Easter in Ecuador. Deviled eggs, kinder eggs and chocolate. :-)
Northern Peru was challenging for us. Our uneasiness about attention began in Trujillo and really escalated in Chiclayo. Everywhere we went, eyes were on us, men were calling out to us, and people exchanged comments about us. Even when we were in taxis, the attention was constant. It makes sense seeing that we were what seemed like the only travelers in the area, but it really wore us out. Our first full day in Chiclayo we went on a search for an open lavandería, finding nothing. Good Friday.. Semana Santa holidays…. Saturday would be better…
With no laundry success we decided to head to a market close to the town center that lonely planet had noted for its Peruvian medicinal witch market. Sounded cool. We were warned ahead of time to be weary of the negative energies that you could encounter there so we went with a curious and and cautious mindset. We found the witch medicine section fairly quickly. There were dead dried animals hanging above our heads. Some looked like small foxes and others squirrels. We really didn’t spend much time looking at each stand. We kept moving through, wary of the attention we attracted just by being present. After passing through the medicinal section we started walking through the veggie and fruit area. As we were walking, a man caught our attention and told us in spanish that it wasn’t safe for us. He was adamant about us understanding him. In trusting his instinct, we left, and caught the next combis back to the town of Pimentel.
Originally we though our hostel was in the town of Chiclayo. Nope. 25 minute combis ride out of town on the beach. It was an interesting location to be sure. The first night we arrived, it was pitch dark and one of the guys at the bus station decided to take the taxi with us to the hostel so that we would make it safely. We arrived and they didn’t have our reservation. The first night, they put us up in a pyramid bungalow thing. There were three beds, one upstairs and the other two downstairs. Cody and I decided to share the upstairs one because there were dead crickets and flies in the others… Fun times. They moved us to another non pyramid two bed room the next night. A place with character is the best way to describe it. Outdoor showers and toilets that requires a bucket of water to induce the flushing.
Our second day in Chiclayo was attention filled once again but we were successful in making it to the Sepan museum and getting laundry done so we rewarded ourselves with ice cream. We found a hostel in town to watch our bags and let us hang out until our 11:30 pm bus to Máncora. Sadly, we hid inside most of the day, exhausted from being on high alert for the past few days.
Máncora had a much more relaxed feel. It could be that it’s a small town or that there are many more travelers there or even just because it’s a beach town with cool surfer dudes. Either way, it was a nice break. We only had one full day to spend on the beach on Easter day. We jumped and swam in the pacific waves, ate cebiche for lunch and had ice cream for dessert. Ice cream and chocolate seem to make a frequent appearance in our travels. We’re believe in rewarding adventurous and go with the flow behaviors. That night we discovered that a guy who had been in Santiago taking Spanish classes with us back in January was staying at the same hostel. It was fun to catch up and share travel stories. It’s amazing how small the traveling world can be!
The border crossing was really the most interesting part of our northern Peru travels. It all began with our bus from Máncora to Tumbes. We arrived within an hour and a half, which was a lot sooner than we had anticipated but nonetheless, we arrived in Tumbes. We had thought there were other buses that would cross the border in to Ecuador but apparently not… Just taxis. We hired a taxi driver to take us to Aguas Verdes, the first town in Ecuador. Remembering our experience with not being able to cross the Chile-Peru border with fruit, Cody and I sat in the back of the taxi finishing off our fruit. The taxi driver was playing Bob Marley so we ate away, bobbed our heads to the music and enjoyed our last few moments in Peru. Fun memory to look back on.
We arrived at the Peru exit office in about 30 minutes. The tone changed abruptly when our driver told us it was dangerous here and that we should keep everything close to us. He told us he would protect us. Ok! Woo! Here we go! We had our papers stamped in five minutes and then hopped back into the cab, locking the doors behind us. Joy. Not too much longer, he drove us around this corner down a side street and parked the car. Strange thoughts but okay. He stopped the car and told us he couldn’t take us across. We could either go across by ourselves, take a taxi to immigration and find our way to the bus station on our own or we could pay him to escort us for $80 which would include the taxi ride thus far, the bus tickets to Cuenca and the taxi to and from immigration. The problem was that we didn’t know the prices of taxis or of busses let alone where any of that was. We were also a little unnerved with all of the safely warnings but how we’re we to tell if he was playing us or if he was serious. In the end, we agreed. We then all got out of the car. Cody and I were instructed to wear our day packs on our front, while he carried our large packs. They must have been awkward to carry because he hired a cart pusher to push our bags. Then we walked across the border. Yep literally walked across. Our backpacks arrived in Ecuador about 30 seconds before we did. One moment we were walking in Peru and the next… Ecuador. Strange. We then followed our bags to the bus station where they held onto our bags while we left to go exchange money and take a taxi to the immigration about 5 miles outside of town. Our guide reminded us to keep our passports safe. If stollen, they are worth thousands of dollars to make fakes and smuggle people into the states. Who knew? Our taxi ride costed us $3 each way, to and from immigration-border control. I don’t know how we would have found the place had our guide not been with us. Very strange border set up. It didn’t take long to get out passport stamped. And guess what? They didn’t even ask about fruit! Aw well.
After arriving back at the bus station, we bought our $7 bus ticket to Cuenca. Of you are adding this up, we each paid $10 for bus tickets and for the two taxis to and from immigration. That means that each of us paid our guide $70 for his services. Uhg. And I even asked of the prices were comparable to cover bus tickets if we did it alone. It’s okay though. We made it into Ecuador safely and with relative ease. I think we would have been more harassed had he not been with us.
Immediately after beginning our bus ride, we felt like we were in another country. Banana plantations lined the roads, the desert coast line was gone and suddenly we were in tropical like forests and mountains. It reminded me so much of Costa Rica. The roads winded up into the mountains. The leaves of the trees were large and palm like and the clouds hovered around us. Very beautiful. The bus ride was about five hours to Cuenca. Yay for making it to Cuenca!!!
Two of the five levels of the temple of the moon. Every 100 years the Moche people would build a new level, abandoning the level beneath. It is thought that there are five levels in total. Only 3 have been uncovered to date.
Having a great time figuring it all out in Trujillo. I feel like I’m the character in a video game trying to make it to the next viewpoint successfully. There are annoying characters who cat call us and make us wish we could hide and blend in and then there are helpful characters who tell us where to go at every checkpoint. They know where we want to go without asking because we are gringas and want to go to the ruins of course. We have made it to the next level though. To the ruins and back again. Reward=ice cream!
We are finally out of the city of Lima! Cody and I left two days ago by bus and arrived in Trujillo 8 hours later. The bus ride was pretty typical. We were up on the second floor again right in the front two seats. Just as we had feared, the bus played violent action movies dubbed over in Spanish for the entirety of the trip with no option of volume control. Cody is easily distracted by tv screens so she decided to cover the screen with her blanket. I put my ear plugs in and read my book. Most of the trip was along Peru’s coastline.
I’m reading Game of Thrones per my brother’s relentless requests. I’m 550 pages in. You were right Daniel. It’s awesome! :)
Turns out that Trujillo is Peru’s third largest city after Lima and Arequipa. It’s very industrial and not all that touristy. The biggest attraction here is Chan Chan, Huaca del Sol and Huaca de la Luna.
Cody and I took a small bus combis out to Chan Chan. It was a fun little adventure. We were told generally where to go to catch this little red bus but we mostly just wandered in the general direction of the street where we hopped on bus. We told the driver we wanted to go to Chan Chan. “One sole,” he told us. Great! We paid and went to the back of the bus where there were more open seats. In front of us sat a little Peruvian girl. She was about 3 years old and really chatty! In Spanish… She asked us what our names were. Cody’s name is for some reason really hard to pronounce for native spanish speakers. “Coby? Hmm. Y tú, she looked at me, ¿tú nombre es Coby tambien?” no, I told her. Mi nombre es Olivia. :) she then nodded and asked where we’re from, what my parents names were, where our house was, how many kids we had, how old we were, etc. it was hilarious. Her mom didnt seem phased by her daughter. Shes a curious little one. Big bright eyes and a determination about her. How fun.
As we passed the signs for Chan Chan, we wondered if we had missed our stop. A few minutes later, the driver called back to us to tell us that we had indeed missed our stop. We hopped off, crossed the road and caught the next combis going the other direction. As soon as we hopped off, a guy stopped us and offered to take us to all four locations for 25 soles. I asked if it was a tour and he told me it was. It wasn’t until later that we figured out that he was just a driver, fancy fancy driver. Uhg. The lessons we learn while spending money…
We actually did end up getting a guide. After Chan Chan he actually came with us to the three other sites to continue our tour there. We each paid 40 soles for the two some hours he was with us.
Chan Chan is the largest precolonial city in South America. It is entirely made of adobe construction and covers 20 square km with the urban center about 6 square km. Much of the city was only uncovered in the last ten years. They have ongoing projects to reconstruct and uncover more of the city. Some original etchings and carvings are still intact. The rains and weather destroyed large areas of the city.
The large temple that we visited is surrounded by giant walls reaching 20 feet tall and 4 feet deep, primarily as wind breakers. Inside there were two main plazas, one for higher nobility and another for more common folk. They held large fiestas and rituals here including animal and sometimes human sacrifices. After construction was already underway, they discovered a natural water reserve under ground. Within the temple walls, there were large granaries, a cemetery or both Nobel and commoners, plazas, alters and storage for riches and offerings. There are parts of the temple that have only recently been discovered. Archeologists were hard at work while we were guided though the Pre Incan community. One thing I found really interesting was that they didnt use stairs, only ramps. Steep ramps but they did not discover the use of a wheel. Neither did the Incas….