Pacasmayo to Pimental to Piura 4-5 May:
I don’t really want to leave Pacasmayo. I like the place, and I like the people we’ve met. Our last morning, as we finish packing, Jimmy is visiting, and we talk about the sad death of the filly. The former mayor is also visiting. Something about him reminds me of a friend’s former martial arts sensei. Perhaps it is his short hair, the self-contained expression on his face, or the compact grace with which he moves. I tell him in my halting Spanish that I liked what I’d heard of what he’d done with the cemetery wall, that Ragna also paints, and that I’d sure like to see some of his paintings when we come back. He looks like an interesting person, and I regret that my Spanish is far short of the requirements for a sustained or meaningful conversation.
We reach Chiclayo and drive straight through the ugly side of it until we’re headed out the other side, without ever seeing a sign for the Plaza de Armas or Centro. We get a pretty unappealing view of the place. Although we do then consult a cab-driver and our map, and pass the Mercado on our way to the Centro, Ragna has gotten sufficiently bad vibes from the place that she wants to move on, and we do.
The additional 200 kilometers to Piura is unappetizing: a long stretch of desert and perhaps a post-sunset arrival, no problem except when traveling a new road with more shit in the car than we can conveniently leave unattended if we have car trouble. Too, I’d like to wander through the market and perhaps see a bit of the much-vaunted tombs, museums, and antiquities around Chiclayo.
Just beyond Chiclayo, we pause in Lambayeque, looking for a restaurant – then, at a dusty end of town as we are just about to give up, we spot the street and then moments later the restaurant. The music is loud, the place large and about half full. I ask a fellow where the quietest spot in the restaurant is – then realize he’s holding a microphone and is the vocal part of the music we hear from the loudspeakers. He’s a little fellow who somehow reminds me of the entertainers favored by my paternal grandmother, a Jewish lady from Brooklyn who lived in L.A. But he has a winning smile, and between songs asks us where we’re from and welcomes us to Peru – over the loudspeaker.
As we eat, a jovial fellow at the next table asks us whether everything is fine so often that we conclude he owns the place. When I ask him whether it’s his place, he replies that it’s his and mine both. Ragna suggests that I tell him we read about his place in the Lonely Planet guide. I scoff, certain that he already knows he’s mentioned there; but she’s right: when I show him the reference he exclaims “Ay, caram-” in delight, and the younger man and woman sitting with him are equally interested.
The place is silly and cheerful and warm, and the food fine. We re-examine our options and decide to make for Pimentel, a small place on the water that would be crowded with Peruvian tourists in summer but should be tranquil now. We can relax for a night, then drive to Piura.
Arrival in Pimental is another adventure. When we find it, the hotel seems closed, but eventually a fellow with frizzy black hair responds to the bell, opens the door, and confirms that the place is open. As he shows us some rooms he asks, inevitably, what country we are from; but when Ragna responds that she’s from Iceland – news that often elicits a blank stare or the kind of vague nod we all make when we’re clueless but don’t feel like seeking clarification – he replies, “Ahhh, Reykjavik” and adds, in English, that he has always wished to go there. He has gotten as close as Finland and Sweden, years ago, but never to Iceland.
We settle on a room, and he offers us coffee and makes some. We talk. He has traveled widely, selling Peruvian handicrafts in Brazil and Europe. He also lived and worked in California for a year or so. He seems initially reluctant to describe that experience, but after assurance from us that he won’t offend anyone, admits that he found the U.S. “strange,” that people in California during the Reagan era seemed to hate Latin Americans, and that he generally preferred Europe.
A woman named Rosa joins us.
I ask what work she does, and Daniel replies, “You know those mototaxis?” She drives one. I tell her that when I was a young man [“many years ago,” Ragna kindly points out] I drove a cab in New York. She says it is fun to drive a mototaxi, you meet lots of people.
We chat on, about brujas, mototaxis, card-readings, the mercado, and travel.
She is surprised when we mention brujas. She repeats the word as a question, not sure she’s heard right, then grins when I repeat it and confirm it by adding, “shamans.” We ask if she herself believes in brujos. She says there are some who seem to her to tell the truth, but she can’t say about the others. In particular she mentions a woman who reads cards, for ten soles a reading.
After awhile Daniel gets a phone call and announces that he has a restaurant at which he needs to put up some lights. Do we wish to accompany him? Sure, por que no? We hide the Mitsubishi in the adjacent parking lot his brothers own, and jump in his elderly vehicle, which coughs a bit but makes it to the far end of town, where a string of open-air restaurants face the sea and the fishing boats. The sun has just set, but it’s a lively, apealing place.
A woman offers to turn down the blaring music, but we tell her it doesn’t matter – and it doesn’t. It’s cheerful. We order a beer. When Daniel climbs on a chair to fix some lights, I shoot a couple of pictures of him, just for the hell of it. One table is occupied, by five or six fellows drinking beer. One joins us long enough to ask where we’re from and welcome us to Peru, then retreats. Periodically one or another of them waves at us and grins. When the lights come on, they cheer. I turn toward Daniel and applaud, and they do likewise. One comes over to the table and introduces himself, his manner formal but his body swaying a bit. When Daniel tells us they have been drinking since 11 a.m., the news is not vastly surprising.
It is just a very comfortable place to be. The darkening sky, the beached fishing boats, the simple restaurant full of laughter. Watching Daniel fix the lights, it strikes us that we do not quite travel as some other folks do: we show up somewhere and get talking, get adopted more like. Whether it is the warmth of the Peruvian people we’ve met, our amiable openness to getting to know them, or some combination of both, we are enjoying it.
After awhile we return to the hotel.
The people are delightful, but the night is tough. The room is cramped; and we hardly sleep the proverbial wink: more dogs bark more extensively than anywhere I can recall since Lhasa; and, almost as bad, the window’s rattle loudly with the wind, and there’s a good deal of wind this night.
We awaken extraordinarily early, inconveniencing David, whom we must pay and whose assistance we need to extricate the vehicle from the parking lot. We are not happy. We are extremely tired. We are also quarreling with each other as we start the drive up to Piura.
Essentially, we blew it as far as seeing Chiclayo. Chiclayo is probably both more pleasant and more culturally interesting than my short mention of it might suggest. It’s a big city, and if I return I’d be interested to wander through the market and go to the museums – and I’m not basically a museum-buff. The market is said to have an interesting section containing materials brujas use.
I hear wonderful things about the two museums in Lambayeque, but we weren’t in the mood to stop. Certainly El Rincón del Pato restaurant served good food and was lively and fun.
In Pimental, the Hostal Garuda is worth staying at, and the folks who run it are friendly, but if there’s any chance of wind you should avoid the better view from the upper rooms and stick to one at ground-level. We didn’t stay long enough or see enough in daylight to say much more about the town.