The Life of a Celebrity: Trujillo, Peru
Northern Peru was nothing like we expected. Mancora was fun, but the long straight roads through boring desert with lots of wind are not a motorcyclist’s dream.
After our odd experience with Jose we really wanted to find somewhere to stayÂ in Trujillo that didn’t involve sleeping on the floor or anyone spitting in our near vicinity.
On the 6 November 2013,Â Casa de Clara delivered. Set on a quiet street adjacent to a pretty park, yet walking distance from the main square, with hot water, wifi and parking for all three bikes in the lobby, we were very pleased to be there.
All through Colombia and Ecuador, I have felt like a minor celebrity. People are often taking covert pictures of me, sometimes even getting up the courage to ask for a picture with me. The customs officers on the border crossing to Peru spent 15 minutes taking pictures with Tom and I.
Of course none of this is deserved, they are attracted to the colour of my skin, and occasionally the fact that I am riding a big motorcycle. This constant attention has made me think a lot about celebrity and whether anyone really deserves the adoration of strangers.
There are some people who most certainly do deserve to be admired. Nelson Mandela immediately comes to mind with his recent passing. I was lucky enough to meet him in London when he came to unveil his statue in Parliament Square, and I was certainly impressed by his greatness.
However other celebrities, actors, politicians, sportsmen; there are many who I feel are overly celebrated. Certainly having strangers come up to me and thrust their babies in my arms for a picture makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable!
Phil and I have become known in the KLR community, we are active on the South American KLR facebook groups, and have had the pleasure of meeting many like-minded riders along our journey. In Trujillo, an Argentinian KLR rider called Luis, who I have not yet met in person, arranged for us to meet up with Julio, another KLR rider.
Julio came to our hotel the next morning with two of his friends. We jumped on the bikes and headed to Solomotos motorcycle shop. I wanted to talk about my shock, which isn’t really absorbing much shock anymore, and Phil needed some tools to be able to change his front sprocket. As we stood around talking bikes, more and more motorcyclists turned up, some because they had business at the shop, others because they saw us there.
While there I noticed that my right fork was leaking oil around the seal. The owner Johnny kindly offered to clean it for me and change the oil that evening, for only the cost of the materials.
Eventually we decided to go and see some local ruins. What started as 4 motos ended up as a gang of at least 8, with people who hadn’t brought their bikes hoping on behind their friends.
Julio got us onto a tour of the ruins for free (he knows the head of something or rather) and so the four of us gringos headed off with a group of Peruvians from a small village in Northern Peru.
Those Peruvian families turned out to be our new biggest fans. They started out shy, but when they realised that Phil and I could speak passable Spanish, the floodgates opened. They took so many pictures with us that the tour guide soon grew tired of waiting for us.
The children kidnapped me, insisting on taking my cell phone number and the girls pushing each other out of the way just so they could walk beside me. There are no gringos in their town and I think we were the first white people they had ever spoken to. Hollywood and television have created a magical aura around white people.
Whilst I adopt a strategy of being as friendly, approachable, welcoming and obliging as possible, being a celebrity because of the colour of my skin makes me very uncomfortable. You would never see white people in Canada throng around someone from Japan or Nigeria, just because they look different. In fact in many Western countries, people who have a different skin tone suffer from racism and are not made to feel welcome at all.
Maybe the South Americans have the correct approach? Isn’t it better to be thrilled to be speaking to someone from another culture and to want to be seen with them than to shun them and treat them as though they do not belong? Perhaps us Westerners should change our attitudes, seek out new people, and welcome them to our countries with big smiles and loads of questions.
My new friends said goodbye at the end of the tour by giving me presents. One little girl gave me a bracelet she had just bought at the souvenir stand, and a mother gave me a pair of earrings. I gave everyone a sticker, feeling bad that I had nothing else to give to them all.
We left our fans with big hugs and many more pictures. We were all very hungry by then, but before we could eat â€“ more pictures. Julio rode ahead and took some great pics as we rode away from the ruins.
We went to a small restaurant that served amazing ceviche, seafood chicharrones and fish curry. We ate very well that lunch time!
While we were eating, Che, another of the motorcyclists, asked me if I liked chicken. I told him that I did and he insisted that we come for dinner at his restaurant â€“ a Polleria.
Julio had some work to do, so we decided to find a post office and wander around the very beautiful main square.
While we were standing in the square, we were approached by a man who works for the tourist authority. He offered to take us on a free tour of city hall. We happily agreed, and soon we were learning about the history of Trujillo. The highlight of the tour was when we were ushered through a whole meeting full of towns people so that we could stand on the balcony overlooking the square.
It was the day that the mayor allowed the people of Trujillo to come and speak to him about their problems, and there were hundreds of them there to see him.
Dinner at Che’s restaurant was delicious and plentiful. Kelly was in heaven with having as much fresh salad as she could eat, and Phil and Tom ate an enormous amount of roast chicken.
After dinner Julio and Che showed us maps of Peru, and suggested that we drive the Canyon del Pato to get to Huaraz, rather than continuing down the boring Pan American.
The more he told us about the sandy, narrow trail, the more I realised that it was not a trip that I would find enjoyable.
Turned out that that was not a problem, there was a very scenic, paved route for me to take, and I could meet the boys in Huaraz.
I dropped Cricket off at the mechanic shop, Phil decided to change his front sprocket, and then I rode home on the back of Suzi.
The next morning, the boys and Kelly headed off to their offroad adventure, and I went to pick Cricket up from the mechanic. I found her in pieces with no front tire and the right fork missing.
Johnny and the boys were still working on her. Lucky that I had decided to go a different route from the rest of the gang! About an hour and a half later, Cricket was back together, and Julio and his friend kindly escorted me out of the city, leaving me on the highway where I couldn’t get lost.
My ride to Huaraz was great along a newly paved road (actually started very potholed, but soon improved) that climbs from sea level to great heights.
Despite leaving Trujillo much later than Phil and the gang, I arrived in Huaraz first.
Why? You ask? Well stay tuned for the next blog to find out.