October 12th - 13th 2003
From Catacocha it only took about 2 hours to the border, along a very scenic and well-paved road. The guidebook stated that you had to get your exit stamp from Ecuador in the office in Macara's main square before heading off to the International Bridge on the border. This is not the case. You go directly to the International Bridge, stop at the Immigration Office to get the exit stamp and then go to the customs office to get the Carnet stamped out of Ecuador. Then over the border into Peru for the entry stamp and Carnet stamp at the Immigration and Customs huts respectively. We had read that this was a more relaxing and pleasant border crossing than the normal Huaquallais one which takes 99% of the international traffic, and that was certainly our experience. The whole process only took 30 minutes, if that. The officials on both sides were really friendly and didn't even bother to check the car, chassis number etc against our documentation. Nor did they search the car, which we half expected.
Although you need to keep the paper copy of your T3 Tourist Card to leave Ecuador, if you lose it, there is no problem in getting it replaced at the border. The customs in Guayaquil lost Ed's but all he had to do was complete another immigration form at the border and he got his exit stamp. Some books tell you this costs about $1 but we didn't get charged anything.
Then into Peru.
It was a welcome relief to get to Peru - it was sunny, warm and dry. Just right for camping! 114km after passing the border we had to pass our first checkpoint which turned out to be Customs. He just wanted to check that our paperwork was in order - ie that we had our Carnet - chatted to us about the trip and then merrily waived us on our way. A very nice chap!
Then the road was a nice, straight and easy drive to Sullana.
The first town we came to was Las Lomas, aka Tuk Tuk city. Although they are called Mototaxi here, it made you feel as if you were in Thailand. Ed was getting very tired of having to pull them out of the bull bars! But Las Lomas wasn't the only place - it appears that they have taken over Peru since we were last here in 2000.
Eventually we got to Sullana where we stopped for a bite to eat and to exchange some money into Peruvian Soles. Parking the Weasel in the square we asked a street kid to watch the car whilst we were in town. After a nice lunch in the square of great chicken and chips, we returned, gave the kid the money, only to find later that the roof tent cover had been slashed. The perpetrator - possibly the boy - had obviously thought there were things in there and must have been mightily disappointed to find our mattress. Not much damage done - only part of the cover was ripped - but it was more annoying than anything and wasn't a pleasant re-introduction to Peru.
Taking advantage of the good weather and certain that even our opening the tent would not bring the usual rain, we turned off the main roads and headed to the Sechura Desert on the coast. We passed through Sechura and found a small fishing village/beach called Matacaballo with a camping site and a Military Base next door, so we figured it was safe. The camping sign pointed to the north end of the beach where we pitched up just before sunset.
It was a very windy night and the tent flapped loads, keeping Ed awake as that meant he could not hear if anything was going on outside. After a fairly sleepless night, we got up and in the light of day we renamed the area "Poo Beach", as all the local fisherman proceeded to come for their early morning bowel movement in the Dunes around us. Not nice when you are eating your breakfast!
Moving swiftly on we headed South along the coast before heading inland and crossing the Sechura Desert.
On the way we passed a very large boat on the back of a very small truck, which seemed totally out of place in the desert. When we turned inland, the desert became more and more barren and the road progressively worsened. It got a lot worse than the photo above on the right, in places the road surface was just crude oil poured on the sand. Great fun, interesting drive. In the worst section there were two chaps who lived in a shack, shovelling blown sand to clear a path. Along the way we passed some horrible looking puddles with red, scummy water.
After we crossed the desert and joined the Panamerican, we were stopped by Victor the Policeman. We were nervous at first being pulled over, but all he wanted to do was have a chat, check out the Landy and find out where we were going.