We woke up to a misty and beautiful morning, and packed our bikes before breakfast. Today we’ll say goodbye to Ecuador by riding through the mountainous jungle down to the less traversed border crossing at La Balza. We had obtained information from one the bus companies that drive the route that the road was in drivable condition despite the heavy rain two days ago.
After eating breakfast and checking out from our peaceful hostel we mounted our steel horses an galloped into the hills.
In a blog I had red from 2015 it was mentioned that the paved road turned to gravel after about 10km of the 140km from Vilcabamba to the border. We found that improvements had been made and we rode up and down jungle covered mountains with breathtaking views on nice paved roads, with the exception of a few stretches where flash floods and landslides had destroyed the surface. These stretches were cleared up but dirt and sometimes a bumpy single lane or an occasional small stream crossing.
A little more than halfway to the border the pavement ended and we drove on dirt roads of varying quality. Sometimes the switchbacks up and down the mountainsides were pretty sharp and steep, and we had to move fairly slow.
The temperature kept rising too as we slowly descended into lowland jungle full of gnats and other annoyances. In some villages the road split up and we had to ask for directions. Luckily everyone was very nice and helpful and seemed excited to have us driving through. We stopped to top of the gas in the village of Zumba, and shortly after ran into a military checkpoint. They inspected our passports and sent us on our way, pointing us in the right direction through some intersections.
After about five hours driving we finally descended into a Canyon with a bridge over a river at the bottom. This was La Balza. We drove up to where the closed boom separated us from the bridge. A little restaurant, a few houses and the border offices was all that was here. No annoying helpers and no waiting, the immigration officer shook our hands and we quickly sat down in his office, filled some forms and hot our exit stamp. Then next door to the vehicle office where an official collected our Ecuador vehicle permits, opened the boom and sent us over to Peru. Fastest border ever!
On the Peruvian side things would have been real quick too, if it weren’t for us showing up during their lunch break. We walked around the building to wait in the shade and found two overlanders from Australia who were on their way north in a Toyota suv. We chatted for a bit and soon the officials returned from lunch to get us going. The immigration was really fast, the only thing taking about twenty minutes was filling out the info for the bike import papers. But soon it was done and we were let in to Peru!
We got on our bikes and continued south. After about one hours driving, which included some rain and plenty of rocks and stones on the road, we arrived in San Ignacio. This is a little uninteresting and gray town with lots of half finished brick buildings and a not very charming center. It was time to stop for the day though, and we quickly scouted out a few hostels, checked in to the best alternative and got our of our stinky riding gear.
We went to look for dinner around the center square, and chose the only option we could find. As we were in a new country we didn’t recognize many dishes, so we asked for a chicken dish. The waiter said they had a chicken and potatoe dish and we agreed to get a big order to share. As the order came out we found that it was french fries and deep fried chicken. Starving as we were we still ate our fill, hoping our stomachs wouldn’t give us a rough night.
To balance out the dinner we went to buy some fruit and breakfast for the morning before retreating to our hostel for the night.