Lima, Peru to Vilcabamba, Ecuador via Piura and Loja
I've grown noticeably restless after spending some 80 days inside a house, and have been looking forward greatly to getting out of Lima, and back on the road. It's been a half a year since Tatiana joined my side that eventful day in Manila, and will mark the first time traveling away from her and Aidric.
I remember spending this much time in only a handful of places in northern Argentina about a year ago, and don't feel odd or regretful about staying unpacked in Lima for 10 weeks. I accomplished several important projects on Travelvice.com, gained a detailed insight into the inner workings of a Peruvian household, witnessed the birth of my son, and changed a diaper for the first time. It's been a productive and educational 10 weeks, full of cultural quirks and personal growth.
But the road calls… and I can see no better reason than my fast-expiring tourist visa (and patience) to run for the border, and take some personal time whilst slowly sauntering back south.
Easily the most professional and technologically advanced bus company I (or Tatiana) have seen in Peru is Oltursa—the folks selected to spirit me away to northern Peru on a 14-hour ride to Piura. Surprisingly, this company even has a real-time seating availability chart that's accessible off their Web site for each of their scheduled buses (although purchases still needed to be made at their offices).
A Border Crossing that Bites
My advice to all travelers crossing from Ecuador to Peru (or vice versa) is to avoid the Huaquillas border crossing near the coast, north of Tumbes, at all costs. I passed through this hazardously shady border in 2006, and wrote about my experiences with what has recently come to be known as the 'most dangerous border crossing in South America'. Also, good knowledge to have is the existence and use of fixed calculators along Ecuador's northern and southern borders.
Sadly, most bus services in both countries run to or through the Huaquillas border crossing, and it takes a bit of planning to circumvent it, or find a bus company that will usher you past the checkpoints without dumping you at the frontier (the only safe or acceptable way to push past the danger).
This time around, I'm giving another border crossing a shot, with a bus company (Transportes Loja) that will take me from Piura, Peru, to Loja, Ecuador, in an uninterrupted eight-hour shot (minus the allegedly relaxed immigration formalities in La Tina and Macará).
Ecuador's Southern Highlands
From what I've briefly researched about Vilcabamba, the place looks like an enjoyable, peaceful little highlands village full of expats and Ecuadorians (who sport some of the longest life spans on the planet). I imagine the weather will be a bit cool and rainy this time of year, but with a population barely above 4,200, the place sounds like a great retreat from Lima's polluted, concrete jungle (of 7.8 million).
Because I'll be arriving in Loja around 6:00 in the evening—some 24+ hours after departing Lima—I'll probably opt to grab accommodations in the city for a spell before sauntering over to Vilcabamba. From what I've glimpsed about the town, Loja sounds like a smaller version of Cuenca, another southern highlands city (a few hours to the north) that I visited back in 2006.
Reactions at Home
I haven't announced my departure from the house, but one of Tatiana's sisters needed only to see me taking inventory of the innards of my backpack (sprawled across the bed) to ask me what was up, and to pass the juicy piece of news along to the rest of the household.
No one has said anything negative to me about my leaving, but I occasionally wonder what's being said behind my back, and what their reactions will be when I return (after an undetermined period of time). But that's just the curious side of me—their opinions wouldn't change my departure. Perhaps they're as happy to have Tatiana and Aidric themselves, without the gringo taking up space in the house, as I am traveling.
I know Tatiana will struggle more with Aidric's maintenance without me, than with me. It's nice to have someone on hand to watch him when you need to run across the room for something, or downstairs to retrieve boiled water, or hang washed clothes on the rooftop patio clothesline. Even the extra pair of ears at night is nice, as one of us is often in too deep of an exhausted sleep to be roused by anything but the shrillest of cries.
But Tatiana has a loving and helpful family here in Lima that's ready to assist, and I feel comfortable with the knowledge that she'll be well taken care of while I'm away.
What I'd like to do after I return from the north is square things away with Aidric's U.S. citizenship and travel in southern Peru with him and Tatiana while his paperwork is processing (it should take 10 business days before his passport is ready). Afterwards, we're free to fly out of Lima and back to Miami.
That's about as far as I've gotten with the planning. All I know is that there will be no more stretches of time in Lima—I'm back to do paperwork or depart from an airport only—otherwise, I'm back to feeling the sun on my face, and the friendly weight of my pack on my back.