Once in Chiclayo, we took a cab to our hostel, and all the time our taxi driver was telling us that it might not be open because the government shuts them down every once in a while because of health concerns
. Okay, dude, whatever. We´re just going to check the place out, and if we don´t like it, we´ll go to the place ¨closer to the plaza¨ that you are recommending. Turns out, the hostel was great! Nice paint on the walls and cute decorative touches, hot showers, and best of all, no bed bugs. Silly cab driver was just trying to make a commission by getting us to go to another place.
The reason we stopped in Chiclayo was for a witch market that Lonely Planet made sound really cool. Once we got there, though, it was less than exciting. We saw a bunch of herbs, but no shamans. The coolest things we saw were two dried stuffed animals. One was a monkey and the other was a leopard. We still don´t know if they were real, but we didn´t want to stand there long enough to find out. Also, everybody in that section of the market was trying to sell us something called San Pedro. Later, we found out that it´s some sort of hallucinogenic plant, like peyote. Great. Apparently we look like frat boys who are staying in party hostels and all we want to do is get high on new cool drugs. No thank you. We would like to continue traveling without more health complications besides the regular intestinal parasites and bacteria. After walking around that small section, we continued through the rest of the market, because we thought there had to be more to this witch market than what we saw
. Nope, there wasn´t. That was it.
Well, okay, now what are we going to do for the rest of our stay in Chiclayo? I guess we could head north a bit to these ruins that everybody says are cool - and they look pretty cool in the pictures, too. So, the next day, we headed to Tucume to see some pyramids left over from the Chimu and Incan civilizations. We took a combi (a collective taxi van) to the town of Tucume, then a moto-taxi to the ruins. We visited the museum first, where we learned about the Chimu culture, and saw an aerial view of what the ruins look like. Afterward, we headed out into the desert to hike up a tall dirt mound to see what these pyramids looked like from above. Let me just tell you right now, they don´t look like pyramids. I was proud of myself for being able to tell that one mound of dirt was a pyramid, because it looked like it used to have four sides to it. You really have to have an amazing imagination to be able to appreciate these ruins. Really. I generally think of myself as having a good imagination, but I was not able to imagine people living there, and was definitely not able to imagine that the mounds of dirt I was looking at were actually pyramids.
One of the coolest things about Chiclayo was actually back at our hostel
. We met this cool Catalonian guy named Roger (he is NOT from Spain!) that we got along with pretty well, and found out that our itineraries through Peru were pretty much exactly the same. Once again with a Spanish-speaker, he had a test in English in May, so he wanted to practice his English, of course, so we didn´t get to speak Spanish with him as much as we would have liked. Roger was taking a night bus to our next destination of Cajamarca in the mountains, so we walked him to the terminal, where we found out about the local delicacy (actually from Lambayeque a few kilometers north of Chiclayo) called King Kong. Not joking. One guy even said to us ¨como la gorila!¨. I don´t think that needs translating. We asked a lady in a shop if she sold it. She didn´t, but she told us about the best brand and the best flavor to try, and indicated the direction we should go to find it. We walked back toward the bus terminal, bought some King Kong (somewhat expensive, but what the heck!), then went back to the lady´s shop so she could share some of it with us. She seemed so excited about it! She went in the back and got a knife to cut it up with, and took a small bite, and also gave some to her son, who was also pretty helpful. I guess I should describe just what this stuff is. King Kong is a type of layered cake, with crunchy cookie layers (which lack a lot of flavor) about half an inch thick. In between each of these layers is a layer of flavored, sweetened, condensed milk. We got the ¨manjar blanco¨, which was basically unflavored, but still very sweet and rich
. There is a specific way of cutting it as well, which was indicated in directions on the box it came in. You can´t just cut it with the layers piled horizontally. You have to put the cake on its side so you can see each layer, then cut it vertically. This way, the cookie doesn´t break and you enjoy the aesthetics of having perfectly unbroken, stratified layers. You can only eat a 2x2x4 inch piece before feeling sick, but after making sure that our lady and her son got as much as they wanted, we took the rest back to the hostel and were able to eat half of what was left, before having to give the rest to the hostel staff for fear of having a heart attack right there on the spot. Our assessment of this King Kong cake product? Umm, maybe just worth it once to try, but definitely not worth the cost to continue buying it every week.
The next morning, we followed Roger to Cajamarca on another double decker bus.
The road between Piura and Chiclayo was pretty much what was expected. Barren. The nice thing was that we had our first experience on a luxurious bus, with two levels. We were on the top level with leather seats that reclined almost horizontally, and we actually had leg room when the people in front of us reclined their seats! I was sitting next to a woman with a kid, who of course, puked 20 minutes into the ride, but fortunately, the guy in front of us had everything ready and gave the woman a bag and some toilet paper to clean everything up with. Somehow, this wonderkid´s vomit didn´t stink, though, so I was still able to enjoy the luxurious ride to Chiclayo. Unfortunately, the ride was a short 4 hours, so we weren´t able to fully test out the comfort of the semi-cama seats.