I never thought I’d actually make it to Peru. I set-out on many of these adventures not knowing entirely what’s going to happen – I try, and it’ll either work out or it won’t. So far, this trip has been a continual lovely surprise, albeit one that dictates some logistics and a lot of effort. I had arranged as much as possible before leaving Australia yet still spent my nights in Lima harassing shipping agencies for the Ecuador-Central America leg since Nicaragua imploded . . . as I said, sometimes things just don’t work out!
On Wednesday night though I finally had a breakthrough – the agent told me there was a ship leaving on Saturday from Guayaquil to Guatemala, could I make it? To save you googling, the journey from Lima to Guayaquil is 1497km. And I’d need to do this on my own since my friend had gone back to Melbourne after several very fun weeks with me since Buenos Aires. Google told me it was 23 hours, which is about the time it takes to drive from London to Kiev.
That is FAAAAAARRRRRRRR!!
1497km sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? Its 58 million inches if you were wondering, which you probably weren’t. To those accustomed to Australian roads where you can pootle along at 100kph for days, Peru and Ecuador are alike in the way that they also have roads. There ends the similarity. And so, rising at 5am after getting to bed at about midnight, I made my mind up to go for it. It would get me almost a week ahead of my proposed schedule. I surmised that if I could make the Ecuadorian border by midnight I could potentially reach the port for about mid-day Friday. All I needed to do on day one was to drive continuously for the next 19 hours.
The first 12 hours was actually pretty smooth apart from the heart racing any time I spotted policemen or military, so about every thirty minutes. My guardian angel distracted them, made them look different ways, had colleagues shout at them just as they were about to wave me down, it was wonderful! Incidentally, the variety in Peruvian landscapes was simply stunning: rice fields replaced rock fields replaced sand-dunes and dessert, all punctured by villages with the occasional house made of sticks and tarpaulin (no wolves around these parts). By 6pm though I was waning. Izzy sensed this too so handily blew a fuse, knocking out my dash and tail-lights. Fixing it, she blew another - it was going to need more time to fix. With only 350kms to the border, seeing what speed I was travelling and other vehicles seeing me at all seemed of little importance. I turned my rear spotlight on and kept moving. Izzy, clearly tiring too, decided that two working headlights was just too greedy. One, now that is a proper number. And as for numbers, it was about then that the police finally had mine: at 10pm, and for the first time this trip, the red-lights flashed to pull me over.
Pushing Boundaries and My Luck
After a bit of a chastening, I showed them the blown fuse and related my brand-new plan of staying the night at the next town (true) and finding an electrician tomorrow (lies). To my surprise they let me go on the condition I stopped as soon as I could. So, on the down side I was still 150km short of the border, on the upside I didn’t end up paying a bribe or receiving a fine. Besides, by that point I was so tired I didn’t even make the next town. I just found a truck-stop, checked my phone messages and slept like the dead. During the day when I had phone signal I had kept in touch with the shipping agencies wherever I could – would 3pm arrival at the port be ok? Would the contact be there to get Izzy on-board? This being all in Spanish by the way, since the only agency I found that occasionally returned messages couldn’t speak a word of English. 90% of the time the agent answered 50% of my questions.
The next day, I pressed on, expecting tiredness to hit again but it never came. The remote border crossing took an hour longer than expected since the lady couldn’t find UK/GB in the system (not many tourists this way!), so it had to be discussed at length with various backroom staff. Reino Unidos by the way, and you’re welcome. The closer I got to my destination though, the quieter my main shipping agent. Questions such as ‘which port am I going to?’ and ‘will I make it in time?’ were answered with comments like ‘oh you’re near?’ and complete silence. At 100km away I thought I’d phone her, to which I understood precisely nothing. More text messages followed, but with one that required some deciphering with a dictionary and google translate. It wasn’t good news: Saturday’s ship had just closed off accepting any new cargo. 1497km . . . do you know how many inches that is? I wondered how much I missed it by, just so I could then spend the next few days beating myself up where I had gone wrong. The answer? Wednesday, the day I received the quote. If you need me, I’ll be in therapy.
The blog will be a record of everything - from idea conception to old age in making this adventure happen
You can find the excellent 2006 Antipodean Adventure blog by Dwyer Rooney here