A little break from city life!
26.06.2009 23 °C
We said goodbye to our apartment in Bogota and hauled our HUGE bags down the 3 flights of stairs but we weren't quite done with South America yet. After dropping off the bulk of our possessions at the YMCA office, we headed out for Lima, Peru to start our 3 week tour of northern Peru and the Amazon river.
We arrived in Lima and were pleasantly surprised by the city. Its Plaza de Armas (the Plaza Bolivar of Peru, aka every city has one) was colorful and bustling with travelers. Lima's tourist sections are all well connected (contrary to Bogota's layout) and the city is accustomed to having foreigners roam their streets. We adjusted well to vacation, churros filled with caramel off the streets, ceviche from the local cevicheria, seeing the Pacific ocean, and Pisco Sours (the local drink in Peru- basically a margarita made with their own hooch, Pisco).
After checking out the catacombs at the San Francisco Convent, watching the changing of the guard (to the tune of Star Wars, not kidding) and visiting Miraflores- the super-classy-tourist-ridden-almost-too-familiar-starbucks-hosting area of Lima, we hopped on a luxury bus (leather reclining seats and meal service) to head up to Huanchaco, Peru on the north coast.
Huanchaco is a sleepy seaside town just north of Trujillo where some of Peru's most ancient civilizations used to reside before the Inca's took over. The town itself has a Santa Cruz-y vibe and we took advantage of the time to relax, eat some seafood visit Chan Chan, the ruins of the Muchik people, and take surf lessons from the locals!
By the time we left Huanchaco we had about 2 weeks left in Peru and wanted to get to the Amazon as soon as possible. We had planned to head east through Chachapoyas where we would be able to see some ruins but the locals had other plans for us. The Peruvian government had recently sold off some of the land belonging to the indigenous communities to private enterprises for petroleum exports and they weren't happy about it for obvious reasons. In response the locals had blockaded some of the major highways connecting cities in the northern central highlands (where we were trying to pass through) and the confrontation with local law enforcement had caused about 25 deaths of both indigenous and police officers.
In trying to avoid the conflict we had taken a bus to Cajamarca (along a different highway) but when we arrived after 8 hours we were told there were no buses to Chachapoyas. None. Zilch. Zero. Awesome. After running around to ask every bus company how we could get to Chachapoyas we finally had to give up the dream, it just wasn't in the cards and we changed the plans. The only way to continue east to the Amazon, was to go back to the coast and take a different route to the Amazon. Ugh. Foreseeing quite a few hours on buses, we stayed the night in Cajamarca which turned out to be a wonderful stop.
We woke up the next morning and opened the balcony doors onto the main square where dueling Catholic churches ring their bells, alternating every 1/2 on Sundays to bring in the masses. We spent our Sunday checking out Atalhuapa's holding cell (where Pizarro held the Inca chief hostage and the chief promised to fill it with gold in exchange for his freedom), the natural baths, and eating delicious ice cream made from local fruits (Lucuma won by a landslide) before heading to mass and catching our bus back to the coast.
We weren't able to make it to Chachapoyas and our round-about way to keep going east was to go back west to the coast, spend a day in Chiclayo (where we went on a hunt for an illusive witch market which we nicknamed Diagon Alley and we dissappointed by both the lack of witch-ery and anything else of interest) before hopping on a bus for night #2 sleeping on a bus.
When we woke up after 13 restless hours on what would be our last bus of the trip, we were in Tarapoto. We stepped off the bus and were welcomed by a wall of humidity and heat. It was official, we had made it to the Amazon!