I really loved Chachapoyas, with its strangely raised pavements and total lack of street signs. The hostel I stayed in, Chachapoyas Backpackers, was one of the better ones I’ve been to – the family who owned it were lovely and so eager to help in whatever way they could, and it rubbed off on the staff too – I am still in possession of the heavily annotated map of the town, with everything from shops to buy postcards to cash machines written on it by Sandra, the girl I aske for directions. I’ve had great fun here. The tour to Kuélap was spectacular (though slightly over budget), the plaza meyor was particularly nice, and the market was one of my favourites that I’ve been to thus far (the fact that it was indoors a major plus).
My meandering tour of the stalls there was very enjoyable; I even braved the meat and fish section, which in general always tend to be hideous, and saw delightful things such as eyeballs still in their sockets. The fruit section was as usual my favourite, and for the first time I braved actually buying some (speaking only Spanish, quite intimidating for me) as part of my new endeavour to try as many new and different fruits as I can while I’m here. Today’s experiments included a red banana (delicious but almost exactly the same as a normal banana), a ‘tuna’ fruta a.k.a a prickly pear (interesting, a few too many seeds for my liking) and a ‘pepino’ – not sure on the English name but it was round and yellowish and tasted a bit like melon. Good source of entertainment for only 1.50S, I’ll definitely be doing it more often. I also had a much less successful first attempt at buying from a Peruvian bakery which are equally as ubiquitous as the fruit stalls here; I bought what I thought were chocolate breads but it turned out I had mistaken them in the shadow of the cabinet: olive breads. Thoroughly disgusting. I’ll try again another time.
Whilst waiting for my bus I had an early dinner and sat in on (but elected not to participate in) a conversation in which an oldish British bloke was arguing (with a very apparently nice Dutch girl) that mobile phones are trying to enslave humanity through subliminal messages sent via radio frequencies they have. He actually used those words. It was a nice last impression of the hostel in Chachapoyas.
Skimped on the bus ticket back to Chiclayo so of course arrived much too early, and snoozed in the bus station for a bit along with a surprisingly large amount of Peruvians, presumably also waiting for onward connections. In hindsight I should have just got the direct bus to Trujillo instead of attempting to save such a petty amount of money, but really hindsight doesn’t help anyone. The long and short is that I did make it to Huanchaco eventually, but sans purse – no idea how or when it occurred. It was a bit of a blow, about 150+ soles lost, but really it could have been so much worse – there were no cards or forms of ID in that purse, so while it does suck its easy to focus on the positives.
Once I eventually made it to the hostel (after having made the taxi driver very grumpy as I had to look for a cashpoint to pay him – he wouldn’t accept my 50, shocker) and thought it best to catch up on some sleep for a bit because otherwise I knew I would dwell on the lost money far too much, which in the end is pointless. Woke up feeling much better as expected, and from there onwards my day quickly perked up.
The hostel workers were on about some paint party that was taking place down the road: at first I was a bit skeptical – I assumed you had to pay or that it was some ploy to get you to buy drinks, and I was sat with some Canadian girls who weren’t even tempted (ok they’d been partying in Mancora for a week but what kind of excuse is that?! To be fair having heard the stories maybe it was fair enough). Luckily I ended up paying attention to what the nice presumably Peruvian guys were saying and spur-of-the-moment decided to go; rushed upstairs to put some dirty clothes back on (wise move) and hurried to tag along to the group who were making their way down from the hostel, some clutching bags of paint or buckets.
I didn’t regret it. There can be no social awkwardness when you’re smearing paint over total strangers. Within minutes everyone was covered; purple, green, blue and yellow patchworked across people’s skin; my hair was matted with the stuff and plastered to my face. It was brilliant.
After the initial excitement died down, we went to watch the festivities in the beach section. Two wooden posts were set in the sand, and teams of people (boys and girls separate) were attempting to scale them to attain the money that I was told was stuffed into the top. In between these two stood a tree (presumably put there for the occasion, I don’t know) which people were taking turns to have a go at with an ax; there were various “prizes” affixed to its branches – useful things such as fly swats and plastic fruit bowls. Eventually the tree was felled and everybody swarmed forward to try and grab something; I managed to get my hands on a tshirt, something I’d been aiming for, only to later have it nicked from right next to me while I was concentrating on my (free) food. This is South America.
It was all round good fun, anyway, but I decided I’d make my way back to the hostel once it all descended into dancing and general chitchat, for a much-needed shower. It was probably the most necessary shower I’ve ever had (bearing in mind I’d also been on a night bus until that morning) and the longest of the trip so far. I’m even now still finding bits of paint still dried on to my body. Such fun.
So there you go, a bad day turned good. And how I’m looking at the bad stuff is that it’s all just part of the challenge: a large part of the reason I came out here was to prove to myself that I could do it; that I could take responsibility for myself in a strange place and still push through it if anything bad did happen. And it definitely adds something when it’s not all plain sailing. So I’m pretty proud of myself for handling it and not letting it affect me too much.
I’m only ever looking forward.