February 2, 2018
So after 2154 miles/3467km, four new brake pads, installing a new power converter and a power transformer, hiking on volcanoes with snow! on the equator and spending some nice time on the Pacific, we left Ecuador with wonderful memories.
Country Thirteen: PERU
Peru is described as the most varied of all the South American countries; lots of Inca ruins/relics, desert coastline, tropical rainforest and of course, the Andes running the length of the country. It is the third largest country on the continent. To compare, it is almost the size of Alaska or five times bigger than the UK.
People have inhabited Peru since about 40,000BC! The Incan empire emerged around 1200AD with the Spanish conquistadors arriving in 1532. Peru’s history is steeped in wars with neighbouring countries: Ecuador, Chile and Argentina and it’s had a rocky political past with corruption, socialism, drug related issues and death squads. It won independence from Spain in 1824.
There are 25 “regions” and is currently doing quite well economically, one of the better ones on the continent – probably explains all the Venezuelans entering the country these days.. It is a unitary semi-presidential representative democratic republic with a multi-party system. The president serves for five years and cannot serve consecutive terms. He/she designates a prime minister and together they appoint a Council of Ministers from the 130 members elected throughout the country. Its population is 31 million and its largest city (and capital) is Lima followed by Arequipa and Trujillo. The main language is of course, Spanish, but a significant portion of the population speak Quechua and other tribal languages. 81% of the population are Catholic.
We arrived at the border of Peru & Ecuador at 8:00 am when it opened (the main offices are not 24/7). The comments on how to cross this border on iOverlander were all over the map and we were uncertain about which location to use. There are FOUR locations shown on the map; the first was more for northbound travelers (and maybe southbound if it is outside the regular hours) and the third was nonexistent (obviously wrong coordinates were entered).
We drove to the fourth and got stamped out of Ecuador and into Peru at practically the same desk. Normally visitors get 90 day visas but we read you could ask for 180 so we did and we got it (as had Christine and Mark a couple of weeks ago) – we want this as we are flying home in May and we don’t want to have to renew prior to leaving.
When we went to get our vehicle permit (TIP), we learned we should have had the Ecuadorian one cancelled back at the second location on iOverlander, not here. We drove back without a problem and Fran parked outside the Customs Office and within 3-5 minutes Doug had it cancelled. Now we knew we needed a stamped copy to show the Peruvian customs but they did not make copies there so Doug just took a photo with his phone.
Back we went to the fourth location (only 4km away) and Doug got the TIP in fifteen minutes, then you just turn around and there’s a booth there to sell you insurance; in each case, we were able to get the six months to match our visas – good day! Six months insurance on our motor home cost $70US. We presume this is only third party…..
This time when we exited the parking area, there was a guard at the booth and we had to show him our new TIP.
As expected, Peru is drier and hotter than Ecuador and nowhere as green. The roadside garbage we’d seen so much of in Central America is back and the towns look much poorer. There are lots of tuk-tuks and motorcycles and everything is dusty.
The currency is Peru is the Sole of which there are more or less 3 to a USD. The beers are: Cuzquenia, Cristal and Pilsen – we prefer the latter. They generally cost around S6 ($2) each. Gas sells for about $3.80 a gallon – so more than double we were paying in Ecuador (and we hear it gets worse as we go!).
We stopped in the first substantial town called Tumbes to find a bank and a hardware store. One of our new “security measures” is going to be that rarely will we leave the truck alone; if we have errands to run, one of us will stay with Tigger if possible. So as Fran was driving, she parked about a block away on the busy PanAm Highway where there are lots of people, cars, tuktuks and police pass by frequently, and Doug took our debit card and went to find an ATM (thanks to maps.me, this is easy to locate). There are tuktuks driving every which way:
After over a half hour, he returned having not only gotten cash (but having to go to two different banks to get any sizeable amount of it) but he found the things he wanted at a hardware store to add the locks to the front doors of the truck. Bank fees seem to be high here in Peru so thank goodness Schwab reimburses them all!
Our destination today was beach south of the town of Zorritos. A favourite of overlanders is a place called Swiss Wassi but we understood it can only take about 7-8 rigs and that recently it had been quite full and people were being turned away or asked to camp in a “holding area” until there was a spot. So first we check out three places before getting there. The first we didn’t find; the second one looked promising but the owner was not around and the woman there said we’d have to wait about two hours for his return. No way; it’s way too hot to just sit and wait when we know two hours can mean three or four or……
NOTE: In North America and Europe, clocks “run” in Latin America they “walk”.
So after checking the third place and not liking the beach, we proceeded to Swiss Wassi – and lo and behold there was room. There were five rigs here and one was leaving that day. Here they offer power, water, internet, a small shop that sells drinks, beer and snacks, access to a washing machine and washing up kitchen and a nice beachfront property with chairs and loungers under a palapa. The price per night was 40 Soles for the two of us (about $13US).
So as we are now in Peru we had to use our new power transformer as the electricity here is 220v and the overlanding gods were on our side; Doug plugged us in and it worked and better still we got no shocks when we touched the rig if we were wet so there must be a ground here – we are plugged into the main house at this point as all the beach facing spots are taken.
It’s pretty humid today but we were told this was a bit unusual – we’ll see. There is a breeze off the ocean and when we sat under the palapa to read for a while, it was very nice. While there we met a Dutchman who was here with his daughters; they currently run a hotel in Arequipa and have been in Peru for 14 years now.
By dinner time another rig arrived with a Chilean couple enroute home; they only stayed one night. The other rigs here are from Germany – Uro & Brigette, France – Georges & Claude, Switzerland – Roman and Peru – the Dutchman, Getzo, mentioned above.
Saturday it was still overcast and pretty hot/humid but not as bad as yesterday with that lovely breeze. One downside of this place is the septic tanks are in the camping area so at sometimes, it gets a bit “smelly” with so many people here, not really strong but noticeable. That may be the deciding factor on how long we stay. When we got here yesterday there was a rig beside us blocking the odor but we are noticing it today a bit. There is a rig behind us, closer to the beach who says they plan to leave tomorrow, so if we take their spot it might be more pleasant.
Sunday we awoke and yet another rig was gone so now there are four in total with one leaving today (maybe the internet will speed up!). We tried to video chat with Josh and the kids yesterday but it was terrible and we gave up within two minutes but had better luck this morning. The rig behind us (closer to the beach) left before mid-day so we backed up and snagged their spot and are now backed onto the beach view. The sewer odor has dissipated greatly now.
Doug worked yesterday on making access to power cords easier from the transformer
and then today began adding a further security measure to the main truck doors: hasps with padlocks to make it impossible to actually open the doors should they managed to find a way to unlock them – naturally they can break the windows to get in, but we hope one more deterrent makes “robbers” think twice.
The owners, Jacques (Swiss-French) and Melba (Peruvian) invited all the current guests to come into town to a typical restaurant for lunch. There was an Argentinian couple, Sergio & Andrea, a Swiss woman, Christine, (these people are staying in the two beachfront rooms available here), an Englishman, Mark, who now lives in Peru with his two daughters, (and is tent camping here) and us. We had a lovely and tasty lunch and then they offered to stop at a market if we needed anything so we picked up some fruit. Around 5:30 most of the guests joined us for a happy hour on the beach hoping to catch sunset but it was still pretty overcast so we didn’t catch much of that.
Monday we awoke to somewhat cloudy skies but they completely cleared by 9:30 – it was gorgeous but quite warm with little humidity. Doug worked on moving our high lift jack more inside out huge bumper as we heard yesterday from Georges, the Frenchman here, that the police in Argentina can be pretty rough and the jack’s position could be considered a danger.
We spoke with Jacques about seeing a dentist in the area for a cleaning and x-rays and Melba called a dentist in Tumbes (back north near the border) and made an appointment for us for Wednesday morning. We’ll need groceries by then so timing is good. We do like this camping spot and have no hesitation with staying longer. The French couple and Roman have been here over two months!
Tuesday it was not as clear skied but still lovely and it rained on and off from early evening into the night; never quite hard enough to test the back window though.
Today was Mark’s youngest daughter’s birthday – she turned nine – and we gave her a few small gifts and Doug made her a balloon animal and a birthday hat.
It was also Melba’s birthday so Doug also made her a balloon parrot and that night Mark and his girls made a cake using Melba’s oven and share with the whole campsite.
Wednesday we packed up and left the hostel to head to Tumbes. We wanted to hit the veggie & fruit market in nearby Zorritos early while selection would be at its best. So we stopped there, got practically all the produce we wanted as well as eggs and then drove to Tumbes where Jacques had told us where a small supermarket, a bakery and the dentist were located as well as suggesting the safest place to park was right on the town square as there would be lots of people around as well as police.
We found a small supermarket but it was useless then walked towards the bakery which we did find and it did not have what we wanted so after asking a lady she directed us to a larger supermarket and there we found most of the rest of the stuff we were looking for. Then it was off to the dentist which turned out to be a bust. Melba had gotten us a price which were lead to believe was for cleaning and x-rays but after waiting more than 30 minutes after our appointment time, Doug finally got called in and went first (we were told we’d have appointments at the same time….) and discovered that the price quoted for only for cleaning and on top of that there would be a consultation fee and they could only do x-rays of ONE tooth at a time! So we left and asked around and found another dentist and they could take us one at a time right away. So Fran went first and Doug went back to Tigger to store our shopping while he waited.
Now at the first place they’d quote the equivalent of $52 originally for the cleaning/x-rays on the phone and this place although they couldn’t do x-rays (said we’d need a bigger city for that…) they would do the cleaning for about $30. So Fran sat in the chair and the hygienist began using a water pik to clean between her teeth, then applied white toothpaste to her teeth and used a tool to “brush” her teeth. She had to keep spitting as they had no suction tube and she began to question how clean things were here. It was over in ten minutes! No plaque removal or scraping or polishing; not impressed. When Doug returned after another ten minutes she mentioned how little had been done for the price and suggested it was not worth the money and we left.
Upon returning to the campsite, the young Swiss man, Roman, was gone (he’d said he was leaving for three days) so we took his spot as it was the best in the place with trees on both sides to give shade and a beach view. The French couple out front, had decided to stay another day. After walking some and relaxing, by late afternoon a younger French couple arrived in a VW van and parked in our old spot. So this was our third spot here.
That evening the young girls wanted to make pizza with the help of the Argentinian couple staying in a room and they borrowed our cookie sheet to do this and later brought around pieces for all to share. It was pretty darn good!
Thursday we did laundry ($2 a load and lots of clothes lines to hang stuff), filled up the water tanks and awaited Sam and Don’s arrival – they’d been in touch with us and we gave them tips on the border crossing, told them to shop before crossing and where the banks were once they entered Peru. Roman had told us if you use the Banco de la Nacion banks, there are no ATM fees. They plan to come here at least for a couple of days. We have also more or less decided that as February is the rainiest month in the mountains, to postpone going inland until the beginning of March – it could still be wet but we hope to miss the bulk of it….
Sam and Don arrived midday. They have to be in Cuzco in a month to do Machu Picchu so we won’t be travelling too much with them. They too want to fly home in the spring so we may catch up later this year.
We had a cheerful happy hour on the beach with Mark, Sam and Don and despite rain being in the forecast that night (it had been gorgeous all day till sunset as usual), it did not. Friday was super sunny again until about 3:30 and we had another chill day walking, reading, chatting, swimming, Spanish and happy hour.
It almost feels like we’re at a resort here as we rarely leave the “campsite” as there is not much around us on the highway but we walk a lot on the beach in both directions. There are some rocky sections at low tide but for the most part the beach is very walkable, okay to run on at lower tide. We’ve seen lots of crabs, orange and ghost, a couple of dead turtles, dead fish, a dead eel, not a lot garbage surprisingly, but a few annoying dogs. There are a couple of oil drilling platforms out at sea. The waves are not surfer waves or even boogie board waves but the water is warm (maybe 29C/84F) but refreshing enough to cool you off. The French couple in the huge rig out front left today so there are now three rigs here, no one in the cabins and Mark and his girls tenting on the beach.
Sunday it was gorgeous again but sadly we saw THREE dead turtles on the beach. One was on the beach right at Swiss Wassi and it began to smell; Jacques and two others went over to it and pushed it back out to sea as the tide came in.
Jacques told Doug that the fishermen do not like turtles and will kill them. The second turtle actually had a hook in its mouth! So sad, like they don’t have a hard enough time living as it is.