More Moche ruins and a night bus

Having woken at 5.30am I thought I wouldn’t go back to sleep but I must have dozed off because the next time I woke it was nearly 8.30am! It is most unusual for me to do that. I got up and had breakfast, chatted to one or two people and then got slowly packed up. For some reason, they didn’t hassle me to leave the room by 10am like they had done with a number of other guests.

I left my bags downstairs and headed into town where I visited the Casa Urquiaga, which is part of the blue Bank building in the plaza. It didn’t take very long as there wasn’t much in it but it was interesting nevertheless. I just love the old Colonial buildings.

Afterwards, I wandered down to the Avenida Los Incas to catch a ‘collectivo’ to the Huacas of the Sun and the Moon. I don’t think I could have managed to get a more decrepit van if I had tried. I ended up sitting on the ledge behind the front passenger. Their seat was tipped back and the cushion part of my ‘seat’ kept moving. I was also right next to the sliding door, which didn’t shut completely, and which the conductor appeared to be holding closed for most of the trip. There were a number of missing parts and none of the doors opened or closed properly. Needless to say, it was jam packed full, so wasn’t the most comfortable of journeys, although I was able to move to a proper seat once one lady got off.

Huaca del Sol on the left and Trujillo in the distance
Huaca del Sol on the left and Trujillo in the distance
Part of the Temple of the Moon (Huaca de la Luna)
Part of the Temple of the Moon (Huaca de la Luna)

We drove quite a way out of Trujillo and eventually arrived at Moches. The driver delivered me to the ticket office (I was the only person in the van by this stage as the conductor had also disappeared) and I bought my ticket and then had to walk all the way back to the temples in the heat and wind, which was driving the sand across the road.

I was told I had to rush and join a tour that had already started but, as the tour was in Spanish, I didn’t bother (although, strictly speaking, you are not supposed to be there without a guide.) I listened in to part of the tour and then wandered around the Temple of the Moon in my own time. There is a huge amount of renovation going on, although the site itself is not very big. The pyramids were built by the Moches, once again, the same community that belonged to the Lord of Sipan in Chiclayo.

I didn’t bother to walk the distance to the Temple of the Sun as I had had enough by that time so waited for a collectivo to return to town. Thankfully, this one was in a slightly better condition!

Part of a freize at Huaca de la Luna near Trujillo
Part of a freize at Huaca de la Luna near Trujillo

By now, I was starving so made my way to the plaza and La Llave cafe, where I had the set lunch. This was ok but not as good value as I had had in the restaurant of the last two days. The cafe itself was decorated with displays of some very old keys.

Once I had finished eating, I had a short wander round town and then decided to try the Museo Cafe, which I had read about, for coffee. I was very glad I did as the decor was most interesting, it being a cross between a Gentlemens’ Club and a pub. There were lots of photographs on the walls and all the furniture was very old, including the well worn leather bench seat that I parked myself on. Whilst I was there it started to rain so I didn’t rush my coffee and sat there for quite some while. I’m glad I did as, when I went to pay, I realised it was the most expensive coffee I have had in a long while but at least it was good and not made with evaporated milk!

Cafe Museo in Trujillo
Cafe Museo in Trujillo

I made my way back to the hostel where the Frenchman I had spoken to at breakfast was sitting in the common seating area. I attempted to read but he kept interrupting and I was grateful when one of his friends turned up and took his attention away. He was also going on the bus to Huaraz tonight, although with a different company.

Once he had gone, I was able to read, have some wine and then a shower and rearrange my baggage. I was just talking to the lady who had checked me in when another girl arrived and it turned out I had met her in the hostel in Quito, which is quite a coincidence, so had a chat to her as well.

The hostel lady called me a taxi at about 9pm and I arrived at the Terminal Terrestre in plenty of time for the 10.30pm Movil tours bus. I was very thankful to be leaving the hostel as I wasn’t very impressed with it. My room appeared to have been constructed in a corner of the landing. It was a most bizarre arrangement and the room was extremely stuffy as there was no real air coming in.

The bus station is very new and modern and was relatively empty. I had to check in my back pack and was then able to sit in the VIP lounge where I read whilst I was waiting. The bus was extremely comfortable with reclining seats and blankets. We were even given a roll and biscuit. I managed to sleep on and off throughout the night (once the film had finished playing above my head) and was, in fact, asleep when we arrived in Huaraz.

Adobe ruins, reed boats and bus rides

I had a virtually total sleepless night, which I attributed to spending too much time, late at night, on the ipad. I eventually dozed off after 5am, having spent the hours listening to very loud disco music and people coming in late. I was awake again at 7am and lay in bed for a while before going for a shower. There was no water. Not happy, I went down and told the lady, who was sort of doing the breakfasts, and got a garbled explanation, which I thought meant it will be back on in 10 minutes. It wasn’t, so I went down to breakfast where there were one or two other people who were wanting showers and were also a little unhappy.

Then, there was apparently no more bread. This was not turning into a good day! As the breakfast, included in the price, was only bread and jam (and eggs if you wanted to cook them yourself) this was a bit much. I had one roll and then a left over crust before a few more rolls magically appeared. The owner of the house also eventually materialised and said there was water but the taps needed to be turned on. Really?

We stayed chatting at the breakfast table for a while and eventually heard the sound of running water. Someone optimistically went to try the shower, but no luck. However, when I tried a little while later, lo and behold there was hot running water. Thank goodness, as I needed it to make me feel normal after the sleepless night!

Chan Chan archaeological site
Chan Chan archaeological site

My agenda for today was the Chan Chan ruins. I took a bus from the corner of the street and off we went. The bus was being driven by a 12 year old wannabe cowboy and the conductor had a very piercing whistle (not physical instrument but his mouth) that he used to drum up custom along the way, in addition to the usual shouting. We raced along and I was dropped off at the entrance to the ruins, which were about 2 kms walk away along a dusty track, in the sun. Luckily there was a reasonable breeze as otherwise the walk might have been quite unbearable.

A couple of girls were walking ahead of me and we were stopped by a man, purporting to be a guide, who suggested taking us between the 4 sites (for there were 4) for a certain price. As he spoke Spanish it would have been useless to me, but I also wasn’t sure about him and the other girls weren’t interested at all. So that solved that!

Restoration in progress at Chan Chan
Restoration in progress at Chan Chan
Symbols on a frieze at Chan Chan
Symbols on a frieze at Chan Chan

A UNESCO site, the ruins are the remains of the largest Pre-Columbian adobe city in the world and were built by the Chimu from approximately 850 BC. Sadly, they have been eroded by the weather and, in particular, El Nino. However, they are in the process of being restored and the palace is one of the sites where there are many people working on reconstructing the palace walls and friezes. It was difficult to tell which areas were what as, whilst there were a few information boards in English, they were insufficient and the guide book was in Spanish. However, it might have been helpful if I had had it to give some meaning to the construction. The most fascinating part was the extent of the city, which in its heyday, housed 60,000 people. Sadly, much of it at the moment, anyway, apart from the Palace, just looks like a pile of rocks.

Restoration workers at Chan Chan
Restoration workers at Chan Chan

After walking around, I went back to the road and headed for the Museum. I had forgotten that all museums are closed on Mondays! A very helpful man supplied me with the information and told me where to catch the bus to Huanchaco, the fishing town where the fishermen use a very strange looking reed vessel. Before the bus came, a ‘collectivo’ approached, as usual, touting for customers, so I took that. It was already reasonably full but we still managed to add a few more passengers. At one point, I counted 17 adults, 1 child, the driver and conductor in the minivan. Not bad for a vehicle with 9 seats!

I got off before the end of the route and strolled along the beach front, where I spotted an agency for the bus companies. As they were busy, I decided to come back later to find out about the bus tickets to Huaraz. The only ones I could find on the internet were night buses and I really wanted to travel by day.

Fisherman at Huanchaco
Fisherman at Huanchaco

The beach was a little disappointing (for I am a spoilt New Zealander) with some black sand and some rubbish. The fishing boats were all lined up along the promenade wall with some out at sea bobbing in the waves. I paid my 50 centivos and walked out on the jetty and watched the men line fishing at the end. They seemed to be catching some very small fish, which would definitely not have met standards in N.Z.!

Afterwards, I walked further along the sea front, until the pavement was covered in sand and there were sandbags all along the edge. They obviously have some wild weather here! Souvenir stalls were interspersed with the fishing boats as were piles of reeds, which must either have been for repairs or building new boats.

Fishermen mending their nets at Huanchaco
Fishermen mending their nets at Huanchaco
Beach at Huanchaco
Beach at Huanchaco

There were many restaurants lining the waterfront as well and I was starving but didn’t have enough money on me to buy lunch if I was going to purchase a bus ticket. The latter seemed more prudent as it was going to be far more problematic buying one in Trujillo if I didn’t buy one now. I walked back to the agency and discovered that there were no day buses and I would have to travel by night. At least the bus had seats that reclined into beds.

I caught the bus back to Trujillo but didn’t recognise anywhere so went past my stop. Once this had occurred, I decided I might as well stay on the bus and see where I ended up. As it only cost 1.30 soles, I could always buy another ticket to return. Luckily, it did a circular route so, once we had visited the suburbs and driven through an absolutely vast market selling everything under the sun, we came back towards the central city. By this stage, I had my phone in hand and was tracking us on Google maps so I knew when to get off. (I wouldn’t have recognised it otherwise and could have gone back to Huanchaco!)

Finally back in my room, I collected some more money and set off to find lunch. As it was now 4.00pm, the chances of finding a place that was still offering ‘almuerzo’ were slim as they tend to stop at 3pm. However, I was in luck as the restaurant I went to yesterday was still open. Also, as it happened, Israel and Eefje were just finishing theirs so I sat with them and chatted whilst I ate. After they had gone, I enjoyed a coffee and then went for a short stroll through the market place and the plaza, a quick look in the Cathedral, which just happened to be open, and then back along some parallel streets to the ones I had been using. I chanced upon a bit of excitement just around the corner from ‘home’ where there were 3 security guards with pistols drawn outside a bank. Obviously, there had been some happening but whatever it was had been resolved before I arrived. It would have been nice if they had holstered their guns though!

I was feeling extremely full from my late lunch, which comprised a large bowl of bean soup, followed by a very tender beef steak of some variety served with chips, rice and plantains (nothing like a few carbs!) and fruit salad. Even though I didn’t eat the rice or chips, it was extremely filling and I didn’t require anything to eat for the rest of the evening, which was spent in my room, booking Huaraz, doing my diary and reading.

A Colonial city

I had an excellent sleep last night, thank goodness, and felt a lot better this morning. Breakfast was a bit of a strange affair, it being self service of a sort and nobody talking to each other. One chap was looking at his phone and a couple were talking amongst themselves. However, once we’d realised that we all spoke English after the chap’s wife appeared, conversation flowed. New people arrived off one of the night buses and it became quite crowded around the table.

Afterwards, I decided I couldn’t be bothered to rush and spent the morning catching up on my diary. As I was 3 days behind, this took some time.

When I finally ventured onto the streets, I was pleasantly surprised by how empty and quiet they were. Of course it was Sunday and most businesses were closed, but there was very little traffic, few car horns, and amazingly no tuk tuks. How can the previous two towns have had so many and there be none here?

Colonial buildings in Trujillo
Colonial buildings in Trujillo

I strolled along the street housing many restaurants and into the Plaza de Armas, which was stunning. It is a huge square with the usual statue in the middle surrounded by seats and gardens but there were not a lot of big, shady trees so it seemed very open and spacious. All around the perimeter were the most beautiful, brightly painted Colonial houses. I walked the circumference and stopped at the Cathedral where a mass was being held. I listened for a while and then decided to come back later. Unfortunately, as I discovered, the church is only open for 1 hour a day when Mass isn’t being held, but which hour that might be, who knows?

Plaza de Armas in Trujillo
Plaza de Armas in Trujillo

As I was starving, I went in search of lunch. This proved marginally problematic as so many places were closed but I decided on one that had a slightly more expensive set menu, table cloths on the tables and some very smartly attired waiters. I then spent the next hour enjoying my food, beer and coffee whilst watching the people stroll past from my table by the door and feeling very content.

When I could prolong the experience no more, I took to the streets again and found I was just in time to catch the 3pm City Sightseeing tour. This took us up and down the streets in the historic centre before venturing a little further afield. It lasted an hour and was a good way to get a view of the city without having to walk for miles.

Different architectural styles in Trujillo
Different architectural styles in Trujillo
Buildings in the Plaza de Armas in Trujillo
Buildings in the Plaza de Armas in Trujillo

The next hour was spent sitting in the plaza watching the people go by. The numbers had increased, along with the vendors of various foodstuffs, bubble machines and assorted toys. A group of girls was practising a dance routine right in front of me. It wasn’t clear who they were or for what purpose they were doing it but they seemed to have a collection of friends supporting them and some filming was taking place. There was a lot of laughter and giggling so it was fun to watch them.

The police were also quite amusing. It is obviously prohibited to sit on the grass or certain parts of the central statue and it was their job to control it. However, rather than come over to the people violating the rules, they would just stand at the edge of the square and gesture, whilst blowing their whistles. Sometimes they were obeyed and sometimes not but they didn’t seem to care! I think sometimes they actually just blew their whistles because they could and they liked to exercise their authority.

Statue in Plaza de Armas
Statue in Plaza de Armas

Whilst I was sitting there, a couple approached and said ‘hello’. They obviously recognised me, as I did them, but couldn’t think where from and had to ask. They were a Romanian couple that were on the bus when we crossed the border. I had quite a chat to them and they gave me some tips on what to visit in the south of Peru, where they had been a couple of years ago. They had rented a car and felt the same way as I did about Chiclayo and they had actually driven in that chaos!

When the sun eventually went behind a cloud, I decided to make a move and headed to the supermarket where I bumped into the Romanians once again. After purchasing the essential supplies, which included a bottle of Peruvian wine, I returned to my room and spent the evening on the internet, researching Huaraz, as well as reading my newly purchased Lonely Planet e book on Peru. I find, though, that it is a considerable pain to try and go backwards and forwards between the pages and it would have been much easier, if weightier, with a physical book. My itinerary, now that I have actually done some research, is likely to change. I wasn’t intending to go to Huaraz at all as it seemed to be a serious trekking centre and not much else. However, it has been mentioned to me more than once now, so I have decided to go.

As my room here is less than salubrious, I want somewhere nice to stay next time, so a lot of time was spent looking and agonising this evening! I eventually put the light out well after 11pm.

Moche tombs and desert roads

I had a fairly restless night and woke up early. Eefje and Israel had told me about the Moche ruins and museums for which Chiclayo is famous and, having actually read about them after they gave me the information, I decided to visit the Museo de Tumbas Reales de Sipan. This contained tombs of El Senor di Sipan (Lord of Sipan) and various important members of the Moche community, who lived between 300 and 700 BC. When discovered, these tombs were considered almost as important as that of Tutankhamen. Thankfully, they told me about them and made me realise that I should read a guide book occasionally!

I walked to the ‘collectivo’ garage, which took a little finding, and then had to wait a while for them to get more passengers. I was dropped off in the centre of Lambayeque and was pointed in the right direction for the museum. There are, in fact, two museums in Lambayeque, the other being the Bruning, but I only visited the Tumbas Reales.

First of all though, having not had any breakfast, I had a quick look in the market for juice but decided against having one after I saw them rinsing the glasses with water from the tap. (A bus journey and upset stomach are not a good combination.) I settled for juice in a carton and an empanada from a small cafe instead. The market was very busy and, again, comprised a lot of very narrow alleyways. Once again, I was the only tourist around and so was very wary and didn’t linger (not that I am a nervous traveller or anything….!). There were also a lot of security guards around, which didn’t reassure me.

Tumbas Reales Museum in Lambayeque
Tumbas Reales Museum in Lambayeque

Inside the museum, which was a stark contrast to the town outside, I attempted to read the Spanish signs and appreciated the occasional, seemingly random, English ones. The displays contained a lot of the gold, silver, copper, shell and turquoise treasures and artefacts that were found in the tombs, as well as reconstructions of the tombs themselves, complete with skeletons. It was extremely well presented and ended with a very realistic, animated tableau of the Moches. I was very glad to have visited it before I left for Trujillo.

Traffic outside the market in Lambayeque
Traffic outside the market in Lambayeque

For my return to Chiclayo, I had to go back to the main highway and look for a ‘collectivo’ going in the direction of the city. The most difficult part of this was crossing the road! There are always conductors calling the destinations of the buses/collectivos (which are like mini vans) so I very quickly found one. However, having specifically asked if it was going to the centre, the terminal for this particular collectivo was nowhere I recognised, nor did I have any idea where in the city I was. When I asked, the conductor pointed to the road to the right and basically said it was down there. Unfortunately my Google maps, a standby in desperation, didn’t work as I was off line.

Already feeling somewhat overwhelmed, I walked down the road that he indicated and eventually spotted a very large billboard for WhatsApp that I hoped was the one near the collectivo garage. Luckily it was, which was something of a relief. I stopped at the supermarket and stocked up on water and some lovely ciabatta rolls. I had still got the avocado and some sort of vegetable pastry thing I had bought at the bakery yesterday so was well supplied for eventualities. As it turned out, it was just as well I was.

I was already dreading having to find a taxi and negotiate with them to get to the bus station. However, whilst I was packing up, I heard Israel and Eefje in their room and, as I knew they were also heading to Trujillo, I asked if I could share a taxi with them. Unfortunately, they weren’t ready for another half an hour but the hotel called a taxi, Israel did the negotiating and we arrived at the terminal about 2.30pm, only to find that the next available seats weren’t until 4pm. Even though the buses left every half hour, they were all full. This meant that, as the journey was four hours long, we wouldn’t arrive until well after dark, something I normally try to avoid like the plague. The other two were going onto the beach at Huanchaco, so I wouldn’t be able to share a taxi.

Desert on the way to Trujillo
Desert on the way to Trujillo

The route took us through yet more dry, flat and dusty landscape with occasional areas where there must have been some form of irrigation as sugar cane and rice were being cultivated. There were also the occasional hills. We had the front seats on a double decker bus, which, whilst providing us with an excellent view, meant that we couldn’t stretch our legs so, by the end, I was getting decidedly fidgety. I had had a headache all day, which drugs wouldn’t remove, and managed to doze for a while, but the journey seemed extremely slow. There was a lot of traffic on the road and we stopped at many small towns along the way.

Eventually we arrived, Israel and Eefje said goodbye (I am sure they were quite thankful to be on their own again) and I took a mini van/taxi that was in the bus terminal and operated by the bus company (Emtrafesa). I’m sure I paid far too much but it is all relative (it was only a couple of dollars anyway) and it was safe. The hostel looked all closed up when I rang the bell and the driver waited until somebody opened the door, which I really appreciated. The lady did not appear to be expecting me but eventually found my booking. She was very kind and helpful and gave me a bit of tourist information, which I struggled to take in, being extremely tired by that stage and the conversation being all in Spanish. After the formalities, I was shown my room, which is another internal one with a window into a void. It also appeared to be a temporary construction in a hallway. She didn’t have any with exterior windows and seemed a bit puzzled by my request. The room is very basic and I am sharing a bathroom but there did not seem to be any other rooms, apart from one, that were occupied.

I had a shower, ate my delicious ciabatta with the, now squashed, avocado and went to sleep!