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Saturday, April 18, 2015

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

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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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