A Travellerspoint blog

Andes, Coca, Pisco

So we set off on a leg of our journey that we thought would add a few notches to our adventure totem. A road leading from Casma, Perú to Huaraz, a city of 130,000 nestled between the Cordilleras Blancas and Negras. OK, the road was moderately adventurous with spectacular views, stunning drop-offs, and many one-lane sections due to rockslides, but the whole thing was PAVED, for crying out loud. We determined that we are not willing to take the challenge of a really precarious route (notice I don't use the term "road") that is so infamous, History Channel shot several episodes of their World's Most Dangerous Roads on it. A road on which, if you meet another vehicle, somebody's backin' up, for a long time. Especially unwise to drive it during the rainy season. I am sure it is stunning, though.
We spent a few days in this cool mountain town, base camp to many outdoor adventures. When it was not cloudy/raining, we could saw snow-capped mountains. We felt the effects of the 10,000-foot altitude, and found that sucking on coca leaves relieved the nausea and headache. I went for one run with no complaints during the activity, but felt wretched afterwards.
Since the place attracts gringos from around the world for trekking, climbing, mountain biking, etc., there are certain amenities that we didn't deprive ourselves of. Namely, real (good) coffee in a french press. And big breakfasts with eggs, bacon, potatoes, avocados . . . Typical Perúvian breakfasts can be plenty big, but they consist of fish, beef, pork, chicken, or cua-cua (tripe).
And the bartenders in Huaraz can make a nice Pisco sour. Gotta love a cocktail that has some good, clean protein in it (egg white).
As we departed this morning, it was beautifully clear, affording some great photos of the Cordilleras Blancas. To be posted soon on Facebook. We encountered many sheep, goat, and cow herds on the road, including sweet little baby critters. I suppose they were changing grazing grounds.
And tonight we're back in a beach town--Huanchaco, right outside of Trujillo. We hung at a surf hostel for drinks tonight, full of young free spirits from all over the world. Strengthens my confidence in these generations. Tomorrow will be a long day of desert driving, and we will hopefully make it back into Ecuador on Saturday.

Posted by ceastburn 19:11 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Two or more bicyclists = race, anywhere

The highlight of our time in Trujillo, Perú were some bike races that we stumbled upon. The city has a beautiful plaza, and on this Sunday morning bike races were being held around and around it. 15-20 laps each, depending on the category.
The women went first, ranging in age from 20s-40, in my estimation. Equipment included an assortment of bicycles, mostly older road (including girls' models) and a few mountain, platform pedals, sneakers, gym shorts, t-shirts, and helmets for all. The moto-man was a woman. An ambulance was called onto the course for a rider who apparently went into a corner too hot. One competitor took an early lead, but could not sustain it. This race belonged to the woman in green and white, with her husband and young daughter cheering her on.
Next up were the Masters Men, 40 and over, I believe. Similar equipment to the women, although there were some bike shoes and clipless pedals, and quite a few bike jerseys. Two gents held the lead together for most of the race. The man in the sharp red jersey on the classic Italian bike (also red) displayed a textbook, expertly-timed sprint and a throw across the finish line!
Finally, the young bucks. There were a few fancy pants in this group on newer bikes: a Kuota (including a Garmin computer), Giant, Pinarello, and Specialized. The winner of the previous race lent his bike and helmet to another competitor for this race. The dude on the Kuota jumped off the start line to an early lead. His strategy was thwarted though, when the race was stopped temporarily for a nasty crash. After a restart, señor Kuota and another racer held the lead, with Kuota getting pipped at the finish line.
It was nice to see so many folks out enjoying the races. There wasn't much cheering, though. Surprising in this land of fútbol fanatics. Wished we had some cowbells to pass around. The announcer was animated, maintaining a nice banter through all the races. There was an official or two, without the fussiness of the USAC. And as usual, the pups were a huge hit, especially with the children.
All in all, a nice diversion from pyramids and museums.

Posted by ceastburn 12:49 Archived in Peru Comments (0)

Hairless dogs and Pisco Sours

We were pleasantly surprised by Guayaquil, Ecuador's largest city. A Malecon was built in 2000 along the big, muddy Rio Guyas. It's a great place to walk, with playgrounds, monuments, and a tropical garden. It was full of families enjoying their Easter weekend while we were there. Only downside: no pups allowed.
Las Peñas neighborhood, built on Cerro Santa Ana, features 400+ steps, with a bar, restaurant, or art shop interspersed on most of the steps. Sunny & Cricket were champs, climbing the whole thing with us on a lively Saturday night.
Guayquil has many well-maintained, well-used parks. The most remarkable one, to us, Parque Bolívar/Parque Seminario. In the middle of a 2,000,000+ city, prehistoric-looking iguanas of all sizes roam freely. Understandably, no dogs allowed. And surrounded with all these exotic creatures, what were the Ecuadorians most fascinated by? A squirrel. As we entered the park, a guard even excitedly pointed us towards the tree where there had been a squirrel-sighting.
One of the more important items stolen in our most recent theft was the original title to the Jeep. An oversight on our part; it did not make it back into our under-seat lockbox after the prior border crossing. We have photocopies, but without the original we were dubious about getting into Perú. The Aduana official was understanding, though, and wrote us a Perúvian vehicle permit. Yay!! We kept our Ecuadorian permit, since it will still be valid when we return to that country. And we have a wizard in Asheville working on getting a replacement title to the US consulate in Quito, Ecuador.
So, on to Perú. We could not get out of Tumbes fast enough. That was the problem--we got lost and could not find our way out. Surrounded by lawless, honking tuk-tuks, it was a rattling scene to say the least. We escaped, thankfully.
Spent a night in Zorritos. Picturesque fishing town with a lighthouse. The highlight was Sunny & Cricket learning how to dig for, catch, and play with crabs. Once they discovered this new game, we didn't get far on our morning walk, as Sunny insisted on sticking her snout in every single crab hole.
Next stop, Mancora. Surfing town with a nice beach, real coffee, and my first pisco sour! ¡Me gusta!
Scored a sweet corner room overlooking the beach for less than $20. A first for us: hairless Peruvian dogs. They look like the dogs depicted in Incan art. There were 4 in this family. Sweet-natured, playful, black, adults similar in size and shape to Doberman Pinschers, and as I said, hairless except for mohawks on a couple if them. And their skin is really warm! Their person said the dogs are used as therapy for folks with arthritis.
We saw many fine surfers. What a beautiful sport to watch.
Today, we drove through the unforgiving Desierto de Sechura. It is amazing that any creature lives here, but sure enough, there are goats, donkeys, and even turkeys! As most places, it has a beauty all its own.
We have landed in Chiclayo, at least for a night or two.
Thanks for reading!

Posted by ceastburn 16:51 Archived in Peru Comments (2)

Not much left to take


We have continued to make our way down the Ecuadorian coast. Manta is a port city and self-proclaimed tuna capitol. Not a terribly interesting city, but we found a couple nice hangouts. Decent beach, especially for a city.
Next, we spent a couple nights in Puerto López. Fishing town. Fun to watch the fishermen arrive with their catch in the morning and sell to the local restaurants and vendors.
On a half-day boat ride to a nearby island, we saw blue-footed boobies and other seabirds. Snorkeled some, but since it was cloudy, it was tough to see much. Nevertheless, it was fun to swim and hang out on the beach. We got an extra show on the way back, when the captain and first-mate ran a couple fishing lines off the back. One of the lines caught the other. Oops. The captain did an impressive job of untangling and salvaging both lures, leaders, and most of the line. Sadly, no fish.
Puerto López has an OK beach, but not nearly as clean as Canoa. The streets are REALLY dusty. Hence, everything in the Jeep was dusty. But problem solved: some dirtbag took all our dusty stuff off our hands. Sigh.
We have dealt with a lot of theft on this trip. One of the hazards of having a soft-top Jeep, I suppose. Thankfully, the most valuable stuff was in our hopefully secure trunk--can't get in there without a key. However, they got all our clothes that weren't in our bag that we take into the motel. And the GPS. We give up on GPS; it's maps and the car compass from here on. Clothes can be replaced, but this is getting tiresome. People just should not steal. Muy mala karma.
We are now in the sleepy town of Olón. It is really sleepy today, because we (the whole town) are without power. No problema. Beautiful beach that seems to go on forever--clean, and best so far in Ecuador. Friendly folks. Great seafood shacks on the beach. And a bar/restaurant with good music, fun kids, an impressive pizza oven, and a superb chef.
And hey, we're traveling light. Not much more for them to take.

Posted by ceastburn 16:13 Archived in Ecuador Comments (1)

Ecuador's Coast, improving from disgusting


We have been in Ecuador for a week now, taking the less-common coastal route. We're saving the mountains for the trip back. There is a lot of money being spent on roads, which are generally good except for some particularly nasty, camouflaged speed bumps.

There is no way to sugar-coat this. The beaches and towns in Ecuador north of say, Pedernales, are disgusting. Yes, I sound like a fussy gringo, but I think I have a pretty high tolerance for cultural differences. I don't mind cold showers in hot climates, love street food, and much prefer local joints where only Spanish is spoken to an ex-pat hangout. I shake my head at trash on a beach, but acknowledge that it is a way of life in many parts of the world. However, when a place smells like a combination of rotting something-or-other, stagnant river water, and urine, all the time, my tolerance ends. When there are puddles that cause me to shudder at the thought of the pups walking through, it's time to move on down the road.

Nevertheless, we stayed 3 nights in Atacames, thanks solely to the nice hostel at which we were staying, and the terrific innkeeper. Our hostel mates included Boston College students spending a semester in Quito, and a couple Argentinian dudes, one of whom is 6'7" and has spent the past few years playing basketball in Italy. They kept things lively. And there was a resident dog who was very pleased to have two new playmates for a couple days.

Next, we spent several fun, laid-back days in the surfing town of Canoa. Clean beach, nice waves, fun folks, naps in hammocks, sunsets, great happy hours . . .

And now we are in the port city of Manta. We'll keep you posted.

Posted by ceastburn 16:04 Archived in Ecuador Comments (2)

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