Peru is an amazing country; its landscapes and climates are remarkably diverse and its people are extremely warm and friendly - perhaps we were just fortunate to avoid the bad apples - but the fact is, everywhere we went we encountered genuine, outgoing, helpful people. Even the Policia were all smiles and waves as we passed (but I chalk that up to our initial donation to "Santa Rosa"!)
One riddle we were unable to solve was what we came to call "tollbooth roulette". In Peru, motos are not charged for the use of toll roads, but the trouble is the officials also won't allow motos to pass through a toll gate, even when there are no safe alternatives. In many cases as we'd approach a toll, an attendant would run out wildly gesticulating in some direction where we were expected to ride - often crossing up to 5 lanes of traffic (including oncoming lanes) just to get around the gates.
In one instance, in Lima, the attendant actually physically blocked the lane and insisted we ride around, but I had already inspected the by-pass, and even if our bikes would fit (which they would not) it was unsafe as it was gated above 4 feet in height! We kept explaining that we wouldn't fit, but he stood holding our handlebars and refusing us passage. Once I had his full attention, I told Petra over the radio to ride through. She did, and he was furious! I consoled him by asking him to show me again where he wanted me to ride, and then bolted the second he relaxed. He actually chased me and tried to tackle me off my bike - crazy!
In Ecuador, they charge us 20 US cents per bike to pass the tolls - we gladly pay.
There is a heightened police and military presence in Ecuador right now. They are concerned with narcotics trafficing and some form of civil unrest that's focussed in the major urban centres. We rode through multiple checkpoints on our way north, but were merely waved on our way.
As we stopped for water at a gas station outside Santa Rosa, a family pulled up in a car beside me - husband, wife, three boys, and grandmother - all curious about the bikes and our trip. The man was so excited he asked if he could photograph me with his wife and boys. I said, "sure", he took the photo, and then his wife wanted one with just the two of us and her arms around me! Hilarious.
Ecuador is one of the most bio-diverse countries, but most of the day was spent riding alongside banana plantations and passing slow, black-smoke belching banana trucks. Late in the afternoon we rode back into the Andes, now densely forested with tropical jungle.
Cabinas at the Hostal.
The river runs through it. Literally.
We ate a local meal at a restaurant in town. The road outside the restaurant was closed for repairs and the local kids were running soapbox races down the steep hill - they would fly past us at about 40kmh, careening out of control, bodies flying everywhere, peeing themselves laughing - only to run back up and do it over again. They got even more reckless once I had camera out!
Tomorrow we'll continue north towards Quito.