I’ve always been jealous of my big sister Clare’s exotic start in life. She was born in the edge of the Rift Valley in Kenya, while my parents were working as a teacher and doctor there. I on the other hand, was the baby they had once home, in the same village my Mum still lives in. Perhaps that’s the reason why I’ve inherited the family wanderlust gene, while my sister, although very adventurous, prefers staying closer to home. So I was absolutely thrilled when I got her message that she would like to come and visit us somewhere in South America. The girls were even more excited than me, as she is an absolutely fabulous Aunt (and they are blessed with two great other ones too). All the things that Mummy doesn’t have time/patience/tolerance for is enjoyed with relish with Auntie Clare. So it was with high excitement that we picked her up at Trujillo airport.
Three days before we had exited Ecuador and entered Peru at. We’d come down from the mountains via the jungle to the costal desert, all in a 5 hour drive. The countries had conveniently placed both their migration departments in the same building, as well as the Peruvian customs. However the Ecuadorians still had their customs post 5km before the border in an unsignposted building just off the highway. We had been warned that this might happen but still managed to sail past it, as it looked closed. After a quick backtrack to deposit our Ecuadorian temporary import permit for the truck, we returned for one of the fastest border crossings so far.
The town of Tumbes (100,000 inhabitants) was our first port of call to restock our food and buy a data card. We try not to cross borders with an excess amount of food, as some countries have issues with you importing fresh produce. We tend to shop for a week or so, as it gives us more opportunities to get away from towns. However as much as we asked around Tumbes didn’t seem to have any large food shops, just a couple of tiny mini-marts. Steve did eventually find the market and managed to ferry back several loads of fruit and veg, while the girls were doing school on a quiet side street. He managed to get enough to keep us going for a few days anyway.
After a seriously tiring day for Steve with an 8 hour drive, a border crossing and an shopping trip that involved a lot of exploration, he was ready to put his feet up with a beer to watch the sunset at our beach campsite. Unfortunately it was not to be, as we crossed the seemly solid dirt towards the beach the front tyres started to dig in. Then the back tyres did, underneath the crust there was just soft, soft sand. With our weight, we just went down. As Steve tried to reverse back with four wheel drive, we managed to dig ourselves in. It was so soft, that within a matter of seconds we were dug in almost up to the axles. Steve’s beer was starting to look very distant. Out came the sand ladders (for the first time this trip), shovels and luckily several pairs of extra hands. We all shovelled like crazy, carefully placing the ladders under the back wheels and large stones under the front. After about an hour Steve managed to reverse back onto the stone and ladders. But where to go from there? We’d turned into that spot and there was now a large 2m high thorn bush right behind us. We couldn’t turn at all as soft sand was all around apart from directly behind us. So unfortunately, the bush drew the shortest straw as Steve reversed straight over it. Parked up on firmer ground and once everything was sorted, Steve eventually got the beer he so deserved.
The following day we did jobs, relaxed on the beach and Steve found somewhere to watch the first game of the World Cup. Maybe we’ve been spoilt by Central America but the desert backed beach won’t get on any of our highlights list. However we did get to see some of Peru’s hairless dogs. Mmm…..not what I’d call cute!
The 650km drive to Trujillo was too long to tackle in one day, so we split into two chunks. The driving was easy and the desert scenery although impressive became a little monotonous. Unlike Ecuador the roadsides were filled with rubbish, blowing across the sand and gravel and it was a lot poorer.
Eventually, we pulled into the desert seaside village of Huanchaco. Although pleasantly warm for us, it is winter here, so it had that out of season emptiness to it. Fishermen here use small reed boats and line them up on the beach to dry afterwards. It is impressive to see them battling the big surf in their tiny, seemingly fragile boats with just a split bamboo pole to paddle them.
Whilst the town had an out of season feel to it, it was a relaxing place to base ourselves for a few days. There were some nice seafood restaurants, the beer was cold and all the bars were showing the football so Steve was happy. He made us all go to see the England v Italy game but the girls soon got bored and obviously the result did not go our way.
My sister arrived the following day and we happily ensconced ourselves at the pleasant green RV park there. It was a great place to relax and catch up. Several other overlanders were staying, including the French family we’ve bumped into 6 times since Mexico. All the kids made the most to their time together in the pool. We did a couple of day trips from there to the nearby town of Trujillo where they were preparing for the festival of Corpus Christi in a few days time and also to the ruined desert city of Chan Chan.
Trujillo is another Colonial town with some fine buildings and a pleasant square which we wandered around for a few hours before heading back.
Chan Chan is the largest adobe city in the world and dates back to the 1300s. With it been adobe a lot of it has been washed away by the rain over the years but an area has been preserved/rebuilt and it was pretty impressive.