Sunday, September 22, 2013
Boca Del Rio and Tacna
Leaving the border, it was late afternoon so we immediately left the main highway Pan Americana named Route 1 in Peru for the more scenic coastal route 1A. We were hoping to find a good spot for the night and simply relax and regroup. Unfortunately, the road is not actually on the coast but about half a mile (one km) inland and the first couple of small beach towns had no access for our vehicle. One road that was paved and went to the beach, turned out to be an indigenous community and they had lots of signs stating “private” and “no admittance allowed”. Turning around, we continued north and finally arrived at Boca del Rio. At the mouth of Sama River which drains all the way from Lake Titicaca, Boca del Rio is the largest town we have come to so far. Driving into town on a well maintained paved road, everything – homes, businesses, hotels – were boarded up and there was not a person in sight. Arriving at the beach there was a huge flat area for parking and a long stretch of beach with waves crashing over rocks. There was one restaurant that was not boarded up but closed immediately after we arrived. Driving along the vast sea front, we choose a place which was level and where we could park so our door opened to the ocean. With the sun already setting I took Winston for a well deserved run on the beach. When I got back Tom had settled the motorhome for the night and had started dinner, beef stroganoff over noodles. “Okay,” I told him “this is weird”. Boca del Rio is as close to a ghost town that we have ever been to. There was not a single person on the beach walking, jogging or just watching the sun set. There was not a single vehicle driving up and down the coastline. And just as mysterious, there was not a single stray dog around. Most overlanders will testify to the fact that one of the most distressing points of travelling in Central and South America are the sheer numbers of stray dogs everywhere. In towns, cities and beaches, these dogs are allowed to roam unchecked and for the most part, uncared for. For the rest of the night, it stayed that way. Besides the two people we had seen closing the restaurant, no-one else. Like I said weird. The next morning gave us another surprise. I had already walked Winston and noticed that the tide was in and thundering against the rocks but it did not look particularly dangerous or bothersome. So, imagine my surprise as I was drinking coffee and happened to be looking out the window to see water sweeping up the parking lot towards the beachside property. I opened the door to swirling waves under the motorhome. Waking Tom, I told him that I was moving the RV and what was happening. Moving the motorhome to a safer place, we watched as the waves crashed over the short sea wall and just rushed into the area washing out a beach sign. Soon, some men appeared, the first we had seen and went down to the water and as the waves continued, they attempted to rescue the sign floating against the rocks. “Glad I wasn’t walking Winston when that happened” I told Tom. After that excitement of the morning, the rest of the day was disappointing. We had decided to go back inland to the fairly large city of Tacna, to shop, go to the bank for Peruvian Soles, get gas and to see if there was a tourist office. Well, Tacna may be the capital of the region and a large city but in reality it is poor, rundown and uninteresting. For some reason our trusty Garmin refused to work, maybe the streets here aren’t mapped, so it was by chance we found a supermarket with a bank inside. We were able to change our remaining Chilean pesos and also use an ATM to get more cash. We were also told that there is no tourist office in town. Like I said, disappointing, although gas in Peru is only around $4.50 a gallon which is $2.00 cheaper than Chile. After checking the only map we have, we decide on the town of Ilo for the night. Staying on the Pan Americana, we steadily climbed up the mountains before dropping back down to the coast. On the way there was a surprising mandatory stop at a customs office. The Customs building was huge spanning both sections of the road with plenty of guards and police. Every vehicle was forced to stop. Our paperwork was examined and all our info entered into a register. They then stamped our vehicle permit and waved us on. We did not undergo an inspection but we noticed that they checked inside and the trunk of most cars. We could not even surmise what they were looking for. By the time we got to Ilo, it was dark and our main interest at this point was just to find a place to park for the night. The town is having a new costanera road built and at first all we passed were areas of construction and one lane traffic. However further south the area is finished and we found plenty of parking. Our eventual spot was beside a pretty walkway and large grassy area. Winston was in heaven – the dog loves grass. It is late and we are tired. Soup for dinner and bed. We will explore Ilo tomorrow.