Monday, 27th October
The journey to the border between Ecuador and Peru was uneventful with only the occasional army or police official poking their heads inside the bus with a torch to see that everything was in order. The lights went on around 3am when we were ushered off the bus as we had come to the Ecuadorian-Peruvian border. It’s a low-key affair with a portacabin serving as the immigration office for Ecuador. We passed our passports through an iron-railing to get our exit stamps. Then we walked over the river that acts as the natural border between the two countries and we are officially in Peru. We visited another portacabin on the Peruvian side of the river and got our entry stamp. No money changing hands and very simple, not even any customs officials here to give our bags the once over. There was an angry dog though that looked as if it was going to bite as it chased after a couple of people from our bus but it retreated at the last minute. The dogs here can be nasty but we have been told if we get barked at to pick up a stick or pretend to pick up a stone and throw it at the dog. That should see them off.
We boarded the bus again and began the short ride to Piura, a Northern Peruvian city and the capital of the Piura Province. It has a population of nearly 400,000 so it’s a sizable city. It was here that Spanish Conqueror Francisco Pizarro founded the third Spanish city in South America and the first in Peru, San Miguel de Piura, in July 1532. It declared it’s independence from the Spanish crown on 4 January 1821. It’s known as the city of the eternal heat as it’s hot all year around, something we can attest to after spending a day walking around in the sun. The climate here is desert-like and this is evident in the landscape also. On the drive into the city you could see the dust blowing off the ground and there’s a sandy, brown colour to everything. The drive in also took us through what looked ike wastelands, with rubbish and rubble strewn between housing. I was surpsied to find this was the outskirts of the city. The city itself appears uninspiring upon first impressions and we are glad we aren’t stopping here for long.
We arrived at the bus terminal in Pirua around 8am. To call it a bus terminal is an exaggeration as every bus company here has their own ‘terminal’ which is basically a parking lot beside a ticket office and waiting room. We got the usual hassle from cab drivers as we got off the ‘Loja International’ bus but we stood our ground and tell them ‘no’ and to basically leave us alone. They soon lost interest. We were then unsure what to do as we had a variety of destinations we could go to, being in Northern Peru and near to the coast, but we decided on heading straight to Lima. The popular places to go from here are on the coast and beach towns. We aren’t in the mood for beaches and it seems like a hassle getting there anyway. We knew that we could get a direct overnight bus to Lima from Piura and set about trying to find a bus company that would take us there. After consulting a helpful lady in the terminal we arrived in, we set off laden with our backpacks in search of the ‘Cruz del Sur’ office. We didn’t get that far though as we spied another bus company that would do the job – ‘Tepsa’. We enquire within their office about buses to Lima and find out there’s a bus leaving that day at 5pm. I left Kirsty with the bags and looked around some more for the ‘Cruz Del Sur’ terminal to compare but couldn’t find it. I did find some other companies though offering the same journey but in less comfort. After getting some ‘Neuvo Sol’ out of an ATM (the Peruvian currency) we settled on taking the ‘Tepsa’ bus at 5pm that would get us to Lima at 9am the next morning. That means a day of wandering around Pirua in the heat and in a dazed state of having just come off an overnight bus. We felt we can cope though. Two nights, two overnight buses and around 1,200 miles travelled. A total of around 24 hours inside a bus.
After buying our tickets and checking our luggage at the terminal we walked to the ‘Plaza de Armes’, the central square in Pirua, to find a cafe for some breakfast and wifi to book a hostel in Lima. Before we checked our luggage though I realised I had left my sleeping bag on the bus from the night before so I hightailed it back to the terminal and luckily the bus was still there. I bumbled through some spanish alerting them to my problem and I managed to get the sleeping bag back. We took it onboard as sometimes the buses can be cold. This one was too hot however. The ‘Plaza de Armes’ is a nicely gardened town square with lots of people sitting around it as you usually around these squares. Near to the square we found a cafe, ‘Don Parco’, where we had some eggs (scrambled) and a coffee. We then walked to the main square again where Kirsty spotted it’s had free wifi. We make use of this fact and successfully book a hostel in Lima so we have nothing to think about now until we get there. Next stop was a post office to buy some stamps for our soon to be bought postcards. It’s an unusual experience as after I am ignored several times I ask if I can buy stamps there, the lady replies ‘yes’ and promptly walks off. About five minutes later she returns and I ask again, this time I actually get some stamps.
We wandered around some more, going down to the river for a look but finding the river bone dry with some cows grazing in it. We walked back to another cafe for a cold drink and to get out of the sun. It’s starting to warm up by now. We spent the rest of the day whiling away the hours. We had a late lunch at a lovely little place near to the Plaza de Armes called ‘La Huerta’. We both had the lunch of the day which consisted of a soup, juice and a chicken and rice dish. It was nice and the restuarant was a nice little place with a bustling atmosphere. People diving in for a quick lunch, that kind of thing. With lunch done we settled the bill and walked the short distace back to the bus terminal via a supermarket for some bus snacks. We have learnt our lessons from the past and don’t buy that much these days, just some nuts and crisps. Too often we get left with snacks which we cart around with us and add to the load.
The bus terminal waiting room wasn’t an inspiring place but when the bus turned up all shiny and gleaming we were pleased we had booked with ‘Tepsa’. We had checked our luggage so that was taken care of, all we had to do to take our seats was to show our ticket, get our identification checked and place a fingerprint next to our name on a passenger manifest. The first time we’ve had to do that. The bus was comfortable, we needed it after the last one. I was so tired from the little sleep the night before and from the day of wandering and waiting that I fell sleep pretty much as soon as I was on the bus, waking for the dinner they served, which was surpisingly good and served airplace style. It was chicken and rice again, with a bean puree. This is seemingly a popular dish here, we had something very similar for lunch. There were no borders to wake for which was a pleasant change so we could fall alseep knowing that when we woke we would almost be in Lima. The total journey would take around 15 hours non-stop.