After fixing up the van we enjoyed a ‘free day’ in Banos. This consisted of a walk to the nearby village to try the highly recommended empanadas and to see the waterfalls.
After, we took a bus into the main town of Banos to find some hot springs which the area is famous for (and named after). However we got distracted by eating ice cream and then every darn place where you could soak up the hot springs was closed! We went home, disappointed, to the van and decided to try the trout farm next door where you fish your own trout and then have it prepared and cooked on site. But would you believe this was closed too! Maybe this was just not our day.
The next day we headed out pretty early and made it to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Cuenca. It’s a cool colonial cobblestoned town. We’ve seen a few of these on our trip! It was a nice place to walk around and Christine even found a shop to try on a dress. No luck still and the search continues.
Peru was in our sights for the next day. This was an uneventful driving day except for the encounter with the Ecuadorian police who stopped us after observing us go over a double yellow line. Now this is after a long long time following many trucks going very slowly and being overtaken by many yahoo’s unsafely. We just happened to peak around this truck and saw the truck drivers hand frantically waving us back. However, too late! We were stopped and told by an officers english friend he called on his mobile that we made a “very, very, very, very, very bad infraction”. The fine was $150USD to be paid immediately to the officer. Well this did not go over well with us and we stated we had no money but would get some and pay at the police station or bank. He wasn’t quite sure what to do and we said we could wait all day if necessary. You could see his little brain working but in the end he couldn’t come up with anything and waved us on. No extra Easter money for him!
We got into Peru after a great and easy border crossing despite it being 1.5 hours to complete.
We headed to the beach, and the warmth! We ended up in Mancora staying in the parking garage at a hostal. We were surprised at what a touristy and surfers place it was. Christine enjoyed her first Pisco Sour, Peru’s national drink, on the beach.
Chiclayo was our next destination and was a special stop as Christine’s parents used to teach there 7 years ago and still had many connections. We met up with their good friend, Gladys, who does great things in the community with Centro Esperanza, an NGO.
She showed us around and then we were treated to lunch at the community Soup Kitchen where they are trying to help with the large problem of poverty and malnutrition of the young school children. Here the mother’s volunteer and learn to cook healthy budget friendly meals while helping to feed part of the community.
The mother’s and children prepared a great afternoon for us. There was singing and dancing and the highlight for the kids and adults, I think, was the tour of our van, Ginger! They all thought our trip was amazing and never knew it could be done. It was a great and insightful afternoon for us and them! A very worthwhile project.
We enjoyed spending more time with Gladys and her family and were overwhelmed by their hospitality. They hooked us up with a hotel room right downtown, helped us get a safe place for the van, fed us many delicious meals and were just the most wonderful hosts! We didn’t want to leave but knew that we needed to stay on target if we wanted to get to Argentina before our time runs out. So we enjoyed one last lunch with Gladys, prepared by her sweet mother, and then hit the road.
We drove a few hours and made it to a beach area just north of Trujillo.
The next day we planned on a long days drive to get us back into the mountains and to the start of our next trek. We ignored the directions given by our GPS, as we could see a much shorter, and obviously quicker, route on the map, so we were taken by surprise when we realized that it was going to take 2 days of driving on our chosen crazy windy switchback road, averaging less than 25km/hr.
We decided at 5pm that the fog was so thick that we needed to find a roadside campsite. Not easy when the road is precariously hanging from the side of a mountain – but we did it.
The town we were headed for is at an elevation of 2,000m, so we were again greatly suprised when our ‘shortcut’ kept climbing to over 4,300m, and then found the roads even more scary on the descent.
Dave was an awesome driver though!
As we neared the bottom of the descent, and we could see the town in the distance we checked the GPS once again – the town was 7km away, but would take over 25km of roads to get there, it was that windy and switch-backed! We had almost made it to our town when we came to a washed out bridge. After checking out the signposted detour we found that bridge inadequate too.
After a bit of searching and checking with the locals we eventually found another option about 40 minutes away and crossed into the town of Caraz.
Not the quaintest of Peruvian towns but it’s a jumping off point for the trek we want to start tomorrow. Wish us luck!