The Grand Illusion; and “Sorry Folks, Park’s Closed…”

December 9, 2015

This morning I visited the US Embassy in Lima, Peru. My passport is running out of blank visa pages, and I needed to add some before heading towards Africa in March. Since I had several days in Lima, I thought I’d try to get it done here. Also, I just learned a few days ago that the United States will no longer allow additional visa pages to be added to a passport beginning January 1, 2016, so I just made it before that deadline. Otherwise, I would have to apply for a new passport, which is difficult time-wise when you’re moving fairly quickly through multiple foreign countries (ie, they keep your old passport until you get the new one, so you can’t cross any borders).

I’d never been to a US Embassy before. Boy am I naive for my age. I had visions of US Marines guarding the entrances, and me being ushered back to sit at a desk before a US government official in a suit with a US flag lapel pin, who would interrogate me, asking me a series of questions about why I was in Peru, where I was going, and why I needed to add pages to my passport, before stamping an official form and sending me through yet another military checkpoint to another building embedded even deeper in the compound.

Uh, nope. When I arrived at 7:30am, there were two lines outside the gates: one for visas, which had about fifty people standing in it, all holding large manila folders of documents. The other line said “American Citizens”, and had about ten people ahead of me. I was clearly the only Gringo present. Anywhere. There were a couple of armed guards, from a private Peruvian security firm. My passport was checked by an Embassy employee, also clearly Peruvian, and I was asked some questions, in Spanish. Then I was ushered through a door to the security checkpoint (a metal detector). Again, all operated by Peruvian nationals, all in Spanish.

Once through the checkpoint, I was instructed (in Spanish) to go to the large doors on the right, and through yet another metal detector, then into a room that looked suspiciously like the DMV. Take a number, have a seat, wait for your number to be called and proceed to one of the four windows. Or rather, “Numero cuarenta tres, a la ventanilla dos”. Yep, no English yet, and not a Gringo in sight, on either side of the windows. Or a Marine, for that matter. My illusions of US force on show was shattered.

In any case, I was able to apply for my additional visa pages for my passport, which should be ready tomorrow afternoon.

While sitting there, I noticed several posters on the walls with large print stating: “Traveling to Cusco in April 2016?” Curious, I got up and wandered over to read one (in English…finally!). The posters advised that Machu Picchu would be closed all of April 2016 for maintenance. My first thought was a sudden flashback to John Candy as the park security guard at Wally World in Family Vacation: “Sorry Folks, park’s closed. The moose out front should’ve told you.”

My second thought was, how did I make it all the way to Lima, only to find out by chance at the US Embassy that Machu Picchu will be closed in April? Shouldn’t this knowledge be more public?

And my third thought was: Maintenance? What maintenance do you do on a thousands-year-old ruin? Is Machu Picchu a scam? (Okay, in reality, I already learned way back in Mexico that most of these “ruins” have been significantly rebuilt over the years.)

Well, by April I hope to be in South Africa and/or Namibia, so it doesn’t affect me.

Now I wish I could get that John Candy scene out of my head.


9 thoughts on “The Grand Illusion; and “Sorry Folks, Park’s Closed…”

  1. Looking forward to seeing your pics from Machu Picchu and the surrounding area. Heard it’s amazing. Hope your and your Yamaha can adjust to the high altitude. . . wheeze . . . wheeze. Ha! I understand the locals sell special plant leaves to chew, which will help you adjust. 😉

    • The 250 and I have spent most of the past month above 10,000 feet, so I’m hoping we’ll be okay for the Inca tour. I’ve already experienced the altitude “medicine” the locals use…in Huaraz the hostel owner had free tea available in the lobby, along with a plate of coca leaves that you could add to your tea, or just chew on.

  2. We went to the Embassy in Santiago to get some American flags for the race. Nada. Nothing. No flags anywhere! But there were Marines! The world has changed a bit since you left.

    • The world continues to change….in ways that make me question returning.
      Here in Miraflores, Lima, Americans (and their flags) are pretty easy to come by. Definitely the tourist spot of Lima. As Ian pointed out this afternoon, there are almost twice as many people in this city (9 million) as in the entire country of Scotland (but I’m sure there are more sheep in Scotland). It somewhat amuses me that people fly to Lima, walk around in the New York-esque big city trappings, and fly home and say they’ve seen Peru. Thus is the difference between being a tourist and being an adventure motorcyclist.

  3. Are you going to get back in time to catch some of “Dakar 2016”??

    Start is January 3rd!!

    • My original plan was to catch the Dakar, before they suddenly decided to move it from Peru to Argentina. Now I probably won’t make it back in time to catch the Bolivia stage. So close…will have to add it to my list for next time.
      Now working on making the schedule fit in order to make the IoM TT.

  4. To bad about Dakar!! High on my bucket list!!

    I will be at the TT next June!! Hopefully we can get together if you make it!! This will be my third TT so I somewhat know my way around!!

    Great news about the PSA!!

    Safe Adventures ahead for you Pat!!

    • More incentive to make the TT next year! Let’s plan on it. And we can discuss Dakar 2017 while we’re there!

  5. You need to do some research on getting to the island from wherever you’ll be!! The only way to get your bike there is by “Ferry” which comes from various departure points!! Bike & Auto passage (needless to say) is high in demand & may be hard to get, , even this far out!! The other hard part is a place to stay!! The good places are sold out now!! There should be “Home Stays” & Camping left & some hotels!! That would be worth a search also!! A good site to start is It has lots of info on lodging, , , getting there etc!!

    Once on the island there is no charge to watch the races if you’re willing to “Belly to a Fence” somewhere around the 37.75 mile course!! The island is small so nothing is far away!!


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