It was an unusual stay at Chiclayo. Being in a hotel which is full but where only one other paying couple is staying because the mother in law passed away yesterday feels strange. The restaurant is not operating, the visiting families have emptied the fridge so there are only 2 eggs left. But it is also interesting talking to the owner, an Englishman who has not returned to the UK for 8 years. He purchased the hotel 15 years ago, after the government closed down the previous operation. It had operated as a ‘hostal’, where rooms were charged out by the hour, usually for a 2 hour ‘quickie’ – each room had a drive in garage so the car could be kept out of sight, and the front door had a little window/door for room service alcohol. No need for windows!!
The things one learns from locals!!… Unfortunately, he was unable to explain why Chiclayo suburbs are literally littered with litter. In some places, they just burned the garbage on the side of the road – the stench!…
Not sure where we’ll stay tonight? Piura, Talara, Mancora at the very most.
The day’s riding was quite easy but nothing was calling for us to stop anywhere for the night. We come across lots of irrigated crops, lots of rice fields, then scrubby land, the odd scrubby tree desperately trying to grow up vertically but ended up horizontal because of the coastal wind. Then we get just sand, sand and sand dunes as far as the eye can see and a fantastic road.
Shortly after Talara, back along the coast, the scenery changed suddenly. It felt like we were in another country. No more grand desert and grand mountains. The mountains were like ribbed, the trees more like stunted thorn trees. We saw birds, lots of birds, that reminded us of mini pterodactyls!! And so many butterflies.
The quality of the road deteriorated a little. We see signs of recent heavy rain fall. This could make the riding interesting, but luckily for us, we’ve escaped the worst and the bulldozers have already and scraped the roads clear of all the mud.
We had been told Mancora had lovely beaches so we stopped there. Unfortunately, coming from Australia, and living in Queensland, we are very spoilt with our soft fine sandy beaches and while we don’t expect the same or wish to compare, we tend to see more what’s around beaches and in Mancora we just saw lots of ‘mzungus’ as we call them. ‘mzungu’ is what Kenyans called white foreigners – young kids especially used to point at us shouting ‘mzungu! mzungu!’ – and Anthony and I have always referred to tourists as ‘mzungus’ ever since 1982!!! Anyway, overly touristy places, especially those with lots of backpackers (I know, we were backpackers too once and there is nothing wrong with them), and lots of hostels don’t appeal to us now.
So on we go. We stop at one place further up the road. They ask a ridiculous price. Even though the place is completed deserted. So on we go again. The rain either earlier today or yesterday must have been really heavy as there is so much mud everywhere that has been scrapped off the road and pushed to the side. What a mess. This quickly reminded us of what we are likely to encounter more and more as we head further north.
We ride past many new resorts being built, many closed resorts/B&B, many lovely private houses right on the beach, we ride round a bend and there is a hotel that looks open. Quick U turn, ask and yes, they have a room which, having first asked an even more ridiculous price than the last place we stopped at, they are willing to give us at the cheapest on-line rate, ie half. Thank you very much!! I just needed to ask!! We ended up doing 460kms before we stopped for the night. It was worth it!! Checked in and immediately a had a swim. Bliss.
We have definitely left the desert. At the hotel, we see our first sign of bugs, they are crawling everywhere – the hotel even put a towel on the ground outside our room to stop them from crawling under the door at night. You cannot walk in places and avoid them all – the horrid crunch under foot tells you that… Big flying bugs. Neither of us mind bugs luckily, and butterflies, dragon flies. We are entering the tropics alright. But mosquitoes too and that’s a different story – they love me, lucky me, not. I have struggling with whether to take anti-malaria tablets again – I stopped taking them in Thailand when I suddenly couldn’t swallow without excruciating pain. After a few days, I deduced it must be the malaria tablets, so I stopped taking them and the swallowing pain eventually disappeared. Our GP back home confirmed it was the tablets and prescribed me another type. But it too can potentially have pretty horrid potential side effects. What to do?!?!? We have some powerful mosquito repellent (which is most likely very bad for you in other ways) but it is efficient. Maybe I’ll just make sure I am always well covered.
The next day, loading the bikes back up, the sudden humidity hits me and I am sweating. All the face cream, sun cream and mosquito repellent just run off my face. That does it, I decide I will take the dreaded anti-malaria tablets and hope I don’t react in any way…
Today is a special day. Kristjan is in Mancora so we will wait for him to catch up with us and we will ride across into Ecuador together, and it is his birthday!! It is also 12 months since we bought Streak and Storm. The weather today feels more tropical suddenly, clouds are building up fast in the mountains – luckily for us it is clearer along the coast. I continue to feast on the vivid green of the rice fields. Some of the towns we ride through must have had so much rain.
We get to the Ecuadorian border in no time. It is normally quite clear where we are meant to stop and park at each border, or there is at least one official waiving or whistling at you. Here, we have no idea and there are no cars. I am in the lead at that time and pull over and we all stop. Finally I hear the familiar whistle and notice some official waiving us through. Strange! Ok, we carry on. Then we come to a huge sign welcoming us into Ecuador and lots of buildings. It turns out that Peru and Ecuador have cooperated and have all the immigration and customs together. How intelligent and helpful!! The longest part of the process is entering all our vehicle details into their computer system but it is all very painless and we are done within a couple of hours. At the border we meet two traveling couples including a couple who was staying at the same hotel as us in Chiclayo!! Karen and Jos very kindly give us their contact details and invite us to stay with them in Quito if we would like, and invite Kristjan too. A quick lunch at the border coffee shop followed by an improvised surprise birthday cake with chocolate candles for Kristjan and we are off into Ecuador.
Wow, what a surprise!! Fabulous roads, traffic stops at stop signs or red lights, it gives way at roundabouts, there is no hooting, there is no nudging across your lane and forcing you to stop even though you ‘should’ have right of way. We get lots of surprise dual carriage ways too. The villages have also adopted the traffic calming humps which we saw at most intersections in Peru, but less frequent – usually at the entry and exit of a village. We start preparing ourselves to overtake slow trucks only to find the most brilliant, albeit most inconvenient for us, type of entrepreneurship: sellers in the middle of the road – from drinks to newspapers to food.
We ride along roads that are lined with massive banana plantations on both sides. It is Ecuador’s main export and we can see why. We also see trees, huge trees – we haven’t seen such huge trees since we left Asia. We see pawpaws, avocados, birds, kamikaze ones too (one came a feather away from Anthony’s head), and storm clouds – it feels alive. As much as I loved the majestic desert ranges, I am now feasting on the green and the ‘furnished sky’!!
We got our first taste of tropical downpour shortly before arriving into Guayaquil.
We check into our hotel right in the centre of town and quickly decide to spend a couple of days there. Time for washing, blogging (we got 2 posts up there) and some city sightseeing. One very interesting thing we noticed is that cars park with their hand brake off so that the street parking attendant can push cars together and make way for another car. How ingenious. Guayaquil was a very pleasant city.
We leave Guayaquil Sunday morning early for Quito – from now on, we have to change our travelling habits and leave early so that we can stop before the afternoon storms.