16 tonne turning circle and skulls under churches

Trip Start Dec 21, 2009
Trip End Jul 17, 2010

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Flag of Ecuador  ,
Friday, May 28, 2010

We drove like the wind to leave the Isla Ballestas behind us and made our way towards Lima. We got to the outskirts of Lima somewhere around 5.30 to 6pm, which truth be told, makes Juan and Sam (our drivers and leaders) a little nervous. Read on to find out why.

When chatting to the boys over a beer, the question inevitably comes down to what do you like / hate most about your job. The love part is easy, travelling around a beautiful continent and having passengers like Nic and I (no brainer really). The hate part is the interesting bit. Passengers with bad attitudes is one and driving into a big South American city in the evening is the other one. After travelling with them for a while, I most definitely see their point.

Contrary to popular belief, driving around in a big truck in a town full of small cars should mean that we get the right of way all the time. In actual fact, the opposite is true. The locals view our orange truck full of gringos like a lion looks at a wounded buffalo, bigger in size but weaker in spirit. Little do they know that both our drivers give as good as they get and the rest of us are happy to pull the window down and let the locals know what we think of them if they try to cut us off. We approached the outskirts of town with the sun setting and streetlights (the few that existed) coming to life. We were told to look for exit 11 which would take us to the right part of the city. Exit 9, exit 10a, exit 10b, exit 12, detour, exit 14...... Sam looks at us and asks us if we just missed exit 11. Yes we missed it but that's because it never existed. Sam lets out a small expletive, Juan continues to calmly twirl his hair with one hand, torch in the other hand, focussed on the map. We take a turn off into a bunch of narrow streets with no lights and extremely tight corners, the sort of corners that we have to cut across both lanes to negotiate successfully. Try doing that during peak hour in a 16 tonne truck blaring music with 20+ passengers who are eagerly awaiting hot showers and promised wireless internet. Eventually we arrive at the hotel with Juan and Sam as chilled as ever. Poor roads, terrible drivers, bad light, grumpy passengers, crooked cops and detours that lead us away from obstacles but never remotely back to our intended destination are what they have to deal with on a daily basis.

The next day we checked out the sights of Lima and went out to Miraflores. There, we dined at Astrid y Gaston, a fine dining establishment which was the sort of gastronomic therapy that we were after. While we were in Lima, we also visited the San Francisco monastery. Normally I’m not a fan of monasteries and churches but this one promised real bones and skulls buried underneath the church. If you’re claustrophobic, don’t go. You’ll have to go into chambers which will most definitely test your nerve.

The next couple of days would see us make our way towards Banos via landmarks such as Huaraz and Huanchaco. If you’re interested in these towns then look them up yourself. To be honest, they’ve done well to even rate a mention. Apologies to the tourist boards of these respective towns, you can put my lack of enthusiasm down to the cold I was suffering. We did make our way to the Chan Chan ruins which is an ancient town built from adobe mud bricks with intricate carvings on the walls. If you’re into adobe mud brick cities with intricate wall carvings, then this is a place for you.

A quick skip into and out of a town called Cuenca, famous as being the birthplace of the Panama hat (no they’re not made in Panama) and it was Nic’s turn to be violently ill with a stomach bug and we hit the town of Banos.

This probably wasn’t the most exciting blog entry ever but as world famous philosopher Homer Simpson once said, "Meh..." I do promise that the next one will be a cracker though. In it, I find out that humans weren’t made to inhale water and pay good money to jump off a bridge. We also experience the rain in rainforest which puts our tent-site-selection skills to the test.
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