We left Cuenca bright and early (and with moustaches in aid of Movember) at 0700 to start the long drive south to Punta Sal in Peru, allowing us time to cross the border and reach our accommodation in good time for dinner which was being laid on for us. Having fallen in love with Ecuador, I was excited to enter a new country. My enthusiasm was slightly dampened when I saw that the relatively short queue at immigration was moving slower than a sloth. Thankfully, the line to exit Ecuador is next to the one to enter Peru and the process was painless. Neither immigration officer spoke to me, but I didn’t take it personally and was just thankful to be back on the truck within an hour.
Almost immediately upon entering Peru, it was evident that we were in a different country. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for the right reasons. There was rubbish EVERYWHERE you looked. You might say it was a blot on the landscape, but there wasn’t much landscape to speak of, just flat, scorched earth with barely a sign of life. It was quite the comedown after the incredible topography of Ecuador. After an hour’s drive, we stopped in the small town of Tumbes to eat lunch and to draw out/ exchange money. The phrase ‘if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again’ may well have been coined by the first person trying to get cash from a South American ATM. Despite the machines proudly bearing stickers showing they accepted all manner of Visa, Maestro, and Cirrus cards, the reality is somewhat different. However, after the 7th attempt, I had some nuevos sols in my pocket and could at least buy some lunch for me and Charlotte (who hadn’t been so lucky at the cashpoint). Lunch in this case was a very unsatisfying brown roll with three (yes, I counted) slithers of avocado and no butter. However, considering it cost the equivalent of €0.30, I suppose I shouldn’t complain.
Shortly after lunch, we sighted the Pacific Ocean, but the usual excitement with which the sea is usually greeted wasn’t on show as the landscape remained barren and strewn with detritus. There began some murmurings of apprehension about our upcoming stay, and I think a lot of people started to scale back their expectations. We needn’t have worried though. Almost out of nowhere, our campsite appeared and there was a visible group exhalation once we had spotted the pristine beach. We pitched our tents on the sand and cracked open some beers while marvelling at the incredible sunset that played out before us. I love sleeping by the sea and the soothing sounds of the waves soon had me in dreamland. I was disturbed at 0330 by my tentmate, Astrid, waking me up to look at the full moon and its reflection dancing on the waves. I might’ve been annoyed on any other occasion, but it was a pretty incredible scene and we chatted about how lucky we were to be on this adventure.
The entire group opted to spend the next day relaxing at the beach, unsurprising given the 11 hour journey undertaken the day before. I managed to catch up on a bit of reading but managed to persuade Ian to grab a beer at lunchtime which pretty much set the tone for the rest of the day. We chatted for a few hours before someone spotted a sea lion in the surf. I ran out to look at the magnificent creature but the site of his distended stomach and infected eyes was anything but magnificent. The mood turned somewhat sombre, especially when we discovered he was the first of three to wash up that day, along with two turtles. Despite being initially excited at the prospect of a swim, I declined to dive in on this occasion. Following a delicious beach barbecue, Astrid and I elected to pack up the tent that evening given that our departure time the following morning was at 0400. Yes, you read that correctly. Astrid managed to bag herself a bed in a cabin, while I chose to sleep in a hammock under the stars. It was incredible, unlike the wake up call at 0345.
Since then, we have travelled through some pretty cool terrain to Huanchaco and Huarez which is where I am now. At one point, the endless rice fields made me think I was back in Asia. Unfortunately, for the past few days I’ve been in bed with a dodgy tummy, so I’ve had to forgo more rock climbing and a nine hour hike to the incredible Laguna 69, so there’s not much to report. I think the culprit for my illness is the chicharrones I had during a truck picnic. I’m not too mad though as: a) they were delicious and b) I’ve lost some much needed weight. We start the drive to Lima tomorrow and I’m hoping that the rest of my time in Peru is a bit more adventurous than lying in a bunk bed with intermittent sprints to the toilet.