We had decided to head straight for the surfer town of Mancora, and agreed we hade made the right decision when we arrived at the first town we came, to, Tumbes. We rolled straight through, not wanting to stop in this unappealing town until we came to a queue of cars and trucks. We pulled up to the front and parked up when we saw a policeman turning traffic around.
I walked over to ask him what was going on. Apparently, the local fishermen were protesting about plans for the Gas companies to drill in the bays where they fished. Their livelihoods were at stake and they were taking matters very seriously, and had blockaded the roads all along the coast, there was no way forward. I asked if we could go ahead and see if we could find our own way through, but the cop told us that it was dangerous. He said if we liked, we could wait around for a while and se if anything changed, but advised us to go back to Tumbes, the nasty looking border town we had just ridden through and wait it out.
We moved the bike off the road, parking next to the police car , and waited to see what transpired. We had been hanging around for about half an hour, when all of a sudden there was a commotion. People were running towards us from the direction of the blockade, the cops included, the policeman who we had been speaking to shouted at us to get on the bike and move back. Then he in turn ran to his car, and screeched off. We followed the cop car, but the passenger motioned at us to overtake him, putting his car between us, and the riotous fishermen.
We rode up the way towards Tumbes for a couple of miles, and then pulled over again. The cops pulled up to tell us they had lost control of the mob, and that we really should return to Tumbes and wait to see if things calmed down for the next day.
It seemed we had little choice. We rode back to Tumbes, and started looking for a place to spend the night.
Our first impressions of Tumbes were absolutely right. The town was a complete dump. Moto taxis filled the streets, constantly tooting their horns, mosquitoes were everywhere, and the brick buildings were ugly and characterless.
We found a clean, reasonably priced hotel after an extensive search, parked the bike in the reception, and skulked up the stairs to our room, to hide for the night.
We didnít emerge from our room until the next morning, when we ventured out to find a policeman and some breakfast.
We came across breakfast first, which unfortunately did nothing to lift our mood, and alas nor did the news we gleaned from the first copper we came across.
We walked through the town, just to make sure there wasnít a nice part hidden somewhere, and when we had confirmed that the whole town was in fact a complete shit-hole, we went back to our room to watch TV.
We regularly checked the road situation with the receptionist, and went out a couple of times in the day to find a policeman to re-check the situation with the fisherman. As the day drew to an end, we reluctantly agreed to stay another night, and try again in the morning. We were meeting more and more tourists who were stuck in the same situation as us, so at least we were no longer the only gringos in town.
There was no change the next day, except that Jacquie had started to feel a bit under the weather. I left her in bed and went for a little wonder round town just to get out of the room. I walked down to the market at the bottom end of town, and chatted with a few of the stallholders and shoppers. The people were friendly and I started to feel bad about writing the town off so haphazardly. It warmed me that at even is such a nasty place, the people were friendly and welcoming. Then I got robbed, and I changed my mind back again! I really wanted to get out of this place!
Friendly locals at the market, moments before my watch was robbed off my wrist..
When I got back to the hotel, minus my watch, the receptionist told me that the blockade would be lifted in the morning. Best news I had had in ages! I rushed upstairs and told Jacquie the good news (we can leave here tomorrow) and the bad news (the watch you bought me got nicked).
We packed up and left early in the morning, and saw the best view of the town; in our rearview mirror! We rode through small fishing villages and saw signs of the roadblocks where rocks had been moved to the side of the road. It wasnít just the small village south of Tumbes, as we had first thought, but a string of fishing towns all the way down the coast, almost as far as Mancora.
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