Feb 18

Day 74 – Just north of Lima to Lima, Peru

by in Field Reports

The plan for this morning was to find the BMW dealer in Lima to get a new tire for Kay’s bike, and maybe ask about the problems I’ve been having with my bike. I honestly didn’t expect they’d be able to get the bike in and serviced quickly, and I didn’t want to spend days in Lima waiting for it at this point, given the tightness of our schedule now, so I figured we’d just get a tire for Kay and move on.

Got up and out of the hotel shortly after 9AM (I had a ton of trouble sleeping again last night because the hotel fronts the Pan American and we heard a non-stop litany of large trucks and honking all night… loudly. And the room was too hot, so you had to open the door to the balcony to get any cool air, but that let in more noise. I tried sleeping on the floor near the door, which was cooler, but uncomfortable on hard tile without my sleeping bag or sleeping mat, which were down on the bike… and I tried sleeping with my ear plugs and buff on to block out the noise, but I woke up around 3AM and didn’t get back to sleep until after 6AM. So I slept until 8 and then we got up, packed the bikes and hit the road.)

Neither of us was looking forward to driving into Lima, because we ALWAYS get lost in the big cities. And we didn’t have a map of Lima, and we didn’t have internet at the hotel to look at a map – so we had what Kay saw two nights ago, and an address written down in his book. He thought we took the Pan Americana through Lima until we found the road that the dealer is on, and then just get off the Pan Americana at a roundabout and follow the road. But it’s never that simple, and we had no idea where the Pan American would cross the road we needed…

Turns out it was that simple. After a poorly-marked roundabout took us a little over 1k off the Pan American (but asking directions from a guy selling stuff at a stop light got us turned around quickly) we took the Pan Americana through Lima… and eventually saw the sign for the road we needed. Which indicated which exit we needed. We got off at the exit, stopped at a gas station to ask some cops, who seemed quite happy to help Kay – they shook his hand, waved and smiled at me, and got out a map to answer his question – and told us we were on the right road and just needed to head 10 blocks that way. We did, and we saw the BMW rondel (on the opposite side of a divided road) so we went down to the next left turn, popped a U, and made it back to the BMW dealer with zero hassle. It was seriously the easiest thing we’ve ever had to find in a big city. It went ridiculously smoothly.

Still, driving through Lima takes time, and it was around 10:30AM when we pulled up outside the dealer. The guard saw that we were riding BMW motorcycles, and when we made to pull up in front of the dealer, he waved us through into the back. “Oh, you’re riding a BMW – you don’t need to park out there. Come on in!” I seriously love that about riding this bike. The service we’ve gotten at dealers on the road has been absolutely stellar.

Into the back, and the guy who greets us says he speaks a “little English.” We try explaining what we need in pidgin Spanish/English with our limited vocabulary, and he follows us for a bit, but wants to confirm that he understands what’s going on with my bike when we try explaining the problem, so he goes to get a guy who speaks English. Turns out that’s Eduardo, whose card says he is a “Jefe de Soporte Tecnico” but who we thought was a director until we just now looked at his card. He was certainly striding around being helpful like he owned the place, and maybe he does and I’m totally misunderstanding the title.

Anyway, we explain what we need to Eduardo, who consults with Caesar who apparently organizes service (we think – we don’t have his card) and they say they can take a look at my bike immediately to diagnose the problem. Great! Eduardo also says that a tire for Kay’s bike is no problem. So we go inside and hang out reading our books (mine on my teeny iPhone, and Kay’s on his iPad, since we’ve run out of paper books a long time ago – thank god for Kindle on the iPhone/iPad on a trip like this). A bit later, Eduardo comes out and says there’s nothing wrong with my bike, but they’re still checking it out. I’m a bit confused as “nothing wrong” implies to me that they’re already done checking, but we wait more. No big deal. We’re just grateful they were able to take a look at it so quickly, so we don’t complain.

That's not supposed to have oil in it

A bit later again (around noon) Eduardo comes back and shows us the air filter, which is absolutely filthy. He mentions checking the fuel filter and that they might want to change the… oh, he can’t remember the English word for the thing they might want to change. So I hand him my iPhone and motion for him to type the Spanish word into the dictionary app I have (Ultralingua, which Eric recommended to me when we hung out with him, Sabrina and Stephen in San Cristobal what feels like forever ago!) and it turns out the thing they might want to replace is the spark plug.

No problem! I have spark plugs! I go out to get them (he’s a little confused that I hand him two, but I explain that my bike, the ’07, is a two-spark model – Kay’s older F series is a one-spark) and he sits them on the bike for the technician, who has gone to lunch, but who will get back to working on my bike when he returns.

Which reminds us – we haven’t had breakfast yet and can he recommend a spot for lunch? Eduardo tells us about a place down the street a little and around the corner, inside another building. He can’t remember the English words for them but I figure we can look around and find it, so we head that way. Turns out he was sending us to a supermarket that had ready-made food offerings on the second floor, and also a hot food place that served chicken and french fries, but Kay and I are getting god-awful tired of chicken and french fries (seems like we have it for every other meal here in Peru) so we opt for some wraps and empanadas from the ready-made food case.

Conveniently, I’ve been needing new contact solution and the store has a pharmacy section! Armed only with my iPhone and Ultralingua, we inquire about contact lens solution. (I don’t know why I haven’t mentioned it before, because we use it practically daily to look up specific vocabulary we don’t know, like “contact lenses”. It doesn’t require a ‘net connection and it’s fantastic. It’ll conjugate for you and everything. We super duper love it and I am very grateful to Eric for recommending it to me. If you don’t speak Spanish and plan to travel Central/South America and have an iPhone, I highly, highly recommend it.)

With the aid of Ultralingua, I’m able to ask for “water for contact lenses” and point to my eye, which the woman at the pharmacy understands the very first time. Yay! And they have some! Yay! She brings me two options and I pick one at random because I don’t know the difference. So now I have new contact solution! Bonus!

Also, while we’re here, I ponder snacks. Being a girl, there’s a certain time of the month that I simply CRAVE chocolate. (And being a big girl, I like my treats in general.) But good chocolate treats are so hard to find in Latin America. I prefer baked things, like brownies, which we never ever see. We do occasionally run into a panaderia when we have time to stop, which usually has bread and occasionally pastry products, and I’ve tried a wide variety of Latin American pastries, but none of them really satisfies my desire for baked goodies. And in Peru, we’ve noticed a dearth of panaderias or even bodegas or stores that have much in the way of tasty treats.

So I decide to look at Oreos, and end up picking up some bite-sized Snickers that aren’t going to last long in my tank bag in the Peruvian desert (pity about chocolate melting, and all that) and end up buying the Oreos and Snickers. So I have treats for the evening, even if we don’t run into a place to buy them at the end of the day. I’d normally eschew pre-processed baked goodies in the US, because it’s so easy to find really good baked goodies (or make them) back home, but abroad, Oreos are something I know and come close to fitting my requirements. So I broke down and got them.

Turns out our trip out for lunch was quite productive!

It takes longer than we expect and we get back to the BMW dealer around 1:40PM. Eduardo had told us to expect my bike to be done at 2PM, so I figure we have just a few minutes of sitting around. As we’re reading on our respective devices, a lady walks by and asks if we need Internet access. Sure, if you’re offering! So she tells us which network to use (they’ve got a guest network set up) and gives us the password, and we log on from our iPhone and iPad and check ADV and my email and poke the Web for a bit. Which always takes longer than we expect.

At around 2:45, we decide we should give up and watch a show until they’re done with my bike, so I go out to where we’ve piled our stuff to get the headphones for the iPad. And as I’m out there, I see that they’re buttoning up my bike. Yay! I go back inside and tell Kay to nix the TV idea, and he’s walking toward me with a piece of paper that has a total written on it (roughly $64 for labor, since we didn’t need any parts) and says we’re probably about ready to go. Yay! So Eduardo comes back a few minutes later and explains that they’re done with my bike, and they need my passport and the bike paperwork to fill out an invoice. No problem. We ask about a tire for Kay’s bike again, and he seems to think we want them to mount it. No, no, we just want a tire we can bring with us. So he goes to ask a guy about it.

He and the guy come back a few minutes later, look at the tire and write down the specs. They go back and forth a bit, and eventually Eduardo tells us that they can get a Metzler Tourance tire for the rear, but it won’t be here until tomorrow. Bummer. I wish they’d have told us that at the beginning because that’s the whole reason we stopped there – not to have my bike serviced. But it’s getting late in the day at this point – it’s after 3PM – and we probably wouldn’t get very far, so we ask if he can recommend a hotel where we can stay in Lima and we’ll pick up the tire and hit the road in the AM. He can, and he has the guy “order” the tire (I think they have to request it from a warehouse or something, and they’ll have it tomorrow AM) and a tube. There’s a bit more confusion because he still thinks we want them to mount it for us in the AM, but we don’t. I think Kay wants to get to Bolivia before we mount it – his tire still has a little tread left and it’s largely pavement between here and there.

So we wait, assuming that he’s getting the info about the hotel for us. He says we can leave the bikes there for the night, and the hotel is just down the street – walking distance – next to a gas station. So we pull what we want from the bikes, and he says he’ll be back in 20 minutes and wanders off.

What ensues next is an hour of sitting around wondering what the heck we’re supposed to be doing. We go back inside and wait. We play a game on the iPad. Time passes. Eventually Kay suggests watching a TV show again since it’s clear Eduardo isn’t going to be back in 20 minutes, so we go outside to the stuff and look for headphones. But while we’re out there, we get the idea of checking Kay’s air filter because mine was FILTHY, so his probably needs cleaning, too. So we take all the crap off his bike, take off the seat, undo all the screws and pull the air filter. Yep. It’s filthy. Unfortunately, the F650 FAQ says to clean the air filter with filter cleaner / gasoline / detergent and a burnish (which we don’t have), so we ponder asking the guys to clean it for us in the AM and we’ll just put the bike back together ourselves. That can’t take long.

While we’re poking Kay’s bike, we notice he’s got oil in his airbox, too. Crap. He hadn’t been noticing the performance issues I had, but we both remember that my bike had oil all over the place and needed a bit of cleaning up, so we decide that Kay’s probably needs the same, based on what we’ve seen. So we want to ask if they can do the same service on his bike, but Kay is annoyed that we waited till the end of the day to discover this, since we’ve essentially been just sitting around since 11AM.

As we’re standing around outside, Eduardo comes dashing by and says something like “Had to come back to the office!” by which I understand he didn’t mean to return, and I realize he thinks we were done a while ago. We confer and then flag Eduardo down, and ask again about the hotel, etc. And we ask about whether they can get Kay’s bike in for the same service. Eduardo indicates that it’s no problem and that they’ll do Kay’s bike early in the AM so it should be ready before the tire is there, so we should still be able to get on the road at a decent time tomorrow AM. So we ask him to do that, and then ask about a hotel again. Could they maybe call us a cab to the hotel? Eduardo had indicated that it was in walking distance, but I’m bringing my panniers, and Kay has some stuff from his, and we don’t want to walk kilometers to a hotel with all that crap even if it is “within walking distance.”

Eduardo says sure and wanders off, and a few minutes later, the same woman who gave us the internet passwords earlier in the day walks over and says she’ll drive us to the hotel. Yay! We pick up our stuff and follow her out front, and she leads us to a BMW Mini Cooper S, which has the extra storage space in the back, and opens the back doors, asking for my panniers. I tell her that they’re heavy – I’d rather put them in myself but the way the car is parked and the doors are extended, I can’t get to it. She takes them, realizes they really ARE heavy, and gets dirt all over her nice slack suit trying to manhandle them into the back of the BMW. Yikes! I feel so bad for my filthy stuff getting all over her nice suit!

One of the guys takes mercy and comes over to load the stuff into the back, and it requires a surprising amount of manhandling. Then we’re off to the hotel. Which, it turns out, is a little over a block away – it really is close by. But as soon as we pull up, the guy is shaking his head at us. While Kay gets out of the mini, the valet goes inside and comes back out to say they have no vacancies. “What? I thought this was arranged?” the woman who is driving us asks. We had no idea. We didn’t even know the name of the hotel – it was just the place that Eduardo recommended to us. So she calls Eduardo, who apparently says that Caesar recommended it but they haven’t called ahead to make any arrangements, so now here she is with a car full of gringo and our stuff and no hotel.

“No problem,” she says – her English is quite good – she learned it in Germany – “I know another hotel. Let’s go check it out.” I’m sitting in the front seat with her so I make small talk – turns out her father is Peruvian but her mother is German – she was born in Dublin, Ireland – raised in Peru until she was 18 – lived in Germany until she was 28 – and then returned to Peru to be near her family. While we’re chatting, she tells us there was a big accident at a football stadium nearby, which is why we keep seeing all of the ambulances flying by. She heard on the radio that like 100 people, many of them children, were injured. I think maybe a bleacher collapsed – I’m not quite sure what the problem was but it sounded bad. We chatted about Peru, which she says she didn’t miss because all of the earthquakes, and before we know it, we’re at a hotel not far from the supermarket where we had lunch.

Kay goes in to ask about a room, and it’s more than we would normally spend, but we don’t feel like we can ask this lady to drive us around further like some sort of borrowed taxi service. She already seemed annoyed (although not at us) that the first hotel hadn’t been arranged beforehand, so Kay and I agree to suck up the price just so she can get back to her hijacked day. It turns out, this is the first hotel where we’ve stayed in Peru that has AIR CONDITIONING! YAY! Thank God! And it has hot water, and internet, and it’s quiet, even though it’s on a main street. I should be able to actually SLEEP here. ZOMG almost worth the cost.

(A couple of cool woman police officers on a moto in Lima! Girl power!)
Biker Chick Traffic Cops in Lima.

So we haul our stuff in, take the ELEVATOR up (I know, right? What luxury!) and get into the surprisingly roomy room. Crank up the a/c, hop in the shower, and then out for dinner. We wander around the corner where I had seen a restaurant sign earlier, but the place doesn’t seem open, so we wander a bit further and find what appears to be a convention center, and then an upscale mini-mall. What luxury!

We wander around the mini-mall just to see what they have, and Kay spots a bubble tea place. Kay LOVES bubble tea, and hasn’t had any since probably a month before we left, so he goes inside and asks if they have “black tea with milk and bubbles.” The guy indicates that it’s no problem and asks us to sit down. Sure! We sit and he makes the bubble tea, and brings Kay what looks like a glass of milk with bubbles in. Kay says there’s “technically” tea in it, but it’s basically milk with tapioca balls, and the tapioca is old … so we look for a place to throw it away. It was a nice idea, but didn’t quite work out.

Kay’s note: the tapioca “bubbles” have to be remade multiple times a day as they start getting hard within hours. If you ever get ones that are too stiff it means the people who work there aren’t doing their job.

But the bubble tea makes me realize how friggin thirsty I am (SO THIRSTY!) and I really want juice. Except juice may or may not have local water in it, which isn’t safe for me, and I’ve had enough trouble with my tummy as it is. Eventually we settle on what looks like a chain place for dinner, but has stir-fry type food, so it’s a change from the usual chicken and french fries and rice. And they advertise milkshakes! Kay spots a glass with ice in it on another table, which seems to be industrial mass-produced ice, which we’ve been told is safe to drink because it’s made with treated water. So I decide to risk it and ask for a strawberry milkshake. What I actually end up getting is some sort of purple frozen juice of the day. It’s definitely not strawberry, nor do I sense any milk anywhere near it. I drink about half of it down anyway because I’m SO thirsty, and I just hope I don’t pay the ultimate price for it later.

Dinner was surprisingly tasty, and I’m in good spirits because the menu advertises “brownie con helado” – which is brownie with ice cream. And this restaurant seems large enough that it probably actually *has* brownie with ice cream. But, alas, as has been proven true at EVERY SINGLE RESTAURANT – brownie con helado is just a myth. It doesn’t exist. We’ve seen it on a ton of menus and no-one ever has it. So sad. But I was smart enough to get the snacky goodies when we had lunch, so I have Oreos or Snickers to look forward to back in our AIR CONDITIONED hotel room.

While neither of us would have planned to spend another day in Lima – especially with our schedules getting so tight on making it down to Ushuaia before the weather is too bad – it’s probably just as well that we’re getting the bikes serviced. We’re getting into no-man’s land for BMW dealers, so any problems we encounter now could make or break the rest of the trip, depending on how we handle it. The day was not unpleasant, and while the hotel is more than we’d normally want to pay, it does have some nice luxuries. We should be well-rested and ready to hit the road hard tomorrow, if the bikes are ready early in the AM!

The hope for tomorrow is to get as far as Nazca, where we’ll check out the Nazca lines and then head inland for Cusco. Although at this point I’m seriously considering scrapping Machu Picchu for our schedule, because the Salar de Uyuni is going to take up some serious time and I don’t want to miss our window to get to Ushuaia. It’s getting tight now. Time to start making some tough decisions.

Kay’s Note: at this point I don’t even consider the cost of labor at the BMW dealers. It’s just so damn cheap. After The Fan Of Insanity I’m freaked about parts prices, but paying them to look at the stuff involved with Dachary’s bike today didn’t concern me in the least. $65 US to dig out the fuel filter (almost literally), clean the carb and the air box of oil spew, and change the plugs? Sure, we could do it, but honestly we never have the time at the end of the day, and when we do want to fuck with the bikes the hotel never has an appropriate space to do so (someone’s kitchen, a parking lot we can’t access on our own, etc). $65 is totally worth it if you ask me, and that’s still the most expensive labor we’ve encountered.

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