The Journal  

16 January 2006


Author: Jeremiah

Photographer: Holly


Mancora , Peru

January 6-7

The trip from Baños to Machala , the last major Ecuadorian town on the Pan-American as it nears the border with Peru , was supposed to take nine hours by bus. Leaving Baños at daylight we got another early start, getting back to the Pan-American in slightly over half an hour. The road south continues to rise in elevation through the central mountains as it circles around the Chimborazo Volcano, the nation's highest peak at nearly 21,000 feet. The road reached 12,750 feet, the highest of our trip, with the elevation and the view of Chimborazo 's southern slope combining for a breathtaking break that we took beside the road.


Burros roam the valleys below the snow-capped Chimborazo peak in the Andes Mountains in Ecuador.


Jeremiah and I pull the Guzzi over to admire the volcanic peak.


The elevation on the GPS reads 12,455 feet.


Ecuadorian and Peruvian indigenous women wear these Fedora-like hats.

The South American roads that we had experienced since Bogotá had all been well-designed and clearly marked good pavement. But as we descended from the central Andean highlands to Ecuador 's coast, the highway returned to Central American conditions, pot-holed and rough, with corners worn to a washboard surface. Within an hour it took us from the finger numbing coldness of the mountains to sweltering-inside-our-riding-suits lowland heat.

As we neared Machala , our planned destination for the night, we had plenty of daylight left, so we decided to continue on to Huaquillas, a border town 50 miles to the south. It was 3 o'clock when we reached the town, seeing the Ecuadorian immigration office that sat on its edge. With a few hours left before dark, we decided to push our luck and attempt a crossing. We parked beside a Yamaha V-Max with Colombian plates as we walked up to queue into the line for passport stamps. The wait was short and within half an hour we were on our way to get our bike through customs.


We saw several other motorcycle travelers with Colombian license plates stopped at the Ecuadorian immigration office.

At the international bridge that crosses the dry stream that separates the two countries, customs officials didn't seem to know what to do with us. Eventually we followed a hapless office worker onto the bridge where he took a picture of us and the Guzzi, somehow official proof that we had left the country together.

The Peruvian customs office guarded the bridge's southern exit. In 10 minutes we had a blue aduana sticker on our windshield and a temporary importation paper in our tankbag. Two clicks down the road, there was no line at the immigration office and in minutes we were leaving with stamped passports. We had crossed the border into Peru in less than one hour.

Our journey into Peru was met by a reception committee of American muscle. Just past the border, I saw the distinctive lights and grill of a Dodge Charger approaching. As we continued on every other car on the road was vintage American, a mix of Impalas, Chevelles, Riverias and Galaxies. All had been modified, with roof racks that held spare tires and grill guards, making them fit perfectly into the Mad Max desert landscape.


Old American cars with missing hub cabs and Peruvian plates serve as local transportation in the country.

Nearing the border, the Ecuadorian landscape had turned into a scrub-brush filled savannah, which continued into Peru . As we continued south the desolate fields turned into a full-blown desert, as the Pan-American took us with yards of the Pacific Ocean , the closest the road had run to an ocean the entire trip. The road rose into steep and crumbling sandstone cliffs above a rocky and jagged coast where the waves crashed loud enough to be heard over the noise of our engine. With the sun sinking into the blue waters, we continued to push south, the fatigue of a long day's ride beginning to set in as we approached twelve hours in the saddle.


Once we crossed into Peru the scenery changed to dry, arid villages.

We reached the surfing town of Mancora just as the sky was turning from orange to black and found a hotel along the main road with parking. As we carried our luggage up to our room, we realized that the previous night's plunges in the hot and cold pools had not prepared our bodies for the roller coaster ride that took us from a temperate 5,000 feet to freezing at nearly 13,000 feet and back down to a sweltering sea level stop.


We found a hotel across the street from the beach with secure parking.



All photographs © Holly Marcus / Page design by Robin Marcus