16.12.16 Catamayo, Ecuador to Piura, Peru
Yesterday we rode from Azogues in the morning to Catamayo in the evening, via Loja. It rained alot of the day, and we were high up in the clouds. It was pretty chilly, but once again the scenery and surroundings did not fail to disappoint. I was tucked in under the cover of the sidecar most of the day, so we were pretty pleased that once we’d left the mountains and dropped down to Catamayo that the temperature rose to 20 degrees again. We were both wiped out by tiredness last night, so had a really good night’s sleep.
Today, we set off early, and rode through the remaining mountains, the 2 ½ hour journey to the border for Peru at Macara. Along the way the temperature was good, with a warmer wind, and we eased our way around the corners smoothly, and not being held up too much, as traffic was quiet.
About 40 km before the border, there was a military checkpoint, where we were pulled to the side and asked for the bike documents and passports. There were three military guys and a customs officer. The customs officer had a brief look at our papers, and then the military guys had some real fun with us, asking all the normal questions- how much does it cost? Where are you from? Where are you going? How long is the trip? Do you like our country? Do you have children? - when we answer ‘no’ to that one they cannot believe it- ‘but why not?’ How long have you been married? The list goes on………. The best part though was that the leader of the military guys was not really the slightest bit interested in our passports, he just wanted to jump on the bike and have his photo taken. So he did, and a very enjoyable 10 minutes that all was too.
Once we reached the border, we breezed quickly through the Ecuadorian exit (alot quicker than the entry on Sunday, thank you very much), and were off in to Peru. When I stood in the Ecuadorian queue for my passport stamp, the young girl in front of me turned round, and unbelievably it was the Chinese girl that I had been in the exit queue for Colombia with on Sunday. We had a quick catch up, and she told me she wanted to get the bus to Lima tonight (a 700 mile journey).
On reaching the Peruvian side, we were once again behind this girl, and her fellow bus passengers, a few Germans, and an Ecuadorian couple. Paul obtained the forms we needed to complete, and we stood filling them in whilst the others were seen to. Once the young Chinese girl’s turn came though, everything ground to a halt. It turned out the poor girl had the same name as a man who had previoudly passed through this border, and this fact alone was enough to send up an alert on the Peruvian Immigration system, that the staff in the office did not know how to deal with. We managed to get stamped in, and Paul had done a bit of translating between Immigration staff and the girl, then spent his obligatory 30 minutes trying to get the bike imported before the poor girl was sorted. The other passengers of the bus and the bus driver were agitated and wanting to leave, and the girl had not helped herself by getting angry and shouting, but they eventually rang and spoke to the right person, and gave her a stamp in her passport.
Entering Peru was like flicking a switch, gone were the tidy streets of Ecuador, the signs for order and care for the countryside. The rubbish is back lining the streets, and within minutes we had encountered, donkeys, goats, pigs, horses, chickens running across the road. Oh, and the TukTuk has made a return with a vengeance.
The people though are once again, beaming from their full moon faces, and we rode along to a constant tooting, waving, grinning and shouting. This is a real joy.
Another encounter at a customs checkpoint was a pleasure (despite having just put all our papers away), and we feel welcome in this country.
We have stopped for tonight in beautiful Piura, a busy city with some grand buildings. The little yellow taxis here drive constantly around the town square tooting at people to get fares. Paul had no sooner got off the bike than a woman was asking to have her photo with him and the bike (never mind about me still sitting in it!). Oh, and Santa’s TukTuk is on his way!