Before we left Riobamba, we got a new windshield for Vanna. We had begun to dread each police stop, worried they would give us more hassle over the crack. And then we paid $70 to a motorcycle cop who got the better of us with his fast talking performance. He phoned his boss to see if we could get a discount on the $100 fine. And apparently the boss said yes. So we actually saved $30. Haha. It is all such a game. But we speculated that the police in Peru might be the same or worse.
On our first day in Riobamba we went from shop to shop asking about a new windshield. All of these were in the core which as luck would have it was mid Santa semana and of course there was a parade. Detours and roadblocks on every street. Finally we stopped at a very modern Chevrolet Dealership. According to their computer search, there was no prefabricated windshield available for Vanna in all of Ecuador. They referred us up the highway to a fabrication shop.
With a bit of trepidation we drove up the hill to an industrial area, and stopped at a warehouse with a large painted sign on the outside wall. After some contemplation, Hernando and Armando said they could fabricate a new “parabrisa” for $220. It would take 3 days.
We went back 3 times before it was ready. But it looks quite good and only has a few flaws. If I look up to the left the scenery is all wavy. I will get used to it. Funny we noticed that they carefully pealed the tiny GM sticker off the original and placed it on the lower passenger side of the new window. It just might pass as a genuine GM product.
From Riobamba we camped at Cuenca, a beautiful modern city where many North Americans and Europeans have chosen to live. Then took E59 over to the coast, to join with the panamerican again.
Exiting Ecuador was quick. A stamp for Vanna, two stamps for us.
Entering Peru was not so easy. We got in line, and stood in the exact same spot for 2.5 hours. The computer system was down. Finally there was an announcement. Manual processing would begin. Suddenly people were rushing the front. A clerk was handing out hand made numbered tickets. We didn’t get a ticket. Stupid gringos us.
So in a few seconds of time, we went from being the 9th in line to somewhere after 20. This was ridiculous. I was not a happy camper. An older woman from Ecuador was equally incensed. Although she was behind us in line, she just marched past everyone and went up to the desk. Then she unabashedly waved her family up from the back. We stood transfixed in line with mouths open. How do people do that?
Line budging. It’s an art.
We spent three days driving along the northern coast of Peru. It is very much a desert with sand dunes and large dark rock formations looming up over the flat brown landscape.
Sand drifts across the patchy pavement, plastic bags swing from dry shrubs. There were few vehicles on the road. It felt windswept and forlorn. The occasional oasis of green broke up the monotony. Now and then, we caught glimpses of the sea, long desolate beaches pounded by savage waves.
We stopped at a tiny fishing village on a beautiful bay. There were only a handful of people about. And stayed over night at another village where families came for a weekend on the beach.
At the edge of the highway, we climbed an ancient pyramid called Paramonga, a fortress built by the Chimu in about 1200 AD. There is just a sign, and a place to park, leaving you free to roam and wonder.
We were happy to be back in Peru in part because of the food. It is flavourful and varied.
We had ceviche and duck and an appetizer we really liked called Cancha. A special type of corn kernel, it is fried and salted like popcorn, only that it doesn’t pop. It is like eating all those unpopped kernels at the bottom of the bowl. Except that they are soft and tasty and don’t break your teeth.
We drove right through the chaos of Lima. It took 2 hours. The traffic is heavy and the drivers refuse to be bound by lane lines or right of ways. Like when there were two turning lanes full of cars waiting to turn. But why wait at the back of the line? A better idea is to race forward on an outside lane, then veer suddenly and sit in front of all the cars waiting to turn. Now you get to turn first. And if you want to stop somewhere, why park? Just stop in the lane and get out and go do your business.
Grrr…..Maybe we just need to learn new strategies.
Located right on the panamerican highway, the charming town of Nazca was the perfect setting to stop and relax. Besides, it is home to the famous nazca lines which we wanted to see. There are hundreds of lines and geoglyphs, purposefully measured out by the Nazca people around 500 AD. By removing the top layer of soil, the lighter colored undersoil was exposed, making each formation visible. Unbelievably, they have been preserved that way ever since.
Our morning flight over the lines was in a little 8 seater Cessna. The figures don’t look that big from the air but they are very clearly there, etched into the sand.
So that we could see, the plane had to tip over on its side with the wing pointed down. Our guide would say, “On the right is the monkey” and we would tip right. “Now we are circling around …. and tipping to the left”, so those on the left side could view the monkey.
Tip right, circle around, tip left. We saw 12 figures and several lines that way. It was a bumpy, eye crossing, nauseating 30 minutes.
But seeing the nazca lines with our own eyes? Priceless.
In contrast, the buggy ride tour in the desert was exhilarating. There were 9 of us in a large open frame on 4 wheels.
We bounced along a dirt track for about 20 miles out into the desert, and then had a speed infused ride up and down the dunes, often tipping precariously on the slopes. It was a roller coaster thrill, with some screaming.
We stopped at ancient wells. Built around 500 AD, they are still in use, bringing water from underground streams. We saw the pyramids of the ancient Nasca, built from adobe. And made a more somber stop at a cemetery. Bodies had originally been buried in ceramic tombs, but the entire cemetery had been trashed years ago by gold seekers.
Now human bones stick out of the sand, skulls lie around like discarded soccer balls. A legless headless body sits amoungst cracked ceramic pots.
We ended the day with sand boarding down the long dunes. Our guide waxed each board, then gave us a shove. With no foot bindings, we could not stand up. Which was good because we don’t need any more broken knees. So we sat or lay down, using hands or feet to steer. Like snow sledding it was quite fun, without the cold fingers and toes.
The Plan Head over the mountain to Cusco