Feb 14

Day 70 – Machala, Ecuador to Talara, Peru

by in Field Reports

Waking up in the Love Hotel was surprisingly conducive to us getting on the road. No place nearby for breakfast, no dawdling over packing our bikes – get up, get our stuff together and load the bikes up. I opted for a quick shower before we left, because you never know when you’ll have hot water again… and while we were showering, an odd noise started. When we went downstairs, we looked out the window above the garage door and saw that the odd noise was caused by POURING rain. Pouring. So back upstairs to our “suite” and put in the rain liners in our pants, and put the rain covers on our tank bags… and out into the rain.

We rode into Machala because I wanted to find an ATM and grab some more US cash to replenish our “emergency” stash (which we ended up using to fly the bikes with Girag, since they require cash and we hadn’t had enough days to stock up). Turns out, it had been raining most of the night and Machala was quasi-flooded. We kept riding through deep puddles that created a bow wave when we passed… and did I mention that through some fluke, my boots were either never waterproof or are no longer waterproof? Before we left Machala, my boots were soaked and squishy again. Boo squishy feet!

Also, I had my face shield cracked a bit on my helmet because it was fogging up in the rain, and when we went through one of those deep puddles, I got passed on both sides by cars going fast and the bow wave went up, up… and I took a giant splash of muddy road water to the face. Double boo.

Rode out of Machala and toward the border town of Huaquillas, and somewhere along the way, it stopped raining. Yay! The ride to the border was rather uneventful, and we were there shortly after 10AM. Rode along toward the frontier… and… oh, wait? Leaving Ecuador? But where’s the border control stuff? Oh, hi, Peru. Yeah. We didn’t get stamped out of Ecuador. Or the bikes. What’s that? Turn around and get stamped out? Yeah.

Rode the 3km back into Ecuador, and tried to stop at the ginormous building that claimed to be border control… except it was blocked off. Entirely. It’s a huge complex, and they had wire and rope strung across the car lanes, and rocks and debris across the entrances, so you couldn’t drive in. We had to go the wrong way down a divided highway to get past the border control complex, and while we were trying to figure it out, an Ecuadorean car pulled up apparently looking for the same thing. On the other side of the border control complex (what would have been the exit, if it had been open) were a couple of security guards, and the car stopped to ask where to go.

The guards said back to the roundabout and toward the border town (Huaquillas) instead of toward the frontier. Cars have to pay a toll to go there, but they had a moto lane to the right so we skipped by the toll and followed the car… and just past the toll booth, on the left, is Ecuadorean immigration. The sign is big enough, but there’s no friggin clue that’s where you need to go from the road signage. If you head toward the frontier, you’ll completely bypass immigrations. Boo Ecuador!

Then we asked for aduana to check out the motos, and they told us to go back to the big blue building that was the border control building. No, we told them – that building isn’t open. Yes, they say – go back there, it’s open 24 hours. Kay clarifies that it’s the giant blue and white building, and they confirm. So we head back there, and talk to the same guards as before, asking where aduana is.

It starts to get confusing. One of the guys says go back to the roundabout and take a right. Another guy comes out with a small moto/scooter and offers to show us. Yes! So we follow him, and he goes back to the roundabout… and takes a left. Toward Huaquillas. And leads us to the immigration building. No, no, we say – we want aduana for the motos. Ohh. Well, for that, go back to the roundabout, take the right that the other guard told us, and 2KM down the road is the aduana.

We go that way, and head 2km down the road… no aduana. 4km down the road… no aduana. We remember passing some sort of control checkpoint that they waved us through a bit before town, so we go a bit further wondering if that’s it. Yes! 5km down the road, give or take, is the aduana building, which you’re funneled into if you’re entering Ecuador, but if you’re leaving Ecuador, you drive right past it without ever knowing it’s there. And it’s not even a building. Aduana is a tent with two military guys, (outside of a blue and white building) and you hand the military guys your moto papers, and now everything is checked out of Ecuador. It only took us an hour of wandering around to find border offices that are kilometers apart, and getting incorrect directions from officials.

We, and our bikes, are now riding around Ecuador illegally.

Back to the roundabout and toward the frontier again, and this time we know where to go! Leaving Ecuador, again! Yay! Hello Peru, again! Yay!

This time when we pull up to the Peruvian border guy, he asks us some questions about us and our bikes and writes some stuff down on his clipboard. Then we park our bikes in front of the tent where the border guys are set up, and walk over to immigration, where we get a paper to fill out. Fill out the paper and walk to the next building, where a guy stamps the paper. Then we take it back to the first building and give it to the guy, who stamps our passport and gives us the bottom half of the form as our tourist visa card thing.

A few buildings down is aduana for the motos. They give us two forms to fill out (one for each bike), we fill them out and give them back, along with our driver’s license (the real one, not the fake we keep for corrupt cops), our registration and our passport. They do some stuff with the form, and then give us back two parts of it (it’s perforated and they keep one part that has all of our info on it) as well as an oval-shaped piece of paper with some info on it that they say the police will want to see. And viola! We’re checked into Peru.

Walk back to the bikes, where a guy tells us it’s $1 each to “fumigate” the bikes. We see no evidence of fumigation equipment, so we’re skeptical, but the border guys confirm it’s required. The guy takes our money, comes back a few minutes later with a receipt (after we ask for it), and then I see him walking over with a tank of some sort of spray on his back just as we’re about to pull off. We get off the bikes and he “fumigates” them (sprays the spray half-heartedly over the wheels and along the bottom of the chassis, completely ignoring all of the grime and gook on our panniers and the rest of our bikes).

Start to ride off again, and we get to a control point where a guy walks over and moves a cone aside and waves Kay through. Kay starts to pull off, but I’m behind him, and I see another guy motion to stop Kay, so the guy who originally waved Kay through suddenly blows his whistle and another guy motions for me to stop. I tell Kay through the headset that he needs to stop, and a guy runs over to him. Meanwhile, a guy comes up to me and tells me I need to turn around because I need to check the bike into Peru.

I have, I tell him. I have the paperwork. No, he says – you have to turn around and check the bike into Peru. Yes, I argue – I already have, and I’m pulling out the paperwork to show him. He still argues that I need a stamp for the bike, but the aduana people told us we were done, so I’m arguing with him and a superior comes over to look at my paperwork. He takes one look, sees that I have everything I need, and tells the confused official to wave me on. He does.

In the meantime, Kay has been told to turn around because he has to check his bike into Peru, too, and the same supervisor who ok’ed my paperwork walks over to Kay, takes a quick look at his stuff, sees that it’s ok and waves him on, too. Yay for a competent official! And boo for the stupid guys who didn’t believe we’d gotten the bikes legally across the border.

So now we’re free to ride off into Peru, which we do!

The only complication is that because this border was so confusing and spread out on the Ecuadorean side and so easy on the Peruvian side, there are no helpers or money changers wandering around. So we have no Peruvian money (Nuevo Sol). Our first order of business is to find an ATM or a cambio where we can change our money. We ride into Tumbes, which is the first town on the map I think is big enough to have an ATM, and do a fair amount of wandering around (the drivers in Tumbes are absolutely insane, btw – made me worried about Peru in general, but the rest of the drivers have been fairly tame). Eventually we find an ATM, which will only let Kay withdraw the equivalent of around $120 US. We figure that’ll be enough for a while and go on.

From there, it’s a fairly pleasant ride down the Pan American along the Pacific, through beach and ocean towns.

The Peruvian Pacific

dry dock

We see a restaurant/hospidaje in Zorritos and stop for lunch, which is simple chicken, rice and french fries – but surprisingly tasty.

Bikes in Zorritos

Lunchtime ponderings

Then begins our quest for gasoline. We saw a couple gas stations near the border but don’t see another one until Punta Sal, but they’re out of gas. He tells us to go to Mancora for gas. We find a couple of gas stations in Mancora, one of which has gas! Yay!

Weird Looking Mutt

But now I’m kinda worried about Peruvian gas because it blew up a couple of BMW F800GSes (these guys who are going from Canada to Argentina) so now I’m feeling rather hyper- vigilant.

This is also the first time we’ve had to look and ride further than we’d planned before getting gas (we started looking about 40 miles before we actually found gas) so I’m marginally concerned about finding enough gas in Peru. I’m sure we’ll get through fine, but it’ll take more opportunistic gas-filling and being aware of where the next place to find gas is from where we are. We know there are spots in Bolivia where we’ll have to carry extra gas, and we’ve been told that we have to get the gas before we leave Peru as Bolivian gas stations won’t let you fill extra containers, so we’ll see.

Gas cost us 80 Peruvian, and Kay had only been able to withdraw 400, so we figured out we’re gonna need more cash while we’re here in Peru. So while we we’re in Mancora, we look for another ATM. After asking a couple of times, we find one right on the main street (which is the Pan Americana) down from a couple more, and this one lets me withdraw more money. So now we should be good for a bit, as there are parts of our route that are probably going to be far from ATMs.

Back to making tracks, and shortly after Mancora, the Pan Americana turns inland a bit and climbs up to the top of the reddish-tan hills we’ve been seeing from the coast. The landscape turns to what Kay calls “Southern California” and then “the Badlands” – it’s a dramatic change from Ecuador already. At parts, the plateau we’re on opens up and you can see tons of these reddish-tan hills and the landscape feels utterly surreal to me. It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. We saw hints of this sort of landscape in parts of Mexico, but nothing on this scale. It’s awesome and cool and totally different. Alas, we didn’t get any good pics of the hilly bit, but here’s a desert shot…

Through the Desert

I requested that we try to find a hotel with internet tonight as I wanted to check on a couple of things for work and get caught up on the blog. We looked at the map and found that the nearest town that was likely to have a decent selection of hotels, including possibly one with net, was Talara. There’s another sizeable-ish town further along the Pan Americana and a bit inland, but we haven’t got a sense for the scale of the Peruvian map yet and I wasn’t sure if we could make it before dark. So Talara it was!

We hit town around 5PM, and rode around randomly a bit trying to find a good spot. We saw one “hotel” sign but couldn’t find the hotel… hit a roundabout, took one direction and then decided to try a different direction so back to the roundabout and saw a hostel on a random corner. We figured the hostel wouldn’t have wi-fi but they might be able to suggest someone who did, so Kay went inside… and came back with surprising news. They had wi-fi! And secure parking for the bikes! And a decently sized room, as soon as Kay explained that he was with his girlfriend and not another male biker. (I think, actually, the nicest room in this hostel.) So yay for random hostel on random street corner with internet!

Brought our bags up from the bike, started stuff uploading and then went out to find dinner and walk around the town a little bit. We both agree that we have a decently good vibe about the town, and Peru is growing on me.

The first town we encountered after the border, Tumbes, was hectic and dense and the traffic was very thick and crazy… and I just didn’t like the town. Not at all. I feared that if Peruvian towns were like this, I wasn’t going to like Peru. Some of the beach towns we rode through were kinda cute and fun, which gave me hope for Peru. Talara is neither cute nor fun… in fact, bits of it are dirty and run down and there’s this weird shanty-town coming into town that’s indicative of the stark poverty here. But the town center itself isn’t bad, and the people have been friendly and curious.

I think I already like Peru more than I liked Ecuador.

Also, bonus? One of our power adaptors died for the laptops a while ago (yes, we’re carrying two laptops and two power adaptors – extravagant!) and I insisted on carrying it anyway because when we got back to the states, we could take it to Apple and they’d replace it. They’ve already replaced one adaptor for me because the dog laid on the cord too often and shorted the cord.

But the hotel where we’re staying has plugs that won’t work with our two-pronged adaptor (both prongs are the same size, and our adaptor has one prong slightly wider than the other) so we went to steal the end from the broken laptop power adaptor. Kay said “just for the heck of it, let me plug this in” – and viola! The broken power adaptor is suddenly working again! It sparked when Kay put it into the wall outlet and now it’s charging our laptops quite happily. So now we have two functional adaptors again! Yay Peru!

Kay’s note: Totally excited about camping in Peru. There were about four billion places we could have pulled off the road, ridden behind some bushes / trees and set up the tent, but one of Dachary’s requirements set forth at the start of the trip was that when she was having her period we’d get a hotel. Obviously if we were nowhere near one, she’d deal, but it’s generally not a hard thing to find, and running water and toilets just makes her life that much easier.

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