The One About Chaos In Chiclayo

This one begins at 05h45 in a hostel in Panama city. Our time in Panama was up and we were preparing to start our new adventure in Peru. Even though our flight was only at 11h20 and an easy 20 minute Uber trip away from our Hostel, we chose to be up early. Everything takes longer when travelling in a pandemic, our aim was to reach Tocumen International by 07h00. We figured this would give us plenty of time to have our Corona virus antigen test done at the airport and put out any fires that were sure to arise before making it to Peru.

As I’ve previously stated, bag drops and check-ins have become rather tense moments for me but everything went so smoothly. I feel comfortable saying that it was perhaps one of the most straightforward boarding’s I’ve done, now that I have reached Peru and surely cannot jinx the trip.

We gave ourselves plenty of time between getting our Corona virus test done and bag drop. Every website we read said that we should expect a 40 minute wait for the results, ours came in 20.

I often wonder if airport workers get bonuses for being cold or if that is just the type of person that airport jobs attract. That being said, big smiles on Emma and my face and we were through security and looking for second breakfast.

The boarding of the plane was simply uneventful. The first sign that the we had reached the high point of our trip was after the aeroplane had taxied onto the runway, sat for 10 minutes and then taxied back to its gate. Spanish translation into English and we learnt that as a safety precaution our plane would be refuelling. A 40 minute flight delay really is not the end of the world but when the flight is scheduled to only take 2 hours and 40 minutes, suddenly the time it takes to refuel feels like forever.

Okay so the fun only really begins when we landed in Chiclayo. For those who have managed to read through all my waffle above and are wondering where or what Chiclayo is, it is a small city in the North of Peru. Flying into the airport and it suddenly became apparent why the tickets were so cheap. It wasn’t just because we were flying on Friday 13, it is because Chiclayo airport is tiny, undergoing major construction and possibly a former military airport. Taxiing along the run way we saw old camo aeroplane hangers that housed fighter jets. I for one quite enjoyed the sight. Disembarking the plane was done on the side of the runway, two men pushing the stairs to the side of the plane. None of those fancy first world disembarking bridges or little cars that at least tow the stairs to the plane.

The sun was shining at 14h43 when we took our first steps on Peruvian ground. Flying over a desert during the sunny hours of the day and the last thing you expect climbing off a plane is a gust of chilling wind. Oh oh. Emma and I left most of our warm clothes when we said goodbye to Ireland and welcomed the tropics.

We lined up outside a small office. We lined up for well over an hour with very little movement. There was only our Boeing 737 passengers that were coming through at this time. The two Corona virus screeners were dressed like martians, full PPE, shoe covers, 2 face masks and a face shield. I suppose they were safe? They obviously didn’t trust our Corona virus tests or forms we had filled out. Our passports details were hand copied, hands sanitized, temperature taken, blood 02 levels and lastly heart rate recorded. It all seemed like a bit of overkill but I am in their country and will gladly oblige to their regulations.

So we waited. The locals were getting impatient as we had moved to a snaking queue inside the office type building. It was like one of those moments in school when someone gets worked up and you damn right know you shouldn’t be laughing, the more you try hold it in somehow the funnier the situation becomes. More waiting and more angry comments flying at customs officers sitting on their hands and we had finally made it to the counter. Emma was first, a million questions fired at her in Spanish to decipher.  I was amused when she had to remove her mask, half squat to line her face up with a camera. Of course me laughing made Emma laugh which in turn frustrated the customs officer that had been continuously berated by the locals as he had to retake Emma’s photo again and again. My dealings with said customs man went a lot more smoothly as all he had to do was copy and paste the information he had gotten from Emma for me.

It all seemed like fun and games but there was a little niggle in the back of our minds. We had hoped to make it out of the airport quickly and on time. Our idea (I wont give it credit and call it a plan) was to find a bus station that would take us 4 hours south to the town of Trujillo. Of course being a new country for us both we wanted to make this journey in day light. Arriving at Trujillo, finding a cafe with Wi-Fi and hence finding suitable lodgings for the night would have been first prize but we certainly weren’t on schedule for that anymore.

We left the teeny tiny airport with quite some haste, negotiated with the first taxi driver we found to take us to the bus station and off we were. The problem with such small airports is that they don’t have ATMS and if not for Panama using the USD we would have had even more fun trying to find our way around with no acceptable currency. Our friendly taxi driver took us to the first bus station and graciously accepted our dollars. Thanks to Emma’s quick thinking and asking our driver to wait 2 minutes we weren’t left stranded as the door security guard told us all the buses to Trujillo had left for the day. Back into Willmar’s taxi; I learnt his name through broken Spanish whilst Emma was checking with the next company if there were still buses for the night. On our way to said next bus company (I must give Emma credit again) Emma thought it necessary to ask Willmar if the bus company accepted credit card, our dollars were running out and of course the bus company to his knowledge only accepted cash. Detour planned Willmar parked up next to the station, walked about 200m with Emma to the nearest ATM while I guarded the taxi, keys in the ignition and all our luggage on the back seat. Success!!! We got money and bid our farewells to Willmar. His top class service cost us less than $5. Ah how a country can be so enjoyed when everything is affordable.

It had just gone 17h00 when we bought our tickets. We would be travelling at night to an unknown town 4 hours away. Our bus was going to be leaving at 19h00. This gave us two hours to do a lap around the block where we found our first local restaurant. With our limited Spanish and their non-existent English we managed to order more or less what we expected. No menus with pictures to point at. First we got our coffee. Following that was dinner, I had fried chicken, rice and yucca fries, Emma got eggs and yucca fries. I had no expectations for the food but even if I had I would have still thoroughly enjoyed it. Half way through our meal our server brought out these maize type cakes. They were big and they were dense but we were hungry. Our generous portions and coffees set us back $4. Im really going to enjoy this place.

Everything you have just read has been typed while en route to Trujillo. The bus we are currently on is what must be what flying first class feels like. I can think of nothing else to compare it to. There is a curtain that separates my seat from Emma’s. The chairs recline almost horizontally. There is a leg rest. I can plug my headphones into the armrest and listen to the funky movie that is playing on the many screens. Im very impressed with Peru thus far and the day is not done. In about 2 hours when we arrive at 22h30 the hunt will begin for our room for the night. Its been an interesting day of travel.

Greetings from somewhere between Chiclayo and Trujillo

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