Into The Amazon (6 of 11)

Written by: Jeff McMahan

Clocked in over 300k yesterday. Our valiant Lifan 125cc engine performs fantastically on the straights, but is complete rubbish on the inclines.

When we finally got to the point that Travis had to get out and push as I worked the throttle, we knew we had entered serious terrain.

Charlie” as the locals call ’em, didn’t feel the same after that. He seemed slow and sluggish. A 5% incline became a downshift to conserve speed. A 10% equaled two downshifts, and a loud whining noise as he lurched into gear.

If he could talk, Charlie would have said “Seriously, guys.  Did you have to buy the boom box that sits in the seat as a third passenger? Big enough you HAD to buy a car battery to run it? Did you think of me when you did this you fat b*stards?! Guess what, first gear is all your gettin’.”

I could feel Charlie slowly revolting against us, and I know he loosened one of the cables on the battery switch so it grounded into the frame which resulted in the slow electrocution of the rear passenger. Figured that one out after a unique slight tingling sensation went from the fingertips to the arms and your mouth started to get pasty.

Well, we caught on to your shenanigans Charlie, and we do care about you, so today will be a different kind of day, more on that in a moment.

The road from Bagua Grande to Pedro Ruiz was simply breathtaking. Desert gave way to green rice fields, then to lush forests clinging to the sides of razor sharp canyons filled with condors.

and I know he loosened one of the cables on the battery switch so it grounded into the frame which resulted in the slow electrocution of the rear passenger

This was straight out of Jurassic Park, meandering down alongside a riverbed, rushing rivers, and a superb waterfall I am regretful we did not snap a pic of. There was the aforementioned section where we had to push Charlie up a dirt road (Peruvians know shit all about time and distance, but they do love their infrastructure!) because of a road detour.

That has been only mark against the roads so far that we have encountered, lots of roadwork, a couple times complete shutdowns for hours. When the short, stout women come to sell you soda and biscuits while you are waiting, you know you will be there awhile.

I found it amusing that we encountered a landslide while we were waiting and had to jump out of the mototaxi as rocks pinged off Charlie and our legs. Thankfully nothing bigger than walnut sized pieces, but you don’t want to stick around for the Indiana Jones Ball to come rolling down the side of the hill like you just stole the Incan Idol.

This was the second time we have been hit by rocks, the first was at the OTHER complete shutdown the day before, and goats were the culprits of that one! Seriously though, the only light source that dotted the otherwise pitch black mountain pass were a couple floodlights around a work area where one or two guys were there to control traffic.

Saw my first Walking Stick Insect in the wild. Oddly enough he was just, walking, across the road.

Mike scared Carla with it, we all had a laugh, and continued on. Yep, it’s crazy fun in the Amazon at night, ahem.

These Double Decker Buses, like the lorries in India, are the bane of Peru, they come in hot around corners and never bother to use their horns. A Mototaxi would be treated like a bug on a windshield…SPLAT!

It goes without saying, but these highways are filled with blind turns, the good news about driving at night in a black hole is that you can see the oncoming lights from around the corner, and you just pray they can see you. We only need four feet of road people, be generous, please.

It became apparent we were not going to make it to Moyobamba last night. The night driving through the passes took their toll on us. What had started out as a scorching day in the desert turned into a mostly pleasant drive which turned into a God is pissed and the heavens have opened up downpour.

Raining, in the Amazonian rain forest, who woulda’ figured?

So we barely had time to get our raingear on which mostly consisted of a jacket, stowed away the electronics and maps as best we could, and drove through fury. Reminded me of a certain Irene that stopped by to say hello on her way through CT last week, but without the wind.

The rain was fine, it was the two hours later when the temperature dropped 20 degrees and you were shivering to the bone. Except for a 3×6 top cover and a couple of side flaps, you are completely at the mercy of the elements. We made a pit stop and changed into triple layers of shirts and pants.

I had bought an extra tarp at a roadside village and wrapped myself up like a condom in the back. Thankfully the pure misery only lasted a few hours, then we descended from the mountain pass and back into the lowlands where it warmed up.

As we reintroduced ourselves to civilization, and cell phone service picked up, we found out that the other members did encounter some issues on the road, and were behind us in Bagua Grande.

They decided not to head to Moyobamba today, instead they would make a hard right at Pedro Ruiz and head South to Chachapoyas because it was “easier”.

Only issue I see in their logic is that the route they chose is only easy now. After Chachapoyas, the road

A: becomes an unpaved road for 350km, and…

B: it heads AWAY from Cuzco and back OVER the 16,000 foot mountain range. Logic dictates that they will be heading OVER the mountain range a third time, to get back to Cuzco.

I wish them well.

For Team SBS and the Warriors, we continue to the destination of Moyobamba today where we will find a nice hotel, drink a Pisco Sour at the bar, maybe get a massage if we choose, and have our laundry done while the mototaxis are bring worked on.

We are losing half our oil, Travis is pretty sure the O-Rings need to be replaced, we replaced the spark plug yesterday afternoon. Coupled that with some shopping for warmer gear, maybe a nice dinner at a place other than the Pollina Restaurante (Guy must be a billionaire, all the restaurants in Peru seemed to be called that!) and potentially hot water.

I haven’t seen that since I stepped out of my shower in Norwalk CT the morning I left. After a few hard days on the road it will be worth it, and will get our minds ready for what’s next on this journey.

After Moyobamba is Tarapoto, and after Tarapoto is Juanjui. The road between Tarapoto and Juanjui is sprinkled with dirt. After Jaunjui it is only dirt.

For 300 kilometers. In bandit country. Through the Rainforest. With one town near the middle you hope make it to before nightfall, Tochache. Charlie better be well rested, or Charlie may find new owners who don’t care as much as we do about him soon.

Time for everyone else to wake up, grab some chicken for breakfast, and head to Moyobamba for a day of relaxation and shopping. Sweetie, can I pick you up something from the Amazonian Rainforest???

Let’s blow this taco stand, yeeeeehaw!!!

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