Last days in Ecuador:
41km to San Pablo 4th Oct
132km to Guayaquil 5th Oct
10km in Guayaquil 6th Oct
61km to Reserva de Manglares, Churute 7th Oct
105km to El Guabo (just outside Machala) 8th Oct
Arriving in Peru:
105km to Tumbes, Peru! 9th Oct
83km to Punta Sal 11th Oct
25km to Mancora 12th Oct
80km to Talara 13th Oct
83km to Sullana 14th Oct
35km to Piura 15th Oct
137km to “Restaurant Oasis” in the desert on the way to Chiclayo 16th Oct
80km to Chiclayo 17th Oct
977km since my last blog
2,830km in South America
24,338km so far
Peru, land of llamas, panpipes and the mysteries of the Incas. As a cyclist, so far, it’s the land of the over-used car horn, petrol tankers who can’t use their brakes, and the very very windy Sechura desert. It’s a very very tough place to cycle. In between the nightmare roads, the cities are designed in an ‘art-deconcrete’ style. Ugly and ridiculous. On a plus point the beer is a step up from Ecuador.
Montañita, Ecuador’s surf central was a great place but we had to leave eventually. But as we left, Silver’s ten-speed shifter broke. I spent nearly the whole day with Xavier from Spondylus bikes in Montañita who drove me to Santa Elena in a forlorn search for an exact replacement for a ten speed shifter. I ended up replacing the shifter for an 8 speed, an 8 gear cassette, and chain and derailleur, and had a big hole in my pocket, and another night in Montañita. Oh well. We were able to continue and I was very grateful.
It’s a long way to Guayaquil and as there is a road with which cuts out the need to go via Salinas, San Pablo was the last town of any description so we stopped there. It’s more of a locals beach. It has a few places to eat and a small choice of hostels but it’s ok.
The road to Guayaquil was paved with good intentions. Bicycle path for 10km, space for bikes on the side for most of the way, another 50km or so of bike path, until an abrupt end with a bunch of roadworks leaving you on the wrong side of a dual carriageway simply nothing to tell you how to get back onto a cycle path or into the city.
We spent a day in Guayaquil searching for bike parts. There was bicimania and ciclopro, among others, in the northern part of town. It was expensive but we found a 10 speed shifter. Then we rode our bikes just 10km to find cheaper accommodation. at Guayaquil had bike paths which were ignored by cars parking in them.
Getting out of the city was also a nightmare, with huge roads like motorways where we needed to cross the bridge to Durán. Terrible road design and very frustrating to have an additional 5km to cycle just to find a turning point.
We spent a night in the Manglares de Churute reserve. We camped outside the office at the reserve for free. It was very near the road though, so we didn’t get a great night’s sleep. Plus the mosquitoes are everywhere. But it was free.
After a stopping to fix a few spokes on Paola’s back wheel, we avoided Machala by spending our last night in Ecuador in El Guabo.
Crossing the border at Huaquillas was easy and took about 30 minutes.
But then we were treated to narrow roads with trucks who would beep at us but not slow down, frequently forcing us from the road. Welcome to Peru!
The city of Tumbes is beautiful, if you’re blind and deaf. An unecessary number of colorful concrete structures in the art-deconcrete style give it a sixties ‘knock me down and start again’ feel to the place. But these structure are only about ten years old. It is on a river and the malecon was being dug up for work on pipes but we could walk on the giant ugly promenade which is something else.
Luckily there was a food festival in Tumbes and it was excellent. we loved the Traditional dancing, local food such as ceviche, and tacu tacu (both are types of seafood) and even quinoa ice cream.
Punta Sal was upmarket and expensive but had a beautiful beach while Máncora was much more affordable and was much livelier. We did just 25km to get to Mancora which was kind of a rest day. And while there, a knock on our chalet door was followed by an introduction to another cyclist, Naoki. He is teacher from Japan who having done normal travelling in Africa, flew to New York, bought a bike, had his bike stolen, bought another bike and with occasional stops to work in Japanese restaurants on the way, cycled all the way down to where we are right now. He has never cycled before which makes it even more impressive.
Cycling to Talara and then to Sullana were both difficult days. Worst of all, the charger for Paola’s motor had broken so she had no assistance. With some steep hills, and strong wind the going was slow, and painful. Adding insult to injury, there was a sign actually saying “no cyclists”, giving drivers permission to drive dangerously at us as if we didn’t exist. Ecuador was far from cycle friendly but at least the government were trying. It seems Peru’s transport planners crawled out from under a rock .
Paola’s knees had been hurting a lot as she had spent 2 days fighting the wind and the hills. We took a brief ride to Piura where we tried to get her charger fixed by an electrician. We couldn’t fix it so called the nice guys at the shop in Bogota to send out a new one. I knew the next stage would be even tougher and asked her to save her knees and take a bus. Reluctantly she took the bus to Chiclayo.
My footprint South American handbook says: “Sechura desert is a large area of shifting sands separating the oases of Chiclayo and Piura…Solo cyclists should not cross the desert as muggings have occurred. In the desert, there is no water, no fuel, and no accommodation. Do not attempt this alone.”
I wasn’t alone and Naoki bravely agreed to attempt to do over 200km with me to arrive in one day. It was a long shot, but quite flat, and a distance I had done before. And for 80km it was all going quite well. But then we were hit by headwind. Which we battled with for 60 more km. we saw signs saying “zona de Dunas” (dunes area) but it just looked like flat sand. I joked that the wind had blown away all the dunes. Luckily at 137km there was a restaurant called Oasis Restaurant. We could get drinks and rest. As our speed had dropped to just 13kph, it was obvious we would be cycling for many more hours in the dark. Dangerous and very unpleasant.
So we asked the owner if we could camp there.
“Of course” said Pancho. He even had some kind of storeroom outside where we were protected from the wind. We ate, we showered (with a bucket) and slept well.
Without wifi, I spent the night hoping that Paola had arrived safely in Chiclayo.
The headwind continued without ever letting up in the morning. We started from 7am we crawled along at 10kph for 5 hours. I cursed the wind and occasionally hoped that instead of beeping at us to move off the road, one of the trucks might stop and offer a lift. Of course they never did. We actually did pass many sanddunes during this stretch but still with very few trees or buildings to protect us from the persistent headwind.
The first respite came after 50km when there were trees by the road. We made it to Mórrope and shovelled down some rice at a restaurant. Then there were roadworks which slowed us down as we lost Tarmac and this plus the wind for about 10km made me curse a little.
As we finally reached Chiclayo I was delighted to be able to sit and draft behind a mototaxi going 25kph. I loved pedaling fast at last and even though I got a puncture as we rolled into the centre, I have never been so pleased to arrive anywhere. Paola was safe and had enjoyed an easy and comfy bus trip.
It was time for a drink….
Ed, Thirsty Cyclist.