A Travellerspoint blog

Rabbit Hole!

Have you ever been down a rabbit hole and wonder how you got there? Chiclayo was one such a rabbit hole. Carole and I discussed leaving Cha cha for some time and had reservations about leaving even after making reservations for leaving!

But leave we did and after an uneventful overnite bus ride, arrived in Chiclayo at 530 am. We had previously decided on a hostal and had the address, however it was dark and we did not have a map. So...what to do? Grab a taxi of course. We asked the cost of the ride to our hostal, 5 soles the driver replied. Fair enough. What ensued was the first time we were ripped off in Peru. The driver literally drove us half a block to our hostal ! For conversion purposes 5 soles equates to $2.00. Such was the entry to Chiclayo.

Although our egos were a bit bruised, we were lucky enough the hostal night guard let us drop our luggage so we could go in search of some breakfast, but more importantly coffee. Bear in mind this was now only 615 am, but we were supposedly in a big modern city. Nada, nunca to be found. Every cafe and restaurant was cerrado (closed) up tight. We were told 730 was the magical hour, but we were desperate for cafe or tea and breakfast. After wandering around looking every bit a tourist, we decided to brave the Hotel Centro as it was the only place open. What we got was a cup of hot water and a jar of pale and stale looking Nescafé !

Chiclayo is a modern sprawling coastal city with far too many taxis, collectivos, buses and people. It is very difficult to walk down any street without feeling like you are choking on carbon monoxide.

Wish I could have brought this painting home ! Great image in our local breakfast haunt.

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Always in search of another door knocker or window shot. I just can't get enough!

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We came to this city as we were told ( by several Peruanos), the best museum in South America was just 10 minutes outside of the city. This indeed turned out to be true. The Mueso de Sipan is full of pre-inca artifacts together with treasures from the tomb of Senor Sipan himself. 16 tombs were discovered in 1995 unplundered, and the Museo is full of these discoveries including the mummy of Señor Sipan. We spent 3 hours wandering around in awe.

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Museo de Sipan, Lambayeque

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Sweets are absolutely ubiquitous in Peru. You can't walk down a street without viewing several mile high lemon merengue offerings, chocolate torte and so on. Glad we don't have a sweet tooth (or is that teeth?), as we would surely return many kilos more.

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Other days were spent at El Pimental, a beachside town filled with vacationing Peruanos familias. Brightly coloured umbrellas dotted the beach together with ninos building sandcastles, teens playing volleyball and many many vendors selling helado (ice cream), biscuits, drinks of any want/need and fish- yes fish. The local pescadoros arrive mid afternoon in their boats of totora reeds with their wells filled with various types and sizes of fish. It was so fun to watch the sorting, weighing and selling process of each boat.

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Sadly not long after this fun afternoon, both Rod and I began a battle with grippe (flu). We are both sure that city pollution, temperature differences and lack of nutritious food do not add up to a speedy recovery. Yes nutritous food here is difficult to obtain. Red meat is high on the menu, most always fried and served with white rice solo. Pollo can be found, but again almost always fried with KFC being on offer too. There are many fresh vegetables and fruits here in the markets, but without cooking facilities impossible to put together a meal. Pizza has been a safe meal for us and happily we have been able to enjoy the vegetarian variety.

After much discussion, we decided our time north was complete and booked a flight to Arequipa.

Posted by Carole and Rod 19:09 Comments (3)

Cha cha cha. Chachapoyas

Here I am with my darlin, sitting on a bus in Chachapoyas en route to Chiclayo on the red eye! We left Cajamarca about 6-7 days ago. We were both very sad to leave as we developed some wonderful connections with very interesting and generous people. It is definitely a community we would love to return to some day.

We had an extraordinary bus ride to Chachapoyas from Cajamarca. It began at 3:30 am as we awoke to prepare for a 4:30 am departure! The short version of the adventure is we departed at 4:30 am and arrived at 10:30 pm in Chachapoyas! It was never planned as an 18 hr bus ride; it just turned out that way! The road was rather treacherous as it wound into the Andes. As darkness gave way to daylight we found ourselves climbing narrow ribbons of road into the heart of the Andes! Quite simply, it was astounding! Deep valleys adorned in infinite shades of green. Narrow roadways looking deep into the 7 fires of hell. Both Carole and I were awestruck by the beauty.
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Things changed when we arrived in a tiny village for breakfast! In this particular village we were somewhat saddened by a lack of Tim Hortons as the offerings were somewhat limited. We settled for sopa de gallina, a warm chicken and noodle soup. When I went to pay for the soup, the owner said it was 6 soles. I paid her and we left. I couldn't understand why she was raising her voice at us until her friend accompanied her into the street and briskly requested another 6 soles! Just another one of those misunderstandings that goes with travelling while learning a new language.

We returned to the bus station and couldn't find our bus! It went missing! We later found the bus driver walking to a welding shop with a large and broken U bolt! An hour later, bus repaired, we resumed our trip. As we were leaving "Dodge" the bus driver hit a motorized trike that sent both bike and driver head over heals. Fortunately no one was injured.

Slowly we wound our way back into the Andes. In the middle of nowhere the bus stopped for a road crew working at installing a drain pipe under the road. One half hour turned into an hour. As time passed Carole and I came to understand that 'un otro hora' (another hour) translates into:" I don't have a fricken clue when the road will be ready". Even our bus driver gave into the wait and sought refuge from the sun, under the bus! Three hours later we slowly traversed over the construction area and were heading to Chachapoyas only to be stopped yet a few more times for much the same situation. If we had to lose time to road construction, we both thought there was no better place on earth to be!
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Chachapoyas is a small city of about 10,000. Compared to Cajamarca, it is muy tranquilo. It seems that every town, city and village in Peru has a carnival in Jan, Feb, and possibly March. One commonality is that all the carnivals have men, women, and children lobbing bombas de agua, water bombs at friends, neighbours and gringos.

We visited several different historical sites in the Chachapoyas area. Gocta falls is the third largest waterfall in the world. To get to the falls we hiked for 2 hours in and two out. We went with a small local tour company with a van full of Peruvian folks with their children. The children were on horse back while the rest of the group hiked. The weather was perfect,the hike fantastic, and the falls beautiful.
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We also travelled to Kuelap, a pre Inca settlement about a three hour drive from Chachapoyas. Our neighbour on the bus claims that the site rivals Machu Picchu. Once again, it was gob smacking to walk through the site and gain insite into this incredible culture.
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By the way, we have created a formula that we find very helpful. It's a guide to determine how long it takes to get to where you are going in a collectivo. It goes like this: D (distance) = t (time) + nop (number of people) x cov (condition of vehicle) squared/ 4 x 16. Essentially it means that it takes a lifetime to travel anywhere in Peru. Everywhere is up hill on narrow winding roads followed by downhill, on very narrow roads.

Today we spent the day travelling by taxi and collectivo to the Karajia Sarcophogus site. It is an amazing site to behold. After a 30 minute hike to the site, we saw these amazing statues of carved stone high above the trail over looking the most beautiful fertile valley where farmers were tilling their fields of corn and potatoes. How the statues were carved and positioned on the cliff remains a mystery. So to view the Sarcophogus we spent four and a half hours in a taxi or collectivo, one hour waiting for the same, and a wonderful one hour hike to visit this site for half an hour including a delightful stop for lunch!
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We were fortunate to find some great places for coffee and meals in Chacha. One such place was Cafe Fusionnes, owned by a young couple, Fran and his wife. Coffee was superb as was there desayunos (breakfasts). Carole loved the pancakes as they were prepared with great attention. The second fave place was Terra Mia where we had a great pre-valentines meal before stepping onto the bus.
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Alas here we are sitting on an overnite bus after a pre Valantine dinner en route to yet another adventure!

Posted by Carole and Rod 15:20 Comments (1)

Mountain city of Cajamarca

Here we are in Cajamarca, Peru, a city of 160,000 at an elevation of 2700 meters. As we bussed up from sea level, it took a couple of days to acclimate but all is well now. We arrived one week before the beginning of Carnivale, but by all the commotion in and above the streets one would think we were full on into it. Balloons and buckets of water are lobbed at unsuspecting folks merely walking along minding their own business! Mojado or wet is what most of us experience on our walks around town. Impish faces of children together with testosterone fuelled young men are ever present.

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We hiked up to a small barrio called Santa Apolonia for a most amazing view of the city nestled in the valley surrounded by mountains and the spine of the Andes. A remarkable and awe inspiring vista. Lovers, families and just regular folk all hanging out admiring the view.

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Our next adventure was a tour completely in espanol to a place called Cumbe Mayo. This is a magical and mystical pre-inca sight at an elevation of 3600 meters, where an endless series of aquaducts were engineered and built to sustain agriculture and the pueblos of the region. To think that these folks had the vision over a long period of time to engineer and construct these is mind-blowing.

Aside from the amazing environment, it was so fun to be stuffed into a collectivo with 17 Peruanos trying to understand with all our capacity what our guide was sharing. Our guide was so patient and accommodating without being patronizing. He used hand gestures as well as speaking fairly slowly, so in the end we felt we did glean a fair bit of info and were feeling pretty proud of ourselves!

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Another most amazing trip was to the Inca baths located 15 minutes outside of town. Thermal springs bubbling up are diverted into private hot tub rooms where you can soak or should I say boil for 20 minutes. The water comes straight from the volcanic spring containing minerals for your health and well being. Needless to say we have been twice already at a cost of $2.40. Life is good!

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In between these adventures, we have visited Iglesias, the central mercado, hung out in the central square dodging water bombs & people watching, and dining out in wood fired pizzerias yes pizzerias! The pizzerias are a most entertaining dining experience. Each visit we watched the pizza crust chef squeeze out copious amounts of butter into flour, top it off with a pitcher of water and dig in up to his elbows to create a massive block of dough! In between creating dough, he was busy arranging and rearranging pizzas in the oven. As Cajamarca is cool at nite, we welcomed the warmth from the wood fired oven. And yes, the pizzas were deeeelicious!

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I must also mention a most fun afternoon watching Rodrigo explain en espanol what sort of haircut he wanted. There are pictures of this event (see below), and the end result was a VERY short haircut. In fact methinks he will not need another until we return home.

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We also found a wonderful profesora who was willing to tutor us at her home. Daisy is about 30 maybe and a bundle of energy. She speaks German (stint overseas), good English and of course Spanish. It makes one feel quite inept! Rod decided to continue his lessons with a local male profesora for more 1:1 and was happy with the outcome.

Both Rod and I contracted some sort of virus that pre-empted much activity the last couple of days of our stay. Mine residing in mi estimago, his in upper respiratory area. So...we both did some reading , sleeping and reading and sleeping. Mañana espero mas mejor!

We are feeling very comfortable here in this city and have made some good connections. It feels like a place we could easily return and contribute to. The people of this city are friendly, warm and always ready to help-even if we don't understand all.

It will be difficult to leave and I am already feeling a little sad.

BUT.....there are more adventures yet to be had, so ...stay tuned.

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Posted by Carole and Rod 15:02 Archived in Peru Comments (3)

Moving on Moving UP!

Land of the Clouds

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Having arrived in Cajamarca only yesterday our adventures in Trujillo are fading rapidly to make room for new ones here. Before recounting some of those Trujilloian memories it is worth noting that we have moved from sea level to 2700 meters, bid adieu to 22C and hot/dry weather to 9C and cool with the odd torrent of rain.

We saw the very best of Trujillo, some of which we already have shared. We decided to return to a few venues of the Marinera dancing. One such visit was to an arena where we purchased "scalped" tickets to the event. Waiting to be admitted into the arena we watched both young and old prepare for the event. It was quite amazing to watch dancers practice and adorn themselves in make up, at least the mujeres ( women)!

Another Marinera event upon which we serendipitously fell was a Saturday parade at the Plaza de Armas. Quite spectacular to see young and old with a perpetual smile in very hot weather dancing in the streets.

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As exciting as Trujillo was, both Carole and I needed a break from the bustle of city noise and pollution so we took a collectivo to Huanchaco a surfer dude beach. The weather was fantastic and we spent a beautiful day basking in the sun, people watching, sight seeing and eating, a wonderfully restorative day! This beach town is where Torin and his buddy Steven spent 2 weeks and we now understand why. Tis definitely a town for young vagabundo travellers.
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The boats you see in the photo are called callabitos, a traditional boat used for travelling and fishing. These are beautifully handcrafted boats made of reeds. Four different bundles of reeds are strategically tied to form these boats.

We endured many an exciting ride in both collectivos (local buses) and taxis. For some reason we always ended up in the same style of taxi, which looks a bit like a Peruvian knock off of a Mr Bean car. In Spanish that would be Señor Frijoles car. We fondly referred to this car as a caja de ca ca! Caja refers to box. We will leave the rest to you!
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The 6 1/2 hr bus ride to Cajamarca was truly spectacular but not for the faint of heart. The last hour was in the clouds and mist with many switchbacks - no actually hairpin turns! Reminded me of another bus ride I experienced in Nepal (remember Regiers?), where the front end of the bus appears to almost 'hang' over the edge of the road as the turn is made. Rod and I scored front row seats on the top deck of the bus so there was a 'big screen' view but also some big movement. So fun! We went from sea level to many mango orchards, terraced rice fields (yes rice), and finally into the potato growing region.
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Cajamarca has a very different flavour than Trujillo. It is a bustling centre located in a valley surrounded by beautiful lush green mountains. As it is a centre of commerce for the valley there is much diversity in it's people. Business folk, all ages and stages of kids and of course beautiful indigenous people of the highlands. As with most areas in the north, there is much history with those nasty Spaniards, although they did build most ornate and amazing Iglesias.
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All along the path we have met wonderfully kind and generous people. We are so fortunate to be witness to this part of the universe with so many beautiful people. As we finished writing this entry a hotel worker came and asked if we wanted a fire lit in the beautiful room where we were sitting. Just another example of the many kind acts offered to us along the way.
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Posted by Carole and Rod 14:18 Comments (3)

Trujillo, City of Taxis!

Driving from the airport to Trujillo is a bit like driving from the Nanaimo airport into Nanaimo! There was that quick exchange of looks between us that suggested . . . It turned out we were wrong. We live next to the Universidad de Trujillo on a fairly busy street that allows us easy access to the wonders of Trujillo.

Carole eluded to the Marinera dancers earlier. We were introduced to the dance yesterday and followed it up with a visit to the Marinera Marathon. You might already guess that such a marathon is filled with young people dancing in the heat of the day, sipping on Inca Cola to cool themselves. Mark Adams author of Turn Right at Macchu Pichu described Inca Cola as a neon yellow, bubble gum flavoured soda. Great with Tequilla, I guess!

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A few days ago we were winding our way towards "Centro" the centre of the historical part of Trujillo. We walked around the university perimeter,
which is surrounded by a wall that might rival the Great Wall of China for length. In front of us, part of the wall was shrouded with canvas. In front of the canvas was an endless wall adorned in ceramic tile, each piece no greater than 1/2" x 1/2" depicting many historical intersections with the Spanish, natural disasters, and countless other scenes. The enormity of this project boggles the mind! The walls are approximately 10 feet high and many kilometres long. What we witnessed took approximately 22 years to complete. Truly, the wall was astounding!
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Centro was also fabulous. The architecture was absolutely splendid. Much to our surprise there was a pedestrian mall which allowed us to amble in and out of museums and churches. We visited Museo Arqueologico de la UNT. This archeological museum was also "gob smacking"! Trujillo was the first city of Peru to be discovered and is steeped in history, migration from the north, (including Canada, US) battles, conquests, and daily grooving in the huacas. It was an outstanding display and deepened our appreciation and understanding of Peruvian culture.

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Speaking of taxis . . . They outnumber private cars by at least 2:1. After a few rides today, Carole and I concluded that gringos in a taxi are what airbags are to North American vehicles. We firmly believe that the presence of gringos in taxis increases dare devil behaviour by a factor of 7. My life passed before me many times today. Once I swear I "saw the light!"

Posted by Carole and Rod 17:51 Comments (1)

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