In order to rebegin our earth-bound way northward, gin-ger-ly is the way in which I rode Pearl all 230 miles southbound to Lima. Pearl was sporting a newly welded, temporarily repaired rear suspension linkage—albeit with no dampening in place but despite having cause for complaint, held up beautifully on the Pan American highway’s asphalt. Getting me to a place in which we could get her adequately mended—without issue, what a trooper. Holding her in a new level of regard, I held no qualms in taking my ‘Captain Slow’ status to another notch; delicately descending into drainage dips and negotiating speed bumps with supreme care.
With a rear shock to be shipped and install, on closer inspection there was also: Pearl’s brakes, which were letting out a pair of screams every time I slowed; the plate—protecting my feet from her exhaust—had bore a raucous-racket-of-a-hole in it from all the off road vibration; she was in dire need of an oil change and service; her battery terminals were looking beyond filthy and on top, Pearl was missing a couple of crucial bolts to her sub-frame.
All that coupled with worn out tyres, an oil change and service due on the F800cc, faulty brake discs and a disintegrated plate supporting his Peli case, Jason was going to be one busy boy in Lima. I would of course become the ‘Sparky’s mate’ and pass the spanners, emulate James Bond with his Motion Pro tool and bring cups of tea and slices of keke—cake on the hour, every hour.
In an attempt to escape from one reality only to seek a more beautiful one, I long ago implored the world to teach me a thing or two before the time runs out. I love the stark differences encountered on the travel spectrum in Peru for example, such as walking past mothers breastfeeding their toddlers, yes—three year old toddlers, on a Monday morning inside a national bank. (At least they’d save soles on Inca Kola and other such child-beckoning beverages.) Or surviving a sea of the world’s worst drivers to encountering floods of the same local people with the nicest manners. Especially when disaster strikes and you become dependent on the help of a stranger.
A new acquaintance, ex-pat Brit Johnny Bravo who has journeyed alongside the “loonbags” of Lima’s roads for years, took us to the boho-chic end of Barranca and over a coffee pondered, “I can’t decide if they are the best drivers (with huge reserves of luck), or the worst drivers (with the fastest reflexes!)” From firsthand experience, I’d fervently err on the latter..! Although ruminating on it later over a savoured cup of English tea, thanks to Johnny’s thoughtfulness, when you grasp that users of the roads in Peru haven’t been required to take a driving test, only something akin to Britain’s ‘Compulsory Basic Training’ day, you begin to fathom why the roads are frenetic at best, fatal at worst.
But when and how did Peruvians become so gloriously hospitable, especially noticeable when compared to the British culture of the more reserved, perhaps occasionally guilty of a little cynicism and suspicion? That’s something culturally instilled at a grassroots level, starting with good old fashioned family values and community spirit in helping our neighbour. Some of us in England have barely spoken a word to our next door neighbour. We’ve much and more to learn from the world.
Our accommodation within 24 hours went from ‘Love hotel’ to a Catholic convent, another amusing contrast. Both of which I thought I was getting incredible ‘bang for my buck’; the former for its value in renting a room for the entire night and the latter for the uber low price including internet and hot water. That is, until getting electric shocks from the our shower head. And later an unpleasant buzz from Jason’s arm holding the laptop—a jolting over-charge of which ran through him from the electricity powering the could-now-do-without WiFi. “Ouch! Stop touching your arm against mine Jason— it ruddy hurts!” Turning everything off gave rise only to a rude gush of cold water but at least the shower was welcoming in Lima’s humid heat. After the initial shock…
Sat in a semblance of the convent’s peace and quiet, reading and relaxing, we experienced a minor earthquake. Apparently reaching 3.9 on the Richter Scale, it wasn’t more than a titillating tremor, however, it did simultaneously raise our eyebrows in acknowledgment. Actually, it’s not unusual for Lima to experience seismic activity, being situated between two tectonic plates: the Nazca Plate and South America Plate. Still, as mild as it was, I didn’t expect to find my lips singing away to Carole King’s song, “I feel the Earth move under my feet…”
So now we were to simply sit tight and wait for our parts en route from Motorworks. The parcel itself—the contents of which would be akin to our birthdays, 15 year anniverary together and Christmas in one—took a speedy three days to hit Peruvian soil, one of FedEx’s fortes by far. The battle on our hands commenced the moment it landed; we now had to climb an Everest-sized mountain of bureaucracy via an administration labyrinth along the way. Jason beavered away on preparing Pearl for her major surgery, while I spent a day and night furiously designing, reformatting and translating technical specifications in Spanish for each of the nine components and collating original invoices in keeping with Customs’ preferred layout.
Sounded straightforward enough, however with FedEx answering their switchboard one in every ten calls coupled with my survival Spanish, and unclear instructions around a mandatory set of precise requirements from the import agent Yudit Canta, assembling our paperwork correctly was filled with inaccurate time-wasting exercises and more laptop hours than I’d care to bore you about. Ines, the co-manager at Touratech Peru corrected my paperwork, grossly impinging on her working day and her husband Ivan, the other manager, had pre-empted us on how to best ‘push’ the process. We essentially had a 50:50 chance of ascertaining a ‘green light’ from Customs’ traffic light system; an amber or red simply spelled ‘No package release’.
With a killer 20 mile ride riddled with Lima’s loonbags over to the FedEx office, we were told on arrival that our paperwork wouldn’t be presented to Customs until the following day. My response to which politely relayed the rehearsed, somewhat embellished story of a time-ticking visa past its 11th hour and subsequent impounding of the motos, “Our parcel is full of constituent parts to fix my motorcycle in order to complete a five-day ride to the border with only four days remaining before visa expiry. Please could you help me, I am desperado for FedEx’s assistance under these urgent and accentuating circumstances. If I do not collect the package today, it’s game over for us and our motorcycles on an Argentina to Alaska trip.” An economy of the truth admittedly but desperation really is the mother of invention.
“Sorry madam, this is the procedure we must follow at FedEx and Customs will look to process your documentation tomorrow. You will get a red, amber or green back from them.” Arrr, the parcel-determining colours of their unenlightening traffic light system.
You’re kidding? Any crisis of conscience fully reconciled within the blink of an eye, it was time to trigger a mini-Oscar-nomination-standard-thunderstorm on my face. A deluge of snotting and the onset of tears worked a charm. Fortunately, the FedEx representative was male giving me full leverage to cry him a river in appealing to his ‘Moto-damsel in distress’ sympathy-inducing qualities. (A woman may’ve just told me to “Suck it up princess, your parcel ain’t ready.”)
Alakazam! A day’s worth of mundane hours later and FedEx fast-tracked our parcel from somewhere lost in the ether to ‘Ready for collection’. And joy of joys—believe you me, I never dreamed I’d feel so elated to see the word Verde—green in red ink on our consignment papers. Namely, a box of motorcycle parts but Pearl’s livelihood depended on it. It wasn’t exactly a box of ‘old for new’ but I’d take ‘broken for second hand’ any day. I offered up the rear shock like it was The Lion King’s Simba and bathed in the green victory of glory.