We chose to cross the border into Peru at las Balsas station for two reasons. First, we heard it was a small and quaint border with little stress. Second, it is much shorter to get to Chachapoyas and the ruins in the area the the other two Peruvian crossings. The border lived up to it's reputation and was the easiest and least stressful crossing of the trip, truly a breeze to cross which is always a good thing when traveling with a family. If you are driving to las Balsas from Vilcabamba it is recommended not to do so in the rain as the roads are too dangerous when wet. We left Vilcabamba on a sunny beautiful morning and drove up the Andean peaks. It was there we witnessed mother nature bring it down and bring down the rain she did. There where a few landslides along the way, a few hundred that is! I am not joking landslide came in all colors, sizes and textures. The gushy mushy muddy slides where my favorite for the slip sliding fun they brought. We had to cross three rivers the highway, one of which was very iffy (I only crossed because I had a winch on the front bumper). Outside the rain and all the excitement it brought, this was still one of the most scenic drives in Ecuador, in our opinion.
We did have one car issue on the road that was repaired before it got really bad. One of the screws holding the battery rattled loose and as a result the battery tilted toward the flywheels of the fan belt. I only knew something was wrong when my electrical system started acting up and the truck almost died. When I looked under the hood I saw the problem and tightened the battery back down, taped the exposed copper cut open on the positive cable and zip-tied the cable away from the belt to avoid this in the future. Tragedy avoided and a good lesson about the need to have tools and recovery equipment with you while off-roading the back roads.
For backpackers doing this route, Zumba bus station is in the middle of nowhere at least 2 kilometers from Zumba town but taxis and collectivos were standing by to pick people up. Also the taxis do go from Zumba to las Balsas border.
|A waterfall coming down the mountain right on to the dirt highway, contributing to the erosion.|
|The water running down the dirt highway eroding a little bit more each minute that goes by.|
|Collapsed portion of the road are nothing to mess with especially since many of the drop-offs where vertical drops.|
|Rivers were roaring|
|When the mud slid down the mountain the slip sliding began.|
|Tiny bridges had to be checked prior to crossing, just to be sure.|
|Muddy mess, I was in four wheel drive for many miles on this road.|
|The road was unstable all over the place but we still made it in the end.|
|The picture does not show how steep it is here nor how slick the mud was but it does show how the mud slide almost covered the entire road.|
|Other hazards on the highway like missing manhole covers spread the joy for all.|
|A close-up to show just how deep this hole really is. It should go without saying, this is very dangerous and is yet another reason why you never drive at night.|
|This is a separate part of the highway where it was paved through a pueblo. Here too are similar dangerous holes, but this one has rusty bars protruding from the sides for added pleasure.|
|Beautiful forest filled with singing birds is far too rare in this country|
|There were easy parts to the drive as well|
|Picturesque part of far western part of Amazonia|
|We were the only people crossing at the Ecuador side of the border.|
|Weird entrance for customs but in did the trick and the girls liked it too.|