Two days ago Michael, Rolf and I left the comforting confines of Pariwana seeking sunshine and surf. We booked bus tickets to Trujillo. The bus was quite nice with comfortable seats and they showed a movie, but the fact that I was sitting next to an attractive womant that I didn't speak a word to made getting comfortable during the trip impossible. When we arrived in Trujillo in the morning I was disheveled and exhausted but ready for the new adventure. We then took and taxi ($6) to Huanchaco. We were hoping for sun and surf. Disappointment. The surf was there, but it was still draped in a curtain of grey skies and water was too cold to be inviting. So, we sat in the restaurant of a nice villa where we were considering staying and plotted our get-away. The idea of taking a bus farther north seemed to dominate the planning. As I sat there, exhausted from travel and a $6 taxi ride from the bus station, I was not enthusiastic about this idea. In a stroke of genius I suggested to Rolf that we try and hire the taxi driver to take us to Mancora. Part of me was kidding, but what the hell? Rolf managed to negotiate a trip north for $65 each. This included a good tip if the driver wasn't a total dingus. When we made this deal we were under the impression that we would be taking the shaky taxi that brought us from Trujillo. There was zero tread on the tires and the car was kind enough to thump in the back in the event I wanted to bust out in a rap. All these factors gave me no solace in my suggestion...the bus was looking good. Too late. We were taking the taxi and we began to feel the excitement. A bit of luck, the original taxi driver had sub-contracted this job out to his brother in law who had a much nicer car (Renault I believe). When I say it was a much nicer car I'm not saying that because the car was so nice, but because the original taxi was a piece of shit and this was much nicer than a piece of shit. This was a car. We smashed ourselves into all the various crevaces of the Renault and expected to head north to Mancora. Well, first, we had to stop for gas...of course. So, off to Manocora...nope. Gotta stop and say goodbye to the driver's wife. Now we're off...nope. Tires need checked. Okay, off...nope. Here's a nice place to buy cake....Okay, off...nope, we have to take a look at the main square, which was nice. So, off...yes, we're off, but we seem to be heading in the opposite direction. Oh well, what do I know? I sit back and we begin the optimistic journey to find sun.
Once we actually get on the road and headed north, it is really evident how poor, random and dirty the outskirts of Peru are. There seems to be no rhyme or reason for why "houses" are where they are. Often they are merely a collection of dirt colored bricks (kind of cinder block shaped). There was an unusual amount of liter scatter all along the beginning portion of our trip. No worries. We're onto good times.
After an hour, we stop for lunch. This cantina would have been perfectly cast for a movie. There was a counter, some tables and one woman working. It was clean, however. We ordered and the food (per usual) was really good. I think Rolf's seafood soup took the prize. This was about a cauldron of crab, shrimp, fish, clams, scallops and vegetables. I had a steak and rice and although it wasn't anything special, it was impressive for the surroundings. Our meal was chaperoned by a group of police. They are really everywhere in this country. Normally they put me at ease. This time I was more nervous. Perhaps it was the M-16 assault riffle one of them was carrying (rather slack as well). They simply ate and left though. Okay, off...well for a bit, then we have to stop at the control. It cost about a $4 toll every couple hours of driving. This causes a heated discussion between Rolf and our taxi driver. The driver wants us to pay. Rolf explains the price was already negotiated and that all costs were included in this price. Plus, how many times could there be such a thing? I mean we're only traveling about an inch on the map. Through the control check, and off...so Michael and I notice the driver, Walter (from Peru and spoke no English), is nodding off while he is driving. The squawking begins. We try to keep Walter awake. How long can the trip be anyway? Good thing I'm so tired because I couldn't sleep on the bus. This will allow me to sleep in the car...nope. We hit a speed bump going about a million miles an hour. Lo siento senores!! No big deal, Walter was an aggressive driver, but this bump was probably an anomaly. Nope...we kamakazied into speed bumps with all too much frequency. Rolf loses his temper and begins a very stern but eloquent tirade on Walter's driving (which included ridiculous passing in stressed out situations). Bravo Rolf! Walter begins to drive more tranquilo. But then his narcolepsy kicks back in. Ugh! How long could this trip be anyway? We've got to be getting close. Just keep Walter awake. After we've been driving for hours someone sees a sign that seems to suggest that we are only two hours away. No problem. The adrenaline and survival instinct have me wide awake. Two hours is nothing. More control checks. More discussions as to who's responsible. Michael advances Walter some money to table this discussion and Walter uses that to pay the tolls. The conversation is lively and it's very interesting having world and political perspectives from people from 3 different countries (Walter abstained from this discussion). Walter begins to fade again. WTF??? Michael volunteers that he has an international drivers license and was willing to drive. I couldn't believe this, because there is no effin' way I would get behind the wheel in this country. So Michael takes over and Walter is out like a light. Gone. Catatonic. Maybe dead...it begins to feel like some bad Peruvian version of Weekend at Bernie's. Michael drives quite impressively. Plus, we have to be almost there, right? More controls. More tolls. We ask, how far? Another two hours they tell us? What??? That's what we figured two hours ago. Oh well, Michael is now driving. We feel safer and we've settled into our grove. Walter is still dead. Rolf in his capacity as translator finally hits the wall and takes a nap. WIth Walter dead, Michael and I are the only ones awake. I feel the need to stay awake with him. It's dark now and the roads are windy and the bump thing is still a problem, but we figure out the signs. There is a sign that looks like a pregnant number 1. Somewhere after that sign (no certain distance) there will be a bump. This seems to be their way of controlling speed without speed limits. So the launching within the car chapter seems to be over, but the dark, fast switchback section wants a turn. We come to what seems to be a fairly large city. We make sure we are going the right direction and ask how much farther? About two more hours. Is this the only answer they are allowed to give? Well Michael and I stay awake and get through toll booths with stressed Spanish and a continuous hope that eventually the final two hour clock on this trip will begin to count down. We've been driving now for what seems like forever. I'm so tired I can no long speak German, English or Spanish. Another control station. We pay the toll and ask how much farther (If she says two hours I'm going kick her right in the clam). She says one hour. She can live (unlike Walter who appears to be dead in the passenger seat. How in the hell did he agree to do this when he's either narcoleptic or obviously very tired?) After a half hour Michael asks me how much farther do I think. We'd been going for a half our since we were told an hour. I say, a half hour? I think at this point that was too much to hear. He's incredulous. We see a real street sign finally that says Mancora 23K (about 15 miles). There is a sense of hope. Rolf wakes up. We tell him we're about two hours out. We begin to laugh again. Walter is still dead. We arrive in Mancora to find that my Visa card works again (fucking YES!) and after a stupidly long in-processing we get to the bar by the pool. $12 night and in paradise!
Viva mas amigos!