We fling our behinds onto the rickety seats of a local bus, as we make our way to the Chan Chan ruins, once home to the Chimor Empire, before they were taken under the most caring wing of the Inca Empire.
It wasn’t long before we reached our destination. Getting off, intense heat immediately slaps our faces and continues to assault us as we slowly walk to the Chan Chan ruins. Sweating her ass off with me was my friend from home. We had just spent the past ten hours on a night bus, after celebrating our reunion in Lima with several pisco sours. We were weary to say the least.
Reconstructed Chan Chan ruins
We were staying in the beach town, Huanchaco, just outside of Trujillo. We left the following morning after seeing Chan Chan and caught another night bus, this time to Chachapoyas to see the archaeological site, Kuelap. We arrived in the quaint mountain town early in the morning and set off to track down the local bus terminal. After taking a surprising amount of wrong turns, we find the station and an old guy willing to help us haggle a tour to see Kuelap (although, it proved rather difficult trying to detach ourselves from said old guy, who had grown particularly fond of my hand).
Kuelap was surrounded by lush green patchwork valleys and stuck in shifting cloud, with trees peeking out of the stonework and llamas munching on the grass. It was a very peaceful experience, sitting in the ruins of the cloud forest people and is a site that definitely shouldn’t be missed, since it is older than Machu Picchu and attracts a lot less tourists. To make the experience even lovelier, my tip would be to bring a rain coat, due to the almost constant low-lying clouds.
By the next morning, we were in Huanchaco once again. We visited the Temple of the Moon and Sun, although the latter was not being excavated due to zero funding being available. We were buffeted by mild sand storms as our guide told us stories of the Mocha people, including human sacrifice and the theory that they would sacrifice their best warrior (which isn’t very smart of them, to be perfectly honest, missing out on a nifty opportunity for easy staff redundancies).
Chasing desert landscapes, we sacrificed another night and parts of our soul to a night bus back to Lima and then Ica. We visited the oasis Huacachina, which was very tiny but pretty. On the sand dunes, we willingly strapped ourselves into dune buggies and threw ourselves down the dunes on skinny boards. Quite exhilarating, but the roar and smell of gasoline quickly grew tiresome.
Climbing to the top of the dunes presented us with 360o views of a beautiful landscape, especially as the sun was setting.
The next night bus was the most nightmarish one – hot and stifling, stared at throughout the night by a guy in the seat in front of me who eventually wakes me up by groping me. Lovely. And funny enough, my Spanish didn’t quite cover “get this creepy bastard pervert away from me” (although it would’ve come in handy several times). I survived however, as did the boy, who looked terrified after witnessing my friend’s reaction as I told her after she woke up and had to be held back from pummelling him.
As if to make up it to me, however, was Arequipa. It was an absolutely lovely city and we stayed here longer than planned, due its great atmosphere. The following days involved us gorging on pisco sours, chocolate, cafes and craft beers at the bar Chelawasi.
We eventually had to say goodbye to the city and I hopped on my final night bus to Cusco, and was rewarded with no perverts or broken air-con. There was just the elderly guy next to me who was concerned with the sudden amount of coughing I was doing and kept ordering hot tea for me.
Once in Cusco, my friend convinced me to pay for something I was very reluctant to do, let alone pay for; hiking. But, as cheesy as it sounds, my journey to Machu Picchu was full of incredible laughs and good memories.