After 2 days on the beach at Huanchaco, we were ready to go to the mountains. Destination Chachapoyas, Amazona province Peru. To reach Chachapoyas from Trujillo there is an overnight bus that takes 12-14 hours to travel the 280 km of highway and treacherous mountain roads. We booked a “cama bus” (sleeper) executivo class with moviltours. For 80 soles (about $32) we were promised a modern bus, reliable team of drivers, a/c, a hot meal and a bathroom. I was most interested in the bathroom because my litvack stomach had revolted against the onslaught of ceviche and chicharron (fried seafood) that I had gorged myself on in Trujllo and Huanchaco. At the Terrapuerto (land port) of Trujillo we went into the VIP lounge (translation- free wifi in lounge and free use of bathrooms that had toilet seats and paper). We boarded a modern bus that was not covered in shag rug and virgins. There was a young attendant in a red version of the Cactus Club cocktail waitress dress and cha cha heels. As we boarded I thought of the expression used by our friend Cassidy in a post on a champagne flight to europe; “this is how we roll”
However, as we rolled out of the station at 4 pm the driver announced that the WC was only to be used to “urinar”. This is how we roll I grumbled to myself as I downed 2 immodium and hoped that the generic would be as fast acting as the name brand.
The landscape I was able to see before it got dark had dunes and isolated mountains.
We stopped in Chiclayo to pick up dinner and continued on. With the help of a blindfold that looks like a training bra and an audio book I drifted into sleep while Eliot watched a couple of movies. I woke at 3 am tossing from side to side, from the sudden movements of the bus as it negotiated a tricky mountain road. From my window, I could see a line of buses and trucks on the curves in the road ahead of us. I fell asleep again. We arrived in Chachapoyas at 6.20 am and it was cold. Our first local was a taxi driver with a musical accident. He was friendly and asked the local price of 3 soles ($1.20) without requiring any negotiations.
Based on Eliot’s research, I booked us a private room at the backpackers Hostel for 70 soles ($28.00). At 6.30 am they lent us a room to nap in. The room had a bathroom with an opening in the ceiling into another bathroom. At 7 am, we awoke to a nasal version of a Beethoven’s 9th as this man spent at least 15 minutes purging his nose and throat “this is how we roll”- I thought feeling depressed and tired. At 9 am, we got up and switched to our room (a front facing room with a balcony and view).
After we settled in, Eliot noticed the tiled walls were dirty, as was one of the towels and that there was a layer of dust on the drawers and in the wardrobe. The mould in the fridge pushed him over the edge “we have to leave”. As we looked for alternatives on line, I realized that there were 2 other backpacker hostels and that I had booked the wrong one. We found La Casona Monsante off the Amazonas pedestrian mall. The place was an old style hotel built around a garden courtyard. It was spotless and had fresh orchids and flowers from the back yard in the room and was 100 soles ($40) .
They did not have an on line presence. We decided to suck it up and stay the night at the wrong Backpackers and then move to the Monsante the next night.
It was a rainy day and we spent it checking out the market. The cheese and fruits were great and Eliot had quinoa juice. I got a haircut at the “Shalom” hair salon (coincidence). The town has no tall buildings, supermarkets or malls, and it many ways is like going back in time. Most of the population are descendants of the Chachapoyas people.
Village Square- Chachapoyas youth
The town was established by the Spanish to re-settle this people far enough from their temples to facilitate conversion and assimilation. This was their third and last settlement. They did not want the Chachapoyas to continue to return to Kuelap.
We befriended an early 30’s couple from France (Flabia and her musical boyfriend.) They had been travelling for over a year and were staying in a dorm. We had dinner with them and they shared travel stories, a doobie (to Eliot’s horror) and told us about racism in France (Flabia’s man was a social worker). We drank wine and he played the guitar. We sang “the girl from ipanema” and tried to do Jean Le Loup “I lost my baby, I lost my man”. It was a great moment, this is how we roll- if only we could then return to a comfortable clean bed with a hot shower. But alas that was not to be. Our room was cold and shared a wall with a pool hall. The hostel owner managed to find the only loud place in the entire town to locate next too. As I lay down to sleep, I thought “this is how we roll… I want my bed. However, since my bed was thousands of km’s away I went into my happy place (blindfold and ear plugs) and actually slept ok. I told the manager of the World Backpackers why were moving and she felt bad, but the evidence was everywhere in the room when she came to see.
The next day, we happily walked with our backpacks to the Hotel Casona Monsante and felt happy to find comfortable beds and a clean room. Our rolling improved from then on during our stay in Chachapoyas. We continued meeting great people from tourist to locals that were amazingly helpful not expecting anything in return.