Writing on Tuesday, June 29th: So I didn’t make it too far today. That said, I am feeling much better. I was a little uncertain in the morning but that was likely due to being seriously undernourished. You know when you haven’t eaten in a while and are a little dehydrated and can’t really tell if you are sick or not? Well that was it. I also felt a little flushed. But I had long underwear and and a vest underneath my riding gear. Of course I am going to feel flushed.
I am at a seaside town called Huanchaco. It is just outside of of Trujillo. Trujillo would be an obvious place to stay if you had to stop on the Pan-American Highway. Lonely Planet suggests that Huanchaco is a welcome alternative to Trujillo — likely because of its quieter, beach setting. Having breezed through Trujillo, I decided to look for lunch in Huancho. I stopped at a restaurant/hostel, which looked good. I later came back for the night.
As mentioned in my last post, I was pretty hungry. Ever since I saw a photo of Chifa food, I wanted to try it. Chifa is basically Peruvian Chinese food — meaning Chinese food brought to Peru by Chinese immigrants but prepared with local ingredients. It is apparently very, very common and almost trumps local cuisine in popularity. Rice. Soy sauce. Local meats, seafood, and vegetables — and yes, likely cuy (guinea pig) if you look. So the hostel had a rice and seafood dish done Chifa style. I was sooooo hungry and it was pretty darn good. Served with a salad, big juice and an Inca Kola on the side, it was about $3. Good thing I didn’t stop for the cuy frito and papas (that’s guinea pig and chips) I saw earlier ;). Funny enough, JP and I spoke briefly with a guy working at the hostel in Boquete, Panama who was of Peruvian origin. He had recommended a local Peruvian restaurant. I had mentioned cuy. And then again. And again. He then dismissed the idea. He had never run into cuy, living on the coast, but had heard rumours of it. Well, I found it on the coast.
After having my late lunch, I intended to head back to Trujillo to find a cajero ($), and find somewhere to change my oil. I ended up going to an archaeological site called Chan Chan for a bit. It was something that was hard to pass up — I went right past it several times — I would regret it if I didn’t have a look although it was 1/2 hour from their closing time. It was interesting to look at but I did’t know much about it and there wasn’t much information in English. From what I have read, it is the biggest pre-Colombian site in South America. While the ruins are said to be about 20 square kilometres, the parts that I saw were apparently the temple. There were many intricate floral and fish designs in the adobe mud walls. I’m sure there is much to the story that I don’t know yet.
I did find the cajero but no oil change yet. Trujillo was pretty darn busy in rush hour — and while tiny compared to Lima — the traffic sucked — and frankly people drive like idiots. Lima is going to be interesting in terms of traffic — ugh. So after some internal debate as to whether to continue south towards Lima or to just go back to the hostel, the decision was made by that waning sun light and here I am.
The restaurant associated with the hostel is bustling. I am a little surprised. Well, a busy restaurant is usually a good restaurant. I understood it to be a bit of a weekend surfer joint. I hadn’t expected that I would be questioning whether or not it I can bring my bike inside at by the suggested 10:30pm mark. In the end, they kicked everyone out at about 10:30 without warning.
Peru, at least the northern coast, is not what you think. Forget about llamas, alpaca sweaters and brightly dressed people in the Andes. Forget about Machu Pichu and brightly painted buses. I am not going to pass full judgment yet as there is much more Peru to see but so far it has absolutely to do with the “Lonely Planet” version. Peru, next to Mexico, is the most dirty, smelly, garbage ridden country so far. And it is not without it charm. Some times the conditions of the highway shoulders is just gross. During my sick spell yesterday there were areas of road which smelled badly enough that it started to make me feel like I wanted to hurl. Sand, sand, building, sand, strong smell of dead fish, sand, sand, smoke, burning something nasty — plastic. Garbage dumps aren’t so much in use here as are garbage plains. There are hectares of litter strewn desert in which the garbage is just burnt or mixed into the sandy earth. The stuff that isn’t mixed or burnt just flies away.
In many ways there is a majestic beauty to the much of the desert area. While I expected to be saying this in Bolivia, riding through the vast flatness of the desert today must have been a taste of what it is like to be on the moon. I’ve never seen this much flat before. But, as mentioned earlier, there is the garbage problem.
Taxis, as in the car type, seem to be popular in urban centers, but otherwise, mototaxis are dominant. These are three wheel vehicles which are basically a small motorcycle on front and a carriage on back above the dual wheels. There are for carrying people or vast amounts of kindling, or other wood products. While I am not certain that it is a fact, I believe that this area of Peru is the poorest of all of the areas I have traveled through. I base this statement on the fact that many dwellings seem to be constructed not even of adobe blocks, brick, wood or even tin, but of straw mats. In the desert, at best these dwellings would but block the wind but I hardly see how it would stop sand from blowing into the dwelling.
I often envision that I am riding through areas of Afghanistan. While I honestly don’t know that much about Afghanistan, it seems that you could interchange much of the scenery between the two regions. While I was riding back to Huanchaco, I noticed how gray the sky was, as was the beach, as was the water. None was blue. There was a hazy yellow sun shining through and a fog of burning grass and garbage misting the air. Pretty — in a dirty, dusty, harsh way. There is a weird irony to it.