A long stretch of around 230 miles awaited us today as the drive to Chimbote, Peru’s centre of the seafood industry, beckoned. By 8.30am we were back at the university to pick up the now fully charged SRZero and to mix with a large crowd of people that had come to see the car off. However, as always, time was of the essence so after an hour or so here we packed everything up and rejoined the Pan-American Highway.
The beautiful desert scenery only intensified as we passed through a range of landscapes, from flat sandy desert, to dunes, rocky outcrops, and very high, barren mountains. However, the one thing you do notice on this coastal strip of Peru is the litter. It is, and I mean this in the full sense of the word, everywhere. No matter how far you are away from civilisation, glance to the side of the road and you will, without fail, spot some litter. None of us had ever seen anything like it, and it’s such a shame given the pristine and largely untouched landscape alongside the road. It is clear that littering is just an accepted part of the nation’s psyche as one regularly sees drivers just throwing their plastic bottles out of the window as they drive past; such a shame to be tarnishing this beautiful country.
However, while the roadside may not be in great shape, the actual road was better than we could have imagined. We sped along the unblemished surface for miles upon miles, and we were making excellent time. For lunch we stopped at a roadside restaurant for some very local food (the chicken we ate was no doubt the same that we saw clucking around the yard moments before!) and we were struck by how low the prices are. For a full meal and a drink the price came to less than $3 per person. Really great value for money for very tasty food!
The afternoon’s drive continued just as smoothly as the mornings, and for the first time in a very long time, we actually arrived at our destination during daylight! Just outside Chimbote we were met by some representatives from the local university who guided us through Old Chimbote and into New Chimbote which is where the campus was located and where we would charge the car overnight.
The reason why there is a New Chimbote became abundantly clear as we drove through its older counterpart; the place absolutely reeked! I cannot use that word strongly enough; the moment we caught a whiff of the foul air coming seemingly from everywhere, our stomachs turned, and Nik and I who were in the SRZero at the time nearly vomited out our delicious $3 lunch! The whole place smelled like rotting flesh, and once our minds had recovered from the smell onslaught, we realised why; the fishing industry. Over 75% of Peru’s fishing industry is located here, and clearly smell containment is not the top priority!
Anyway, we were soon out of this toxic cloud and into New Chimbote which looked and smelled a lot more pleasant. We were ushered through the university gates and into a bus garage where we could charge the car. Yet again, the university’s electricity supply ran without a ground, so we manufactured our own one by stretching a wire out from the chargers to a grounding point outside. With this complete, the car was ready to spend the night suckling and we were ready to have some food and go to bed!
Our hosts from the university led us back into town to the hotel they had booked for us, which was located just off the attractive main square. Well, we were under the impression that they would book us a hotel, but the venue turned out to be something a little more frivolous! The first indication of something being a little off sorts was the word “Erotica” painted on the door in front of where we parked the van. The red lights and condoms for sale in the reception further proved our theory that this hotel offered a little more than just a bed for the night!
However, the “hotel” did seem to have 2 parts to it, and fortunately, the team seem to be located in the more innocent half as the rooms were pretty much what you would expect from a basic hotel. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the camera crew as they were entertained with with certain noises from the room next door all night long!
Moral of the story; always book the hotel yourself!