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North Coast of Peru


February 11, 2018

Last night it POURED down with rain in the middle of the night for a couple of hours; we awoke and shut windows and vents and tried to get back to sleep. The owners and their staff of two were out trying to redirect the flow of water from the parking area. Their house is in front of the camping area closer to the highway and it’s on a bit of a rise so the water flows down the driveway into the camping area and settles. Sam told us she noticed it was at least 6” deep! Our flip flops actually floated away and they must have found them during their clean up efforts because we saw them in the morning lying neatly on the other side of the truck. The power was out for a while and it took some time in the morning before the camping area had it back but the house had power (so they could have just turned off the camping area for safety). The sky cleared and it was sunny again until about three when as usual, the clouds rolled in. Sam and Don left us midmorning.

Around 4:30 two vans pulled in, one German with Bruno and Niche and a Chilean plated one. We have decided to leave tomorrow as our food supply is depleting again and the Argentinians, Justo and Lucia, told us about a nice place in Máncora, a beach/surf town about 65km/42m south of here. There is a market there and other shopping within walking distance of the hotel that takes overlanders.

We had a final sunset happy hour at Zorritos with Mark, his girls and the Dutch family that arrived in the Chilean vehicle; Roberto, Martine and her mom, Alinda. It was the best we’d had in ten days!

Monday morning after breakie, we packed up, paid our bill and said goodbye to Swiss Wasi – we understand how people can stay here for a long time; it is quite nice but unfortunately, it’s hard to get supplies without driving back north quite a distance. It was a wonderful ten nights though.

We arrived in Máncora around midday, stopped at the local market to get veggies and then two small so called supermarkets to buy what we could. The prices here are jacked up as it’s quite the tourist town. We arrived at Punta Ballenas Hotel and parked in the lot – sadly no parking near the beachfront but we’re close to the pool…..we’ve been spoiled.

The price here is S30 a night ($10 more or less) and they have a lovely view, nice bar/restaurant area overlooking the water and a swimming pool.  The beach out front is not a good swimming beach.  It was pretty hot today so after we tried the restaurant, we changed and went for a dip in the pool and spent the afternoon reading; so far no other overlanders.

We had a quiet, safe night and had strong enough power to run our AC as parked here at the back of the hotel, we’re not getting the ocean breeze.

After a morning beach walk, and breakfast, we met an American woman, Laura, who had arrived by bus from Cuenca where she’d spent four months – she’s looking for a new place to call home. Her friend, Sandra will be arriving by a different bus today to join her.

That day and Wednesday, the sky was clear and we walked a little in town then hung around the pool for the afternoon.

Máncora is described as Peru’s best beach town but it’s way past its heydays. It’s rather run down, lots of beachfront properties are abandoned, the beach is not “white” as described but it does have a nice long tide. There are many rocky sections near our location a bit south of town but it is pretty clean. Right in front of town you can rent umbrellas/chairs and there are lots of restaurants but also lots of vendors selling stuff. If you walk past the main part, the beach is pretty nice but once you get to the last building/hostel, it’s not supposed to be safe. Fran actually got stopped by a cop up there one morning and told to turn around.   There are lots and lots of souvenir booths in town as well as restaurants. We’d have to say we prefer the beach at Swiss Wassi but preferred Montañita in Ecuador over them both.

the walkway down to the beach at our hotel
the beach walking towards town
two lizards on the rocks out front

Thursday, we walked into town and decided we’d like to have lunch at one of the beach restaurants; when walking in this area you get accosted constantly by people trying to get you to eat in their establishment so after just picking one that offered the chicken we wanted, we got set up at a table right on the sand. We ordered a jug of fresh limeade and our lunch. When in ten minutes, our jug of juice had not arrived, Doug found the girl and she realized she’d forgotten so it came about five minutes later. When our lunch did not arrive within an HOUR, we paid her for the limeade and left; she did not seem perturbed at all!

We spent the rest of that week and weekend, in the same spot, doing our thing with the exception of Saturday night; we took a mototaxi (what they call “tuktuks” in Peru) to a hotel called Las Pocitas south of here which we’d heard was a beautiful spot to watch the sunset unobstructed. We ordered a couple of Coronas and sat on a lounge chair on the beach enjoying the view. Then we decided we’d stay for dinner; what a good decision that turned out to be. We enjoyed very tasty meals of Chicken Cordon Blue and Swiss Chicken (almost the same thing but the chicken breast is flattened and they add bacon!). Both were well presented (sorry forgot to take a picture) and came with two side dishes. The entire evening out including the mototaxi and beachfront beers cost less than $45! A pleasant change from our “home” cooked dinners.

Monday, we packed up after walking into town for supplies. We wanted to make a stop in the little village of Los Organos to see the turtles. There are actually two place to do this; here and at a dock a little further south called El Muro – the latter is done by tour from Mancora.

We parked and walked to the dock where you pay S3 ($1) to walk onto the dock and there you can buy fish to feed them (in other words, entice them over), just stand and watch or pay S10 to rent a lifejacket to walk down the ladder to swim with them (and another S2 if you want a snorkel). You can hang out in a small roped off area waiting for the turtles.

We actually saw a blue footed boobie on the shore here:

As this dock is outside a fishery and the water is not that inviting looking, and we’ve swum with turtles before, we opted to just watch for a while.

It is incredibly hot today – in the 30sC/90F and we don’t want to be outside in the direct sunlight too long so we mosey back to Tigger, turn on the AC and drive the 45km to our next camping spot in Los Lobitos. This means getting off the PanAm onto about 12km of dirt road passing many oil drills, pipelines and a whole lot of dry wasteland.

So not a pretty drive but the beach here is quite nice and very clean. There is a spot with a good left hand break for surfers but the town needs some work. There used to be a lot of work here from oil investment but there are many dilapidated buildings around. They’d like it to be a surf destination but it needs help.

We walked out to the beach, it’s about 200m from the camp and the sand is super hot; surprisingly the water is colder then Mancora but that makes it more refreshing. Similar to Mancora no other overlanders joined us and we had a quiet night.

We decided that we’d rather not drive two days in a row if we don’t have to and we have plenty of time in Peru; we don’t need to be in Cuzco where we’ll leave Tigger until early May and we know our beach time is coming to an end, so we’ll hang here at least one more day.

We awoke to blue skies so the decision was not that hard to make….

We left Las Cabañas de Neto campsite on Wednesday morning early as we had a bit of a drive today and knowing how Peruvian roads can be, two hours can mean four-five…..First stop was the western most point of South America: Punta Balcones – this is outside the small town of Negritos via the larger ugly industrial city of Talara. There is a lot of petroleum business in this area; you can see drilling platforms along the horizon as far as the eye can see!

This was a cool stop where we had breakfast in front of the not so clean beach then climbed up the hill which seemed to have a marker on it. Part way there, we realized the route was not marked at all and was a steep climb up the next hill so Doug went alone (Fran’s left knee has been acting up a lot lately and she forgot a walking stick) so she went along the beach and on the rocks below the marker.

So now we’ve been to the most northern and western points of this continent. We are about five degrees below the equator here and this part of Peru is quite hot and SO dry with not much vegetation and sand or dust everywhere (along with the never ending garbage).

Now we worked out way back through Talara to reach the PanAm.  Enroute we saw a mechanic that does suspension work so we stopped as the piece that holds the leaf springs together had broken on the left side under Tigger.

getting suspension repaired

Now we make our way to the first large city of our journey in Peru: Piura. Here we hope to get some good grocery stores and run a few errands like getting our teeth cleaned.

Being a typical large city, the options for camping are limited but there was a place not too far outside the city on iOverlander that Christine & Mark, as well as Sam & Don stayed at while passing through.

The highway was terrible for more than half the distance with potholes and construction then we hit a four lane highway at Sullana that took us into Piura and the road deteriorated once again with the added mayhem of traffic. We found the mall, had lunch in the food court and then did a big grocery shop before making our way to Porto Verde, an events salon with a pool and lots of green space and trees, that takes campers. It was literally a breath of fresh air. We had a couple beers at the bar and then lazed in the pool at sunset before having a quiet night. Despite the daytime temps being in the mid 30’sC/90’sF, it did cool down here at night which was great as plugging in caused the breaker at the bar we were plugged into to blow and it was closed – the night guard had no access to the breakers. It seems once again that the power here is not grounded and we’d get shocks touching the rig if we’re wet; at 220v not 110 – that’s quite a shock!

Thursday, we went back into town via moto taxi to the dentist. We both had cleanings and had a few small cavities taken care of. We then walked to an electrical shop that was on iOverlander to see about help for out power short. The man their said he knew where Porto Verde was and he’d come by around three.

Well Daniel from the shop never showed and when we called we rescheduled the time to 9am Friday. As we were cooling off in the pool, a European plated Sprinter van arrived with Mike from England, travelling north of course but it was enjoyable to have company for our sunset swim and happy hour.

sunset over the pool – sadly not the ocean

Daniel showed up late morning (not 9AM!) and after looking over the problem, said he’d be back with parts. Well that was around 2:30 and he brought two workers with him. They all tried to sort stuff out and decided that there could be a problem with the transformer so they decided to take it back to the shop and return later. When they were not back by 6:30 we called and postponed till morning as it would be too dark to work on the truck now. We enjoyed a few refreshing swims today and Mike’s company once again.

Well the ten am appointment time came and went. After messaging him a bit, we learned he’d had a tire problem and he finally showed up mid afternoon. He’d repaired the plug in the transformer but found no other issue. It turns out Mike is an electrician so he joined in the discussion on the problem and the consensus seemed to be that the problem derives from the power source; ie the system here is not correctly wired. Daniel said the the Piura region is not wired correctly and that much of Peru is not grounded.  After testing various items, Mike determined that there were TWO live feeds here and NO ground. At times the truck was measuring 315 volts! Daniel said he’d come back by 7:30 with a step down transformer to help this issue. None of us are convinced that is the solution and we don’t want another transformer.

Well surprise, surprise, he phoned and said he couldn’t come that night but he’d be here in the morning first thing at eight. We’ve been here long enough and the owner has now cut us off power as when we tried hooking up the power again, it blew his breaker again – but he is not convinced the problem is his power source, not us. We had a terrible night’s sleep as our solar panels are way down (we’re parked in trees so they did not get much of a chance to recover from the night before) and we didn’t want to use fans all night to severely deplete the batteries.

So Sunday morning we waited until 8:30, Daniel was a no show again; we texted that we were leaving. We wanted to stop to get veggies and needed gas so while Fran was shopping she got a message to “wait”. She told him we’d left Porto Verde and were at Tottus (the grocery store). As she was paying he arrived and apologized again. He blamed the power and was sorry he couldn’t help us. He had repaired the one plug and after asking what we owed him, he didn’t want any money but Doug gave him what he thought that part of the job was worth.

Now we intended to take the PanAm to our next destination but when we told Daniel this, he said, no take the inland route as the PanAm is very ugly and the road inland was in better shape. So off we went and yes the road was quite good till about halfway when we turned onto a different highway to Lambayeque and it was slow going once again.

As we passed through one town, Jayanca, Fran got stuck in some bad traffic while Doug was in the back making lunch and repairing something and she managed to sideswipe a moto taxi. To her it seemed that she’d only hit the side mirror which only pushed in towards the truck so she kept going but upon getting out of the rig later we saw that there was a scrape near the coach door and the little latch for the sewer hose had come off – that thing never worked anyway so we have always had Velcro holding the door closed.

We made it to the hotel in town that takes overlanders and after parking, went into the town to check out their museum – the reason for our stop here. The Museo de Sitio, Sipán houses the relics found in the tombs at Sipán east of the city of Chiclayo (closest big city to here) and we’d heard it was worth a stop even if most of it is in Spanish.

The museum is very well done and the building is built in the style of the pyramids of the Mochicas people. Unfortunately, the do not allow cameras or phones so you can’t take any photos inside.

So these are off the web:

We then wandered to find an ATM. Getting money here is a little trying. The max withdrawal is usually S400 – about $125US. You can often do two a day and you have to be aware of ATM fees. We were charged a total of $27.80 US for four withdrawals at certain banks! We are lucky in that Schwab reimburses all our fees but we do tend to try and find banks that don’t charge them.

Monday morning we got some housekeeping chores done, a lady at the hotel did our laundry and Doug worked on trying to figure out once again if the grounding issue could still be Tigger itself; ie why does the truck skin get so electrified? Flummoxed again! Doug spoke to the manager of the hotel and he knew an electrician so his son drove Doug over to find him and was told he’d come to the hotel later to have a look.

The electrician did show up but unfortunately, did not know enough to help us; so the hotel management said they knew of another man who could take us into Chiclayo to see a home electrician first thing in the morning. So he was actually on time and we followed him to the city but after about fifteen minutes the boss man told us they had too much to do to spend time trying to figure this out and we left.

Today we planned to visit the actual tomb site of the Lord of Sipán – we’d been the museum on Sunday to see the artifacts and learn about the discovery. We got there midday and it was sticking hot. We toured their small museum and then wandered over to the archaeological dig site. There are two quite large pyramids and the smaller funeral one with all the tombs that have been excavated. Lucky for us the “digs” were covered and you could view down into the tombs in the shade. It was a little “underwhelming” but interesting to see. Here at both the museum you can take photos.

They are “layers” of tombs and depending on their status in life, bodies were buried with others (ie a woman, pets, warriors) and symbols of their life (offering pots, ornaments, crowns).


owls hanging out at the excavation site

We decided to head back to Lambayeque to the same hotel for a couple more nights. After we parked Doug noticed some more damage from Fran’s moto taxi incident; the back corner of the rig had come opened and will need repairing. We asked the manager’s son if he knew a body shop guy and after taking Doug to three, they found someone who could do the work right away; wasn’t pretty but it’s done.

That afternoon we hired a moto taxi to take us to run some errands as we figured they’d know the exact stores to go to and it worked perfectly. Thursday we re-calked the kitchen counters and then spent a relaxing day and Doug also visited another museum here in town called the Bruning – Fran had seen enough relics for one town. This  museum covers 5000 years of Peruvian peoples.  A few samples from it:

The plan is to leave tomorrow and head for the mountains…..