South America Part II - On to Lima

Trujillo is Peru’s third largest city. As described by the school groups that we met in Cajamarca, it is also a cultured and friendly city. Our hotel was only a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas. Many of the cities in South America have such a Plaza and it is here that much of the activity of the city happens. The first photo shows some of the buildings around the Plaza and the Moorish influence with the wooden scrolled balconies. Being in the city on a Sunday allowed us to see the weekly formal raising of the flag and the parade formed by civic and education groups – bands and all!

One of the best parts of the visit to Trujillo was a local bus ride away in the small coastal village of Huanchaco. This is a fishing village where the men still use a type of reed boat to go out each morning with their nets. The boats are similar to those found on Lake Titicaca but only half the length. It takes the boat builder one whole day to make and then must be replaced after about a month of use as it decays from the sea water. In the past they were also stuffed with reed. Today they use Styrofoam for the extra buoyancy. You can see a statue showing the way they ride the boats in Photo #2. We arrived about 11 AM and watched several of the fishermen come into the beach and unload their catch. Photo #3 shows the boats drying along the Malecon.

Ceviche is a dish made of raw fish or seafood and cured (actually cooks) for a long time in lime juice. The Peruvians have made an art of the presentation and the spicing of ceviche and we had “the best” in Haunchaco!

The Museo Cassinelli was a great surprise for us here in Trujillo. As described in the Lonely Planet guidebook, it is to be found in the basement of a Mobil gas station. What could we possibly expect to see here!? After being led down a flight of stairs and through a heavily armored door, we were amazed by the thousands of pots piled on shelves that totally filled the room. Of course these pots had been stolen by Huaqueros from graves as well and were in perfect condition. The real surprise of this museum starts to pan out when one carefully looks at the variety of pots. Captured in the pots are the images of peoples from all over the world. There are Egyptian, Mongolian, Chinese, and African images. How did the knowledge of these images come to the Mochica people here in South America? Some believe that the foreigners visited South America in Pre Columbian times on rafts sailing from west to east along the counter currents of Equator. That reasoning certainly makes sense to us.

In Cajamarca we had made the decision to fly from Lima to Cuzco. That decision was not difficult as the bus would have taken 36 hours and about $40 whereas the plane cost $70. The reservations were made in Cajamarca and we had a schedule to keep so the bus tickets to Lima were purchased ahead of time as well.

When we arrived at the bus terminal we were surprised to be told that the trip to Lima that day was impossible…the explanation “Una huelga”. Oh dear, a new word! Someone get the dictionary out. A huelga is a strike. We would become quite familiar with this phenomenon before the end of our trip. Everyone was quite vague about what was happening and how long it would last. Our concept of a strike is an action propagated by a certain working group that can last for weeks and affects everyone. We were quite upset by the whole thing as we had reservations to keep in Lima.

Finally, a cab driver told us that the strike was happening in Chimbote, south of Trujillo, and was blocking the only main road in Peru – the Pan American highway. He could drive us to the strike area, we could get out and walk through the strike area and then get a bus in Chimbote. That sounded OK to us – what did we know!? We got credit for our failed bus ride and would use the tickets with the same company later in the trip.

The taxi trip turned out to be very interesting as we rode through large areas of cultivation of white asparagus. Peru is the primary exporter of this crop to Europe. We were pleased to learn that the desert was being successfully used for something. Nearing Chimbote we saw long lines of trucks and cars stopped by the sides of the road. There were large rocks in the road and piles of tires burning and emitting huge clouds of black smoke. As scheduled we climbed out of the cab and started walking through the strike area. Still very confused about the whole issue, we were more confused when the locals said that we should not cross the lines. They did not seem violent and nobody was shouting or seemed upset in the least. We hiked on and before long found another cab on the other side to take us into the city. It was soon obvious that the site we had crossed was not the only one. Rocks and burning tires also blocked the main street of Chimbote. Our cab driver knew which side streets to take in order to avoid the road blocks and before long delivered us to the bus station. At that point we were feeling quite pleased with ourselves until we learned that no busses would leave until the end of the strike. Touring the parking area we saw some busses with damage from rock throwing.

The delay was not long, a few hours, when the busses started to pull out. We had noticed groups of national police all along the way of the strike and order seemed to be fairly well maintained…very curious.

A new friend in Lima would answer our questions and concerns about the huelga. We had received an e mail from one of our ham friends in the states giving us information to contact a family member, a Jesuit priest, in Lima when we arrived. We had only one day in Lima and had planned to visit several museums, but were lucky to meet Padre Carlos that evening at our hotel and to solve the mystery of the huelga. They are organized by coalitions from several political groups. When the coalition believes that something is wrong in the country and wants to protest, they take the request to the government. If the protest is allowed, the police are present at the strike site with camera men to ensure proper behavior from the protesters. The strike takes a few hours to several days. We asked Carlos if anything positive happens from the strikes and were told “Now and then it does.” It is far more obvious to us and to many of the locals that the strikes do hurt people. The damage evidenced in Chimbote to the buses and (possibly) those inside should have been witnessed and then recompense demanded. Whether that happened is not sure. We heard later about a strike in Argentina that kept a lady from her doctor long enough that she dies. It was obvious to us that travelers and cargo carriers were the ones most inconvenienced.

Now we were really excited about the next leg of our trip – on to Cuzco and the mysteries of Machu Picchu !