1000 Km of Hitchhiking and Couchsurfing
Posted on Sep 19, 2013 |
The monkeys decided to divide the journey into six segments so that they could see the most interesting archeological sites on the way. You can read apart that part of their journey in the article 5000 Years of the New World
. Here you can follow the hitchhiking adventures of Bimbino and Bambina, their Couchsurfing experiences in Huanchaco, Chiclayo and Piura, and their discoveries in Peruvian coastal colonial cities.
Hitchhiking on the Panamericana
To escape to paradise without spending too much money, Bimbino and Bambina decided to hitchhike. After all, autostop in Peru appeared to be easier than the monkeys had expected.
It was not an easy task to get out of Lima. Hitching directly out of the city was not really an option, as there was no spot within its limits where it was easy to get a ride. The only proper starting point was located 40 km north of Lima: Ancon. The bus ride took more than two hours; traffic in Lima was as horrible as always. Geoffrey Mutai, the world record holder on the marathon distance would have taken less time to get there.
Hitchhiking on the Panamericana is relatively easy, as it is the only North-South connection in the whole country. As long as you find a spot where cars drive slowly, you rarely stand longer than half an hour. It changes dramatically as soon as it gets dark. ...and in the tropics this always happens between 6 and 7 p.m.
Therefore the task is to be on the road in time. If you start too late you might get stuck in the middle of nowhere. That day Bimbino and Bambina were lucky even though they arrived in Ancon only two hours before sunset. They found a direct lift to the city of Barranca, exactly where they had intended to go.
The monkeys learned that they needed to calculate distances not in kilometres, but in time. For 160 km they needed more than three hours. The traffic on the Panamericana consists mostly of trucks and their average speed is hardly ever higher than 50 km/h.
Magnificent Desert and Boring Cities
The way to the North did not offer a lot of variety. Kilometer after kilometer the road meandered through the seemingly endless desert. Only when the road came within sight of the Pacific Ocean did the desert became a really magnificent place: panoramas for eternity.
Every couple of hundred kilometers the green valleys of the rivers running down from the Andes offered some relief from this tristesse.
Most of the cities on the way appeared to be grey and boring, somehow interchangeable. Barranca and Casma, two of the cities Bimbino and Bambina stayed over for a night had not been worth the visit, had it not been for the archaeological sites nearby. Something changed only when Bimbino and Bambina reached Trujillo, the third biggest city of Peru.
Just 8 km away from Trujillo there is the small coastal town of Huanchaco. Before staying in another big city the monkeys decided to stay by the ocean. After more than a month in Lima they were in need of some peace and quiet. Luckily they were able to find a host via Couchsurfing.
Huanchaco is one of the places on the so called “Gringo Trail” and is popular mostly among surfers. The water there is pretty cold for swimming, and surfers have to wear neoprene wetsuits. Every 100 metres you can find a surf shop to rent or buy a surfboard, a wetsuit, or get some lessons from an instructor. In one such kind surf shop Bimbino and Bambina ended up Couchsurfing. During the high season their host used his house also as a hostel, but when there were only few tourists coming he shared the beds just for free. Angelo was his name. He was a surf instructor living a simple, but happy life. He went surfing every morning, gave surf lessons during the day, and and smoked with his friends until it was time to sleep.
This is not Angelo. This is a good friend of him. Such happy people live in Huachaco.
Every 50 metres on the coast you can find a restaurant with all kinds of fish dishes. Fishing and eating fish in Huanchaco is almost as popular as surfing. Every morning at sunrise the fishermen return from the sea with the fresh fish they have caught during the night to sell on the local market. Some fishermen still use their traditional boats which have a lot in common with modern surfboards (at least the monkeys thought so at once). These boats became an unofficial symbol of Huanchaco.
These boats are an unoficial symbol of Huanchaco.
The fishermen returning from their night fishing at sunrise.
Huanchaco at sunrise: quiet and peaceful.
In Huanchaco Bimbino and Bambina met their brother. They introduced him to their Couchsurfing host Angelo, who invited the blue monkey to stay with him forever. He agreed and has been living there happily ever since.
Trujillo is the most common starting point for excursions to the ancient sites of Chan-Chan and the Huacas. Trujillo itself is quite young. The city was founded by the Spanish in the early XVI century. Still today the palace-like houses of the nobles of those days characterize the cityscape.
Trujillo is a colourful colonial city with a pleasant atmosphere. Even though it is the third biggest city of Peru, it has fewer than one million inhabitants and doesn't seem very chaotic. There were surprisingly very few cars in the city centre, therefore no constant honk of horns; this made the walk around the city very delightful. Feeling uneasy in that pleasant silence the monkeys escaped to the rush and noise of the city market. Unfortunately, the little camera with the pictures from that market was lost a few days later, and the monkeys have only their memories left.
The markets in Peru are very different from those in Europe or North America. Here you can find many people who exercise professions that have vanished from the streets of developed countries over the last decades: shoe polishers, tailors, carpenters, locksmiths and many more. Even more impressive is the number of people who repair electrical things that the people from the “civilized world” would just throw away: radios, televisions, computers, mobiles… After a moment of feeling nostalgic Bimbino realized what was going on here: in Peru the wages of simple people are so low, that repairing electronic items is cheaper than buying new articles, craft is easier to afford than a product from mass production.
People bring their shoes for repair. It is a lot cheaper than buying a new pair.
People in Peru (and South America in general) still bring their electronics for repair. It is a lot cheaper than buying a new device.
Couchsurfing in Chiclayo
Chiclayo was Bimbino and Bambina’s last archeological stop. you can read about their archeological experience you can read in the article 5000 Years of the New World
. The monkeys also had a Couchsurfing experience in Chiclayo.
The monkeys did take some pictures of the city, but together with those of the market in Trujillo they were lost with the small camera. However, there was no reason to regret losing those pics. Chiclayo is not a beautiful city. The monkeys hadn’t spent a lot of time there, they were mostly visiting places near by.
Unluckily Bimbino got sick the day of their arrival to Chiclayo. Luckily (or maybe not) they had found a host on Couchsurfing. Bimbino started feeling unwell already on the way to Chiclayo. He had the same symptoms as Bambina in Lima two weeks ago, probably the same stomach infection.
Their host Ernesto met them at the main square and showed the way to his place. He was understanding and let Bimbino go to bed directly. Having a huge experience with Couchsurfing the Monkeys are never demanding more than a mattress on the floor. That time their host had a whole room with a big bed just for them alone. However, it was all not as awesome as it seemed at the beginning. The moment they lied down they saw a big cockroach waving hello to them from the wall beside their bed. He was obviously inviting them to join the party under the bed. But the monkeys were quite tired and decided to decline his invitation.
The next shock was going to the toilet. It was one of the dirtiest ones Bimbino would use during the whole year in South America. The next day Bambina asked if it was ok if she cleaned the toilet; no one objected, but neither expressed any gratitude. Bimbino, however, was delighted as he had to use the toilet more often than anyone in the house that day.
The next day Bimbino was fit again. Ernesto was indeed a very caring host. He showed them the way to the Museum of the Royal Tombs of Sipán in Lambayeque. When the monkeys got home tired he prepared some tea and Bimbino and Bambina brought some cakes to share. They had a nice evening talking about big plans for the future.
On their last day in Chiclayo, Ernesto took them to the ruins of Túcume. This is one of the best advantages of Couchsurfing: locals always know the secrets paths. Ernesto knew the way to get to the ruins for free. They have spent the whole day together playing “Indiana Jones”.
In general it was a good Couchsurfing experience. Ernesto was very caring host, sometimes overprotective, but a good person anyway. What do you do if your experience was from one side a positive one, but from another rather negative? For Ernesto having the monkeys turned out to be a positive experience, as he wrote them a respective reference. Bimbino and Bambina couldn’t answer in the same manner. They had to write a neutral review for Ernesto summing up his caring and friendliness with overprotectiveness and condition of the toilet in his house.
Couchsurfing in Piura
It is amazing to notice how the climate changes while driving in a straight line from the South to the North. Piura is located around 200 km North of Chiclayo, and with every other kilometre the air changed. It got warmer, sunnier, greener. And the mood of Bimbino and Bambina changed accordingly.
There was no real reason to stop in Piura, but holding to their rule of 200 km a day they decided in favour of spending a night there. Moreover they had found a host who seemed to be great according to his CS profile. And so he was!
You don’t always end up on the same wavelenth as your host. People are different: with some you click, with others not; with those you wouldn’t click, the others do; with those you click the others don’t. The Monkeys definitely clicked with Oscar!
In the evening they went together to Clandestino, a bar with a great atmosphere, nice design and good music. When they came back home happy but tired, Oscar put an air mattress on the floor in a separate room which suited as an office on the workdays. They slept perfectly and woke up refreshed. They had time to rest from the road at home while Oscar was studying. After almost two weeks on the road the monkeys had hardly any clean clothes left. Luckily Oscar had a washing machine. It was such a delight to have their backpacks full with clean things again. Washing machines can sometimes make you very happy, have you ever experienced that?
When Oscar was finished with his studies, he took the monkeys on a short trip to the small town of Catacaos, which is famous for its handicrafts and arts. Oscar needed a big hat he would use during his visits to the plantations (his work was related to agriculture). Bambina thought she could use a hat as well. The market turned out to be an amazing place to buy some souvenirs. However, the monkeys couldn’t afford to buy anything as with each thing they bought their backpacks would become heavier.
Afterwards they participated in a family celebration for Oscar’s sister, who was getting married soon. There was plenty of vegetarian food, mmm… And everybody was very amused to meet the monkeys and eager to take pictures with them. Where do you think the pictures are? Exactly: on that very same lost camera. Luckily the monkeys had three cameras with them, so some photos were saved.
Catacaos market is famous for rich assortment of hats.
Oscar bought a nice sombrero for visiting plantations.
You can buy all kinds of interesting things at the market of Catacaos, not only hats.
The symbol of Catacaos at the entrance to the town.
It was so good to spend time with Oscar that Bimbino and Bambina decided to not hitchhike to Máncora but instead take a bus instead later in the evening. And that is how their hitchhiking trip came to an end.
Join us next time when you will meet Bimbino and Bambina in again Máncora.