Short Stories
Entry No. 46 February 20, 2005

Peruvian Love

Susie and I had been with Will and Orian since Ambato, Ecuador, February 3. We left Ecuador and entered Peru together on the 8th. I was excited to find Will and Orian in Ecuador. I was hoping they were up for some company through Northern Peru. It was known, and I had heard from other cyclists' first-hand experiences, that Northern Peru was infamous for the thieves. The minute you were off your guard, something would go missing. However, one look at Will, and those ladrones(1) would run home to mama. Little did they know Will's personality. Although he peppers his amusing thoughts and accounts of earlier events with the f-word, he is quite tranquilo and can't handle nipple twisters one bit. I figured with this quartet, no little Latino would have a chance.

We moved slowly, as with four people someone was always bound to have a problem; Susie and her front tire, Will and most of his bike, Orian and his broken frame, and I with my amoebas. We did get some practice drafting and it felt a lot safer to be traveling with our own gang albeit a Gringo one.

Nevertheless, we were bound to split up at some point and it so happened that my Contra-robber-team of four diminished to one in Chiclayo. Will and Orian continued south while Susie and I went back to Piura for a Peace Corps meeting. In Piura, Susie decided to kick her ear problem to where it belongs and she headed for Lima. That left me, Mr. T in my pocket, and 670 Kilometers to Lima. I wasn´t too worried because my fear of ladrones was based on an email I had read about a month before from Vik, a cyclist who was robbed in Northern Peru. I figured he was robbed on the lonely section of 200 kilometers, the section where we had already passed. Then, I took another look at his email. I was headed right into robber-town the very next day. Damn.

I wasn't sure how to go about this, but I was really sure I wasn't going to let a robber scare me into taking a bus. It wasn't going to happen. Death is one thing. Getting robbed is an experience that humbles. I hoped neither would happen.

I tried to plan my riding so that I would ride through Paijan, the town of ladrones on moto-taxis, in the early morning. As my riding schedule unfolded and my luck would have it, I was passing through Paijan just before the sun set. I didn't want to stop for the night and give the jerks the whole night to plan how they were going to get me, so I decided to pedal to the next town and get out of the area altogether and quickly.

As I entered Paijan, I encountered a truck to draft into town. I thought hiding behind this big truck, no one would see me coming. Even more of a surprise. As I was cruising behind this truck, a guy on a mountain bike pulled up next to me and started chatting it up. Everyone was a suspect. I bored into his eyes and ignored his questions. After a few, I answered but was completely rude. I wanted to seem tough. Then he mentioned the danger here and asked if I was going to the biker house in Trujillo (which I was) and to tell Lucho, the owner, that he said hello. I was feeling better. He continued on about how the ladrones go about robbing people and told me the latest story about a German guy losing his helmet. As we passed through the heart of town, I could see through my sunglasses the eyes on my bike and trailer. This town had the youngest moto-taxi drivers I had seen yet. It was because they made their money robbing people who passed
through town.

I was really excited that I had this companion to deter these vultures. However, he made it clear that he would escort me to the end of town, but the 9 kilometers to the next town would be up to me. He said he would´t return to town right away so that the ladrones would think he was still with me. I thanked him and told him that I would indeed send the message to Lucho, if I arrived there in one piece.

As he slowed, said his good-byes, and returned towards town, I started pumping my legs. The adrenaline was pumping too. I could feel it in my chest, arms, and legs. I felt I was running out of time. I had to get far enough along so that when that guy returned to town, I would be close enough to the next town that the moto-taxi ladrones wouldn't catch up. Pumping, pumping, looking back, pumping. I felt for my mace in my bike shorts on my right thigh. I practiced taking it out quickly. I needed more practice. I took note of the direction of the wind and thought about various scenarios and how I would react. I fixed my bear spray that was strapped to my frame. It was a little too tight. Should I stop and fix it? No. I have to go fast and go NOW. I turned around. A tractor and a car behind that, but no moto-taxi. I was relaxing a bit and making good time. My mind drifted a bit and I began day dreaming, marveling in my usual little dreams and comfy thoughts.

Snap out of that! Pay attention. I looked back. Oh my god. Was that two blue moto-taxis behind me in the distance? I pedaled so hard. I switched my gears - middle chain ring and 4th cog. Go. Go. Go. I pulled out my mace and for the first time, turned it to the ready position. I was fuming but so scared. Would they have a gun? Would I really fight? These little punk Latinos will not take my bike. They will not take what I have worked three and a half years for.

This is it. I looked back. I was confused. It was a big blue bus, not two blue moto-taxis. I breathed a sigh of relief and reset my mace and put it in my shorts. I waved to the bus, thanking him for not being a moto-taxi ladron. It all happened so fast, yet nothing happened. It was all in my head. What an imagination I have. I rolled into Chocope emotionally drained from my 9 kilometer stretch. I found a hostel, ate and found Internet. It was over. The most dangerous part was over. Good night.

(1) A Ladron is Spanish for thief. Ladrones is the plural form.

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