It was difficult for us to leave Ecuador. Literally. The climbs and descents to the border were ridiculously steep. It’s going to take years for them to finish this road.
Today’s theme was loose dirt and gravel. Combine that with outrageously steep grades and our tires couldn’t get a grip. We were off the bikes and pushing. Our shoes could barely get traction enough to walk these beasts up the mountain. At one point I stopped for a breather and my bike started sliding back down the road, with the brakes engaged. The wheels weren’t rolling, just sliding.
Going down the mountain is usually great fun. But not when it’s so steep that any wrong move will send me sailing over the front of my bike. My hands and forearms ached so badly from the death-grip I had on the brakes I was actually looking forward to the next uphill. With so much weight on the bike I had a hard time stopping it. When my hands couldn’t take it anymore, I could slow the bike down just enough to jump off and stop it Fred Flintstone style with my feet. Our rims were piping hot.
We finally get to the border town of La Balsa (The Raft), aptly named as the crossing used to be by a float over the river. Ecuador sends us off with a lovely $2 almuerzo (traditional fixed lunch of soup then a plate of rice, vegetables and meat). We get stamped out by a friendly border agent who asks us about our trip to the Galapagos after seeing the Galapagos stamp. We set out across the bridge to Peru. Easy breezy.
We get a less than warm welcome to Peru. There’s only one official in town who does entry stamps. We arrived at 1:30 which apparently is her siesta time. We waited for over two hours before she returned. During this time it rained, then turned blazing hot, all the while we were being eaten by no-see-ums flies.
The official unlocked the door and even though we were in an unlit room, she wore a hat and dark sunglasses the entire time. She barked something at us that we didn’t understand, shoved some paperwork in our direction, sent us to the police station for their stamp, and then finally stamped our passports.
I was frustrated. I just wanted to get away from this dumpy little border town. We biked for a bit and passed through a town where aggressive dogs chased after us. In the confusion, the bikes collided. As I reattached my pannier and some other stuff that fell off my bike, a driver honked at me to move out of the way.
AHH, FU Peru! I want to go back to Ecuador!
We rode a little further and started to look for a camp spot, but at this point we’re climbing and the road is hugging the side of a mountain.
We found a house with a flat piece of land next to the garden. The family doesn’t have much. Their home is constructed of handmade mud bricks, dirt floors, no electricity.
They turn out to be the nicest people we’ve met all day. They let us camp on their property and we are taken aback by their generosity when they share some fruits, veggies and eggs from their farm. The mom shows me how to prepare plantains by boiling them (she’s shocked I don’t have oil for cooking). I cook a rice/lentil/veggie meal and share it with her and her two kids. We also give the kids some candies.
Peru, you have redeemed yourself. Nice save.