You should never judge a book by its cover.
But you should always judge a country by its customs.
Some of you may remember that when I arrived in Bogota – ready to transfer to Cartagena for my ‘two week’ Colombian holiday – the immigration official wanted my height as well as my telephone number (read here)
Unbelievably, the emigration officer wanted the same when I left.
“You must have 1.80 metres,” he said affably as he stamped my passport.
“Actually, it’s 1.83,” I grumbled. Do they keep this stuff on file?
Luckily, I heard a Texan voice yelling my name at that point and by the time Eric and I had enjoyed a celebratory shot of aguardiente, a celebratory doughnut and a celebratory coffee, we were both ready to fly – Eric to the States, me to Peru.
“So why are you in Peru?” the next immigration officer asked.
“Just for vacations,” I said wearily, expecting the worst.
“Ah, you speak Spanish. Excellent. We’ll do this in Spanish. It’ll be good practice for you,” he smiled, before asking a series of questions that failed, as far as I understood, to involve my height, my telephone number or my marital status.
“You enjoy Peru, Victoria,” he finished finally, with a polite smile.
I think I will.
I’m in Huanchaco now. It’s eight hours north of Lima, near Trujillo. I thought the coastal sunshine would do me good but, unfortunately, the place reminds me of a bland English seaside town.
I spent the morning sleeping on the beach. Then I devoured a huge seafood lunch. Then I slept in a hammock. All afternoon. Oops.
But this is the beauty of travelling alone. As I lay sunbathing, I decided that tomorrow I would travel north to Mancora, another beach town near the Ecuador border.
By the afternoon, I’d changed my mind. I’m just not in the mood for beaches, surfers and burgers. I’d rather lose myself in the mystery of deepest, darkest Peru.
So, instead, I’m going to explore some ancient Moche temples – Huaca del Sol y Huaca de la Luna – that are supposed to be pretty impressive.
(The site is also home to a rare breed of Peruvian hairless dog. Apparently these animals have such abnormally high body temperatures, you can use them as ‘hot water bottles’ to cure medical complaints. Weird eh?)
Then I’m going all the way to Huancabamba, via Chiclayo and Piura.
Apparently in Chiclayo you can go to a witch doctor supermarket and buy weird and wonderful ‘charms’ such as bones, claws and hooves.
Huancabamba, further north, is deep in the mountains. There is a river flowing beside it and, because the riverbanks are eroding, that causes the town to move and slip a little (In Spanish, it’s known as la ciudad que camina – the city that walks)
From this spooky little place you can travel out to the huge lakes, where witch doctors and healers are supposed to cure everything from headaches to heartbreak.
The ceremonies often last all night and are said to involve all sorts of hallucinogenic plants – including cacti and vines – which apparently can make you quite sick.
Oh well. At least there won’t be any burgers.