17 October – Day 87
Loja, Ecuador to Piura, Peru
One thing I haven’t mentioned about Ecuador yet was the extent to which we were – regularly – mobbed in the streets. In a positive, rockstar kind of way. People wanted to look at the bikes, touch the bikes, have their photos taken with us and the bikes etc etc. It was like nothing I’ve experienced before. Even when we weren’t with the bikes – ie just walking around – I had women walk up and give me their baby to hold while they positioned an older child/ren next to me for a photo. It all felt very surreal. Anyway.. that was Ecuador… and now…
Border crossings are back! And.. still long and somewhat trying. Our exit from Ecuador was a dream…. Really fast, friendly officials – I think the whole thing took less than 10 minutes. However getting into Peru… wowsers. We got ourselves in and our passports stamped without issue. Then, to get the bikes in, we needed a photocopy of the Peru entrance stamp in Adrian and Jeremy’s passports. Unfortunately, there was no photocopier on the Peru side of the border. Well… there was, but the customs guy refused to let us use it, saying it was just a printer and not a photocopier. Adrian even offered him a bribe, but no cigar. You can’t photocopy with a printer. Mr customs directed us back to Ecuador to a photocopy stand apparently located at the Ecuadorian side of the border (about 400m away). So Jeremy took all the papers etc and walked, in blazing sun, over the bridge and back into Ecuador… only to be told that there wasn’t a photocopier there and he’d have to go back into the last town before the border to find one, which was a good 10 minute drive away. But… we’d already left Ecuador – including exporting the bikes… so there was no way we could legally just ride back over without re-importing the bikes etc. Luckily, Jeremy convinced the Ecuadorians to let him ride to the town and back, so again he was off with all documents in search of a photocopier. It took about an hour, during which time Adrian and I tried to entertain each other with games of eye spy, scissors paper rock and thumb wars. It wasn’t really all that entertaining!! However watching a couple of customs officials solicit ‘donations’ from almost every ute that went past actually was quite interesting. We saw a few utes go back and forth multiple times and so put it down to fuel in Peru being 3-4 times more expensive than in Ecuador… it makes it worthwhile to cross the border for a petrol run, that’s for sure!
Eventually, we made it across the border – after the unhelpful Peruvian was somehow able to keep a straight face as he made photocopies of the bike import forms. Photocopies! On the Peru side of the border! Not just a printer after all..!?
By this time, we were racing sunset to reach Piura. My first impression of northern Peru is that it is dry.. much drier than Ecuador. Possibly because of this, the poverty seems starker; without irrigation it looks like it would be difficult to even grow food for the family. Yet clearly there’s a wet season here at some point – or wealthier people/corporations have access to significant underground water sources – as we past a number of very large fruit farms.
Piura is really just an overnight rest stop; we plan to be on the road straight after breakfast in the morning.