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All Wit & Pedal Power

(Page 2 of 3)



Doug and I sat on the hill for a while. Naturally, we toyed with the idea of continuing, but he who has the guns, wins. We really had no choice but to retreat. Realizing that this wasn't a favorable night for camping out, we struggled back to Moho.

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In the village's only pension, we tucked ourselves away. However, when two gringos on bikes show up in a remote Peruvian village, it doesn't take long for their presence to become known. Less than fifteen minutes after our arrival here someone was knocking on the door demanding to see our documents. ``Not again,'' we mumbled. This time, however, things were to take a different twist. We opened the door and found a friend in Henri, who at once produced his Policia de Investigaciones del Peru (PIP) badge. We showed him our documents and explained what had happened that afternoon. He went on to tell us that the Peruvian military had no say whatsoever in this matter. Immigration was an official concern of PIP, and it just so happened that Henri was the local chief of immigration. Our passports would be fixed at once and he assured us that we would have no problem reaching Puno.

Henri asked Doug and me to accompany him to the PIP office, just a few blocks off the main plaza. We noticed that he had already sloshed down a few drinks in preparation for the week-long fiesta that begins in Moho tonight. Nevertheless, this didn't mean he couldn't take a few minutes off for official business, and soon enough we had a couple of stamps in our passports and big smiles on our faces. This is just what we needed.

The two of us sat down on our beds, and after several deep breaths, we took out our passports to see what it takes to travel in this country. Well, what it takes, we don't have. On the last page of our passports, with a stamp from PIP's immigration wing, a hand-written date, and the word salida (exit) scribbled across the entire page. It can't be, but it is. We need an entrance stamp. Doug and I have had enough for one day.

Sept. 11, 1988 - Moho, Peru

Yesterday the trials, tribulations, and general chaos really wore us out. I must say though, it sure is exciting. Today, the saga continued, but by and large we spent the day with our hearts beating regularly.

Our first task this morning was to stop by the PIP office. Henri was not there, although the station chief, whom we had met the previous day, was.

In the chief's small office, decorated with maps of Peru (finally we could see where we are), we explained that yesterday we had been seeking an entrance stamp. No problem, he indicated, opening our passports to the very last page. He proceeded to cross out the word salida with a red marker. Below it he scrawled ingresso, meaning that we had entered the country. What a mess he made out of the entire page. Was this what a Peruvian entrance stamp amounted to? Give me an eraser, an ink pad, and a red marker, and I could stamp myself in this country.

Sept. 12, 1988 - Huancane, Peru

It is 5:00 p.m. now. We made it here about four hours ago after a 25-mile journey from Moho. It was actually an uneventful but tiring trip over a bad road. We feared police or military checkpoints, but encountered none.

Considering our run in with the military and the entire entrance stamp fiasco, Doug and I have agreed to keep a low profile for a few days. This means no camping out or frequent stops. Our intention is to reach Puno as soon as possible. There we expect to see other pale faces, as we have been told that Puno is a very important tourist center. Once there, we hope to be a little less conspicuous.

Evidently, the only way to keep a low profile in these parts is to lock yourself in a closet. We made the mistake of leaving our hotel room door open and several hours after our arrival we had an uninvited and unwelcome visitor, a young man of about 25. He was opening the door of the room next to ours when he stumbled in on us. He had been drinking and with a slur he said he was from PIP.

We pulled out our passports of course, but things went smoothly. There didn't seem to be a problem with our being in Peru. It was only when we were requested to produce paperwork for our bicycles did a problem arise. It never occurred to us that we would need a receipt and/or a registration card. We were only novices, and what did we know?

The inebriated policeman went on to inform us that unless we could produce documentation for the bicycles, they would be confiscated by PIP. Our nerves settled a bit when he started laughing and shaking our hands. ``Gringos - amigos,'' he sputtered repeatedly. Was it all a joke? Need we worry now?