From lush green mountains to dry and dusty desert

It was a very early start today as I had a 7am bus to catch to take me over the border and into Peru. I had bought my ticket the day before so that I didn’t run the risk of them being sold out. I needn’t have worried as there were plenty of available seats, which was lucky as I had ended up with seat no 1 which was right behind the driver and had no leg room, so I was able to move to a seat further back.

View from the bus
View from the bus
Waiting for the bus driver to have lunch in Macora
Waiting for the bus driver to have lunch in Macora

We spent the day travelling up and over some extremely high passes. The scenery was spectacular. After an hour and one pass, we stopped at the small town of Catamayo so that the driver and conductor could have breakfast. I decided to take the opportunity and have a much needed cup of coffee. Milk seemed to pose a bit of a problem but I was eventually presented with a cup of very pale milky liquid. Not much caffeine in that so Israel, a Spanish speaking English man who was travelling with his Dutch partner Effje, asked for more coffee. I was given a jar of dried up instant and just about managed to dig out enough granules to give the liquid a marginal bit of colour if not taste!

After that, it was onwards and upwards. At times we were on level with the mountain tops in the distance and the clouds were beneath us. The mountains were all very green. We stopped at various towns where locals got on and off but by the time we reached Macora, near the border, there were only 9 foreigners and one Spanish speaking (possibly Ecuadorian) couple left on the bus. Here, we stopped for the driver and conductor to have lunch. The bus station was small with some fairly undesirable bathrooms but needs must……

Interesting topiary in Macara
Interesting topiary in Macara

I had a wander around the town, which had an airport next to the main plaza, which must have been very convenient for whatever passengers alighted, as well as some ‘interesting’ and motivational murals on the side of the Catholic school. We were there for about 30 minutes and it was then a very short drive to the border and immigration. It took about an hour to process us all, with the Ecuadorians being turned away on the Peruvian side for incomplete/inadequate documentation. Otherwise, for the rest of us, it was all very straight forward and friendly. I wasn’t asked for my ticket out of Peru so booking my bus onwards into Bolivia was unnecessary, but you never know.

Once we were on the road again, the scenery changed dramatically within a short space of time. We went from lush green mountains to flat dry desert. Around Macora, there were a number of rice paddies and some sugar cane but into Peru, the terrain was very, very dry and dusty with dirt roads in the towns and villages and very poor housing. Tuk tuks were everywhere.

One of the Peruvian towns we passed through
One of the Peruvian towns we passed through

We reached Piura at about 4pm. We had not arrived at the anticipated bus terminal and the bus driver himself did not seem to know where to go and had had to ask for directions several times. As soon as we got off the bus, we were hassled by taxi drivers, which raised my stress levels immediately. All around us was bedlam. In addition, no one had Peruvian money as there had been nowhere to get any at the border. I tagged along with the English/Dutch couple (which I am sure they really appreciated) and Israel negotiated with a taxi driver to take us to a bank, then to my hotel and then to take them to the bus terminal for the bus to Chiclayo. I don’t know what I would have done without them (cried, I expect!)

This was all achieved and I arrived at my hotel, where I was made to feel very welcome. I had air con and a sort of outside window, and it was a nice room. I set off for the shopping centre down the road and the supermarket contained within, in anticipation of a cold beer. However, once out on the street, I felt more alive than I had done in Ecuador as the streets were buzzing. Traffic chaos reigned and it seemed to be each man/tuk tuk for himself! There were traffic lights at intersections, some of which even had pedestrian lights but it was still necessary to pay attention as there was a danger of being run over by a tuk tuk or motorbike. There was much tooting of horns!!

Water tanker 'damping' down the dust in Piura
Water tanker ‘damping’ down the dust in Piura

I ended up walking quite a long way towards the centre but it was a bit too far to reach and return to the hotel before dark so I got as far as I comfortably could and then returned to the supermarket, which was very large and had a good range of everything. What a difference to the Tia supermarkets in Ecuador! I made my purchases for the evening, noted the lovely range of wine (but decided I couldn’t possibly add a bottle of wine to my already overweight baggage) and returned to the hotel for a much needed shower, beer and food in my lovely air conditioned room.

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