Today got off to a good start, as the hotel served breakfast. I had a nice coffee, eggs and bread, and Kay dug out a tea bag we’ve been carrying around since the US and had a nice cup of tea. He says that on the next trip, he’s bringing some good tea with us. I should probably do the same with coffee. It’s amazing what a comforting, tasty warm drink can do for morale.
Packed up our stuff and brought it out to the bikes… only to discover that my rear tire had gone flat overnight. Damn. I was concerned about what might have caused it to go flat, but Kay suggested filling it with air, checking the valve core (as his loosened once and caused a slow leak overnight) and seeing if it would hold air. So we dug out the Cycle Pump and filled it up. I left the cap off, we did some packing, took our time, etc… and more than 10 minutes later, the air was still fine. So we opted to drive down the street to get gas, and check the air pressure then. 5-10 minutes later, we pulled into a gas station, the air pressure was slightly higher (as it should have been, since the tire had gotten hot and the air would have expanded) and it seemed to be holding air fine.
So we set off across the desert toward Nazca.
I’ve gotta say, for someone who has never seen desert before, riding through a desert is really spectacular. I’ve seen pictures, of course, but pictures can’t capture the utter emptiness of the desert. The landscapes are otherworldly and beautiful. And there’s something almost… purging? Some sort of powerful spiritual sense endowed by the emptiness of riding through a desert. I wouldn’t want to live in one, but traveling through it has been a real treat and a gift.
At one point, I pull ahead of Kay because he wants to get some pictures of me riding in front of him. And I stay that way until we come into a little town about 50km before Nazca. At this point, we’ve been riding for an hour to an hour and a half from Ica, where we started this morning. Kay says over the headset “I think you should pull into that gas station because I want to take a look at your rear tire.”
Yep. It was flat again. We couldn’t tell by looking at it if it was just low or completely flat, so I pulled out the air pressure gauge and got something like 10 PSI. So it wasn’t completely flat, but it may as well have been. I’m so glad Kay spotted it before I had ridden too long like that.
So we asked the gas station attendants if we could work on the bike, and they motioned us to move it a bit out of the way into the corner. Off come my panniers, onto the center stand, and we inspect the tire for any visual signs of damage. We see one point where air seems to have come out around the bead, but nothing like the massive tube blowout of the last rear flat. We can’t see any damage to the tire itself, so we set about pulling it off, breaking the bead and pulling out the tube.
On the bright side, we’re getting faster at removing the rear tire and pulling the tube. This is the third rear tire flat I’ve had on the trip now (one our first day in Mexico, and two now in the Peruvian desert) so we’ve got the tire removal process down and we’re getting much faster.
Get the bead broken with very little trouble - we assemble the Bead Breaker and break the bead with it at one point, but Kay finds that the tire was so warm (everything is piping hot from the heat of the desert, and riding on low pressure - like hot to the touch to the point that Kay tried pouring water over some of it to cool it just so we could handle it) that after the initial squeeze with the BeadBreakr, which required almost no effort, he can just break the bead by stepping on it. This is completely atypical of the F650GS tires - they’re well-known even among F enthusiasts to be a PITA to break the bead. So we were both a bit worried.
Pull the tube without too much trouble, and thankfully the tube is intact. Kay bends the tire out enough to see inside and it looks like there’s no damage to the carcass. Thankfully I hadn’t ridden long enough/it hadn’t gotten flat enough to ruin the tire again.
We inspect the tube visually for signs of damage and can’t see anything obvious. Kay thinks we should fill it with air since we’ve got everything out and check for leaks just so we can figure out where the problem is. So we do, and he holds the tube up to his ear and listens while squeezing it… and it doesn’t take long to find a couple of pin-hole size punctures that are steadily spewing air. We make note of where they are on the tube and then pack it away - we’ll patch it later to use it for a spare, but since we still have two brand new rear tubes (since we keep replacing the rear tubes that get ruined) we opt to just put a new tube in so we don’t have to worry about patching it right now.
Amusingly, we started this trip with two rear tubes and two front tubes. At this point, we’ve blown out two rear tubes catastrophically enough that they couldn’t be patched. Luckily, I’ve insisted on buying new tubes when we visit the BMW dealers, so we still have two spare tubes. We’ve now replaced our third tube (all for my rear tire, crikey!) and we have one new rear tube and the one that we can patch to use as spares.
I’m getting kinda sick of rear flats, personally.
We get the new tube in and I work on starting to re-seat the tire while Kay walks down the street with my axle looking for grease because it’s far too dry. That’s the one thing we didn’t bring with us on this trip, and we’ve regretted it a couple of times (mostly because we keep wanting to grease my rear axle). Kay found a workshop down the street where he was able to get them to put some oil on the axle, which he reckons is better than nothing, but it’s still not grease. Alas. If I could pick one bike-related thing I didn’t bring but wish I had, it would be grease.
When Kay gets back with the axle, we get the rear tire re-seated on the rim (with the well-meaning but slightly interfering help of a local moto rider, who stopped to watch the proceedings) surprisingly easy. It’s frighteningly easy to work with the tire because it’s so hot. At this point, I’ve rolled the tire into some shade, and have put our tools in the shade under my bike, because everything is painfully hot to the touch. How hot is the sun in the desert with no breeze? Well, the highest my thermometer will read is 106 degrees, and the heat today broke it. In the shade. It was maxed out and all of the LCDs were lit. So it was effing hot.
Got the tire re-mounted and did the fiddling to get the tire positioned properly, chain have the right amount of play, etc. Took a bit longer than usual for that fiddling this time. We’re getting quite efficient at the whole dismounting/dealing with the tube/tire, etc. part, but the re-mounting process will probably always take as long as it takes because there’s no way to rush through getting everything squared away properly.
When all was said and done, we had replaced the tube and gotten everything packed away in a little over an hour and a half. We cut a half hour off of last time. By the time we were done, we were so hot that we had to move my bike into the shade for the fiddling with chain/tire positioning, etc. and I still felt on the verge of heatstroke. Kay’s jacket, which had been in the sun, was painful to the touch, so he soaked it down with water before setting off.
Changing a flat tire once in the Peruvian desert was kind of a lark. Changing a flat tire the second time in a gas station with no breeze at Peruvian high noon was just hot and mildly annoying. We were both ready to get going and get some airflow, as we were literally drenched in sweat - water was running down both of us in rivulets before we were halfway done with the tire. It was… gross. And wet. Our bodies lost a lot of fluid.
Air flowing through the vents never felt so good. I was a bit paranoid about my tire so I rode in front of Kay leaving the city and kept asking “how does my tire look?” Off into the desert again, toward Nazca. Turns out that we were closer than I thought to the Nazca lines… about 15-20 minutes of riding and we saw the tower that everyone talks about where you can view some of the lines. We pulled over and climbed up the tower, in spite of the fact that I’d said just a few minutes ago that I was too overheated to deal with it… I didn’t feel like going into Nazca and then coming back again for the lines after lunch. So we stopped and looked.
The Nazca lines were… mildly disappointing. I could only see two figures from the tower, and I couldn’t quite tell what they were supposed to be. It might have been more impressive if we’d stopped at all of the viewpoints (there are multiple points where you can stop and look - mounds you can climb, etc.) or even got the airplane tour, but after getting overheated changing my tire, neither of us really felt like spending a lot of time on the Nazca lines.
So on we went, into Nazca itself, where we looked for a place to grab lunch. We were both feeling a little ill from the heat exposure and neither of us felt like eating, but I knew we should sit in the shade with some cold drinks for a bit and maybe our appetites would return. So we pulled over at a “hotel/restaurant” that looked decent, and had a lot of cars outside. Walked up and there was a pool that a ton of people were playing in, and a restaurant where several groups of people were enjoying what looked like tasty food.
Ordered cold drinks and food, because when we got off the bikes, I felt weak and knew I had to eat before I could keep going. The cold drinks came right away, and we sat and enjoyed them for a while. Sadly, shortly after we arrived, someone cranked the music WAY up… to the point that it was too loud and getting to Kay. After a few minutes, he put his ear plugs in… and shortly thereafter, laid his head down on his arms and fell asleep. I sat reading on my iPhone.
Waited a while… and no food. Wasn’t sure exactly what time we stopped, except that it was after 2pm, so eventually I looked at the time and saw that it was 3:02PM. Kay woke up a few minutes later, realized that we’d been sitting there for quite a while with no food. We make significant eye contact with the waitress and suddenly utensils and napkins appear. “Oh, it must be coming soon we think.” but no…. Eventually Kay hunts down the waitress. The order had become “lost” despite the fact that she only had six tables. 10 minutes, she said. Five minutes later Kay gets something that involves the same raw ingredients he ordered, although probably not what he ordered. Kay starts eating, and I snag a french fry or three.
We wait. And wait. And wait. And my food still doesn’t put in an appearance. After we’ve been sitting there an hour and a half (and 40 minutes after she said “10 minutes”) Kay goes to look for my food. He’s done with his by now. Just as he walks up, she comes out with my plate. Thank god! I eat quickly, try to use the bathrooms, a woman is holding the door shut from the inside so I go back to the table and say “Let’s just go.” The noise is getting to both of us, and it’s 2 hours after we’ve arrived (it’s 4 o clock by now and we’ve hardly gotten anywhere from Ica) and we just want to be moving on.
It doesn’t sound as bad writing it up, but this was the single worst dining experience we’ve had on this trip. Waiting 1 hour and 40 minutes for food that I could have made at home in 20 minutes, starting from scratch, chopping everything up myself, etc. And sitting for two hours with music that was too loud, after being overheated and exhausted by the tire… neither of us was happy when we left the restaurant.
So off into the desert again.
Kay’s note: under normal circumstances we would have said “Fuck it” and left a while before then, just paying for the drinks. But Dachary had been beaten by the heat and just was not up to gearing back up, hunting down another restaurant, and waiting more. She needed food before we left.
Fortunately, we got to ride through more beautiful Peruvian landscape. The desert truly is spectacular, and will remain one of the highlights of my trip. I couldn’t help but feel good about riding through the desert, even after the flat tire eating up time, even after the annoying lunch experience eating up time… here we are, on this trip, riding through Peru. In the desert. So far from home, and so awesome.
Around 5:15PM, we approach a town called Lomas on the coast. I have no idea if it’s big enough to have a place for us to stay, but I propose it as a stopping point to Kay anyway. At best, we have just over an hour of light left, and I don’t know if that’s long enough to get us to the next town. And neither of us wants to be riding around after dark, or hunting a place to stay after dark, like last night, and we’re both atypically tired from the heat this afternoon still. So we decide to ride out to Lomas to see. There’s a huge beach along the road to the town, but the town itself looks like it can’t possibly support a hotel. Tons and tons of people are lining the beach under canopies and on chairs, towels, and blankets. Many cars are leaving town, as it’s getting late in the day. And people are walking through the town. I think that with this many people enjoying the beach, surely the town must have at least one hotel.
We ride into town, which doesn’t have any obvious looking hotels in site, and ask some girls if they know where we can find a hotel. The first one doesn’t seem to understand Kay’s question, but the other girls chime in and point us down the street, giggling and laughing. They send us on our way with “bye!” and a cascade of teenage girl laughter that is the same in any language.
Down the road we go, and Kay stops to inquire at the restaurant where they directed us, and the lady at the restaurant points us down the street. So we ride down that street, see a hospedaje that looks… sad… and ask someone else. He points us around the corner, and then walks to the corner, points us up the street, and then motions us to turn left when we reach a cross-street. Oh! There’s a decent-looking building with tile on the front, and a big hospedaje banner in the barred window. We stop, and Kay walks up and knocks on the door to inquire.
A lady comes out and tells him they have a room available, and shows him a twin room, which isn’t our preference, but he comes back and tells me it’s clean and seems decent. Sadly, it’s pricey. She wants 70 soles, and we’ve paid that much (or less) for much nicer rooms in major cities. Kay decides to go back and try to bargain her down to 50, but she won’t take it, and tells him there’s a place down the street that will take 50. So Kay comes back out to report, and we decide he should go check out the other place just for the sake of seeing. Unfortunately, it’s right on the town square and there’s no parking for the bikes, and we don’t want to leave them out in the middle of the street, and if the inside is anything like the outside… so he comes back and reports and we decide to take the expensive room.
She gets it ready and we unload the bikes into the lobby. Because we’re parking on a street (although this hospedaje is on a side street) we unload everything from the bikes. It makes an impressive, dirty pile in her immaculate lobby, and I feel bad. She shows us our room a few minutes later - she had one with a “matrimonial” bed, after all (a size around a double in the US) and it has another bed on the side. She’s quite emphatic that we ONLY use the “matrimonial” bed - don’t use the other bed at all. Don’t put anything on it. Don’t touch it. The other bed doesn’t exist. So we pile our stuff around the one bed we can use, and she seems dismayed to see the size of the pile (and perhaps its dustiness) when she comes back in to give us a second towel a few minutes later.
Kay’s note: We spend the rest of the night imitating her saying “No” and replicating her hand motions to anything that requires a “no” answer.
We change into street clothes and walk out into the town. It’s a port and we find some lovely scenery just a few blocks down from our hospedaje. We walk around looking for cold Coke we can bring back to the room, since neither of us actually feels like eating a meal at this point. We eventually find a place that has cold drinks of several varieties (a Coke to share, and a Poweraid for Kay and a fruit juice drink for me), some cookie snacky things, and an ice cream bar. Kay comments that we’re choosing our food like 13-year-olds tonight.
Walk back out and think about heading back to the hospedaje but we see this beautiful sunset and have to go investigate.
Lomas is an interesting town. It claims to be a port, but it’s not big enough for anything commercial. Just a bunch of local fisherman who have their own boats and probably sell their haul to the local “restaurants”. There’s hardly any infrastructure, and there are a fair number of run-down buildings and shacks. We can’t figure out how this town makes its money or why it’s not better developed, since we saw so many tons of people on the beach… but it’s a nice, out-of-the-way spot, and we think at least it should be quiet. Hopefully we’ll have a restful night, and make better progress tomorrow.
Kay’s note: Around 10pm we get a knock on the door. There have been many knocks on other doors earlier in the night so we figure it’s just a mistaken knock, but we say “Hola?” just in case. Nothing… A minute later another knock. “Hola?” Nothing…. Another knock a minute later… WTF?! I put on clothes. I open the door. There’s a crowd of people there including the owner lady. One of them is speaking English. The owner thinks we should bring the bikes into the front room for security. I’m down with that… since I’m already dressed.
So I quickly go out, unlock the bikes, back one up so that it’s facing the… steps… fuck. There is no way I can get it up those steps, with maybe eight feet of run, squeezing between two parked cars, and not take out the glass and wood things to each side of the door. Not gonna happen. One guy comes to help, but once again, they just don’t grasp that these aren’t teeny local motos even though it’s right in front of them. I explain to them that they weigh nearly 250 kilos (could be totally wrong there) and that there’s no way we can pick it up or that I can ride it up without a serious risk of breaking something. In the end they have us squeeze them between the two parked cars (good thing i’m skinny) because they’ll be safer there in front of the door. I don’t see how, but it’s not worth arguing over. So I do, and I thank them for the concern, and head back to the room.