Monday, 4 June 2012

Peru – The land of the long bus ride.

Well we finally made it to Peru – after an arduous overnight bus journey and border crossing we landed in Piura at 6am. We swapped the bus for a minivan to get to Mancora, on the north coast. The trip was a long 3 hours, driving through a desert-like sandy landscape that seemed to go on forever and dotted with tiny villages made of basic adobe houses and surrounded by tonnes of garbage.

Mancora appeared out of nowhere in a dusty haze. It seemed like a buzzing toursit mecca from where we stopped on the Panamericana, the street was lined with shops and heaps of noisy and cute looking moto-taxis swamped the road. 

Eva geared up and standing in front of a moto-taxi.
 Once we stepped off the main road though it was clear that Mancora was a rustic, rundown village of mostly mudbrick houses and bamboo and palm leaf bungalows. Except of course for the big tourist hotels built right on the beach that looked totally out of place among the rest. We stayed in a bungalow a couple of streets back from the beach – it was lovely, basic and more in tune with our budget. 

Mancora is famous for the beach, it is beautiful and goes on for miles, although a security guard came and stopped us from walking too far as she said that it was unsafe. There were a few surfers out, but most of the crowd were there to party hard! We spent a couple of lovely days hanging out though – we hadn't seen a beach for a while!

One disappointment was the amount of rubbish everywhere, especially on the beach. Even the big places built right on the edge of the beach had just dumped their building rubble onto the sand. Go figure! Nothing quite like dumping garbage in your own front yard. ...I just couldn't get it, especially as the beach itself was covered with limes and tomato offcuts, and other rubbish and there were too many touts selling dried sea horses, turtles shells and coral. It was a little sad and hard to understand.

After sitting on the side of the road at midnight to wait for a bus, we headed to Chiclayo. I thought that it was going to be a small town nearby to some ancient pyramids, but no. It was a crazy, manic metropolis with cars and taxis jamming the roads and noise and a sick smell everywhere. We found our way to the central market and were assaulted by the sights and smells of it. It was like a maze that never ended and everything that you could imagine was for sale, from old boots, typwriters and sewing machines to pigs heads and herbal remedies. We came upon a whole section where huge fish were lying on trestle tables for sale, covered in flies. The smell was like nothing else.

After losing ourselves in the market we finally made our way out, but not before buying a backpack for Eva. It was lucky we did because half an hour later, our other backpack got stolen. We went into a swanky modern restaurant that was recommended in the Lonely Planet. It was clean and sleek with modern orange seats and huge central water feature. But we got a little dazzled by our surroundings. We haven't been going to these sorts of places, $2.00 lunches in local style restaurants are more our thing– anyway, we took our eyes off the backpack for about 15 seconds and it was stolen. Of course it had the new camera and my phone in it! Bummer! The police were called and we did get a ride through central Chiclayo on the back of police motorbikes with the siren going. At least that was a little fun. We were also lucky that they had CCTV footage of the incident and the restuarant manager could speak a little English. He was a really nice guy and actually came to the police station with us and helped interpret. Thank goodness becuase I don't know what we would have done otherwise, he was a godsend. He also invited us back to the restaurant for a free dinner and breakfast as he felt so bad about what had happened. Obviously then, things could have been a lot worse. But we don't have any photos of Mancora or Vilcabamba in Ecuador.

The pyramids and museums in Chiclayo did manage to take our minds off our misfortune though – they were impressive, especially the gold and silver jewelry and the mummies. 
Eva holding a replica of a brick used to build the pyramids
Ceremonial mask of the Lord of Sipan

Eva standing with the "Lord of Sipan"

One of the massive 'pyrmids' of Tucume
Two nights were more than enough for us in Chiclayo and we hit the buses once again – this time headed for Huaraz, up high in the Cordillera Blanca Mountains, via a quick visit to Huanchaco on the coast off Trujillo. Another beautiful beach where we saw the sun set over the sea as we arrived. Huanchaco is more developed than Mancora but still beautiful. A nice little place to hang out, but we only had a meal then jumped on an overnight bus.

Huanchaco Beach

Eva sitting in a bus-cama total luxury compared to the Ecuadorian buses - we are on our way to Huaraz in style!

The view outside our bedroom in the hostel - beautiful!
Huaraz, at 3100m, was beautiful and surrounded by stunning snowcapped mountains. It is a trekking and mountaineering mecca and it is no wonder, the mountains are calling out to be explored, but it is not for the feint hearted. We took a bus trip to visit the Pastoruri glacier, which at 5200m, was very high. Altitude was definintely affecting both of us. I had to carry Eva the last couple of hundred metres to get her there. For me it was definintely worth the effort, although I'm not sure that Eva would agree! She felt sick, had a head ache and just wanted to go to sleep!

On our way back in the bus, it broke down! At one point everyone from the bus was out trying to push it. I wish that I got a photo of that! We were stuck up really high, about 4800m and all of the kids were sick with altitude and the guide's cell phone didn't have reception. Luckily one of the Swiss tourists on the bus was a mountaineer and had a satellite phone, otherwise we would have been out there all night as there was no-one around and we were miles from anywhere! Thankfully a minivan finally appeared to take us back, but not before a couple of the people on the bus lost it with the driver and the guide. You guessed it, it was the obnoxious Americans, threatening to sue them! By the time we got home it was 9pm and we both went straight to bed. My head was pounding.

At a spring where carbonated mineral water was bubbling up from the ground. It didn't taste too good though!

Native Peruvian plants that live for 100 years and flower only once during that time. They were huge.

Eva at the base of the Pastoruri Glacier

After that Eva said that she wasn't going to venture into the mountains again – although of course, being the courageous person that she is, she agreed to go on an un-guided trek to Laguna 69 two days later. At 4800m we were hoping that altitude wouldn't be such an issue. The walk was amazing- stunningly beautiful and it was so lovely to be in nature, away from crowds and cars. We didn't make it to the final lake, the high pass was a little too much, but the day we spent out there walking for about 5 hours was totally uplifting and thoroughly enjoyable!

Not Laguna 69 but another beautiful torqiouse blue lake we saw

After that fix of nature it was again time to board an overnight bus, this time bound for Lima. The city of 9 million people that is packed with people, noise, cars and pollution. Quite a change from the peace and grandeur of the mountains! Mum is coming in two days though and we have to be there to meet her!

Peru - it's growing on us slowly!

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