Peru: A false start?

Days: 263 (15 March 2015)

Total distance travelled: 52,363.1 kilometres (32,523.66 miles)

As we stood in queues that had trailed alongside the combined Ecuadorian-Peruvian immigration office for well over an hour, we tried to take heart that at least we weren’t in this alone.

Three or more other coach loads of travellers, both Gringo’s and locals alike mingled among us.

It didn’t help, having been woken from our already fitful bus sleep and now crawling forward in a line as heavy rains pelted the pavement beside us… Putting it simply, it was a shit place to be.

Welcome to Peru!

2 hour queues at 2am…

2 hour queues at 2am…

Several hours later, as those rains still bucketed down and after traversing terrain in the morning light that flitted between barren desert and scenes ripped right out of South-East Asia (there were plenty of rice paddies to break up the barren wastes), we were in Piura.

Those first impressions of Peru, we were still waiting for them to improve!

With our guidebook stating “There is little to do here, but it works just fine as a speed bump in your journey” we weren’t really holding out too much hope.

At least the rains did finally ease… just after Sarah had returned from a quick reconnoitre to see if she could find us a hostel in which to while away the day.

She was unsuccessful.

So, why were we here?

Well initially, Piura was to merely be a point in our journey down to Lima where we’d change buses, then continue on our merry way for another 14 hours or so.

Then, in doing some random flight searches, we discovered that the price to make the same journey by air was only $5.00 US more expensive and given our ultimate destination was the airport anyway (for a flight to Iquitos in the Peruvian Amazon) we quickly locked it in.

The only catch, the flight was at night, meaning we now had a whole day here.

We began to wander the fairly sleepy streets (it was a Sunday morning, so no real surprises there) and following a couple of leads again from our guidebook, hoping to find somewhere we could crash for the day, or at least somewhere to leave our bags.

Fortunately, the street to which we’d been directed seemed flushed with accommodation options. Unfortunately, none of them seemed all that interested in our business, one particular place standing out where they tried to put the price up on the spot, just to see if we were stupid enough to take it.

We weren’t.

Eventually $40.00 Soles got us a room for the day (which they’d then have the chance to re-let for the evening), the only problem being we didn’t actually yet possess any Soles!

Our landlady was fine for us to leave our bags and return later with the cash, so we wandered out under a much lighter sky to explore the town and find ourselves some breakfast.

The money was the easy part, as we quickly found plenty of ATM’s to choose from, ultimately making our withdrawal from a BCP machine. Why do I mention something as trivial as the bank branch?

Well, you’ll come to read that very soon, however as our Peruvian travels have progressed, BCP generally tend to be the bank with the highest withdrawal limit at $700.00 Soles, so there’s a bit of handy information for you.

With the ATM dispensing bills of $100.00 Soles, we quickly came to learn what an inconvenience this was (few vendors possess enough cash to be able to change them), but no matter, there were, surprisingly it must be said, several money changers lingering around a major intersection near the main plaza, who after disliking one of our bills, was able to change another for some smaller change.

Our money matters sorted, we quickly discovered that Piura, as the aforementioned guidebook hinted, really doesn’t have all that much to offer in terms of attractions.

There’s a large church that fronts the main plaza which is okay, but nothing special. That same park is pretty enough (in fact we killed about 15 minutes watching a flag raising ceremony conducted by police force members and some locals involved with Rotary International) and apparently has free Wi-Fi… although we never got it to work for us.

A day of ceremony in Piura’s main plaza

A day of ceremony in Piura’s main plaza

Alternatively you could head towards the river… which in fact no longer resembles such, but is rather a filth clogged, oversized drainage culvert that barely possesses any water, flowing or otherwise.

You get the idea, there really isn’t much charm about the place.

As such, we decided to retire back to our room for the afternoon, but not before we grabbed a few supplies from the local supermarket.

By chance, I attempted to pay with the same note that our friend the money changer had disliked.

15 minutes later, after a photocopy of this bill had been made, a copy that I’d had to both sign and add my passport number to, we were thankfully able to retain what was apparently a counterfeit note!

The fact that it had been issued by a legitimate bank had us worried it was a widespread problem, however the kind staff at the supermarket suggested we pop into a BCP branch the following day (being Sunday, the banks were closed, but luckily we discovered there is a branch in Iquitos) and deal with it through the bank.

Having had enough for one day, we retired, only emerging when it was time to head to the airport, & with time being the operative word, we decided to walk it!

The second airport to which we’d walked in the space of 2 weeks (after walking to the airport on San Cristobal to fly back to the mainland from the Galapagos Islands)!

After another lengthy queue, we were finally able to check in, then retire upstairs for our first beer in Peru… although after seeing the price of a coffee up around $9.00 Soles, we were quickly reminded of the world of airport prices.

Incredibly however, the beers were only $6.00, so we quickly settled down to a cold one after what had been a very long day.

Perhaps we had our guard up after the counterfeit note incident, as we were soon to expect the worst when just prior to boarding, we heard our names announced over the PA system, along with a couple of others.

When we made our way to the gate and our boarding passes were taken from us and torn up before our very eyes, we were gobsmacked!

Thankfully they were immediately replaced with two brand new passes, our seats in row 2… our first ever upgrade!

Move over Economica, hello Ejecutivo!

In reality, it was a domestic flight within Peru, so it wasn’t as exciting as it could have been (we didn’t even get to make the hallowed turn to the left as we got on board).

That said, it was most welcome to receive a delicious wrap for our meal, a cloth napkin and the chance to use some metal cutlery!

Finally something to smile about. Our flight upgrade!

Finally something to smile about. Our flight upgrade!

That was our welcome to Peru.

Turns out this first day was anything but Piura and simple… (insert groans at my horrendous ‘Dad Joke’ whenever you see fit)



* We entered Peru courtesy of an overnight bus from Cuenca (Ecuador) to Piura (Peru) for $15.00 US per person with Azuay, which honestly, seemed a great deal.

* Our day spent at Hospedaje Albher cost us $40.00 Soles, and… the place didn’t even have Wi-Fi!

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22 Responses to Peru: A false start?

  1. Hi Chris: I’m sorry your introduction to Peru was not overly pleasant. I’ve been to Peru twice and enjoyed it thoroughly both times, and that included staying with cocoa farmers who didn’t have electricity, to staying in a very comfortable hotel in Lima and everything in-between. But I didn’t make it to Piura, as we, too, had hit wet weather during the time we could have been in that area, and they had closed the road due to flooding in the area. I hope the rest of your Peruvian travels produce more pleasant memories.

    • Chris says:

      Well, we had close to two months in Peru, so we can’t have found it too bad… 😉

      Plenty worse things could happen on the road, so we’re not too sour with these memories!

  2. theglobewanderers says:

    I’ve had a few bumpy starts in new destinations too but all made for great stories and fun memories …. Eventually 🙂
    Haven’t visited Peru yet but heard so many great reviews on its people, places and landscape.
    Hope the rest of your trip was less turbulent than its start.

  3. tamarasw says:

    Sounds like you made the best of your experiences — a great skill to have when traveling! So glad it all worked out in the end.

  4. Karrie says:

    Your adventure in Peru reminds me of The Bicycle Diaries movie- Che Guevarra 😀

  5. Pingback: Iquitos: Roads? Where we’re going, we don’t need roads. | theworldwithchrisandsarah

  6. Elizabeth says:

    Welcome to Peru! Seriously we really enjoyed Peru, but watch the water. Everyone we met was sick, had been sick or was getting sick. Not much fun when you are traveling.

  7. imcai12 says:

    Thanks for your very honest review. The kind of blogger I admire. No sugar coating just being honest. Hope to explore the world as much as you do. Have you been to the Philippines?

  8. Yeah, start isnt everything haha

  9. Mar Pages says:

    that sounds like a real ordeal! hopefully a one off!

  10. marycharietwomonkeystravel says:

    All journeys has bumps, it will be uninteresting if it’s perfect and such. But at the end of the day, we experienced it, we learned it. NExt time we know what to to 🙂 Great article dear!

  11. We found parts of Peru on par with British prices which was a total surprise! I hope the rest of your travels picked up! I’ve never had an upgrade, lucky sods! On a plus note, it was a safe transitition between counties. We met a guy who had a horrible time between Bolivia and Peru.

  12. evankristine says:

    Sorry to hear about your experience but I’m sure when you look back at this times you’ll just laugh it off 🙂 I’ve never been to South America but I sure read a lot of articles about the borders and all. Hope next time you’ll have an easy one!

  13. Sanket D. says:

    Love that you guys were willing to rough it out when things weren’t going great. It’s a skill people learn invariably as they grow into their travel-avatar! 😉

  14. Although your welcome experience wasn’t that good, I hope that the rest of your was awesome!

  15. Himanshu says:

    Feeling sad…. but it happens. I am sure you learnt alot and thats the idea of traveling.

  16. I feel you guys! But Peru is a wonderful country. I lived there for almost a year and loved every bit of it. Don’t forget to swing by Paracas!!!

    • Chris says:

      Yeah, I remember we messaged when we were around (we stayed in Pisco instead of Paracas, no tourists there!). We spent just under 2 months there and loved it as well 🙂

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