We stayed for the night in Loja, with the idea of riding to the border the next day, and crossing to Peru. Loja is a beautiful town, the cultural capital of Ecuador.
But the next day Vasile did some maintenance on the bikes, so we ended up leaving around 5 pm. And on top of that the road from the city to the Panamerican Hwy was a gravel road, so it was going a bit slower. But the landscape was worth it.
After about 15 km of gravel we're getting close to the highway.
Soon after we hit the fog again.
The fog got so dense, it felt almost like rain. In 20 minutes my gear got soaked. We were riding very slowly, as we could not see anything ahead. And in this places there is no point on waiting for the fog to go away, since it's foggy almost all the time, especially in the afternoon. And at some point I think Nature thought we were bored and we were not having enough fun, so it decided to help us a bit. The pavement ended, and we hit mud for about 8-10 km. They were actually working on fixing the highway I guess, and in the meantime there was mud. I would assume when it's dry it's not bad at all, as it was very smooth, but with all the humidity is was pretty slippery. And then, not that it mattered, since we couldn't see a thing anyway, it got dark too.
And all this mud, fog and dark took the toll on some drivers. We saw another commercial truck rolled over into the ditch. And we almost saw a bus full of people rolling over right in front of us. That was so scary, as one of the rear wheels was off the road at some point. I have to admit the bus was going quite fast for those conditions. I definitely wouldn't have felt comfortable if I was in that bus. We were so happy when we caught up with that bus, at least we could see something in front of us, and we were trying to keep up with it, so we don't lose it.
And here we are, finally arriving in Catacocha, a bigger town where we have chances to find a hote, if we can see it. With the help of locals, we find it.
There was something about this place that reminded me about Christmas when I was little. I don't know if it was the misty fog, the cold in the air, the church in the middle of the plaza and the lights or all together, but I had a warm fuzzy feeling when I got there, despite the low temperatures.
And here is how this place looks like in the sunlight.
There were tons of these big beautiful butterflies flying around and resting on the church's walls.
The next day we decided to leave early, before the fog comes down again. With the bikes full of mud, we were ready for a new ride.
We crossed the border through Macara. The border crossing was very mellow. There was no one in front of us, but it still took a couple of hours to enter Peru. At least there were no fees, except the $35 USD per bike for insurance. But in exchange, while waiting for our papers to be processed, we could not help not noticing the bribes going around. All the locals were paying bribes (I guess to get their paperwork done faster, or to get away with some things). It looked like the only job of the border officers at the gate was to collect money, nothing else. Every single local car, truck crossing the gate was handing money, that interestingly was getting lost in the officer's pocket (I guess he was just keeping it for the day
). I was watching smiling and it didn't look like they were feeling uncomfortable in any way. This was the first contact with Peru. Details to follow.