RobT: We packed early and decided to see a couple of sites here in Alausí since it is famous for its steam engine, train station and the "Puente Negro" (black bridge).
On to Cuenca, which was our destination a few days ago, but the white-water rafting was just too good to pass up. :) Cuenca is a gorgeous city, very different from anything else we have seen in Ecuador!! The old part of town was stunning, as were the churches, the parks, the 4 rivers for which Cuenca is famous and the great climate, but we didn't have the time to do it justice as we had to press on towards Peru.
After leaving Cuenca we were warned about a one-hour detour en route to Machala. Little did we know it was going to be a road that Rob and I agree was worse than the Death Road in Bolivia for two reasons, the actual road was in worse shape (large rocks, sand and ruts) and the traffic made it quite treacherous! We encountered buses, semis and dump trucks on a road that in sections was barely wide enough for them and a motorcycle. At one point I had to snuggle up to the cliff wall to let a bus pass which had about 2 feet on the "drop" side.
After an hour of slipping and sliding on this road we got back on nice blacktop. Out of the mountains and into the coastal jungle where we say banana plantations as far as the eye could see! We approached Machala and decided to bypass the town, even though darkness was falling, and to press on to the border. We had a little daylight left and the roads were good.
We had read and RobC had experienced the border crossing in the past. It was not going to be pleasant. However, when we got there it was a snap to exit Ecuador and almost as easy to enter Peru. They had constructed a new border crossing on both sides and it was impressive. Each side is constructing a multi-story observation tower, which, we suppose, is designed to keep an eye on each other. We were the only ones riding along a brand-new 4-lane road and we wondered whether we had made a wrong turn. We crossed the new (International Friendship) bridge into Peru and we were motioned over by several soldiers. They greeted us and RobC entered into his public relations mode, as usual, and we were treated very well. The border was so new it only had make-shift buildings for immigration and customs and, again, we were the only ones there for awhile. The immigration officer read my passport into the computer and proceeded to notify me that I was in Peru 3 years ago but never checked out. Oh oh. Yes, it was sorted out, but not before I had a minor heart attack.
We decided to use our Carnets (Bank guarantee documents furnished by the Canadian Automobile Association) to facilitate our entry, but the customs agent still entered all the data into the computer, one finger at a time, and then by hand into a log book. I guess the only benefit was that we wouldn't have to carry additional paperwork, but the process was not speedy.
Ninety minutes down the road, riding in pitch dark along the Pacific coast, we were in Máncora, Peru.
RobC: We chose Máncora as a destination because an old friend (a son of ex-colleagues from my Peru days) has a lovely beach hotel here. The Máncora Beach Bungalows was the resort where my daughter Lisa went for her honeymoon and a couple of the other kids visited there as well. Finally I got to visit the place for myself and it was quite special when I realized that we had gotten here by land. After many flights with kids in diapers and strollers and piles of suitcases and customs searches, here we are, by motorcycle after 6.5 weeks of travel - compared to a 5.5 hour flight from Miami to Lima.