Peruvians adore the United States. I have received such a welcoming from everyone I pass in my daily adventure. The people have a heart felt respect for American culture – and everyone wants to learn English.
Tuesday turned out to be quite an adventure. After my morning class, I confirmed with Miss Martha I would not have to be back until 5pm that afternoon for tutoring. I decided to take advantage of my time and make the trip to Huanchaco, and add a pit stop to the ruins of Chan Chan.
I boarded the bus which was crowded with people, and hopped off about a half mile before the bus reached downtown Huanchaco to walk along the beach. I made my usual rounds to the carts of shells and trinkets along the sidewalk and then paid the extra .50 soles to walk along the muelle pier.
I looked over the side of the muelle and saw slinder black ducks floating at the surface, that would abruptly turn upsidedown and dive underneath the water. I was facinated. While mezmorized by their disappearance, trying to hold my breath as long as they could, a man approached me and asked if I’d like my picture taken. I was in my ‘sure why not?’ mood, and told the man in Spanish exactly that. He took my picture a few times and then had me review all of them to see which I liked most.
A bit tickeled by his persistance, I chose the one I liked most. Suddenly, he whipped out a minerature printer from his fanny pack and taught me about the `submarine ducks`that dive for fish below the pier. All while he casually printed my picture. I asked if I could then take a picture of him, and thus returned the favor.
I asked him the name of the `submarine ducks`which he then wrote on his hand. So that I could see how it is written and read about them later. For those who are interested:
After I made my rounds, I flagged down the first bus I saw and hopped on.
My blue – green eyes and pale white skin promted the driver and his partner in crime, the cobrador, to chat with me about the grand United States of America.
Within but a moment we were on the outskirts of Huanchaco. We continued down Aveneda Masiche, as every trace of civilization began to disappear. We were in the middle of the desert with scattered adobo mounds on each side of the highway. Then all of the sudden the bus halted and the bus driver gave me a big grin and pointed down a dirt road and said ‘ Chan Chan! ‘
I didn’t see a Chan Chan, nor did I see anything that looked remotely like a ticket office, but his gesture was so sure, I couldnt doubt him. I paid the cobrador and hopped off walking in the direction of the ocean. After a few minutes of walking without an end in sight I became a bit nervous. I have learned to carry myself in a ‘dont mess with me’ sort of way in and feel completely safe alone on foot in Trujillo, but there was something about walking down a dirt path in the middle of the desert by myself which made me feel a bit out of place. I walked alone between the dunes – nothing but the dunes and the ghosts of Chan Chan.
FYI: The two things one must watch out for in Trujillo are yellow Taxis, and motos motorcycles
There I was about 1 km into the abyss, when I turned around to see a moto following me in the distance. I will admit I freaked – for a split second. As the moto apporached I had analyzed every way out, and had a planned emergency escape route through the.. dunes..??
The bike was soon by my side, it was go time. The man on the bike looked at me and asked ‘vas a las ruinas?’ I shortly replied ‘si’ and grabbed my bag ready to run. He was dressed in formal wear, so I doubted my initial fear and let him speak before I bolted. He said ‘let me take you!’ I cautiously approached him as I asked politely for his documents. He pulled out his badge and with relief I hopped on the back of his bike. We rode down the path towards the sea through the oldest ruins in the world.
We pulled up to a group of tour guides who seemed to be on their afternoon break for almuerzo. They all laughed and joked with the guy who had kindly given me a lift. I hopped off and headed into the maze of what still stands as the adobo Palace of the Chimu people, built around the same time as the pyramids of Egypt.
Moral of the story? If you want to experience the ruins of an Ancient Civilazation all to yourself, take the risk and go without a group tour. I had the entire palace to myself.
There are no bus stops in Trujillo, instead you will find locals leaning off sidewalks – toes tipping off the curb waving their hand to flag down the bus they need. It is then up to the cobrador the collector to signal to the driver to stop immediately by whistling and whacking on the side of the bus as loudly as he can. The driver will then plunge the bus to the side of the road as the cobrador hops off, guides passnegers onto the bus. He then hops back on to continue to the next group of hand waves a half a kilometer down the road.
Bus travel in Peru is by far the cheapest way to get around town. The streets are swarming with`micros`(mEE-crows) which swing between lanes dodging taxis and camionetas as they can. From what I have gathered, each bus driver keeps a twelve hour shift, and has the freedom to change routes anytime they feel necessary. You pay one sol every time you ride equivalant to ¢ .30, and that can take you as far as you would like to go, whether its to the central Plaza, or to Huanchaco ten miles down the beach front drag.
With such an inexpensive resource, the demand for a ride is high. There is no limit to the number of passengers that can board. The number merely depends on how many people the cobrador will squeeze on the bus at one time. Passengers are packed like sardines. To make sure passengers are aware of their surroundings, the cobrador will shout things like ‘farmacia!’ or ‘mall’ and a chorus of people will reply ‘bajo, bajo!’ or ‘I get off, I get off!’
I would like for you to keep in mind Newton’s first law of motion: Inertia – An object in motion wants to stay in motion.
..That goes for the bus and all of the passengers onboard. Coming to an abrupt stop will throw the bus and the 20 people standing behind you forward – you must hold on.
In riding the micro today, the cobrador and truck driver shot each other a glance of satisfaction as the bus bottomed out on a speed bump. While the passengers were tossed into each other, I could see the two were proud. Business was good.
Business relies on the number of rides they give in a day, the tighter the squeeze, the bigger the profit. Walking down the street can be just as rowdy as walking through aisles of vendors in the central market. Each table has their own goods to sell, each bus has their own vacancies.
Business relies on the number of rides they give in a day, the tighter the squeeze, the bigger the profit. Walking down the street can be just as rowdy as walking through aisles of vendors in the central market. Each table has their own goods to sell, each bus has their own vacancies. And so the cobrador becomes the seller, the driver provides the resource. A good cobrador shouts and whistles at pedestrians making sure if they’ve so much as thought of going to the centro, they know there is room on his bus and his bus will get them there faster than the one behind it.
The two must read each other, and read each other well. If the cobrador misses a step, he could end up getting trampled.. or worse, lose business.
If you have the chance to ride a Micro, savor the rush of grabbing a hold of anything you can find, planting your foot on the first step and hoisting your self onto the bus. Then imagine what it would be like to do that every minute of every hour for 12 hours straight. All for revenue, for both you and your driver.
Hunachaco is a beach town near Trujillo. With a mere 1.5 soles 0.46 ¢ you can hop on a bus and ride straight to Huanchaco. The ride will last about 30 minutes and will take you through one of the oldest ruins of the world, Chan Chan, built by the Chimu people cerca 850 A.D.