October 30, 2011
Sunday morning was two sets of really sad goodbyes. First, Jacob and Kate headed off to the airport. It was sad, we all really bonded over our time together and I really hope we can hang out again someday.
Then I loaded up the bike and it was time for me to head south to Moquegua. Saying goodbye to Ana and Alecia was really tough. They are my family down here. But, Chile beckoned and I had to set off.
My destination Sunday was a place called Hogar Belen. A few weeks ago one of my former students, Nick, posted an article on my Facebook wall. The article was titled “A Dual Sport Adventure Across Peru for Charity”. He thought at first it was me, but it turned out to be a famous motorcycle writer and employee for the Speed Channel, Neale Bayly. The article is about a group of motorcyclists and their 5 day trip across Peru that ended at an orphanage. It turns out it is right between Arequipa and the Chilean border, I definitely wanted to stop and stay there a day to check it out. I would much rather get to know a bunch of kids at an orphanage than stay at a hotel. So I emailed Neale and eventually chatted with him on the phone. He was excited and told me to stop by for sure. Sounds good to me!
So I headed south and in three hours ended up in Moquegua. It was a beautiful ride down, and it really started to look like the desert. I asked around, almost everyone seemed to know the place, but I had a hard time understanding directions. Finally, a taxi driver just led me to the entrance.
I pulled in and was greeted by Freddy and Willie. They took me to the main dining hall to meet Sisters Loretta and Rosa. Loretta is a Canadian nun who came here over 45 years ago.
Wow. What a place! At first people gathered around to hear who I was and what I was doing there. I told them about Neale’s article and that we had talked. I was immediately given water and something to eat. The sister also offered me a place to stay too if I needed it. I met a few more people and we chatted a little bit about the place. Jorge then took me on a quick tour. There are two sets of dorms on either side of the dining hall, for boys and girls. There is a farm, animals, small soccer field, and the main dining hall.
From what I gather, it all began years ago when a little girl was left on the doorsteps of the church. They took her in and have never looked back. Hogar Belen is not an orphanage really, there are many children there who do not know their parents, but there are also people who needed a place to stay, wanted to help, or simply through some way or another found themselves part of the family. There are many children there with mental and physical disabilities.
The guys asked me to play soccer that night. I definitely accepted. We went to this cool park in the middle of the main boulevard through town. While we waited our turn, we watched the game before us. Both goalies were deaf and mute. I thought that was interesting. It actually got too dark before we could play, so we walked up into town to the old Hogar Belen. In 2001 there was an earthquake that partially destroyed the original location. They had to move out to where they are now. The old place was quite impressive, but now only a few men live in a small part of it that is safe. The rest is very unstable. But, the soccer field is fine and the lights work. So we played for hours. Finally, Jorge stopped by to take me to the nicest hotel in town. He found out there was a large group of Australians headed for Chile the next day on motorcycles. He thought I might want to talk to them. I did, they were nice but were crossing as a big group, so that didn’t really help me. I headed to bed after an exhausting day ready to tackle my first border crossing of the trip.