Half October. I had one and a half month and two countries left. From Cuenca, I went directly to Cajamarca, where Herbert lives. Herbert was the last one out of four couch surfers that I had hosted in Brussels and I was now paying a visit in South America. In doing that, I deliberately left aside Mancora, an important beach place in Peru. It could have been fun. But I was running out of time – or, at least, I didn’t want to start rushing – and I had to make choices. Anyway, as you know now, I’m not really a beach person.
The journey to Cajamarca was rather long. It was first a night bus to Chiclayo, where I stayed for the greatest part of the day, then a few more hours before getting to Cajamarca. More than 24 hours in total. Upon arrival in Chiclayo, I asked the cab to take me first to a place where I could buy a SIM card with a Peruvian mobile number, so that I could reach my friend. What I thought would be a matter of 5 minutes ended up taking 20. With the cab still waiting for me outside. As I needed a place to put down my backpack and rest for a while, next place I asked him to take me to, was a hostel. I had a youth hostel in mind, like the numerous ones I had been visiting until now. But there didn’t seem to be any. Or maybe my driver just didn’t know what I meant. But I had barely shut an eye during the night and I would be able to take a nap just about anywhere.
Having lunch is another thing I needed to do in Chiclayo. And Herbert had suggested a restaurant near the Plaza de Armas, the main square of the city. Generalizing on the few Peruvian cities I have visited in my one month stay in this country, my guess is that 90% of the main squares are called “Plaza de Armas” or “Weapon square”. Which, somehow, is more original than what we call them in Belgium, even if also slightly more warlike. In 100% of the cases, we just name the main square of the city… “Main Square” – “Grand Place” in French, “Grote Markt” in Dutch. There are many things that Belgians can make more complicated than they should be but naming squares is certainly not one of them.
As I was enjoying my generous meal – on several occasions, I have been amazed by the amount of food the South Americans can ingurgitate – the restaurant got full and two ladies with a small child asked if I would be willing to share the table with them. As I was alone at a table of four, I couldn’t decently refuse. Nor did I want to. They started to ask me questions about where I was coming from, what I was doing in Chiclayo, then about the voyage, and the fact I was travelling alone. From the eldest lady came the question why it was so easy for North Americans and Europeans to go to Peru while it was so difficult for Peruvians to visit any of these regions. A question to which I had no convincing answer. She also advised me to get married to a rich husband. Just to be secure. That idea didn’t seem very appealing to me. I guess I am just a bit more of a trouble liker than a safety liker. The youngest asked for my e-mail address. On the one hand, I found this surprising. But, on the other hand, I had heard from other people that it wasn’t rare to have locals asking to take a picture together with you and wanting to get or stay in touch. And it had happened to me in other countries. But I still find it odd.
For the sake of digestion, I walked back to Claro, the mobile services provider from which I had purchased the SIM card. Despite the 20 minutes spent on its configuration, my phone number wasn’t active. So I waited for another 40 minutes and they came back with a very useful answer: I had to wait for another two hours to see it work. The activation was taking some time but this was perfectly normal. Taking a nap was definitely the best thing there was left for me to do.
I was able to close my eyes for about two hours, before another six hours drive. Herbert was waiting for me at the bus station of Cajamarca. It was good seeing him again. When you meet people with whom you have a good connection but who live at the other side of the planet, you wonder if you will ever be able to meet them again. So it’s always a relief to see that, sometimes, you do.