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Saturday, April 18, 2015

On the Road Again - Hello Peru (Part 3 of 3)

The next morning I took a little drive-jaunt down the road past our bungalows to see what I could see.

Notice the washout to the left in front of me.
A little one-lane planked bridge.
Vultures waiting ever so patiently for the fish boats to come in.   I wonder if they took a number?
I drove about 10 miles south of Mancora past the town of Los Oreganos to a fishing pier known as El Nuro where you can jump in the water and swim with the tortugas (large turtles).  The topography along the way was amazing….dry, hilly, dirt, dirt, and more dirt.   Only speckles of green and probably only because of recent rains and due to die in a few short, hot days.  $2 bucks allowed me to enter the pier and walk down to where folks were suiting up in snorkel masks and life vests.   They climbed down a set of stairs into the water and right there were several turtles ranging from 4 feet in diameter to smaller ones hanging about the swimmers while a lady above tossed in food to keep them close by.




On the way back, this guy had his tuk-tuk loaded up with recyclables.  Now...I ask...where in the USA would you be allowed to do this?   No way.  No how.  No where.   Yet, it's done regularly here and it works.

Notice....the lovely black and brown topography!!!  ooooohhhhhhh
In the town of Los Oreganos, yet another statue having to do with the sea.
A drive back to my bungalow, I thought maybe I should head home a day early.   I had done what I had come here to do and I was teetering on being bored.  But, I needed to eat.   I ordered up a nice plate of spaghetti with white cream sauce and hefty portions of large shrimp.   The BONUS was 2 fer 1 cocktails between 12 and 2pm.  I could get TWO pisco sours for the price of one!!!  Boy howdy, bring ‘em on!!  After my nap, I packed my bags and headed out to hit the road.  My thought was….drive 2-3 hours to the border and get through all that process and stay the night again at the Sol del Sur hotel in Huaquillas, get a good nights rest, then hit the road again in the manana for the remaining 3-4 hours segment for home.  So,  that’s what I did.

A few more statue sights seen along the way.

Driving from Mancora to the Ecuador/Peru border was like playing a game of ‘dodge ball’.   Geez!!   Those tuk-tuks (motorcycle taxi’s)  were freakin everywhere!!   They generally drive on the side of the road, but as night fell, it was hard to see them.  Why?   Hmmmm…..lesseeeeee……NO lights, dim lights, SOME lights, etc etc.  It was insane.  You had no idea if those lights you saw in front of you were 500 feet away or 50 feet away.    And, those with NO lights?   SURPRISE!!!  Dart around them.  

Worn a bit thin, I arrived at the border crossing.   I pulled into the large complex and stopped, because all lanes were blocked with cones….except the lane labeled ‘for official use only’…I dare not go there.  I walked into the office nearby and they said I should’ve driven through that lane and parked.  But..but…oh well.   They took the form I had placed in my window from when I first entered Peru.  Thank gawd I saved it as I had no instructions to keep the damn thing.  Then, I moved the car to the migration area (parking in front of snack stands).  Shoot…a bus had arrived before me and the line was long.  I asked an agent woman about a form I needed to fill out.  She acted dumb.  ‘outside’.  I went outside and found a pad of forms and tore one off and filled it out.  It was for Peru.  I knew I needed one for Ecuador.  Back to the agent….’where are the forms for Ecuador?’   I received a baffled look as if I was speaking Nano Nano.   Finally, I was handed a form for EC and filled that one out, too, and got in line (20 ahead of me).  Come to find out, they didn’t need the new form, they only needed the tear-off portion of the form I filled out when I originally entered a few days earlier!!!   Gee….do you think they could post any kind of instructions somewhere to guide us through the process?   Noooo…that would be logical.

Ultimately, I was rubber-stamped through the process and got in my car and followed the exit signs.  When I reached the guard at the exit point, I expected to show him my documents…that I had been through the process and approved and so on….but, noooo, he just waived me through.  You mean I could’ve just driven through the entire customs/migration/border checkpoint and no one would’ve known the dif???!!!  Aye, Aye Aye!!   So, I exit.  As I travelled beyond the exit I saw a sign ‘thank you for visiting Ecuador!’   HUH?   Then another sign, ‘Welcome to Peru!’.   WHATTTTT?????  WAIT A MINUTE!!!  I want to go to ECUADOR, not Peru!!!    So, I drove through the loop again and reached the same guard who’d waived me through earlier.  I said “I want Ecuador, not Peru!”.   Ends up, when you leave the exit point, you can either turn left to go to Peru, or right to go to Ecuador!!!    GRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!

A little while later I was back in familiar territory in Huaquilles, to the Hotel Sol del Sur, checked in to another $28 room, a quick dinner of fried seafood for $10, and off to bed.

Next morning (after sleeping through what seemed to be an endless array of someone slamming doors) I ate my ‘included breakfast’ which consisted of juice, bread, coffee (albeit instant), and 2 eggs.  I headed out of town, needing gas (diesel) but for some reason many of the gas stations were ‘out’.  There was no way in HELL I  was going to travel the same route I did coming in.  I had no interest in slamming into potholes, unmarked speed bumps, and sections of road without pavement.  I decided to drive to Machala and beyond to Puerta Inca where I would catch the highway that ascends the Cajas as if I was travelling from Guayaquil.   Yes, it would add an hour and a half to my travel time, but there was no way I wanted to deal with the ‘slam bang thank you ma’am’ of the treacherous highway I had taken down just a few days earlier.

I made it back to Cuenca by 3:30 in the afternoon.  I drove directly to the babysitters to pick up Gracie and brought her home.   Once at home, the cats started yelling at me.  They were pissed they were out of food, even though I explicitly told them when I left, the HUGE  bowl of food was to last them 4 days.  So, there.   You made your choice by snarfing it up too early guys!!!

I can now say I've been to Peru!!   Kinda like saying I've been to Mexico when I lived in San Diego and saying I've been to Canada when I lived in Port Angeles, WA, right across the water from Victoria, BC.

El Fin....

Dano

On the Road Again - Hello Peru (Part 2 of 3)

I booked the Mancora Beach Bungalows which is located away from the main part of town in a part called ‘Chico Mancora’ which, in essence, means ‘little Mancora’.  It’s a strip of land with cozy resort enclaves (although the word resort illicits images of something sprawling) butted up against one another along a long narrow road sandwiched between the barren hills and the beach.  I knew to expect a bumpy dirt road because I had read TripAdvisor reviews.  But, due to the rains the night before, the road had been transformed into one long mud pit.  The poor little taxi tuk-tuks were barely making it through the 8-10 inch deep, wet mud.  But, hey, I was in a 4x4.  In some places, the road was covered 6-8” deep in water for a 100 feet stretch.  Having not driven the road before, I gauged my ability to successfully make it through if the tuk-tuks made it through before me.  Under the muck, the road was hard and stable, so I wasn’t at risk of disappearing into a sink hole!  I could describe the road, but I’ll let the photos do the talking.  When I arrived at my resort, ‘Terry’, my Hyundai Terracan, was coated in mud and you couldn’t see that I had treads on my tires at all….it was all caked solid with mud.

A 50 ft long lake of water and mud!

Thick and soupy.

For $55 a night, my room was nice-sized with a king bed and a large 12 x 12 balcony overlooking the pool below and out to the beach through the palms.   It was humid.  Dano don’t do humidity.  It’s like my body is full of holes and water just pours out of me.   No AC in my room, but I knew that.  Just figured the ocean breezes would keep it comfortable.  Nope.  Later in the afternoon, I drove back into town to buy some snacks as anything purchased at the bungalows was much more expensive.  Probably because they have you somewhat trapped with no tiendas around to buy anything.   The road was slightly better but the mud was thickening up.  Many of the tuk-tuk taxis stopped trying which effectively left people at the lodgings without transport.   I almost got stuck on my return leg as someone in front of me stopped which halted my momentum in 8 inch deep muck.    My tires might as well have been bald as the mud was caked into the tread making them useless.   But, my trusty 4x4 ‘Terry’ got me through.   Still humid even though the sun had gone down, I actually slept in the hammock on the balcony for a few hours the first night. 


My private balcony and hammock.
Looking down to one of the pools from my balcony.
And the view out to the ocean from my balcony.
The other pool with waterfall to the lower part.
A boat to sit in and have a beer, read, etc.
The hotel restaurant.
Night falls as seen from my balcony.
A few minutes later.
Oh, and another new experience to add to my list….another monetary denomination.   In EC we use American currency.  But, in Peru, they have ‘Soles’ (Soh-layz).   Luckily, the exchange rate is easy to calculate to determine what I’m actually spending in the currency I’m familiar with.   You get 3 Soles to 1 Dollar.   Kinda weird to go to a restaurant and see 33 for a basic dinner, or 15 for a cocktail.  But, that translates to $11 and $5 respectively.

The next day, after the ‘included breakfast’ of coffee and rolls, I enjoyed a cool dip in the pool, then went for a walk along the beach to see what the other resorts and homes looked like.  Impressive as you can see.



RIP
Let's see....what would OSHA have issues with this walkway?   
Poolboy cleaning the pool (behind the rock wall).

Several places had 'outdoor' bedrooms!!!   Just draw the curtains close and enjoy the breezes and roar of the ocean.




The Fuller hat salesperson.  (only those who are older will get the reference here!!)




Did a little swimming in the Peruvian ocean, then back to the bungalows and another dip in the pool.   Nap.   Shower.  Another drive into town 3 kms away.  By now, machinery was scooping the dirt and mud up and chucking it onto the hillside, ready to wash back down again with the next heavy rain. 

Me being artistic.  Yeah...righhht.

A shot taken from behind the waterfall using special effects.   

I stopped at this shop along the way.  Amazing array of carved rock, stones, and huge chandeliers made out of shells.   Boy, would I like to toss one of those huge things into the back of ‘Terry’ and take it home with me! 

These guys are 3 - 4 ft in size.
Shell chandeliers 6 - 8 ft long!!!


Drag queens love BIG earrings, but this is a bit much!!!
But, I needed to get the car de-mudded.  I found a place where they could pressure wash the exterior of the car as well as the underside.   I ran upon another guest of the same place I was staying  at.  He was having the same thing done.   Two guys worked a pressure washer and used their hands to pull mud off from the underside and nooks and crannies of the car for about 30 minutes.  Cost…about 7 bucks.


A tuk-tuk that just got a bath.  Usually they are 150cc and carry the driver and 2-3 passengers in the back bench seat.
Then, an early dinner at a recommended restaurant.  I kept hearing how the Peruvian cuisine is awesome and I wanted to experience it, since Ecuadorian cuisine is somewhat blah.   And, the infamous Pisco Sour cocktail.  Everyone loves them.  Gotta try it!!!    Dinner….so-so….tiny shrimp in a good cream sauce, but not much of it…and rice.   Pisco Sour tastes almost like a Margarita.   Tasty and refreshing, but 17 Soles (almost $6) and far too small for my insatiable satisfaction.

Back to the bungalows. Road much better.

This is a common sight that would never be allowed in the States.  Motorcycles, tuk-tuks, etc hauling a 'long-load'.  Sometimes re-bar or long bamboo dragging on the ground.   In this case, the driver has to duck while he drives a big load of bamboo.
Nap.  Shower.  Headed down to the restaurant to get connected to the inter-webs.  Unfortunately, the WiFi only serves the restaurant area, not the rooms.  So, all of us gathered here have our various internet devices planted in front of our faces.  Tonight is much less humid.  I’m actually not sweating at all which says a lot as I can break into a sweat if I blink ten times real fast.

....to be continued in Part 3.  Film at 11:30.

Dano


On the Road Again - Hello Peru (Part 1 of 3)

Peru has been taunting me for the 4 years I’ve been living in Ecuador.   After all, the border is only 120 miles from Cuenca.   Like Sara Palin said, I can see Russia…oops, I mean Peru…. from my back porch.

I’ve heard the beaches in the part closest to Ecuador are wonderful.  In particular, the town of Mancora.   Finally, I had a slice of time where my short-term rental apartments weren’t booked, my car was running fine, I did the research, booked online, and off I went to add a new country to my list of places I’ve been in my life.

The day I was set to go was full of desvios (detours) thrown at me.   I wanted to hit the road by 3pm so I could arrive in Huaquillas (whah key yuhs), a town on the Ecuador side of the border, before it got dark and stay the night to lessen the remainder of the trip the next day.  Well, I didn’t get to leave until 7pm and IN the dark.  I almost bagged it.

Just 30 minutes outside of Cuenca I hit fog.  I was going down in elevation, so I thought sure I would come out of it soon.  It got so thick, I was creeping along at 20mph…my eyes scanning to see which direction the road was going.   I kept thinking ‘maybe I should turn around’, but kept plugging along thinking for sure I would come out of it soon….maybe in only 100 feet and I would’ve wasted all that time if I turned around.

After about an hour of this, I finally came out of the fog.  But.    This particular highway between Cuenca and Machala is in deplorable condition, compared to all the other nice highways I’ve been on in EC.   It was bad 4 years ago and now it’s even worse and they haven’t done jack diddly to it.    OMG….potholes that are impossible to dodge.   THOUSANDS of them!!   And, during the nighttime, it’s worse as they’re difficult to see.   It’s a good thing I didn’t get an alignment before I went on this trip, as surely I will need one when I get back.   I could go on and on about this ‘highway’, but suffice to say the person who’s in charge of this area of the province should be ousted from office and the people should rebel.  It’s that bad.   Trucks and busses must be suffering significant damage. To top it off, heavy rains caused of lot of dirt to ooze across the lanes and I spent a good deal of time playing ‘dodge ball’, or in this case, ‘dodge cat-sized rocks’ scattered all over the highway.   Go ahead, let your mind imagine freely…you’re not far from reality.

2 hours of this and I finally arrived in the lowlands and turned onto a 6-lane divided freeway, smooth as a babys buttocks.  Night and day.   

I got to Huaquillas and my hotel about 10:30pm.   Nice room, AC, elevator (not common here), breakfast included, parking (rare here) all for $28.   It began to pour rain which made a lot of noise hitting the rippled metal roofing protecting the exterior part of the AC units.  I love that sound, but it went on throughout the night.   This means something a bit later on.  Keep reading.

Huaquillas is kind of interesting.  Not only is it the last city right on the Ecuador/Peru border, but it’s key to seafood.  You see statues all over representing something of the seafood industry.  A lot of shrimp farms are located nearby.

After breakfast in the morning, I checked out and drove around town a bit to take a few photos.   I love this one at the entrance to the city.   Reminds me of a hill in Rio….not that I’ve been there (yet).  


At the base of the statue.  Not sure what happened to its wings.


A few other sights around and about Huaquillas:

Not sure what this represents other than maybe laborers in general.


Tuk-tuks and the ice cream man pedaling his cart.

Each town seemed to have a narrow park along the main arterial with lots of benches.  This lineal park had a lot of concrete statues of birds (about 16") and other wildlife.


Life-sized deer.   

This creature is about 10 feet long.
Then, I headed for the border and held my breath.   Given my propensity for things to go wrong, I was a tad nervous something was not going to be right in the myriad of documents I brought with me and I wouldn’t be allowed to cross.   Really, I mean it, I brought practically everything down to my blood type.


I’ve been here 4 years, okay?  And, I’ve chatted with lots of others who’ve lived here long enough, okay?   So, build a bridge and get over it with what I’m about to say.  Okay?    LOGIC does not seem to be an element of life here!!!    Are they ingenious?  YES!!!  Are they hard workers?   YES YES!!!    Are they efficient?  HELL NO!!   Do things make logical sense here?   GET OUTA HERE!!!

So I drove into the megaplex at the border crossing.  A guard told me (in rapid-fire Spanish) to (I think) drive down there, park my car there, then walk back here.   I drove down ‘there’ and all I saw was a handful of snack stands.  Can’t be it.  So, I drove on a bit.  A guard stopped me and told me to continue on to over there.   I did that.  Well, it was the EXIT.  So, I had to start over.  I drove back to the beginning where the 1st guard repeated what he told me and radio’d ahead to someone.  I drove ahead and a guard pointed to me where to park…near the snack stands.    He pointed to the Migrations building where I should walk to.   I went there and walked in.   There were large signs above 4 agents.  One said ‘Ingresa Peru’ (enter Peru), so I stood in that line.  When I got to him, he informed me I need to go over there, as he pointed to the other side of the open space.  So, I walked over there.   They looked at me strangely.  Finally, someone pointed me to the other two agents where I needed to go.  The sign above them said ‘Salida Ecuador’ (leave Ecuador).    Come to find out, even though there were 4 agents seated in a row next to each other, without any divider, I was supposed to get in the ‘leaving Ecuador’ line first, then after processing with them, go stand in line for 'Entering Peru'.  But, not before filling out paperwork for each one.  I went outside and filled them out and returned and stood in each respective line and completed my tasks.  Not so fast.   I was told to go out of the building and to the Aduanas section (Customs).   Immediately outside of that building were several offices, each with ‘Aduanas’ signs hanging over them.  I went in.   Nope….they pointed me to another building about 100 feet down.   I walked down there.  A guard sitting out in the hot sun asked me what I wanted and I told them ‘Aduanas’, but Aduanas is back there.  He said, ‘no, go in there’.  So, I went in there…an unmarked door.  (GRRRRR).    Once inside, I saw two desks and agents and a couple of couches with folks hanging out.  No signs, no instructions, no take a number…nada.    I took a seat on the couch.  Finally, one of the two agents beckoned me over and I handed him my pile of papers to dig through and scrutinized.   I passed.  WHEW!!!   Am I done?  No.  Go over there to SOAT.   At least I knew SOAT was a name for the government required insurance that everyone must carry.   I never thought about insurance.   So, I went to the SOAT kiosk.  She filled out a form and I paid $10 and I was covered for 1 month.

Nada mas (nothing more)?  DONE!!!   I stuck the piece of paper to my windshield that was given me and drove over to the exit point and, after inspecting everything, was told I was free to go about the country of Peru.  Woohoo!!!!

I was driving in PERU!!!   This part of Peru is very barren with low, scrubby, hills.   The road was 2-lane.   It was smooth enough and not too much traffic I couldn’t handle.   But, clearly, the rains from the night before had left its mark.   Villages I travelled through had mud washed across their streets and sidewalks.  People were sweeping and scooping and doing whatever they could to clean it up and move it somewhere else.  Clearly, they didn’t have very well designed (if at all) drainage systems and those hillsides I mentioned were barely nothing more than dirt just waiting to wash down to any point lower and unrestricted.  

The drive continued for 2 hours, pretty much uneventful, except for sections of the road that I called ‘galloping Gertie’ which made me thankful I had a seatbelt to keep me in control and not flailing about the cabin of my car.  I saw lots of ‘poor’.  Homes nothing more than square boxes made of bamboo with a splash of paint.  But, hey, the town had a pretty little park with sculptures and it was painted, and it had concrete sidewalks and they were proud and happy.   What they did for jobs to earn money to pay their mortgages, have cars in all 3 of their garage stalls, have internet, pay for 979 channels of Direct TV, and for each of their kids to have the latest version of I-phone (with a daily allowance of 1,000 text messages), and outfit their children with Nike Aire shoes and Diesel tee-shirts to wear while they mindlessly play their X-box games  is….well….weep….it’s just beyond my imagination.  AND, while I’m at it, for 100 miles I never saw ONE McDonalds, Jack in the Box, Burger King, KFC, Whimpy’s, Carls Jr, Taco Hell, Fat Burger, Pizza Hut, or Subway!!   GEEZ….how do these people survive????   They must COOK!!!   OMG!!! 

This….must….STOP.    People of America…ARISE!!!  We must invade Peru and save them from themselves!!!!

Whew….too much salt in my bag of Piqueo Snax (chips) I just polished off!!

Enter Mancora.   Hmmm….fairly nice looking town, moderately groomed, lots of tuk-tuks (motorcycled driven taxis) touristy niches, barefoot surfer hippie types wandering about.  Sort of like Montanita, Ecuador, but on a slightly larger scale.   

....to be continued in Part 2.  Film at 11.

Dano

About Me

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Cuenca, Azuay, Ecuador
This is all about my transition from an American lifestyle and culture to my newest adventure, life in Cuenca and greater Ecuador. I'll be recapping some of my day-to-day experiences (and mishaps) to highlight what it's like to live here.

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