10 November 2012


I awoke with the dawn and quickly packed the panniers inside the tent and got out to put a new tube on the rear wheel. I decided to use the spare tube to give the rubber cement on the tube I had fixed the night before more time to set. I put the spare on--the spare I had patched a week earlier in Mancora. The air came out of the tire immediately. It didn’t inflate. There was clearly a second puncture on the tire that I had missed. Disgusted, I took the tire off and put on the other tube. The rubber cement seemed to have set. I pumped it up. The air held. Gracias a Dios.
Instead of loading the bike in the desert and pushing it back out to the road I decided the risk was too great of picking up more thorns and puncturing a tire. I now had no spares. I made trips carrying the panniers and tent and sleeping bag out to the roadside and hid them in a bush. Then I carried the bike on my shoulder out to the road. I loaded up the bike on the asphalt and started south, back into the headwind, towards the city of Talara.
I crossed a bridge and then made the slow climb up out of the flood plain to the flat land. Within a few kilometers I reached the turnoff for Talara beside a large walled-in cemetery. I rode east towards a great white statue and buildings in the distance.
The smell of Talara hit me in the wind. They were burning garbage. The smell of burning plastics mixed in with the pungent odor of human feces. On the edge of town along the shacks and shanties two little girls were playing with pieces of broken glass beside a burning heap of garbage. Mototaxis flew by me honking. The odor of human feces was powerful and impressive and trash blew across the sand.
Two old men directed me to a trucker’s route back towards the oil refineries that would then take me along the coast south to Negritos. My guidebook indicated the hotels were not in Talara but in Negritos, 11km south.
The road descended sharply and then climbed into the wind and it was hard going through the dusty hills. Finally I made the pueblo of Negritos and began to ask about either of the two hotels the guidebook recommended. Nobody knew of them. They did not exist at the addresses on Calle Grau. I rode up and down the pueblo looking until an older man explained to me that the places I was looking for were in Talara. The guidebook had misinformed me. There was only one hospedaje in town and I went to it and without seeing the room booked it for three nights.
The room was the smallest room I had ever stayed in. There was just enough space between the bed and the wall for my panniers. A small window looked out onto a cement area with a barking dog. The shared bathroom in the hallway was even narrower. The toilet had been put in nearly touching the wall so that it was impossible to sit unless you spread your legs painfully wide. Worse still, inside the hospedaje there was a door that locked all those staying there inside. One had to ring a bell and hope that the elderly woman who sat at the front desk praying would hear it and let you out. I was to be imprisoned in Negritos for three nights.


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