Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
Overnight bus – Vilcabamba, Ecuador to Trujillo, Peru
This journey would be another one of the many long bus journeys we’ve been a part of on this trip. We took a late bus from Vilcabamba to Loja ($1.30ea) for a 1.5hr drive in the dark arriving around 9pm for an 11pm departure. The Loja terminal is big and very busy, but doesn’t have particularly comfortable seats. Loja Internacional runs 3 buses a day (07:00; 13:00; 23:00) with a cost of $12 per person directly to the town of Piura, Peru (325km by road). This can also be done with a mix of local buses, taxis and so forth, but tourists are often taken advantage of with inflated prices along with some slight dangers that always tend to occur in border areas. We’d chosen the overnight bus to save a night’s accommodation and hopefully avoid any lengthy border chaos.
Overall things went quite smoothly with the full bus leaving on time and driving for around 4 hours to the border. The line up to get exit stamps from Ecuador took a while and wasn’t well organised considering our bus was the only set of people there. We then walked across a small road bridge into Peru and got our passports stamped. Remember to try and ask for the maximum time of 180 days (for most Western countries) or else they might stamp you with a shorter time. Our border person was only going to give us 1 month until a bit of broken Spanish conversation he recognised we were longer term travellers and gave us the full 180 days.
This counted off country number 37 for Toby and no addition to 69 countries for Rodora as she had been here several years ago. See our Country list challenge here.
We got back onto our bus and slept a few more hours before arriving into Piura around 8am. This is not the prettiest of towns and has some interesting reputations in previous years. Realistically, people just come by here on transit heading North or South.
Peru bus stations are annoying
We can’t speak for all of Peru yet, but it seems normal that most towns and cities don’t have a central bus station. Instead, each bus company has its own small terminal randomly placed in a city. The buses here are generally of good standard and you can pay for lie flat beds on the major overnight routes. The pain comes from trying to find prices and departure times without investing a lot of time walking around or taking taxis between terminals.
This was the case in Piura where we had a 10+ block walk from our arrival terminal to our next bus. Taxi drivers were a little pushy at our arrival terminal, but we split a taxi with 2 other guys for a total of 8 soles ($2.90). Fairly over priced for a 5 minute drive, but none of us knew where the terminal was exactly and knew that a bus would be leaving in the next hour care of this website
We got onto a 9.30am Emtrafesa bus heading to Trujillo (25 soles / $9ea) for the 6.5 hour journey. The bus was fairly comfortable but did make stops along the way to pick up and drop of random people, so a half empty bus filled up and emptied out a few times over. The trip is around 425km through mostly flat and brown landscapes along the coastline. Not exactly picturesque or scenic, but relatively flat, straight and fast.
Arriving into Trujillo around 4pm and nearly 20 hours in transit, we were in search of somewhere to sleep and didn’t plan on being too fussy. We had some rough directions and suggestions to work with and set off walking. It took us a couple of tries including a dirty place for 30 soles ($10.80) and an overpriced hotel at 200 soles ($72) before we settled on a place called Hostal El Encanto (translated as Hostal Charm) for 40 soles ($14.50) with private bathroom, hot water and wifi.
We went in search of dinner, but didn’t find much to our liking except a range of expensive tourist restaurants. We settled on a soupy chicken meal in the market for 3.50 soles ($1.25) before an early night to bed.
The next morning was a visit to the market for Rodora to have coffee and a seemingly traditional breakfast of bread rolls with eggs. This was followed by a short walk around the colourful central square called Plaza de Armas.
Chan Chan Ruins
These ruins are about 5km west of Trujillo on the main road to the popular beach spot of Huanchaco, where a lot of tourists choose to stay instead of Trujillo. We took a combi van for 1 sole each ($0.35) to the entrance road where we walked about 1.5km to the entrance booth. Entrance fee was 10 soles ($3.60) but this included 4 locations and was valid for 2 days.
The area itself is around 20km2 and initially just looks like a big dirt patch with some dirt hills. It was built around 850 AD and had around 30,000 inhabitants. The city was abandoned in 1470 AD when it was overrun by an Incan army.
The first thing we saw entering Chan Chan was a Peruvian hairless dog.
These dogs really have been beaten with an ugly stick. We saw many of them at the couple of archeological sites we visited.
Walking into Chan Chan it was clear where they had spent the money preserving what was left. The weather plays a big part in eroding what is left, so they have built many structures to try and keep the rain off.
We spent around 1 hour walking around Chan Chan reading through many of the English/Spanish information notices. The site is fairly impressive and gives you a good idea of what it was like in the past.
Once we’d finished we walked back to the main road and towards the small museum located about 1km towards Trujillo with entrance included in your previously bought ticket. The museum had some pieces found in Chan Chan along with a lot more information on the history of the site. We were fairly bored and tired in a short amount of time with our stomachs crying out for some lunch.
Guinea Pig “Cuy” – time to give it a try
We walked back towards Trujillo and quickly found a local eatery offering something that Toby had been wanting to try for many weeks, Guinea Pig. We were still new to Peru, but we figured 10 soles ($3.60) was a good price for a set meal including this little animal. Rodora had tried it before and wasn’t having any of it, so she ordered fish.
When our meals arrived, they were enormous. The outline of the Guinea Pig was clear on the plate, so much so you could distinguish face and claws. We’d heard the rumours of it tasting like chicken and they have a little bit of truth to them. The meat is a little tough and chewy and you could even use the word “gamy”. It’s possibly a bit like the dark meat on chicken but with more flavour. Toby still says he’d try it again if the price is right, but for now we’ll stick to typical dishes of chicken and meat.
Huanchaco – The Beach
We then picked up another combi out to the beach town of Huanchaco (1.50sole/$0.50ea). It was around 5pm and we were interested in sunset beer o’clock. The beach is a popular tourist and surf spot and easily walkable in a couple of hours. After a short time of walking around we’d found our beer and a spot on the beach to watch the sun set across the ocean.
Huaca de la Luna y Sol – Temple of the Moon and Sun
We took a combi here (1.50sole/$0.50ea one way) which took around 30 minutes through the outskirts and farming areas of Trujillo. We got dropped off at the museum and paid 3 soles ($1.10) for entrance and a further 10 soles ($3.60) for entrance to the temple site. The museum is very modern and holds many artifacts that have been found in the temples. It has a range of English/Spanish information boards so you can learn more about what the site was used for.
The story is that these were built during the Moche empire (AD 100-800). The Huaca del Sol (Temple of the Sun) was an administrative centre and the Huaca de la Luna was a religious centre.
The ticket price includes a guided tour in English/Spanish but since we were there at the end of the day, it was only Spanish available. This would be another chance for us to practice our broken Spanish skills. Luckily the guide was patient and spoke relatively simple and slow Spanish to help us understand what was going on. The tour was only of Huaca de la Luna which from the outside is not much to look at.
This would be another site that had a lot of weather protection and for good reason. Once inside it was very easy to still see that painted colours on the walls.
We’ve been to many ruin sites on our trip and this is the first we can remember seeing so much original colour and architecture so clearly visible. The story seems to be that this place was rebuilt about 5 different times. Each time it was rebuilt was for a new ruler and the paintings were modified or covered in a set of bricks. This helped to preserve what was underneath.
The size and scale of this place is really quite impressive and very unlike any other ruin site we visited in all of Central of South America at this point.
For the relatively easy effort and cheap cost we’d definitely recommend a visit to this place. You could be in and out in under 2 hours, but probably better to visit earlier in the day for a chance at getting an English speaking guide.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/