The wind in the Sechura desert is strong and all but relentless. It tails off somewhat during the night, but picks up again in mid morning. Cycling against it is a slow business. The stretch of PanAm highway between Piura and Chiclayo is only a little more than 200km, but took me almost four days of cycling.

My first night in the desert was spent in my hammock- I found a large dune that hid me entirely from the road, and two trees just large enough and close enough together. There was even enough wood around for a small campfire – which burned fiercely, being fed with extremely dry wood and fanned constantly by the wind. I woke up surrounded by goats – no sign of their owner, however.

The further south I travelled, the sparser the population – even the tricycle mototaxis dwindled, so I had the hard shoulder all to myself. At night, the only electric lights visible were the headlights of trucks, often with long gaps in between. The moon casts strong shadows, and the wind continually covered and filled all my gear with fine dust.
The wind and soft sand sometimes made erecting my tent a challenging enterprise.. there is no problem once all twelve pegs are in, but accomplishing that was sometimes a test of patience. In the desert, no one can hear you shouting abuse at the weather.

The view at night feels almost like being on the ocean floor – neither the Pacific nor the Andes are far away, but obscured by distance and dust.

The straightness and almost absolute flatness of the road makes distance and progress difficult to judge. Even the distance to what hills and dunes there are is difficult, there being few clues as to the scale of anything. Periodically on the road there are small shops or restaurants- I ate both well and terribly, and getting water wasn’t really a problem. (I only ever carried around five litres, and was only once at risk of broaching my Last Litre).
Most of the people I met were open, curious and friendly .. and of the opinion that it is a little mad to cycle across the desert alone in the upwind direction. I couldn’t really disagree.

Aside from evidence of a lack of a good solution for dealing with basura (arriving at any human habitation is long heralded on the downwind side by plastic bags .. many, many of them) there is beauty in the harsh landscape. Occasionally many minutes pass with no passing traffic – one feels very small and alone on an empty straight road amidst an apparently limitless ocean of sand.

I was beginning to believe there weren’t any other cyclists on this part of the road- but the day before I reached Chiclayo, Mel and Chris emerged from the heat haze, heading north and moving rather more quickly than I. As ever, good craic to meet like minded souls and trade stories and advice. Much cheered and now with an address for the Casa de Ciclistas in Chiclayo, I continued south.

I had planned to cycle as far as Pacasmayo before getting the bus to Trujillo (the pueblo Paijan is famous for cyclists being robbed there – best avoided) – but I was strongly advised that the road to Pacasmayo was similarly risky as well, there having been a number of robberies recently there too. It’s hard to judge how safe or unsafe such places really are.. but the road through the desert offers little in the way of concealment during daylight, and a lone cyclist battling the wind might indeed be a vulnerable target. I got the bus to Trujillo, and find myself now in Lucho’s famous Casa de Ciclistas. I even encountered Eva and Jan, last seen in Tumbaco a few weeks ago when I arrived there the second time (arm in sling, bicycle in a state of sadness; much has changed).

I’ll be here a couple more days to see some sights, before carrying on down the Pacific coast to Chimbote, then up into the mountains again towards Huaraz.