We left our accommodations in Vilcabamba at 5am to catch the 5:15am bus to Loja, Ecuador, to then make a 7am bus to Mancara, where we crossed the border into Peru and went 5 more hours across the desert to the city of Piura.
From Piura we caught a 5pm bus to Chiclayo. We arrived in Chiclayo at 8:30pm after about 16 hours of bus travel. This was our busiest day of travel so far. For so many buses and a border crossing, the day went really well. The border crossing was pretty standard as far as South American border crossings go. We got off the bus on the Ecuador side, filled out our exit paperwork to be stamped out of Ecuador, then walked across a bridge into Peru. After a friendly chat with customs, we were given visas and then stamped into Peru.
Experience has taught me that border crossings have a tendency to be a pain but this one was quite comical. Let me explain further- As we walked across the bridge into Peru we were guided to the customs office (a small shack) and greeted by 2 customs officials (2 guys in street clothes calmly lounging in plastic chairs, enduring the afternoon heat). These men greeted us with ear to ear smiles, and casually asked “Whats up?”.
Me: “Hi, we would like to enter Peru”
Official: “That’s great, how long would you like to be here?”
Me: “The maximum would be nice.”
Official: “Is 6 months good?”
Me:“Yes, that would be great” …STAMP!
Official: “Welcome to Peru. Here is your 6 month visa!”
The crossing was very relaxing which is somewhat unusual for a border crossing in any country.
We continued on the bus to Piura, Peru and got a taxi to an ATM to get Soles (Peruvian currency). After a taxi ride through town we decided Piura was not worth staying in overnight, so instead of looking for a hostal, we went to the nearest bus station and boarded a 5pm bus to Chiclayo, a few hours further down the coast.
We spent one night in Chiclayo and then took an overnight bus to the highly recommended village of Chachapoyas in the Amazonas province. Since being here we have visited the ruins of Kuelap and the 3rd highest waterfall in the world, Gocta. Tomorrow at 5 am we are taking another 12 hour bus to Cajamarca. What can I say we are gluttons for the open road.
When we got a few hundred yards from the falls, our group stopped on along a cliff and seemed satisfied to end the hike right there. We decided to get as close to the base as possible:
- Touring the fortress of Kuelap was an unbelievable experience. The fortress was built with 3 times more stones than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt and each stone in the fortress came from a river, a over week’s walk. Exactly how they carried all the stones that far is unknown. This ancient fortress was constructed by Chachapoyans between 900-1100AD. They mummified their dead and sacrificed animals for their Gods. Archeologists continue to slowly excavate Kuelap and in 2010 approximately 80 mummified bodies were discovered in the fortress. The whole time we were there I thought we could stumble across some new discoveries but no such luck.
- One of the most fascinating things about Kuelap (in my opinion) is their similarities to Ancient Egypt. These civilizations had no contact but operated very similar to one another. I wonder how this is possible.
- In Peru many times you walk into a store that has 5 or 6 employees but no customers. The process of buying something, like a bottle of water for example, that takes 3 employees at 3 different counters to check you out completely, is quite comical. At first I thought this might be due to poor management, but after talking to some locals I believe this to be a very smart and compassionate way to run a business. With over 50% of Peruvians in poverty, business owners tend to employ more people than necessary to help out those that need it. They understand that it’s more important (for everyone) to keep people off the streets and employed than making a few extra dollars (for themselves). What a great way to run a business.
- In Ecuador there are only 1 or 2 bus stations in a city that all the bus companies operated out of. In Peru dozens of private bus stations are scattered throughout each city.
- There is more negotiating in Peru than in Ecuador. It is a very friendly type of negotiation but warrants restraint on the buyer’s part in knowing that seller is probably in living in poverty and will sell items for pretty much any price if they need money to buy dinner that night. It is important not to take advantage of these situations and only negotiate to a fair and reasonable point (or not negotiate at all).
- Peruvians have been exceedingly friendly. The other night we were looking for a place called Mari Pizza and stopped to ask a guard. The guard didn’t know the place so he stopped another guard who didn’t know where it was either, so that guard stopped a guy driving by in his car who didn’t know, so he quickly pulled out his phone to call his friend who knew where the place was. By the end of what we thought would be a quick question we had 4 or 5 Peruvians desperately trying to find out where Mari Pizza was (one on the phone, one in a car and 2 that were heavily armed). Christina and I could not help but to laugh out loud at the situation that had formed.
- Another time we asked for directions, a shop keeper explained that it was 3 blocks down the road and then felt that her explanation wasn’t good enough so she left her shop in order to walk us to the location.