So where does the name "Latitude Fifty Four" come from?
The final destination for this motorcycle adventure was the city of Ushuaia located in Tierra Del Fuego, Argentina.
The latitude of this city is 54° 47' South.

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Friday, March 03, 2006

Day 110 to Day 120

***Hey Everyone!! Sorry for the monster-posting but all this typing is going to take a lot of time, and I am much too lazy to separate it properly! Enjoy the novel!***
February 21st, 2006: Loja, Ecuador to Macara, Ecuador
February 22nd, 2006: Macara, Ecuador to Sullana, Peru
February 23rd, 2006: Sullana, Peru to Chiclayo, Peru
February 24th, 2006: Chiclayo, Peru
February 25th, 2006: Chiclayo, Peru to Chimbote, Peru
February 26th, 2006: Chimbote, Peru to Lima, Peru
February 27th, 2006: Lima, Peru to Chincha, Peru
February 28th, 2006: Chinca, Peru to Nasca, Peru
March 1st, 2006: Nasca, Peru
March 2nd, 2006: Nasca, Peru
March 3rd, 2006: Nasca, Peru to Chalhuanca, Peru

On the 21st we did more driving through the Andes. We stopped at a little roadside hut where the ladies were hand sorting peanuts. The ones that were unfit for beernuts were thrown to the pigs. At one point in the drive we came across a section of road that was totally washed out from a mudslide. Someone was kind enough to paint a very professional warning sign warning passerbys of the danger. We stopped to take a picture of this cute little pig snuffling around the road, and while we were stopped sure enough some rocks came tumbling down! We decided it would be best for us to get a hasty move on. In the afternoon we arrived in a small town near the border called Macara. We didn't notice parking near the hostal, but they assured us that they had secure parking for the motorcycles. After we unloaded our luggage we asked them to direct us to the lot, and were a little surprised when instead they directed us to a shoe store across the road where we could lock up the bikes overnight. We were approached by an Ecuadorian boy from Chinese decent who wanted to improve his English. He had a whole series of questions for us from the benign to the bizarre. Later that evening while we were sleeping, he wrote us a letter outlining some questions he thought of while we gone, one of which was if he was more attractive with his glasses on or with his glasses off. The next morning he presented the letter to us and asked us to fill in the blanks for some of the questions. After completing that activity we crossed the border from Ecuador to Peru.
This was by far one of the easiest border crossings yet. There was not a border rat or coyote to be found! What relief! Everything seemed to run through official channels and the border guards were friendly and effiicient. A few stamps later and we were on our way. We wanted to stop for a bite to eat, but shortly realized that there isn't a heck of a lot along the way in Peru. We finally came across a truckstop of sorts in the middle of the desert. Fresh lemonade was the house specialty along with goat and fish, which were available for your viewing pleasure hanging from various clotheslines throughout the restaurant. They didn't have running water, but they set up a lemon shaped water jug which you could use to wash your hands. We decided against lunch there, and settled for two lemonades instead. We wanted to take a few pictures of the people working in the restaurant, and the owner insisted we take a picture infront of the hanging goat meat. We continued on our way until Sullana. It was brutally hot, and while battling the gridlock traffic my front tire...again! Fortunately there was a vulcanizador (tire repair shop) right around the corner, so we didn't have to go too far to get it fixed. It turns out that the patch we had put on previously had come loose. I think we have a faulty patch kit since it's the second time this has happened. The total cost for the repair was 1 sol, which translates to approximately 30 cents. A bargain, if I do say so myself! We also purchased some new patches and glue off of him for another buck and a half, which he guaranteed us would work. We asked if anyone there knew where a hotel was, and one of his other customers told us he'd gladly drive ahead of us and show us the way. After we unloaded our gear, Jan bought him a beer for his efforts and we sat around on the hotel stoop watching the taxi drivers battle for dominance. They have three wheel motorcycle taxis here, essentially mechanical rickshaws. There are no stop signs or stop lights, so the idea is to treat the intersections like 4 way stops, but often it ends up in a game of chicken instead. The close calls were too numerous to count, but yet, we only witnessed one mini fender bender which did no damage to the taxis involved. After the sun set and the traffic died down a little we walked to the central square to see the town. We started talking to some local people who were operating a carnival ride for kids. It was a Jeep that drove through town, covered in lights, playing dance music, with cartoon character carts behind it and a man in a giant Barney suit dancing in the front car. Unfortunately the Barney-mobile had a bit of a hard time starting so we pitched in to push start the Jeep. For our efforts we were rewarded with a free ride. Two fully grown gringos on a Barney ride stick out just a little bit, so we had quite a few sideways glances along the way. It was a bit of a hilarious situation for all involved, and we couldn't stop laughing the whole journey. On the 23rd we had a long drive through a whole lot of nothing but sand and garbage. Occasionally a sand dune that formed on the road would break the monotony, and keep you from falling asleep. After a few hours of driving through nothing there was a truckstop. Goat was on the menu again, and even though it seemed a hit, we stuck to crackers and bottled water. A car full of Peruvians who were on their way to Lima also stopped at the restaurant (probably because it was the only thing in sight for 100 miles). Occasionally we would stop to take a picture and they would pass us, or they would stop for a drink and we would pass them. The isolation must have been getting to all of us because we turned our leapfrogging into a sort of game and would wave wildly each time we saw one another. We ended up staying in Chiclayo one extra day so we could get our laundry done. We also had to attend to the matter of our fried Chatterbox adapters since we were totally unaware of the fact that Peru runs at 220V, and as such plugged them in unknowingly until the room reeked of molten plastic. Thankfully we found a booth at the local market where we could get our original Chatterbox adapters fixed, and then it was off to the ferreteria (hardware store) which had step-down adapters so we could then plug them in safely. We have quite the interesting hookups going! Later in the day we went to the Sipan Tombs Museum which contains all sort of Incan and pre-Incan artifacts salvaged from tombs in the area. After that we went to the Tucumen pyramids. Erosion due to rainfall has worn the pyramids down badly so they do not look like the pyramids that we had seen in Mexico, but in certain spots you can actually see the individual adobe bricks that these pyramids were created from. While visiting the pyramids we befriended a bald dog...well, almost bald. He did have one little tuft of hair on his hind, and a few sprigs of hair between his eyes. We asked what happened to him and the museum staff told us that he was born like that and that they are apparently quite a few dogs that are like that in the region. We took some pictures of our motorcycles at the base of one of the pyramids, since the area isn't actually closed off in any way. You can go right up and touch the pyramids, and a few people were actually herding their goats around the base of it when we first drove over on the bikes. We continued our drive south on the 25th and after hours of nothing but sand arrived in Chimbote. It was a fairly uninteresting town with a waterfront that reeked like urine and fishing boats. We left there as soon as possible in the morning and continued the drive towards Lima. The traffic on the highway was brutal, and once we passed the downtown core of Lima we were both ready to quit for the day. We saw a fairly upscale looking neighbourhood and took an exit there, but it was fairly residential and we were having a bit of a hard time finding a hotel. We flagged down two french guys driving a Harley and asked them if they knew where a nice hote was. They told us to follow them, and they brought us to a nice little bed and breakfast in the region of Lima called Miraflores. I was rather happy there because they had a turtle and particularly chatty parrot in the garden. The next morning we woke up to the sound of the parrot belting out a whole medley of tunes. After that, it was more driving through sand and sandy mountains. Today was a little nicer though since we could actually catch glimpses of the ocean, and at times the landscape had an almost Mars-like look to it. Eventually on our drive we came across a really interesting building in the sand. We drove down a little road, took the back route around the building, greeted some people that were walkin along the path, and then blasted over a rickety cement footbridge leading up to the building. It looked rather old and we decided to ask the man what the building was for after driving out what looked like a parking lot and some narrow gates. It turns out that we had blasted right over some Incan ruins through the back route, and the gates that we exited through were the entrance gates to the ruins. What we through were brake waves in the sand were actually the ripples of the adobe bricks. I gather this will be some pretty bad Karma for us! On the 28th we drove to Nasca, which is known for the Nasca lines. The lines are up to 15km long, and run from one central viewing point to various areas in the desert towards drawings. They are said to have been celestial signs, but one tourist there was convinced that it was the work of alien beings. We were able to view three of the drawings. We could see the tree, the nine-fingered monkey, and a lizard, which most unfortunately, had the highway running through it. After we took a few pictures we got onto the highway which ran right through the lizard and headed towards town. We stopped at a chicken place for lunch, and to our surprise a fully loaded KLR650 in Aztec red bearing a Canadian flag pulled up followed by a 250 Super Sherpa (essentially a KLR250). After some short introductions we found out that the couple on the bikes (Caleb and Liz) were doing the same trip as us, and were from the Ottawa region. What a strange coincidence! We all stayed in the same hostal that evening and shared some of our stories of our respective journeys over dinner. Their journey didn't go quite as smoothly as ours, but they seemed to be enjoying the trip regardless and had some great war stories to tell. ( Although our evening out was fun it got the better of me later when I came down with a killer case of food poisoning. We had to stay in the hostal the next day since I wasn't able to ride, and pretty much slept for the entire day. I felt a little better on the 2nd, but we once again were defeated on our attempts to get towards Cuzco. We left with an impromptu travel companion, but unfortunately his bike wasn't able to handle the high altitudes and couldn't muster up more than 25-30km/h uphill. To top it off a fierce hail storm moved in. It was brutally cold, we were soaking wet, and I was still feeling a bit off, so we finally cut our losses and decided to return to back to Nasca for the evening. Unfortunately due the weather conditions, and in his haste to get to a warmer altitude our friend took a corner a little too fast and crashed his bike. He was very fortunate to have a good thick layer of warm clothes on which gave him some padding against serious injury, and was wearing a helmet at the time. His bike had a few bent parts and scratches, but he kept his spirits up and we later enjoyed recollecting the stories of the day over dinner. On the 3rd we made one more attempt at it, this time flying solo. We passed through the area where the hail had struck and decided it would be a good time to stop for a snack and a few pics. Oddly enough it was fairly warm and extremely sunny this time around, but the hail was still a reminder of the previous day's journey. Later the warm sunny conditions proved too good to be true and we just about froze our tails off in the highest regions of the mountains. The roads took us snaking around mountainsides, climbing up and down. At times it could be a little scary driving along the sides of the mountains with nothing protecting you from plummeting off the side if you took one wrong turn! It was a long way down too! One of my favourite parts of the journey was seeing the alpacas in the mountains, well, that was when they weren't running out on the road infront of you! At very high altitudes they are everywhere! There is a huge alpaca reservation in addition to the many wild ones, and as well, the going rate for alpaca fur is pretty high (about $300US per kilo) so natives in the mountains often farm them. The farmed alpacas will have different coloured wool ribbons hanging from their ears to designate which family they belong to. We stopped to talk to one lady who was herding her alpacas which had just recently been sheared. I'm not sure if they look funnier with their fur or without! The distances between towns in these mountains is pretty large, so we started to get a little worried about finding a gas station. Thankfully, we found a village where gasoline was sold, and bought a few gallons. We were pretty tired from our long drive, but the town of Chalhuanca was having a Carnival festival in the evening and we wanted to see what it was all about. We maneuvered through the small streets to a field where there were two large trees decorated with balloons, streamers and plasticware which were in the process of being hacked down as part of the festivities. The local people welcomed us with glasses of chincha (recall the funky maize drink), and a hearty pelting of water balloons, confetti, flour, talc powder and soot. We were then grabbed and pulled into the circle of people dancing. Everyone joins hands and dances in a circle around the tree while singing to traditional music. Later, couples break off and do a dance infront of the tree together with a very large ax. Then they take turns taking swings at the tree. The dancing and hacking continues until someone makes the final chop and the tree comes crashing down sending people scattering in all directions. The person who makes the final chop becomes a bit of a celebrity and is cheered on by all! Then everyone runs in, snaps off branches of the tree, and they dance around in celebration. We were completely muddy and pretty soggy, but despite it all we had a total blast!

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