November 21, 2004 - Tacna, PERU 177k, 110m***

Last night we camped out along the Pacific on an isolated beach by Cuya. For a change of pace, today’s update starts with textures from that beach. Sand, sticks, live and dead bush, and foam.

We rode down a 4,100 ft, 20 mile downhill along a canyon to get to Cuya, and we lazily rode up another (14 miles) with Eduardo to get back out of it. The next three shots are as we go higher and higher up the canyon-side. Toward the ocean there is some agriculture in the canyon (desert everywhere else), then we get higher until we are above the clouds.

Riding south, roughly, you leave the canyon at 3,600 feet, and continue to climb back to 4,200. There’s about 10 miles of this climb and some flat in the Atacama desert. Along this stretch of the PanAmerican Highway we saw or first sign indicating it was something other than Chile Ruta 5.

Then, just before the 2010 kilometer mile marker we enter yet another canyon with a 10 mile descent to 850 feet, and a climb back to 2,000 feet. This canyon, on the way down, has the best paved road we’ve been on in a while. Though there was a steady headwind, Steve and I were able to zoom down it.

Here are two more photos of the riding today. The first is me going back up the side of a canyon, and the second Steve and I on the now rolling high desert roads.

The PanAmerican highway then took us back again to the Pacific Ocean at the Chilean city of Arica. We wanted to cross the border and make it to Tacna, so we just rode through Arica basically without stopping to their huge ocean beach and turned right, north again. After a brief ham and cheese sandwich lunch at a police checkpoint, we pressed on to the border – only 16km away.

We had to wait in line to get our passports stamped at Chilean emigration. Then I took a picture of Steve officially crossing the exact border, being blessed by Jesus.

Steve and I had some confusion with the Peruvian immigration folks, but made it through. Peru here was not much of change from Chile – just a road through the desert.

We then had a steady 1,000 foot, and as the sign says 25km/15m climb into Tacna, Peru. Steve and I rode along, but Eduardo never showed up. We found our nice hotel, the Gran Tacna, dumped our stuff and went out to take a taxi back to find him.

Then, just like clockwork, the walkie-talkie cracked to life. “Where are you guys?� Eduardo asked. The Peruvians have taken our Fiat Doblo hostage!!

Eduardo took a bus, then a taxi to get back to us. We are working on contingency plans tonight, but we need to Libre la Fiat! Oh, Tachna seems like a real nice town, but we just ate at our hotel – the only dinner guests on this Sunday night. More to follow.

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