Recently, we talked about how much we enjoy those authentic experiences when we meet and really connect with the people who live in the countries we are visiting. Unfortunately, at the pace we’re traveling at, it’s hard to form a lasting bond with the locals. We may be in one day and out the next.
Luckily, we’ve run into lots of other overlanders traveling the pan-american highway. Many of these travelers are going at a similar pace and we find ourselves often running into friends we’ve made along the way. This new set of friends we’ve made has been an unexpected pleasure. One of the toughest things about leaving home for us was leaving all our friends and family. Little did we know, a whole new batch of friends was waiting for us on the road.
During our week in Cajamarca, there was a huge amount of build-up to the upcoming elections (about one week away). Every night there were huge rallies and fireworks displays in the Plaza de Armas. These celebrations kept us up late several nights, so we decided to head to the coast and lay low for a while.
Huanchaco fit the bill — it’s a little town on the coast that is famous for the nearby ruins of Chan Chan and the unique reed fishing boats that are used by the fisherman. You can’t buy alcohol during the week of the election, so we stocked up with cervezas at the super market and hit the road, landing at a little campsite in Huanchaco a block from the beach.
While in Huanchaco we ran into Michele and Brian. We first met them in Colombia, but we only had a day before we were moving on. This time, we really got to spend some time with the two of them and were able to get to know them a little better. Michelle has a great blog about her travels down the pan-american by motorcycle. She is from Sturgis, South Dakota, and seems to break every stereotype of the cow-girl. Her boyfriend, Brian, also has a blog but it’s running a bit behind, even by our standards :). Brian takes epic photos; I’m not sure if he has a public place where he posts them, but if I find it I’ll be sure to share it here. Brian is from the UK and has been traveling the world on his motorcycle for the last 4 years. He has a great sense of humor and I find myself wanting to make him laugh. What seems to crack him up is when Americans curse, so I find myself talking like a sailor whenever I’m around him.
The ruins of the ancient city of Chan Chan is one of the primary tourist attractions near Huanchaco. We hopped on a bus and headed to the ruins of Chan Chan. Unfortunately, when we got there, we found out that it was closed due to the elections!
We decided to try for the ruins the next day — and were able to get in this time and explore. Chan Chan is huge; over 20 square kilometers. It was built around AD 850 and was a city of over 30,000 people at it’s peak. The desert is deceiving; some of the structures look much smaller than they are from a distance, but when you get up close, you realize how big they really are.
We’d heard about the hairless dogs in Peru, but we saw our first in Chan Chan. While they aren’t very pretty to look at, they are certainly unique. Hairless dogs have been in Peru since the Incan times. The breed was nearly eradicated during the spanish conquest of Peru, but the dogs were protected in rural areas where they were the inhabitants believed they held mystical powers. Mystical powers or not, I don’t think we’ll be getting one anytime soon!
Overall, we had a great time laying low for a couple of days on the beach and building new friendships. We had a couple more adventures with Michele and Brian in Peru, which we will talk about soon…