Paijan, Peru: avoiding the dangerous dark spot for BikeTravellers

Many BikeTravellers know that Paijan, in the North of peru, is a dangerous spot. Not just for cyclists by the way, as many cars and buses have been shot at and robbed as well.

On the south edge of town, there was a police checkpoint. Not really a checkpoint as it turned out. The cop, a woman, was warning us and even the locals in their motor vehicles not to stop in Paiján under any circumstances. I didn’t follow everything that was said, but clearly Paiján is being treated as a zona roja (“red zone”). So it’s not just bad for cyclists anymore. The latest specific incident was a carload of tourists passing through at night and getting their tires shot out and then their stuff stolen. (Jeff Kruys)

But since the ‘ladrones’ of this dusty costal desert town have learned about the long line of BikeTravellers that do the Panam route, they have been focused on cyclists specifically. The chances or robbery are high and the danger is real, see below some comments and stories from the Panam-riders:


On Thu, Jul 29, 2010 at 8:11 PM, Pedaling South wrote:

Hi all,

Two questions:

1. Is the Sechero Desert a nice place to ride, like the desert in Baja California, Mexico? If not, is the 1B that goes around (east of) the Sechero a viable cycling route? Any tips welcome. We’re headed toward Trujillo (duh) from the North. Right now in Riobamba, Ecuador.

2. Anyone ridden through Paijan, Peru lately? Is this really the black hole of bike touring, i.e. robbers waiting for cyclists to pass through? Sure we don’t wanna get robbed but people have been saying “you’d be crazy to ride through XXX” since we started out from Anchorage. So, can you ride THROUGH Paijan?

Hope yr all good!


On 29 July 2010 21:07, nancy sathre-vogel wrote:

the Sechura is beautiful – extraordinarily sparse and barren, but gorgeous.  You can see our photos starting here: Just keep clicking next to see all of them.  You’ll notice that you start out from Piura and there is quite a bit of vegetation, but it just keeps getting less and less until there is not even a blade of grass.  It is gorgeous, but different from anything I had ever seen.  There are small restaurants every 40 or 50 km so you won’t have a problem with food or water.  Expect very strong headwinds.

We went th rough Paijan (with two kids!) and had no trouble at all.  On our way in, we were looking for the police to ask for an escort, but couldn’t find any, so just went in on our own – no trouble.  We got a hotel and stayed the night (not a nice place!).  The next morning I headed down tot he police station and said, “We are cyclists passing through and I wondered…”

“Which way are you headed?” he asked.  “We’ll be ready to escort you in about 10 minutes.”

The police are so used to escorting cyclists it isn’t a problem at all.  I don’t think you really need an escort, but we had been warned by so many people that we went ahead and asked.




On Fri, Jul 30, 2010 at 7:00 AM, anna wittert wrote:

Lucho told us the robbers are still very much active, and still disadvised all cyclists to cycle through Paijan alone as off 4 months ago.

We cycled from near Riobamba south through Loja, Vilcabamba and into Peru, via Cajamarca, Cajabamba. Then down to Trujillo. Probably the most beautiful stretch in the past 2 years riding, but also hard. Mostly dirt and very hilly….The people in northern peru in the mountains are about as friendly as you’ll ever get.




From: Seth Berling
Sent: zondag 1 augustus 2010 18:27
Subject: Re: [panam-riders] Advice needed: Sechero Desert and Paijan, PERU

I wish I could write to everyone and tell them that our trip through Paijan was uneventful….unfortunately it was not. Upon exiting the town I was keeping a keen watch in my rear view mirror and just like so many other people have described a mototaxi materialized about 200 yard behind us. I called attention to it and we crossed the road so that we had the two lanes separating us and the approaching vehicle. As the mototaxi got closer I saw that there was a young man driving and 3 masked men packed into the back seat. The driver smiled to me and blew me a kiss. He turned around to the other three…unsure about what to do.

The mototaxi sped ahead and then pulled a u turn so that they were headed straight for us. They started flashing their lights and motioning for us to stop our bikes. Obviously there was no fing way we were going to stop. Just before we collided with the taxi they swung out into the roadway and then peeled back so they were headed straight the sides of us. I narrowly avoided having my back wheel clipped out and Parker veered way out onto the shoulder.

At this point the mototaxi sped up along Parker and put two wheels over the side of the road to try and push parker into the ditch below. I was riding along the other side of the taxi to jump to parkers aid, preparing for the inevitable crash. Just when I thought Parker was gone for sure he slammed on his brakes and the mototaxi flew ahead. I was still next to the taxi and both of us were headed into the oncoming traffic. I started to swerve in and out of both lanes in order to slow the traffic going both directions. No one would stop for us and semis narrowly missed us as they came barreling down blasting their air horns. I positioned my bike at a diagonal over both lanes and started enough of a commotion that the mototaxi called it quits and turned off the highway and disappeared into the corn fields.

I am providing this detailed info in hopes of helping anyone who is approached with a similar situation and to urge everyone not to ride through this town.   We narrowly, narrowly avoided being robbed of everything and it left both of us with a sour taste.


Seth and Parker


—–Original Message—–
From: Byron
Sent: zondag 1 augustus 2010 18:43
Subject: [panam-riders] Re: Advice needed: Sechero Desert and Paijan, PERU


I circled Paijan on a small gravel/sand road that went inland from the panamerican about 30km after Pacasmayo and eventually took me to Casa Grande and back to the panamerican about 11km past Paijan at Chocope.

It´s a really soft road but doable..  It´s visible on one zoom level of MultiMaps only, and you can see it in the google satelite views. Make a good map as there are confusing intersections on route and no- one around to ask directions.  It seemed safe enough, and I only saw a handful of mototaxis all day.  If anyone wants to find it, the intersection is where the large straight section ends and the panamerican veers away from the high tension lines.  More info and some photos can be found on my blog.




(Harry) We took a busride: from Chiclayo you can get good buses. La Linea has a terminal a few blocks from the nice Plaza de Armas (I think it was on Bolognesi street). They are used to transport bikes, fridges and other big things, have clear price lists (though gave a generous discount as well) and are a safe company. They do not even stop in Paijan…

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  1. Harry’s avatar

    From: Matthew Blake
    Sent: maandag 4 oktober 2010 9:49
    Subject: Re: [panam-riders] Paijan, Peru – is it really that dangerous?

    Hello folks,

    My Paijan experience: Just thought I’d give a quick update on my experiences in Paijan.

    My plan was to camp 10 kms before the town in the desert, get up at 4.30 in the morning and cross while everyone was still asleep.

    Unfortunately due to the wind (has anyone else had headwinds that are beyond ridiculous heading south in Peru? – I’ve spent 4 days going 11 kph average) I only managed to get to 25km’s before Paijan and in the end even though I tried riding in the dark I had to give up.

    I got up at 4.30 was on the road for 5 and was out the other side of Paijan by 6.30

    The town was mostly dead although a few moto-taxis around and there was one guy who looked suspicious but the whole place was generally pretty quiet so I got through no problems, and even then when I got out the other side even though I didn’t ask for an escort the police followed me for the next 20 km’s anyway.

    So in short my plan of getting in and out before the town wakes up worked, although I think I was aided by the fact the police followed me for so long because at 6.30 on a Sunday morning there was nothing else for them to do.

    I’m not sure I’d want to do it again, and I’m posting this more because that despite the fact I wouldn’t recommend doing it this way I know there’s people out there as stubborn as me who will try to ride through Paijan anyway – so if anyone out there is going to try and go through Paijan in the morning my advice is:

    – The town starts at km630 – before is desert and it shouldn’t be too difficult to dissapear off the side of the road and camp about 10km before. Get up early.

    – Whilst it was still pretty dead the town was beginning to wake up – so if trying this way I’d say you want to be out the other side by 6 at the latest (first light is at 5.30 but it’s a big shoulder and cycling before this is possible)

    – If still uncomfortable, with it being so quiet the police were more than willing to escort for aslong as possible.

    Finally, if you want to read something truly demoralising, having secured my bike (locked all panniers to the bike, lashed front panniers to frame, wallet etc secured in zip pockets) I got safely through Paijan, was at the market opposite Luchos in Trujillo asking for directions, a 14 year old kid shoved his hands in my pockets, grabbed my digital camera and ran off and I lost it – so having taken all those precautions my camera was snatched in Trujillo.

    But that’s just me moaning – just wanted to post my Paijan experience. I wouldn’t recommend going, but I know there’s people out there who’ll still go so wanted to offer my advice.

  2. Aaron’s avatar

    Why don’t we as cyclist not give the criminals in Paijan a target , it would be wise of all of us to not even got through there, then the criminal element has no cyclist to rob and we can all stop hearing about near misses in a place none of us should be riding anyway, it is obviously unsafe for all tourist and we cyclists are the most at risk….so why on earth do people still go…..unless it is just their way of stimulating the economy in Paijan ???

  3. Harry’s avatar

    Hi Aaron.

    I agree, I don’t see the point in puttng yourslef in danger and supporting the idiot criminals in Paijan. Note that not only cyclist avoid the place,also other travellers (and many Peruvians) do.

    Of course it should not be this way, but getting robbed is not a good way to fight the system (and it will give ant-cyclist people stuff to moan about)..

    Cheers, Harry

  4. Jessica’s avatar

    Hello Everyone:

    I found your comments by doing a search on my town Paijan, I feel embarrassed for the bad experiences you have had in my town. I’ll bring this to the authority’s attention so they can became aware of this issue and hope can provide safety to you and the residents. Very sorry.

  5. Harry’s avatar

    Hola Jessica,

    Thanks for your comment, much appreciated. Yes, it is very sad that Paijan is know internationally as a dangerous black hole for cyclists (and other tourists). It would be great if you could alert the authorities, not just of Paijan but of the entire province.

    The authorities have been turning a blind eye for too long. They do not seem to realize that the robbers (and the police know who they are!) do not just steal from cyclists and tourists, but from the Peruvian people.
    The widely publicized stories of robberies have not just prevented all cyclists from visiting (and thus spending money in) the area, but many more tourists are avoiding Peru in total.

    When there apparently is no law enforcement in Paijan, then it is normal for them to assume that probably Machu Picchu, Lima, lake Titicaca, Arequipa, the Jungle and other tourist attractions will be (even more) dangerous as well, so it is safer and easier to visit Bolivia or Ecuador instead.

    And no, simply supplying a police escort through town is not a solution, especially when the police already knows the robbers.
    For every robbery taking place (or just the current threat of it), Paijan and Peru are missing out on many, many thousands of tourist dollars and taxes, so in the end the robbers and lazy police force are stealing from their fellow citizens.

    Please keep me informed about the progress, hopefully some day Paijan will be a safe place to travel through. Thanks in advance.


  6. eric’s avatar

    We cannot quite figure out where to properly post this but it is in the same vein as passing Paijan.

    On January 3 we passed through Cerro Azul along the Panamerican south of Lima (roughly at kilometer mark 140ish). But at Cerro Azul they are widening the panamerican to a four lane divided highway. The new section is mostly completed but not as of yet open to traffic. We stopped and asked a construction worker if we could pass through on the new road and he said that would be fine. About 5 kilometers down the new pista three kids on a moto attempted to rob us with rocks and broken glass. They went past us turned around and came back and knocked my companion’s bicycle over. We know a fair amount of Spanish and immediately were all over the kids yelling at them and threatening back and so they all fled.

    We were lucky because they were not properly prepared to rob us well. It was a more half-hearted attempt. A passerbyer on a bike just laughed at us when we asked him for help.

    Moral of the story, people are watching this road because it is mostly empty. This appeared to be an opportunistic attempt by some kids who thought the gringos would be pushovers. The area does suffer from higher rates of petty crime due to hardships caused by the earthquake in 2007. The road will likely be plenty safe once open, but until then if you are planning on riding this new section be extra cautious.

  7. Harry’s avatar

    11th May 2011: Yet another cyclists being robbed by guys on a mototaxi in Paijan, Peru:

    At least they got caught, but as the police knew these guys since a long time it is a question if this means the area is any safer right now… Especially as everybody in Peru now knows how much value some Biketravellers are carrying. Just skip it, don’t endanger yourself.


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