My August trip to Peru was one of the most interesting and also, most arduous trips that I have been on in the last few years.
I arrived in Lima mid-afternoon on the 3rd August and transferred to a hotel after travelling for approximately 20 hours (I can’t sleep on planes) so was ready for a rest… Therefore, after setting up the Wi-Fi and starting to download work emails I was able to get an early night and woke early on the 4th feeling refreshed and after clearing the emails that had cropped up after breakfast was ready for the day ahead.
I then left to travel to Lima Airport to meet the remainder of the group at the airport. PromPeru had arranged for us to stay in a hotel near the airport, as we were up at 1:30am the following morning to fly to Piura at 3am, which is a 1 hour 20 minute flight. Arriving at Piura and collecting our luggage we all then embarked on a minibus and drove (largely in silence as everyone was so tired) to our first meeting of the day. This was a coffee co-operative who were expanding and building a whole new coffee sorting and grading facility which will be a state of the art operation when complete. After visiting this site which was hugely interesting we were whisked away for a late breakfast / early lunch which every member of the group devoured heartily.
Then the group split with people who were there more for cocoa staying locally and the coffee group heading up into the Andes to meet coffee growers, estates and co-operatives. Over the next few days, our group consisted of eight, including the driver, and the majority of the journey over the next three days was on dirt tracks with no road signs, street lighting and on roads which often had been washed and was in bad disrepair. As these roads wound up into the Andes I was glad that I wasn’t sitting in the front, which apparently awarded a view of some of the sheer drops and crevasses which our front tyres went perilously close too. However probably one of the biggest scares of the trip was when we met five full size Kenworth Petrol tankers with huge bowsers on the back full of fuel, just as we were on probably the narrowest stretch of road we had been on. It was a case of a) drive off the edge of the cliff, b) become part of the rock face or c) reverse around several blind corners about a mile to find somewhere just wide enough to let the vehicles pass. Needless to say at the end of the trip everyone who had spent time on the bus gave a decent tip to William, our driver.
Mountain roads notwithstanding, the producers that we were privilege to meet over these three grueling days were excellent and I am certain that every buyer in our group has done some deal or other with these producers, particularly those who are looking for quality coffees. It was with some relief for my aching bones when we met up with the rest of the group who had been on a chocolate mission whilst we were up in hills doing coffee. We were all taken to a couple of very small gourmet chocolate makers whose chocolates were divine and then once the other groups luggage had been collected from the hotel we were ready to fly again. We left Piura and flew to Lima and onwards to a place Pucallpa.
With everybody in the group being a buyer of either coffee or cocoa we were then taken the following morning to a massive exhibition called Expo Amazonica, at which we were VIP guests. The event is of such importance in Peru that the President and EVERY Governor of every region in Peru’s Democratic Republic were on stage for the opening ceremony which took about an hour, as every dignitary made a short speech. The security was incredibly tight, as you can probably imagine. Whilst all of this was going on I was located on the ‘Cafes de Peru’ stand which overlooked the auditorium. The president very kindly decided to visit the stand and the accompanying rush and crush as they followed the President, shouting and cheering, was unlike anything I have ever witnessed before. In the midst of the maelstrom was the President surrounded by his security team and I was swept up and carried along within the crowd. I was able to shake the President’s hand and wish him a polite ‘Good Afternoon’. After five brief minutes it was time for him to move onto other stands within the exhibition and the crowd happily subsided somewhat. I found myself talking to a very affable bearded gentlemen about what I thought of Peru and where I had been and after we exchanged business cards I was delighted to learn I was chatting with the Foreign Trade Minister, Sr Rogers Martin Valencia Espinoza, which was nice!
After spending the day looking around the exhibition and meeting further new suppliers of coffee, cocoa, salt, cigars, oil, lorries etc, which represent just some of the enormous variety of Peruvian businesses which were showcased at this huge exhibition.
That evening we returned to our hotel and spent a quiet evening catching up on our notes and getting an early night due to the fact that our return flight from Pucallpa to Lima was 4:30am. So we were out of bed at 2am and after being driven through the deserted streets, checking in and clearing security, we arrived at the front of Lima airport ready to disperse back to the various corners of the world we had come from, at about 7:30am.
All in all, in spite of the enormous amounts of road and air travelling that this trip involved it was all worth it to see some of the many amazing wonders that Peru has to offer.