Piura, a Second Chance and Cruz del Swell

Trip Start Nov 13, 2010
Trip End Jul 20, 2011

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Where I stayed
Cruz del Sur Bus

Flag of Peru  ,
Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I was exhausted after my emotionally draining journey from lush to lame the day before.  As is so often the case, the little Hostals I stay in are a complete respite from everything.  Hostal San Jose, once I was deposited by the reluctant taxi driver, was a lovely little place run by a couple of sisters....no, not the nun kind, real sisters.
Marcia, the owner, speaks English - even more now having just returned from visiting her son in Austrailia.  The place was simple and homey - like going to Gramma's.  Went out for Chinese food - the worst ever...couldn't read the menu and even with a group project of the staff trying to explain each of the 900  items (no pictures) - I just had the energy to point to one.  Not sure if all 900 were horrible but the one I picked was.....off to bed to get some sleep to prepare for the next day's 15 hour bus ride into Lima.  Yes folks, this is why you can't wait until you are old to travel.  You need some stamina....definitely not fitness or I would have been kicked off the team by now....but some stamina to endure long days and nights.
Piura is smoking hot.  Desert hot, dry hot, ...really really hot.  I wondered if I had lost my hotability in Ecuador as I was feeling it.  I decided to give Piura and Peru another chance and headed out, in a secure taxi......I wanted to walk but the Guesthouse...no no no.....so yet another hand picked taxi and I was soon sweating in the center of town.  It actually was quite lovely.  I headed to the tourist info office on the square and it was obvious they don't get many.  More gazing at me then helping at first.  The lucky guy who got me was flanked by the rest of the ladies in the office - them poking him and teasing him about his English.  After a map and 7 sites to see, i headed off to use my four hours before bus launch time wisely.    Four hours.  I zipped around the map route - Cathedral - check...nice.  Museum - got lost - asked a business man and he stopped his hurrying to whereever he was going and turned around and took me there......so nice....not in Ecuador anymore I thought.  Museum - check - 4 minutes, three rooms.  Art gallery - check - 20 paintings - a few reproductions.  And so it went - finished the sites in 25 minutes......all nice, all simple, all done.  Now what?  Sit in the square with everyone else!
All the seats in the shade were full but a man saw me hanging around and insisted I sit in his place - nice.  Then the woman beside me told me her life story.....I think it was nice - I just nodded and smiled.
What was apparent here is that everybody seemed so sweet and had all the time in the world to visit and they seemed genuinely happy I was in their town.  I only saw three other tourists in those few hours.  Even in the stores, the clerks were all forthcoming, the security guards wanted to try and chat...all really nice and such a difference from the day before.  In one store I saw the sweetest moment - moments that are hard to see these days.  A group of school girls, maybe college, obviously from the country (desert), scrubbed up and excited, had found the escalator.  it was their first time on it and a few were too terrified to try it and kept planning on the next stair, the next stair, all the time being coached by their friends.  We don't get to see those simple wonders anymore - sweet.  After visiting most stores, sitting around, eating ice cream, looking for all the scary bad guys I was to be sheilded from in the secure taxis, I headed back to the guesthouse to have a shower and head off for the long journey to Lima.  I decided to walk....live on the edge.  I walked past a big crowd outside of a store - a group of men were lined up on the street - watching televison.  Again, a scene from the 50's!  

Piura, away from the market/highway street chaos of the day before seemed, at least on the surface, gentle and simple and just .....nice.
I definitely had my guard up as I started to walk back the route of the taxi, waiting for my spidey senses to send out some alarms, but nope, didn't happen.  Motos stopped, taxis stopped, everyone seemed baffled about why I was walking at high noon in the scorching heat when I could probaly ride for pennies, but walk I did all the way back to the Guesthouse in time to have a nice visit with Marcia and head for the bus.

I had booked the super fancy Cruz del Sur bus for the 15 hour journey.  Super fancy meaning leather lazyboy chairs that reclined, movies, toilets, wifi and meals served.  Bring it on.  Even if the windows wouldn't open for my 'dog in the wind' schtick...better because I had just gotten the knots out of my hair, I knew it would be good. And it was.  All good.  Relaxing, luxurious, and even better that there was only three of us in the bottom VIP section  - 3 of 9 seats - upstairs the bus was full in the cheaper seats.  I splurged for the extra 13 bucks - $35 up in the basic fancy, $48 bucks in the super fancy with our own toilet, section.  This is expensive travel in these here parts.  The day before I paid $10 for 9 hours international - from Ecuador, so this bus is much more.  The difference is this bus doesn't get robbed.  Other night buses do and there are stories galore of night time, nasty robberies.  The gig is, and it seems the drivers might be in on it, and maybe the police?  The bus stops for a variety of reasons, in the middle of nowhere, bad guys run out with big guns and bad attitudes and enter the bus.  Everyone is ordered off the bus into the darkness, forced to lie side by side, shots are fired to show that they do indeed have ammo, and everybody, mostly locals as these buses carry everybody who travels,  loses everything valuable.  Sometimes some get beaten up - especially if you do not have the minimum expected of a tourist - at least $20.....I was reading blogs of nasty situations from  Peru/Ecuador/Bolivia and have decided I am paying the big bucks for the buses that are doing something to keep their reputations.  I like an adventure, but I don't want to get dirty, in the dust, in the dark.  Nope.  so far, so good.
The bleakness of the desert went on and on - hours of nothing, towns and cities etched out of the sand and dirt - really very bleak.  I was not disappointed at nightfall - usually I would be upset to miss any scenery but this was worth missing.
Eventually I did fall asleep and woke up around 5 to find that we were already at the far outskirts of Lima.  It is a city of between 7 and 9 million - where do you draw the line?.... and the little minivans and tuk tuks were already overflowing as thousands headed into the city for their long days of trying to make a living.  So many stories in those vans and buses
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