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For Your Eyes Only: Shawn's Adventure in Peru

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Cities in Peru: Trujillo, Chimbote, Sechin, Casma, Huaraz
As we descended from the Ecuadorian mountains and said goodbye to Quito, my ears popped and I could feel the beads of sweat starting to form on my forehead. The cold, wet mountain air gradually simmered to a low boil as the bus that Kavitha, Monica and I were taking to the Peru-Ecuador border wound down into the endless sea of banana plantations that is coastal Ecuador. We were finally on our last leg of a long journey, and although we were a little sad that didn't have more time in Ecuador, we were happy to be in the land that we had been bussing and waiting and waiting and boating and bussing to get to. Peru is rich in culture, history and biodiversity, but the thing I like most about it so far has been just getting here.

We spent the night in a dusty little border town that was too noisy for its size and had more than its share of mosquitoes. After sunset it cooled down to nearly tolerable temperatures and we found a hotel where at least the walls weren't crawling with roaches (not an easy thing). The rumble of trucks woke us early and we headed to immigration which opened an hour later than it was supposed to, and after they stamped our passports, we hopped in a cab the last mile or so to the border.

The border was the usual chaotic scene of money exchangers, vendors, and souvenirs. When the cab stopped, we were ambushed by the money changers who demanded that we change pronto. Since we had already heard that you can't exchange Ecuadorian sucres for Peruvian sols, we didn't have much choice.

Monica had brought her own calculator, and we realized at once that they were trying to cheat us because the man Kavitha was talking to kept getting different numbers than Monica! We immediately dismissed the first one, muttering ladron (thief) under or breaths. The next man we talked to did seem to have a working calculator, but just getting the exchange rate right was confusing. He just seemed too eager to sell us money, so we had to sit down and really figure out exactly how much we should get. But how much should we get? Ten thousand sucres are worth about a dollar and one dollar is worth about three sols, so we should get a little more than three sols for every 10,000 sucres. It seemed simple enough, but by the time we figured out how much we all had, negotiated a reasonable rate, and counted all the money he gave us, I was so confused that I was just happy to have a pocketful of Peruvian money and be on my way to the border.

Crossing the border was uneventful, we spent the last of our sucres on a pineapple and took another cab to Peruvian immigration where we were finally welcomed to Peru with a new stamp in our passports, the tenth country we had visited on the Trek so far! When the cab dropped us off at the bus station, we tried to pay him and were shocked when he would not accept our money.

Perhaps Shawn should have used a counterfeit detector like this one!
"Falso" he said holding one of the ten sol bills up to the light and waving a nearby policeman over who confirmed his theory that the money we had given him was counterfeit. After he showed us how to tell, we took out every bill to check and discovered that six of our $10 bills (or $20 US) were nothing but bad phonies! We had been robbed again!

Shawn takes off on his motorcycle into the sunset
At least the big bills we had gotten were real and we just laughed about the incident, relieved that we hadn't lost more. We bought bus tickets to Trujillo, where our long lost friends Abeja and Kevin were waiting for us, and checked our backpacks at the terminal. We were excited that we would be reunited with our friends in just eight or nine hours, but the bus didn't leave for another two hours. So while Kavitha went to the bank, Monica and I went exploring. The streets were packed with little three-wheeled motorcycle taxis, and after hearing that we could get one for an hour for less than two dollars, we jumped in one and zoomed around the little city of Tumbes. We had buried the digital camera deep in my backpack for safety, so we couldn't get any pictures of this fun little adventure, but we had fun riding up and down the streets people-watching and looking for local food.

Monica tried the ceviche, which is the national dish. It is made of raw shrimp and lemon juice and is served like a cold soup. Just the thought of raw shrimp made my stomach queasy, but Monica enjoyed it so much that the woman who had prepared it gave it to her for free. There wasn't much to see in Tumbes but we still had a great time riding around being tourists, and delighted to actually be in Peru.

Peru's rich landscape await Shawn's adventure
Peru is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world. It is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals that cannot be found anywhere else on earth. The coast, however, is a barren stretch of scrubby desert and sand dunes, that seems inhospitable, but is actually where most of the people in Peru live. I thought the ride through it was beautiful, especially the sunset, but I really cannot wait to get to the mountains and jungles that are Peru's real gems. Abeja arrived at the hotel just as we did, perfect timing to help me get my heavy pack into our room. We were all thrilled to be reunited at last, and to know that the Peru Stage of the World Trek had officially begun.


Abeja- Is There Thanksgiving in Peru?
The Team - The Conquistadors: They Came, They Conquered, and Left Their Mark
Kavitha - It's a Small World After All!
Monica - If Decapitated Heads Could Talk!!
Making a Difference - Constant Threat at Big Mountain
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