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I made it through PaijŠn, Peru safely!

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I made it through PaijŠn, Peru safely!

Old 05-17-18, 01:21 PM
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Passed Through PaijŠn, Peru in May 2018

I just cycled through PaijŠn, Peru yesterday and wanted to share my experience. As some of you know, PaijŠn is notorious for having a history of robbing cycle tourists. The story goes that a bunch of guys will follow you out of town in mototaxis, force you off the road, then rob you. As mev noted here and on his website though, if you search online it's hard to find recent reports of this kind of thing happening. The most recent I could find were posts from 2015 saying that the person writing the post had met someone who had been robbed there. The reputation persists, but recent accounts are difficult to find online. If it's occurring less frequently, is this because the criminal activity has actually decreased or because cyclists now avoid that stretch of road so there is less opportunity? I think it's impossible to say.

There are a few options to pass through this area. Some people just opt to take a bus direct to Trujillo. Others have reported that the police are happy to escort cyclists all the way through PaijŠn to the next town, Chocope. One person I found online suggested an allternative road that goes around PaijŠn. About nine kilometers before the edge of town and near a roundabout as shown on Google maps, there is a road off to the left of the highway called Qhapaq —an. You can follow this road around to Casa Grande, bypassing PaijŠn entirely. I also read Japanese cycle touring blogs as I find the Japanese guys provide more detail. Of the few blogs that I've been following, none of the Japanese cyclists knew about PaijŠn's reputation. Three different guys just cycled through on their own, although one guy met some cyclists coming the other way who told him to be careful. One of these blogs is five years old, one of them is from two years ago, and one is from last year. Interesting that the Japanese guys haven't heard about PaijŠn at all.

My riding friend and I thought about taking the side road, but in the end decided to ride into PaijŠn to the police station located on the left hand side just after entering PaijŠn proper (shown on maps.me but not Google maps), talk to the officers there, and hopefully get an escort through to Chocope. Most accounts of police escort say that the police offered to take them through. It seemed that the police understood the risk and were prepared to assist cyclists. We had stayed in San Pedro de Lloc the previous night so we had just over 40km to get to PaijŠn.

It's pretty easy and boring riding down the highway, and we arrived in PaijŠn around 9:45 on Wednesday morning. Traffic was pretty standard weekday busy, lots of trucks, buses, mototaxis, colectivos, etc. PaijŠn looks much like any other city in the area, with nothing that really made me feel unsafe or otherwise on edge. We found the police station and I went in to talk to the officer on duty. I asked if it was safe to cycle though and after finding out that there were two of us he said it would be fine. I explained what I had heard about cycle tourists getting robbed around there and he didn't seem to know what I was talking about. He said that sometimes buses and motorcycles get robbed, but he was sure that we would be fine. He specifically said to watch out for mototaxis because they drive recklessly and don't follow the laws of the road like stopping at signals. He was a younger guy, maybe mid to late twenties, but I think if this were still a recurring problem in the area even the newer officers would know about it, given the number of cyclists coming through the area and the fact that it's a notorious area. I'm not sure if his advice would have been different for a solo cyclist. His first question was, "Are you alone?" so perhaps it would've been. He never mentioned escorting us, and repeatedly told me that it would be safe for us, specifically noting that at this time of day there would be no problem.

In the end based on our feeling about the place, the amount of traffic around, blogs we had read, and the police officer's confidence, we decided to just cycle through. So, getting a bit nervous, we climbed back on the bikes and cycled on through town. As mentioned, PaijŠn looks just like any other city in the area, but knowing the reputation, the ride through becomes a rather tense experience of watching every mototaxi that goes past, checking for anyone looking at us too closely, trying to mentally catalogue each one so you will notice if it passes you again... all while trying to ride safely through some pretty heavy traffic. Fun times. Once you exit PaijŠn you get into the countryside again, mostly sugar cane fields I think. Eventually the road divides into four lanes, two each way, with a large median in between them. This is where I think you get robbed as the traffic thins out, traffic on the other side is farther away, there's a ditch on the median making it harder to get across traffic to signal anyone, and there wasn't anyone in the fields when we went by. So you just turn the pedals over, keep an eye on the mirror, don't stop, and crank out the thirteen or so kilometers to Chocope.

The title of the post gives away the ending so there's no suspense to the story, but the question I posed earlier still stands. Does this happen less frequently because the police have done something to decrease the criminal activity, or has the decreased opportunity led to fewer occurrences? If more cyclists go through there, will this happen more often? Were we just lucky or is this area (relatively) safe now? I don't know, but I thought it would be good to post my account online for people to reference when trying to make their own decision about this area, and especially considering recent discussions on this forum regarding safety and risk while touring.

Last edited by DanBell; 05-18-18 at 04:07 PM. Reason: De-sensationalized the title
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Old 05-17-18, 01:35 PM
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Thanks for the well-written, detailed report. I hope the rest of your tour in Peru goes well.
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Old 05-17-18, 01:45 PM
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Interesting update. Two pieces of anecdotal information:
1. I can't find the link, but I do recall finding an article in Spanish last year about a police report where they arrested two guys who were essentially a criminal syndicate of robbing cyclists. They had multiple pieces of stolen equipment and I forget the exact year but relieve it was in early 2010s. I took that mostly as a good sign (there might have been bad guys caught) but could also be negative (whatever environment let these folks commit their crimes for so long might still be there).

2. Last year I didn't meet many cyclists who had cycled through Paijan; most of them were skipping this part of Peru for other reasons e.g. other places looked more interesting, more than a specific risk threat.

Have a fun ride further along...
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Old 05-17-18, 02:29 PM
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Originally Posted by mev
Interesting update. Two pieces of anecdotal information:
1. I can't find the link, but I do recall finding an article in Spanish last year about a police report where they arrested two guys who were essentially a criminal syndicate of robbing cyclists. They had multiple pieces of stolen equipment and I forget the exact year but relieve it was in early 2010s. I took that mostly as a good sign (there might have been bad guys caught) but could also be negative (whatever environment let these folks commit their crimes for so long might still be there).

2. Last year I didn't meet many cyclists who had cycled through Paijan; most of them were skipping this part of Peru for other reasons e.g. other places looked more interesting, more than a specific risk threat.

Have a fun ride further along...
Interesting to hear about that news report. It's a challenging decision because you really only have access to anecdotal information. Even hearing someone got arrested doesn't tell you if this kind of thing has decreased since then. So we're left to share stories and make the decision that feels best to us. Most people I met were aware of the possibility but we were too far away to worry about it yet. Two girls I met in Cajamarca decided to take a bus to Trujillo. And I think it's easy just to take 3N towards CaŮon del Pato and the Cordillera Blanca and skip this area entirely. Choices choices. Luckily there are lots of good options, including some very comfortable looking buses. Thanks for your posts on this though. It was your challenge to find recent accounts of robbery that started me wondering if it was really as bad as its reputation.
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Old 05-17-18, 03:58 PM
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Glad to hear you had no problems.
You were smart to inquire at the police, and lucky that nothing bad happened.
May you continue to have such luck on the remainder of your journey.
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Old 05-18-18, 07:26 PM
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another thanks for putting down your experiences. To add to what others have said, safe travels as you continue.
cheers
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Old 05-20-18, 05:21 AM
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No way to know whether youíd be robbed in different situations, but Iím sure the fact that you were through there before noon didnít hurt. I donít think a lot of theives and robbers get out the door to get an early start on their ďworkĒ for the day. I donít think I would have even worried about it at that time. That was a good strategy that Iíll have to try to remember for the future.
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Old 05-20-18, 11:42 AM
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Is this the part of Peru where the shining path is active?
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Old 05-20-18, 12:26 PM
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Originally Posted by 3speed
No way to know whether youíd be robbed in different situations, but Iím sure the fact that you were through there before noon didnít hurt. I donít think a lot of theives and robbers get out the door to get an early start on their ďworkĒ for the day. I donít think I would have even worried about it at that time. That was a good strategy that Iíll have to try to remember for the future.
Yeah, that's part of the thinking. Also it's bright out, so it's easier for everyone to see anything that might be happening, and there's a lot of other traffic on the road. I wouldn't necessarily count on anyone stopping to help out, although that might happen, but rather there are more witnesses around which hopefully makes the crime a little less attractive to attempt at that time.
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Old 05-20-18, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by willibrord
Is this the part of Peru where the shining path is active?
Are you serious?

Shining Path has been barely still in existence for many years. Meanwhile, in my own country (USA), innocent people are getting shot and killed at Waffle House, movie theaters, outdoor concerts, night clubs, and of course, schools. It's probably best if you remove the USA from your list of English-speaking countries which you feel safe to tour in.
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