You’ve booked your ticket and you have a fair idea where you want to go and what you want to see in Peru – exciting! Whether you plan to do a mad dash of the highlights or spend a few months soaking in the culture and stunning landscapes, check out these five ways to help you to make the most of your time in Peru.
I had been in two minds whether to go by public transport or pay the extra and just catch a taxi. If you are stretched for time then I recommend going on a tour - it will save you the hassle and stress of trying to get there. However, if like me and you are up for an adventure, then have your coins handy and go by combi. If you don’t want to book a tour online, head to Plaza de Armas and walk around looking for “tours” signs on the buildings. They may seem hidden at first because signage in Peru is more subtle, but there are plenty around.
My guest house, D’Barrig, was in the barrio of Monserrate, in the old part of Trujillo. It was a street away from Avenida Costa Rica which turns into Los Incas, one of the major streets that takes you to the historic centre of Trujillo, Plaza de Armas. There are some street signs in Trujillo being a small city, which helped me to get my bearings. I did find this post by Unpaved South America handy.
The van dropped us off at the entrance of Huacas de Moche, the museum and ticket booth. Entrance to Huaca de la Luna is 10 soles and 5 soles for the museum - although I was only charged 3 soles because either I looked like a University student or Peruvian. It’s worth visiting the museum before going to the temples as it does have English translations and a brief history of the people and the site.
It’s Saturday and my last day in Zorritos - tomorrow I’m heading to Máncora for the night to finally have my date with steak. My TEFL Zorritos course has taken up most of my time and mental space this month, so for those who wait with bated breath to hear about a Latin lover in the mix will be sadly disappointed. Cramming 120 hours of study, including 10 hours of real teaching experience in one month has been an intense, mentally demanding task - yet now that we’ve all come through the other side, I say it’s been worth it.
Four of us have taken placements in various parts of Peru - Oliver heads to Chachapoyas at the edge of the Amazon, Jess and Amelia (who met and formed a great friendship during the course) will continue their adventure together in Arequipa. Today Kassie is heading home to the US as she is planning to teach online, and on Monday I will soon be making my way south to my placement in Huaraz. Before then, I hope to check out the archeological sites in Trujillo for a few days, a city which is about halfway between Zorritos and Huaraz.
The hotel pool is peaceful at this time of the morning - there’s panpipe music in the background, and apart from the staff and I, it feels like the world is still asleep. A double-decker bus just pulled in, I guess they’re having breakfast here. Sometimes they stay a few nights, sometimes we hear the music and laughter from our rooms and by the time I come out, it’s quiet again.
I just heard the word “promociones”, which is a bit like an end of year school camp. There must be at least 70 people in the restaurant, inside and out - even the hotel manager, Cindy, is in the white Pinamar t-shirt. Feeding people is serious business in Peru. Maybe I should have had breakfast earlier!
Yesterday marked my third week in Zorritos - and I have slowly ventured away from the hotel to try some of the locals’ hangouts. I tried a new restaurant called Pollo de Anthony which serves pollo a la brasa (Peruvian rotisserie chicken) - I ordered 1/8th chicken, which was served with fries and salad for 9 soles (NZ$4). The pineapple juice pushed my meal to 13 soles (NZ$5.85). After dinner, I walked to a nearby bakery, ordered a few sweet treats to take back and share with the teachers. It was essentially someone’s house with a display cabinet at the front. The woman was so nice and patient with me, speaking clearly to explain the cost and the different portion sizes. I walked away with slices of chocolate cake and local biscuits.
Oliver had a date with a Peruvian woman, and I had a date with steak. Máncora is only an hour away and makes for a nice weekend getaway. Yet, the trip over can take a lot more - that’s because we planned to take the public minivans to save money. Let me explain, in rural Peru, this is the cheapest way to travel, but there are no timetables. It costs 10-12 soles one way (NZ$5.40), which is the same price as a local’s lunch menu. Is it safe? Yes, and because of the language barrier, most people just leave us alone. Just smile, and if you don’t understand say politely,
“No hablo español.”
Are there alternative transport options? Definitely, but you will pay a lot more - like the taxi driver that wanted 80 soles ($36). I haven’t been on the buses, but I do know they get stopped for longer at the “checkpoint” between Zorritos and Máncora. The minivans get stopped too, though because they have less luggage, generally they don’t stop for long? What are they looking for? Anything illegal I guess, these buses often cross the borders so maybe it’s their equivalent of local customs agents...Peruvian style.
It’s Monday, just before 8am and I’m writing this post poolside - there’s an air of tranquility at this time that helps me write. We’ve had more overcast days than sunshine this past fortnight, which doesn’t bother us as much when we’re in class during the week. Then as soon the sun comes out, it’s like we’re rats in a cage who can’t wait for the day to be over. Our classroom is on the veranda above the restaurant - where a cool breeze insists that we wear pants and jumpers.
Our second week brought the added challenge of teaching three night classes, an hour for each trainee. We taught primary aged students to adults at all levels, though last week I only had primary and adults. Although free to the community, they are real classes and we’re observed by our course trainers. The TEFL method is essentially total immersion learning - that means without the use of the native language. That suits me because my level of Spanish is less than most of the adults’ level of English! What’s been my biggest challenge? Getting reacquainted with grammar!
Zorritos is a small town in the province of Tumbes – a 2.5-hour flight from Lima and a world away from the one I was living in just a week ago. Even though Whakatane has roughly the same population as Zorritos, there is a vast change of pace and lifestyle. Where there were pine trees, I see coconuts and papayas. Not all roads and footpaths are paved, and without regular rain, dust nuisance is something you have to accept as a fact of life. I can’t say there has been much of a culture shock (except for the language barrier), because there are many towns in the Philippines that look just like this one. Maybe it will be an advantage, or it could hit me later.
If travel is a go to metaphor to describe how to embrace change, then airports teach you patience. Everybody and everything is in constant transition – people you meet, your interactions, sometimes, even your final destination changes. Nothing and no one in life is stationary, even if it feels like it. This blog post spans over 30 hours of travel and transit, the beginning of my planned eight-month adventure in Peru.