Week 37 & 38 - Peru for Christmas!
After 50km of dirt road, we reached the Ecuador - Peru border at La Balsa. I have to say, it was a very chilled place and my border crossing anxieties diminished almost immediately. There was no one else there waiting to cross, so it took all of about five minutes for all four of us (Michnus & Elsebie and Kelvin and I) to check out of Ecuador, plus bikes, and then cross the bridge to the Peru side.
We had to wait for the guy to come and lift the barrier on the Ecuador side but it wasn't long and off we went. We parked up next to the barrier on the Peru side and got off the bikes. A guy came over from one of the restaurants, who we worked out was the SUNAT guy...Peru's department that deals with vehicles. He apologised and explained he wouldn't be long, then showed us to the immigration office just around the corner. The immigration's officer was a quiet chap, on the older side of fifty I think and happily watching TV.
We smiled and tried to make small talk in basic Spanish. It paid off because he gave us all 180 days in our passports! Wahey!! By the time we finished, we walked back around to the other guy's office to get our TIP's (Temporary Import Permit). This took a little longer, but in the grand scheme of things it was super quick, and the chap was super friendly and interested in our travels. Again, we were all granted 180 days on our TIP's. Result!!!
We left the border and set off in the direction of the next big town, San Ignacio. We planned to find a place to stay and hopefully buy some insurance (SOAT). On the way we passed some fields where it looked like they were planting or picking rice. It was really interesting so we stopped for some photos plus the landscape was beautiful.
Arriving in San Ignacio, we managed to find a hotel with parking, although they had the most useless wifi so far. Hopefully this wasn't a sign of things to come. The town wasn't anything special however it was bustling and the people seemed friendly. We quickly found a bank for the first withdrawal of our Peru adventures, so another currency to get used to, the Peruvian Nuevo Sol.
We asked in a couple of places about SOAT, however some said it would be a few days to wait and others either said that they couldn't sell to foreigners or that they could only sell one year's worth. We had a discussion and Elsebie and I did some research. In the end it turned out that although you can get shorter 'tourist' SOAT, it's actually more expensive than a one year policy, especially as we intended to stay for six months, so we opted to stay another night in the town and go back the next morning to buy a one year SOAT policy from Caja Trujillo. We decided putting this off was a bad plan as Peru definitely had the most crazy drivers that we'd encountered so far!
Whilst in San Ignacio, we also took the opportunity to buy some Christmas tipples and and tried some of the local coffee, which was very nice, and everything was cheaper than neighbouring Ecuador, so that was a plus. All in all, our first 24 hour introduction to Peru had not gone badly and we were looking forward to the adventure ahead.
Our Christmas and New Year destination was in a little town called Pedro Ruiz in the Northern Peru mountains. Elsebie had found it on Air BnB so we booked a large apartment. Once we got to Pedro Ruiz, Kelvin and I stopped to wait as Michnus and Elsebie had stopped for some pictures. I think we were in mission mode as we didn't stop for any that day...ooops!
While we were there, a lady and child walked past us and we greeted them. Then the boy ran back to us and handed us a small banana each, then ran off. It was so nice, they looked really poor and they gave us food! We watched the crazy Tuk-tuk's whizzing past, the street dogs obliviously crossing the road in front of oncoming traffic and the big birds circling or sitting on the wall, perhaps waiting for the next roadkill.
Once Elsebie and Michnus arrived we went into the town in search of some supplies, in anticipation of having a kitchen to ourselves! Yippeee!! It was a bit of a mission with everything being so spread out and all wearing full bike gear with loaded bikes, but we sorted it.
Finding the Air BnB was actually very easy and when we got there we were very happy....the place was beautiful. Fundo Arawishka was owned by an English guy called Jim (James) and his Peruvian wife Nora, both of whom were very friendly, and they had a beautiful dog called Maskal. He quickly informed us of the full crate of beer available (to be refilled on departure), sold us some really nice meat, and offered to take us around the town to show us all the places to get stuff. We quickly made ourselves at home and had a drink on the front lawn...very civilised. We also tossed a coin to see who would get the en-suite room, which we were fortunate enough to get.
The next day Elsebie and I were taken around by Jim in his car and shown all of the best places to buy meat, fruit and veg etc. We then ventured into town a couple of days later on the bikes to top up our provisions and went to the big fruit and veg market that was there. We didn't buy meat from the market as there were way too many flies around and landing on the meat for my liking.
There was a little shop that Jim recommended and the meat appeared fly free, so all good. We bought some chicken and beef, which looked really good. We found out you have to go in the morning for the meat as the animals are slaughtered very early in the morning, prepared and then sold. If you go in the afternoon they are almost always sold out or you are just left with the bits nobody wants, so it's as fresh as it comes.
Christmas Day came very quickly. It appears that most people in Peru actually celebrate Christmas on Boxing Day, as they all go out on Christmas Eve, often until the wee hours, and spend most of the 25th sleeping! Anyway, Christmas Day came and after a very sloth-like wake up, we all sat, exchanged some gifts, had coffee and then headed out on the bikes.
It was a beautiful day, and most people would not be out driving, so it was a good opportunity. We retraced our tracks along the road we came in on because there was a beautiful bridge somewhere, a waterfall and some rock faces overhanging the road, which we all wanted some photos of.
It turned out to be a really hot day. Kelvin had been working on my bike so it was still in bits, so I went on the back of Michnus's bike as he had pillion footpegs. It also meant I could take some moving shots with Michnus's camera whilst sitting on the back, so I took a few of Elsebie and Kelvin riding along. I think a couple came out ok.
On the way back we stopped at a restaurant where there was a lot of Peruvians sitting around, or playing volleyball outside. We just got a nice cold coke and people-watched. Then we headed back to our place and prepared some yummy food and Christmas Day drinkies.
Boxing Day, we were invited for Christmas dinner at Jim and Nora's house. A few other family members and friends were also invited, so there was a big table of people. The best bit was, Jim had managed to get a huge turkey, and he also introduced us to Pisco and ginger ale. Very nice. We ate so much food, plus the home made cake for pudding was very tasty. We were spoilt.
After all that, out came the fireworks!!! We were going to save them for New Year, but the guys got carried away and they all went up...new ones for new year's it was then.
Then it was back to working on the bikes and getting some welding done. My bike still had zip ties holding the rack on, and the exhaust still didn't have any stabilisation in the middle since the last welding had failed. Kelvin sorted out my front light, as it was an immediate fine if you didn't drive with your lights on in Peru, and also swapped my handlebars over. I managed to buy a set for 40 sol (under 10 pounds) in a local bike shop, which was crazy. It meant I didn't have to have have tiny little bars anymore, which Kelvin hated. Much better for the off-road riding.
We managed to find a welder in the town to sort the racks and the exhaust mount. We also discovered that the exhaust had a tiny hole from where it had last been welded, so we had to get that sorted to.
A day or two before new year we were joined by a lovely couple from Poland called Liwia and Sebastian (aka lifewelove.com). They were two up on a BMW F650 GS and would join us for the first leg southwards once we left Pedro Ruiz on the 2nd January.
Kelvin managed to get the majority of work done on the bikes by New Year's eve in the evening, including fixing the chain where the outer part of the link had come off (not good), and Elsebie painted him a Crazy Fog on his screen, which was cool. There was a couple from Spain in one of the other apartments and in the 3rd apartment there was a guy called PJ from London, who was planning to stay a year, so all in all there was a good little gathering for the celebrations.
For New Year's eve, we all sat in the BBQ area, drank some drinks (as you do), played juego de sapo (also known as Toad in the hole in England), then at about 11pm we all had a BBQ, which was very delicious. After midnight, there was then some fireworks, although maybe not the best plan when everyone's been drinking but we all survived and it was good fun. I think we called it a night at 2am.
The next day, once everyone emerged it was time to start thinking about packing. As usual, when we're anywhere for a few days or more our stuff spreads out so much, so packing takes a while! We also made sure all of the bike bits were back on the bike...always useful.
The following day it was time to bid farewell to Jim, Nora and Maskal, and set off Southwards. Unlike normal, this time we had a time constraint as we wanted to be in Lima by Friday the 5th January ready for the start of the Dakar on the 6th, so we had to get moving.
Off to the Dakar we go!