest adventure bikes on the market. 

Soon Ivan showed up, who according to Nacho is Peru’s foremost motorcycle adventure expert.  Ivan was just as cool to hang out with and had an answer to every question.  It’s refreshing to talk to two people who actually understand what it’s like to be on a bike for ten hours a day.  They know what sounds good, and what sounds like a waste of time.  Ivan plotted a route for us on Charlie’s maps that leads from Huaraz to Cusco through the Andes.  He swears it will be some of our best riding the entire trip.  We have to go back north to get to the start, but it will be well worth it.  Ivan’s stories were plenty, but to prove his status in the motorcycle adventure world he showed me a picture of himself with Alex’s hero Hubert Kriegel.  Ever since Al concocted this adventure three years ago, he’s been showing me pictures of Hubert all around the world.  What a trip to see the man himself with his classic red glasses standing next to my friend Ivan at the southern tip of South America.  The further I go, the smaller the world.

Saturday morning Charlie and I were up early and off to Ty and Jill’s hostel.  We were also hoping that Andy and Cass had shown up.  We walked into Ty’s room to find him smiling at us with five brand new TKC-80’s in the corner.  He had bought us each a pair at KTM just minutes after we took off with Nacho.  What looked like a nightmare developing actually turned into a great success; within six hours we had a home for each new tire.  We’re leaving a pair for Alex to pick up and Charlie and I each will carry a spare rear for 6,000 miles down the road.  I figure that finding them was hard enough once and I seem to have enough worries on this trip as it is. 

My engine, for example.  It’s running great right now but Saturday I noticed a small buildup of tar around one of the important gaskets on the engine head.  I don’t have a spare, and it won’t be easy to find.  I’ve shown it to the other boys and everyone assured me that it’s not the end of the world.  If I had a spare, maybe I’d change it; since I don’t, I’ll just keep an eye on it.  It’s not dripping and there’s no pressure behind it anyway, so no sirens.  In truth, it’s just a single cylinder engine with 19,000 miles on it.  It’s bombproof, but it’ll still show some wear.  The bike just isn’t as pretty as it was when I left and I’m starting to accept that as fact.  It won’t get any prettier over the next 10,000 miles, that’s for sure.

Today, Monday, Charlie’s and my bike went to professional shop to have the tires replaced.  I had my fourth oil change as well.  It’s not cheap work, but I trusted the mechanic (also named Tato) that Ivan recommended and every so often it’s nice to have a pro work on the bike and tell you it’s in great shape.  It’s going to have to be for the next stretch.  Charlie and I intend to get pretty far into the wild while the other four take the Panamerican to Cusco.  Tonight might be the last with Andy and Cass for a while, at least until I move to Perth, Australia (one of the ideas I’ve been kicking around [don’t worry, I’ll come home first]).  It will be sad to see them go, but I’m used to it after over five months of goodbyes.  I have no doubt we’ll be seeing Ty and Jill again soon.

I’m constantly eyeing my bank account on this trip, fretting over money spent and future expenditures.  Whenever I get real bent out of shape I have to pull up a world map and convince myself just how far I’ve come.  We’re well into South America now yet it seems like last week that Alex and I were pissing away in Barranquilla.  While the trip still has months to go, it’s time to come up with a more concrete plan for the ending.  We’ve always talked about getting to Argentina as the goal.  That’s just over a month away.  There will be plenty to accomplish there, but at some point I need to start focusing on how to get home. 

It’s not a backpacking trip where you book a flight online and hop in a cab to the airport.  I’ve got to find a freighter that will ship the bike to the states for a reasonable price.  Or a buyer that will take it from me.  A freighter might only send it to certain places; I’d have to coordinate a flight ride it home from the port.  And the cheapest option may involve heading into Brazil, which I never planned to do.  Or I can wait around down here and work.  Maybe a ski season in the Andes?  That would make up for my hernia-botched Baker experiment.  There are a lot of options, that’s why I’m already working on them.  For the last two years my only focus was getting on the road, so it’s a thrill to have a new project and new dreams to ponder. 

I’m anxious to get to Buenos Aires.  Not because I’m sick of this, but because I want to have it under my belt.  Every day we get closer, the goal becomes more feasible.  I don’t want to miss anything in between, but there are times recently that I’ve wanted to just ride day and night all the way to BA to validate all the hard work, obnoxious claims, and machismo surrounding this trip.  That day will come, and with it a whole new set of goals.  Waiting is the hard part, even on the trip of a lifetime.


  1. Great report Tom! You'll love your time in Bs.As. as it is one of the best cities in the world to explore and have a great time in. The natives are friendly too! The weather is getting better by the day. Have a great ride and stay safe!

    GT George

  2. I like the andre ski season idea! Make a few turns for me.