On one of our earlier nights in Peru we spend the night at what we have come to refer to as a “Luuuuuv” hotel. This type of accommodation is common everywhere we have been in Latin America and in many of the communities we have visited, it is the only type of accommodation. In communities where it is common for a dozen family members to share close quarters, these hotels are designed to provide a very private getaway for couples. Each hotel is designed to allow a couple to check in and enjoy their stay without ever needing to see or speak to the staff. We drive our Ural through a curtain or around a tight corner where it is instantly hidden from view for the duration of our stay, then proceed to an available room where we can communicate with the staff by telephone and leave our payment on a carousel which the staff can access from outside our room without ever seeing us. All of these hotels have been immaculately clean and most are very tastefully decorated. This one is quite nice, with plenty of mirrors and beautiful hand-painted murals covering the walls, although the subjects are quite suggestive. Each hotel has also had satellite television with access to stations unlike anything I have seen at home. In this particular location, each room faces an open area and the walls are thin, meaning that sounds carry very well. This allows our fellow guests to provide us with some pretty interesting audio entertainment over the course of the evening. In keeping with the theme of discretion, I’ll say no more.
The next morning, we are making our way through the town of Chimbote, Miles is in his element. As a race car driver back home, he’s enjoying being surrounded by thousands of mototaxis, engines blasting, each competing for their desired space on the busy roads. The Ural zigs, then zags, speeds up, then slows down. At one point, road space is particularly tight and we end up hooking fenders with one of the mototaxis. I reach out of the sidecar and give a hard slap to the side of his cab and he now realizes what has happened. He speeds up, we slow down and disaster is averted. We are left with a white paint smudge and a subtle dent that leaves the sidecar looking a little more “lived in”.
Once we’re out of town, our scenery becomes truly spectacular. This can’t be real. I feel like I am driving through a water-colour painting. Mountain, desert, and ocean, seamlessly combine. The sand dunes, covered in repetitive swirling patterns, are large enough to be mountains. The mountains are covered in sand, making them almost indistinguishable from the massive dunes.
Eventually we leave the scenery behind and head into the sooty, loud, chaotic capital of Lima. We quickly discover that this is an exceedingly complicated city to get around. When we finally find what looks like a suitable hotel, the Ural is once again swarmed – this time by all of the neighborhood kids. They climb all over the bike, having a blast. We give them all Smiles and Miles stickers and try to send them on their way so that we can get the bike into the garage and get settled in our room, but there are a few stragglers who can’t tear themselves away, following us into the garage and excitedly watching us unpack. One of the girls asks if I will autograph the back of her sticker. It is always nice to feel like a minor celebrity so I oblige and this quickly turns into a major autograph session, particularly when I turn the tables and ask the kids to autograph my journal for me. They are thrilled and each one takes their turn carefully writing their name in their neatest handwriting, the youngest boy tackling the challenge with such intensity that his name is now embossed through several pages of my journal. There couldn’t be a more treasured keepsake.