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The Many Layers of Peru, Part I

At two in the morning and we were in a long line at the Ecuador and Peru border. I looked at the beautiful twelve foot posters of Machu Picchu and was excited to be on our way to our next adventure. In less than three weeks we would be hiking to the beautiful lost city of Machu Picchu and this horrible line would be long forgotten.

We thanked the Ecuadorian border guards as they stamped our passports and then handed our passports to the Peruvian border guards one foot away at the next counter. They stamped our passports and we were in Peru. Both country’s guards are in the same building and crossing the border couldn’t be easier.

In less than an hour, we were back on the bus. I put on my headphones and my eye mask and I was laid back in the full comfort bus seat. It was more comfortable and bigger than a first class airline seat, but it wasn’t a bed. I knew that the inconvenience would be worth it when we would soon be exploring the ancient tombs of Peru.

When I awoke it was 9 am and we were driving along the Coast of Peru. We passed grass roofed huts and fields of banana trees. I removed my headphones and eye mask to see Ol reading the morning news on his phone.

When I went to sleep we were high in the Andes and now all I could see was sand dunes, grass huts, and the Pacific Ocean. We would be arriving in the northern Peruvian city of Chiclaya in a few hours.

I was surprised that for the first time in two months of travel I didn’t enjoy the view out of the bus windows. At first I thought that it must just be this village, or this town. Ok, maybe this city. Unfortunately, it was every place we drove through. The country I was most excited to visit quickly became a disappointment.

All through Colombia and Ecuador we have travelled by bus and by foot, through small and poor villages, but found them charming and beautiful. There was always something to love and find endearing.

In Peru, I couldn’t get past the endless piles of garbage. The plastic bags, the bottles and broken glass. Northern Peru was like driving through a landfill. Piles and piles of garbage for miles and miles. It was almost impossible to fathom.

It was difficult to see the beautiful sand dunes, the rivers and bays, and more importantly the miles and miles of Pacific coastline and surf, through the heaping mountains of debris.

Hour after hour, my heart hurt. It was hard to understand. Did Peruvian’s not take any pride in their communities and their country? I just couldn’t wrap my brain around it. It was difficult to see and I just wanted to cry. I thought of the crying Native American in the 1970 anti-litter ads of my childhood.

When our bus pulled into Chiclayo, all I wanted to do was leave. I didn’t want to see the archeological sites in the area. I just wanted to get on the next bus to Trujillo, because it had an airport. So, we got in line and bought a ticket and had one and a half hours until the next bus left.

While we were in line we met a young man from Venezuela named Juan, about the same age of our son. Juan spoke perfect English and proudly told us that he was first in his class. We soon learned that Juan was fleeing his country. He was only 18 years old and was leaving his mother, father and two brother’s for a better life and education in Chile. He had been traveling by bus for over a week. It was the first time he had been outside his country and away from his family. We offered to take him to nice restaurant for lunch and we wanted to hear his story.

Juan is an amazing young man and his parents should be proud of him. It was a blessing to meet him and to hear of his fears and dreams. We asked him to email us and to let us know when he arrives safely in Chile as we will worry about him. Maybe it is because we have a son the same age, but as parents we just wanted to watch over Juan and make sure that he gets to his destination safely.

When our bus pulled into Trujillo we were totally surprised to find a large and modern bus terminal. It seemed more like an airport. We decided to check on prices and travel times to Lima and then to find a room for a night or two. We couldn’t help but laugh at all the Pope banners when we exited the bus station. Apparently, we are sharing a similar travel schedule!

Within an hour we were in our room. We were too tired to do anything but, shower and get in bed. We had been traveling for 24 hours.

We decided that we couldn’t travel through Peru by bus. The country that we thought we would spend the most time in was a big disappointment. So our itinerary in Peru just got much shorter. We decided that we would go see the big sites and we would fly. Darn, there goes my budget. However, we were still only spending around $95 a day.

We pulled up a map and a calendar and made a rough itinerary. We would visit the sites here in Trujillo and then fly to Lima. Spend two nights in Lima and then fly to Cusco. We would spend the majority of our time in Cusco and then fly to Arequepia. From Arequepia back to Lima and then to Santiago, Chile to meet the kids on the 9th of December.

I went to my travel agent only sites, air consolidators, Expedia, etc., and then pulled up my Skyscanner App. There was no comparison. We could each fly for $550 on Skyscanner and the 5 flight segment tickets were $1,250 each on the other sites. We booked them immediately and went to bed with smiles on our faces knowing there were no long buses in our immediate future.

The next morning we walked to Trujillo’s historic square and witnessed the preparation for the Pope’s visit. Also, the desert town was just recovering from the El Nino flood that happens every 20 years. In the spring the street and buildings were flooded with four feet of water. We couldn’t subject you to the littered landscapes so we are using photos from our visit to Trujillo, Peru’s second largest city.

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