After leaving the Chachapoyas Valley in the Amazon, we cycle between the rice fields to Jaén. Sometimes it feels like we have changed continents. Even though we haven’t been to Asia yet, this is how we imagine the landscape there with the rice terraces. In Jaén, the last big city before the border, we take a day to organise everything: PCR test, legal declaration, finally showering again, stock up the food supplies…. Then we are ready for the last 150 km to the border. Two intense days, because these 150 km are not completely flat, but the landscape remains beautiful. We still drive between rice fields, banana and papaya fields. It is nice to camp in this heat (apart from the mosquitoes…). A few more hills and bends and we finally approach the border. The stress gradually increases on the last few kilometres. Arriving at La Balsa, there are not many people. The customs officials ignore us completely. When we tell them that we want to go to Ecuador, they refer us to the immigration office. The answer is mixed: we need a special permit from the authorities to leave Peru by land. If we want to continue anyway, they can’t stop us, but we would have to pay a fine of 4 soles per day for the rest of our lifes. If we wanted to return to Peru one day, we would have to pay the balance. We don’t mind the fine, we have no intention of returning to Peru, we have crossed the whole country from south to north already. We decide to talk to the Ecuadorian customs officials to see if they would let us in. We have to climb over the bridge barrier to get around the fences built on the bridge. The Ecuadorian customs officers see us coming and come to us. Their answer is clear: there is no way to cross this bridge, no special permit, no exception. But they also precise that they are only responsible for the bridge. If we want to cross the river a bit further, it’s none of their business…. Basically, they tell us that we could cross the border illegally. But this idea scares us too much, we are afraid of getting into trouble if we want to fly to the Galapagos Islands. Disappointed and completely demoralised, we cycle 6 km back to the village of Namballe. We knew that the land border was officially closed, but several people had said that they would let us probably through and we wanted to believe it too much. Too bad, we’ll have to take a plane.
In Namballe we look for a bus that goes back to Jaén, but the next one does not leave until 5am the next day. A very nice family invites us to spend the night in their house and spoils us with home-caught fish for dinner. Shortly after 5am we drive to San Ignacio, a small town 40 km away. Then we take another bus to Jaén, where we arrive around 10am. We go to Miguel, the owner of the shop El Ciclista, who had already helped us during our first stay in the city, to discuss the possible options. Flights from Jaén are very expensive, from Chiclayo and Lima it would be much cheaper. Around 11:30 we go to the bus station and ask about timetables and prices to Lima. At noon a bus leaves for Chiclayo. On a spontaneous decisions we take it, even though we are not yet sure how to proceed. The road is winding and it takes us 6 hours to cover the 300 km. Arriving in Chiclayo, we try to find a night bus to Lima, that would save us another 100 euros per person. We have to discuss for an hour until they are willing to transport our bikes. Besides, our credit cards are not accepted and we are out of cash, so we have to withdraw money in a hurry. We only have fifteen minutes left to buy something to eat (we already had no time to eat lunch), then we finally leave for Lima. It is a long journey, but we are so exhausted that we sleep like babies.
With a little delay, we arrive in Lima at 9am. We tried to buy our plane tickets on the internet, but the payments were not going through. The flight we planned leaves at 2.25pm the same day, it will be tight to do everything. First, we go to the bike shop we called before to get some boxes of bikes. Each one a box under the arm, we pedal the last few km to the airport. It’s already 10.30am and they tell us at the entrance that there are no more tickets for sale at the airport and that we can’t enter if we don’t have a ticket. Fortunately, there are travel agencies opposite, so Kati runs over there. The saleswoman is not very fast and nothing works: first, the payment by card is refused several times before it is finally accepted at the 4th time, then it’s the printing of the tickets that doesn’t work anymore. Given the urgency, they agree to send them to us by WhatsApp. At 11.30am, we are finally allowed to enter the airport and we start to dismantle our bikes. The check-in closes at 1.15pm, at 1pm we go there with the boxes still open so we can weigh them before closing them for good. But the next problem appears on the horizon: Normally, we have to show a return ticket to be able to immigrate to Ecuador. We explain our case of travelling by bike and after several minutes of discussion they finally agree. The check-in is already closing and we still have to close the boxes. The two employees are very friendly and help us to put the plastic around the boxes, they tell us to take the bags as hand luggage (even if we don’t have any in our tariff) and they only charge us for the two bikes, without the extra luggage and extra kg of the bikes. Probably, they just wanted to get rid of us. We go through security where they take our Swiss Army knife and a screw key because we wanted to put the bag in the hold initially and we forgot to put them in the other bag. We arrive at the boarding gate just on time. We take our seats in the plane, finally we can rest while the earth moves away from us. Adiós Peru!
To see all photos, please click here:
Our last days in Peru