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On The Integration's Way
The first bike ride play that celebrated  the signature of ecuador-Peru Peace Agreement.

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By Nelson Peñaherrera C

All photographs provided by Radio Nuevo Norte and distributed by FACTORTIERRA.NET
The pictures belong to the first edition of bike ride play on September 19th, 1999, and this is the first time they are released than any website before.

Above: Kmor Mile 0, Sullana City, Peru. Altitude: 60 m or 196 ft. The starting point since the first edition on September 19th, 1999.
Below: Km 25 or Mile 16, Valle de los Incas, near Tambogrande City, Peru. Altitude: 72 m or 236 ft.

MACARÁ INTERNATIONAL BRIDGE, Borderline between Loja, ecuador and Piura, Peru - It is another day among several days when buses cross over Macará River, the flow that after running towards the West, meets Catamayo River and forms Chira River. Tourists, salespersons and people with mostly domestic agendas use the path regularily and much easily just presenting their national IDs, an Andean Card and perhaps a passport.

Almost two decades ago, such as that fluency was more restricted, and tedious when political tension between Quito and Lima increased.

If South America breathed  new air after its emancipation from Spain, 14 years of advancing and battles later, in 1824 when it is considered as the consolidation of that process, what came was a series of skirmishes and eventual wars among the just-born nations for adjusting their boundaries.

In 1830, Great Colombia broke up  into what we know today as Venezuela, Colombia itself, and Ecuador, although this last country considers its consolidation started on May 24th, 1822, when a kind of South-American multinational force defeated the Spanish one at Pichincha Volcano's Eastern slope, a process which began on August 10th, 1809, when it set up to separate from Spanish empire, actually its national anniversary.

On its side, Peru established its birthdate on July 28th, 1821, when Argentinian General José de san Martín declared the independence in Lima after almost a year of a conservative military campaign, which had its corollary on December 9th, 1824, in La quinua Plains, near Ayacucho, this time under the command of Antonio José de Sucre and the strategic coaching of Simón Bolívar.

The upcoming years starting in 1830, ecuador and Peru had more disagreements than consensus about their boundaries' definition, agravated  in 1941 when both faced militarily. One year later, on January 29th, both countries signed up a Protocol of Peace, Friendship, and Limits in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where it was mainly solved the issue of Tumbes and Zarumilla, and all the territory bordered by Chinchipe, Marañón, and Napo Rivers (actual Northern Cajamarca, amazonas, and Loreto Northwestern portion, in Peru) those ecuador claimed as its. The document ratified the Peruvian position that such spaces belonged it.

WIKIPEDIA: Check out the full history of ecuadorian-Peruvian War.

However, a cartographic problem  did not allow to close  the boundary  on a 70-km or 44-mile section at Cóndor's Range  (borderline between Amazonas, Peru, and Zamora-Chinchipe, ecuador), an Amazonian branch of Andean Range, which summit is just over 2900 meters or 9500 feet altitude. New combats happened right there in 1981 and 1995.

Above: Km 50 or Mile 31, around El Repartidor in Las Lomas District, Peru. Altitude: 239 m or 784 ft. A little break before  going ahead.
Below: Km 77 or Mile 47, Las Lomas South entrance, Peru. Altitude: 242 m or 793 ft. The arc was under construction that time.

After diplomatic negotiations, Ecuador's President Jamil Mahuad and Peru's President Alberto Fujimori signed up a definitive Peace Agreement in Brasilia, Brazil, on October 26th, 1998, then an interchange government development programme started on, especially focused in solving basic needs of the population. Eventually, the zones in conflict generated the interest of scientists who still discover and impresing flora and fauna, maybe unique around the world.

How much of that political tension  involved the population? Despite the war and diplomacy propaganda, the border zone  between El Oro and Tumbes, and Loja and Piura, resented each time the international pass was restricted or closed totally because the commerce was and is one of their most productive activities. No mattered what currency was appreciated or depreciated, ecuadorians as well as Peruvians crossed the line to be provided with reasonable-price merchanndise.

The ones who did not live from commerce visited both sides of the international boundary to meet and meet each other again: was it true that the enemy was as bad as described? If that were true, how was it possible that the same lastnames populated the territories of both river sides?

Much curious, it began some touristic activity, which simply overflooded after 1998 Agreement. ecuadorians enjoyed the Piura beaches and Peruvians were fascinated by Guayas shores and the Volcanoes' Avenue at the highlans.

Above: Km 120 or Mile 74, around Cachaquito in Suyo District, Peru. Altitude: 454 m or 1490 ft.

Right above: The elite squad is ready to reach the Peru-ecuador Borderline, just a couple of meters or yards before Macará International Bridge.
Below: Macará International Bridge, over the same-named river, also marks  the limit between Peru (south) and Ecuador (north). Altitude: 387 m or 1270 ft. All the bikers pose for the picture.

But what nobody realized was developing other integrative activities as the sport, until a Sullana, Peru-based radio station with a transnational range thouht about a challenge that spoke about brotherhood not in romantic or competitive terms but pragmatic.

"We thought a bike ride play because it is a very popular vehicle, no polluting gases, and because it was a sport that did not have much coverage yet, almost 20 years ago," Radio Nuevo Norte's producer James Ojeda, the creator and planner of Por las Rutas de la Integración (On The Integration's way), remembers. It has been a call for Peruvian cyclists to enter into ecuadorian territory celebrating the unity of both nations. Ecuadorian-Peruvian descendant Ojeda was also an amateur cyclist then.

After the borderline was opened and talking to ecuadorian Consulate in Sullana (now inexistent), it was designed a plan of route that allowed to connect the Piura's second largest metro area to Macará, just in one day. This last one is the capital city of Macará Canton in Loja Province, ecuador, and political-administrative equivalent to Sullana City, Peru.

"The first time we had around 70 participants," Ojeda remembers. On September 19th, 1999, conmemorating the first anniversary of Peace Agreement's signature, the cyclists squad departured from Sullana City at 9:00 in the morning  and was arriving into Macará City around 5:00 in the afternoon, after riding 133 km or 83 miles. The distance takes a little more than 2 hours by car.

According to Peace Agreement, this is part of the Third Binational Axis Road.

Also it is about a subtle upclimbing route, starting from 60 meters or 196 feet altitude and arriving to 440 meters or 1444 feet altitude amid a valley and a dry forest that begins to climb uphill the Andes abruptly, what is noticed evidently after passing Las Lomas, 77 km or 47 miles NE away Sullana. Between that town and Sajinos Detour, right side, Palo Blanco Mount is like one of the most notable landmarks.

Also on the way before arriving over Macará River (the international limit of Ecuador and Peru), it passes  over two tributaries  of Chira River:  Chipillico before coming in Las Lomas, and Quiroz in the last third  of trail between that one and Suyo (Ayabaca).

Above: Somewhere between Macará International Bridge and Macará City, already in Ecuador. Just a couple of kilometers or miles to cross over the finish line.
Below: Km 133 or Mile 83 at Macará, ecuador. Altitude: 440 m or 1444 ft. Mayor Carlos Bustamante and Mis Macará 1983 receive the Peruvian bikers.

After that first edition, other five followed along 18 years being the  most recent on November 11th, 2017. Although all editions  had Macará as the destination, only one of them decided to finish in Zapotillo, also in Loja, 185 km or 115 miles NNE away Sullana City, and approximately 182 meters or 597 feet altitude, beside Chira River, after riding the Peruvian districts of Marcavelica, Salitral de Sullana, Querecotillo, and Lancones, and crossing over Chira (just going out Sullana) and Alamor Rivers. The Alamor is tributary of the Chira.

According to Peace Agreement, that route is known as the Second Binational Axis Road.

The bike ride play's crew has not changed muchly since it was launched in 1999.
The executive producer is José Carlos Carrasco and the field producer is James Ojeda.
The 2017 edition's associate producer was Joe Navarro.
However, what did change where the authorities in the departure city and the destination city as well:
- 1999: Sullana's Mayor was Jorge Camino and Macará's Mayor was Carlos Bustamante.
- 2004: Sullana's Mayor was Isaías Vásquez and Macará's Mayor was Aracely Carpio.
- 2011: Sullana's Mayor was Jorge Camino (2nd administration) and Zapotillo's Mayor was Ramiro Valdiviezo.
- 2015: Sullana's Mayor was Carlos Távara and Lancones' Mayor was Power Saldaña (it was the only one what did not go into Ecuador).
- 2016: Sullana's Mayor was Carlos Távara and Zapotillo's Mayor was Yuliana Rugel.
- 2017: Sullana's Mayor is Carlos Távara and Macará's Mayor is Roberto Viñán.

"Maybe  the bigger satisfaction we have is that before Por Las rutas, the cyclist practiced their sport lonely, and today there are even six or seven groups of them - the event and the radio allowed them to meet,"  Ojeda underlines.

emulating the bike ride play, car races were also organized on that trail celebrating thePeace  Agreement's signature. Binational transportation routes were implemented the next years. At least on the Macará International Bridge, everyday cross over the services departuring from Piura City and arriving into Loja City, even Cuenca City, Azuay Province, ecuador.

In diplomatic terms, there are not longer skirmishes but joint meetings of both nationss' presidents and their ministerial
cabinets .

Of course, there are stil issues to adjust like smuggling, drug trafficking and human trafficking, those use Sullana-Macará route as a conduit, plus relieving the ecologic mess caused by illegal mining in Suyo District (Ayabaca), just beside Macará. However, the efforts to continue securing  the pacific integration processes of Peru and ecuador seem not to stop but configurating as one of the few successful cases aroun the world.

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