South America Part I - Ecuador & Peru

From September14 through November 2, Jane and Sander traveled by bus through much of South America leaving Satori once again to the watchful eyes of friends at anchor in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador. We traveled with a Canadian couple from the yacht Fairwyn, Stephen and Nancy Carlman.

We will break this message into several parts so as not to tire you too much. It is difficult to compress the memories of 7 weeks and 5 countries into one message. We took approximately 250 photos and regret that we cannot share all of them as well. There is still hope one day for a web page where we could share more of them, difficult to arrange from some of our locations.

South America Part I – Ecuador and Peru

Having missed the city of Cuenca, Ecuador on our earlier trip we decided to transit Ecuador to Peru through the less-traveled mountain pass of Macara and La Tina. Cuenca is a lovely city with very narrow cobbled streets. It afforded us the first experience of a “new town”, the need to decide at the bus station which bus to take the next day, the need to find a “new hotel” for the night, the need to decide where to eat with the subsequent need to interpret the menu with all the new foods. If you consider that we did this every day for 49 days, you can begin to understand just how tiring it can be. Nevertheless, the whole routine soon became just that – routine.

The crossing through the mountains afforded some great vistas and we arrived in Peru at the end of a long bus ride, excited about a new stamp in our passports. The introduction to Peru was not a favorable one. We pressed on from the border to the coastal town of Chiclayo – a very long day. The desert area in this section of Peru is extremely poor. A change of busses in Piura required a taxi ride – so many taxis (Japanese Daewoods) that we felt mobbed by the drivers. OK, we chose you! But our bags must go on our laps in order to squeeze into the car. The entire west coast of Peru from the Andes to the Pacific is desert climate. The only locations of agricultural use are those where the mouth of the rivers empty into the ocean. The main part of the population live in Adobe huts, when they are lucky…more often in huts made of reed mats that tend to blow away with the tremendous winds and dust storms.

One of the advantages of the dry climate is its ability to maintain artifacts from Pre-Columbian times. The archeological sites of Tucume and Sipan close to Chiclayo were discovered by Huaqueros or grave robbers. Some of the artifacts “dug up” by the Hauqueros are displayed at the Bruning Museum in nearby Lambayeque. Here was our first introduction to the joy of Peru…a glimpse into the mysteries of past civilizations.

From Chiclayo we took a side trip over the Andes to the city of Cajamarca. Photo #1 is of our friends, Nancy and Stephen , with Sander during one of the bus stops along the way. After seven hours on the bus, we arrived after dark with no hotel reservations. Although this was seldom a problem on the trip, it offered a real challenge that night. A large group of children on a field trip from Trujillo were in town. The only rooms left were in a rambling Colonial building with 5 or 6 beds in a room and shared toilets. Sorry, Senora, we have no towels or toilet paper. Here, you must bring your own…another lesson learned. At least the late hours meant quiet times as the children were “sacked out”.

One of the reasons for the trip to Cajamarca was to meet and visit with some friends of the Carlmans. Richard works as a consultant to a local mining company. His job is to help the local community create alternative sources of income. The mine, the main employer of the locals, has a 20 year scheduled closing date. By that time the gold will be depleted. The gold in the mine is just tailings, but the recovery techniques have improved so much that even the tailings are worth the effort.

Richard was born in Venezuela and schooled in Britain. He lives in Lima and commutes to Cajamarca each week. Not only was he a source of countless interesting tidbits about the city and about Peru in general, but he also introduced us to his friend, Padre Miguel. After 40 years of working in Lima and the villages of the Andes, he is a retired Catholic priest with seemingly endless talents. Missing the physical activities of hiking between his parish villages, he studied Karate and is a black belt in the sport. The softer side is expressed in his art: the blues, greens and browns of the mountain villages. He is also a poet and writer of non-fiction. We were entertained one evening in his lovely home, high in the hills of the city. The second photo is of our two friends, Richard on the left and Padre Miguel.

Richard was able to explain the reason for a financial problem as well. Twice we had been told that our coins were no good and could not be accepted. Richard told us that counterfeiting coins in Peru is very common. More than 10% of the one sole coins are bad. He was able to show us ways to check our coins but added that it did not matter. There are so many in circulation that most are accepted. Richard collects coins as a hobby and finds the variations of “bad coins” quite interesting.

From Cajamarca our goal was the coastal city of Trujillo. The third photo is a vista from the bus during our decent. The bus rides were often tiring but nearly always a source of breath-taking scenes.

Jane and Sander