Friday, Aug 3, 2018
Welcome to Chimbote
After my week in Mancora I traveled farther south to Chimbote Peru. I have a Peruvian friend, Pablo, who lives here. Since I was already in Peru he invited me to come and check out his city, Chimbote, which is also located on the coast about a 12 hour bus ride south of Mancora.
I was supposed to arrive in Chimbote at 5 am, and as these things go in S. America, I arrived at 6:30 am. I knew Pablo would be waiting at 5 to pick me up, but the bus I was on didn’t have working wifi so there was no way I could contact him about the delay. Pablo however took this all in stride as if it was no big deal. I was glad he was there when I got off the bus.
It is winter now this far south of the equator. Chimbote wasn’t cold by any midwest standards of winter, but it was cool. I only had shorts and t-shirts to wear, but luckily I did bring my hoodie. Just like when I lived in Cuenca, it was colder being inside my hotel room than being outside in the sun.
Chimbote is a port city of about 300,000 people. The people in general seemed very tranquilo. Those who I spoke with seemed friendly and welcoming. The port is filled with fishing boats. The bay is protected or enclosed by mountains that rise up out of the sea. It is picturesque in its colors and texture.
There are no buses in Chimbote. There are actual taxis that will take only you directly where you want to go. The main form of public transportation however are individual cars. These cars have different numbers on the roof indicating the route they will follow. People on the streets flag these cars over, and then jump in.
The cars are small. In addition to the driver they can fit 4 passengers, one in the front and three in the back. If you are in the back and the next person gets in you are expected to slide over. This often puts you in the middle of the back seat. As I mentioned the cars are small, so there is no personal space. Each person is pressed into the other.
I had trouble getting used to people talking on their phones in the car or eating food. It is a small confined area and a phone conversation is very in your face. The other difficult thing for me was people eating food. The smells of the food get trapped in the car, which is great if you like it and not so great if you don’t.
While I was walking on the streets of Chimbote there was a cacophony of horns, whistles, and synthetic sounds. Each driver works hard to get the attention of the people on the street, encouraging them to jump in and take a ride to their destination. Many drivers have installed unique horn and whistle sounds to help them with this. I watched our driver press a button on his dashboard and a melodic “whoop whoop” sound was released.
There are hundreds of these public transportation cars on the streets of Chimbote. There are also the yellow taxi cars. I asked Pablo why there aren’t buses since it seems more environmentally friendly and would lessen the traffic on the streets? He told me that this is one of the main forms of employment for the residents.
What is ecofriendly however is the donkey-pulled cart filled with sugar cane (shown below). Everyone shares the road here.
Almuerzo at Pablo’s
Pablo invited me to his house for lunch. It is a family home where two of his brothers, one sister, their spouses and all their children live. We had a great Peruvian meal around a large picnic sized table in the inner courtyard of his house.
The meal was actually a combo of two Peruvian dishes, Arroz con Pollo and Papa a la Huancaina. There was a full pitcher of fresh jugo de maracuya (passion fruit juice) for us to drink. This was one of the most authentic S. American experiences I have had since moving to Ecuador. Of course this is Peru, but I can tell it is much the same in Ecuador as I pass by the homes of locals where I live.
I sat around the table and tried my hardest to carry on a conversation in Spanish with Pablo’s brothers. Pablo is the English speaker in the family. When he left the table to make some phone calls I was totally on my own with his Spanish only speaking brothers. Oh boy. I felt like a pre-schooler trying to speak with the grown ups. Still, we seemed to be able to communicate our ideas to each other.
The food was delicious and the conversation was…strenuous, and all of it was fantastic.
Fiesta at the Park
I was in Chimbote during Peru’s Independence Day celebration. The park was filled with families having a good time. This park was huge too…amusement park rides, a train, row boats in a small lake, food and festivities all around.
There was also a concert in the football (soccer) field. It had multiple bands playing from mid-afternoon and into the evening. It was a party! What struck me most was how people of all ages connected through dance. Whether you were 18 or 80, when the music was playing you were dancing. It was really great to watch everyone around me.
Peru Is Great
Peru is a great country. Last year I hiked in the Andes and visited Machu Picchu. This year I stayed along the coast. Both areas are beautiful, and I prefer the coast (what a surprise). Love that blue ocean and sunshine…and on the coast I found out I can still see the llamas. 😉
The lodging in Chimbote is inexpensive, and so is the food. My hotel room was only $25 a night and looked into the bay. It wasn’t the Ritz but it had everything I needed.
Chimbote is a fun city to explore and I enjoyed my time here. Pablo was a great host and I appreciated being able to hang out with some of his friends and family while visiting. It was an authentic Peruvian experience for me.
I said goodbye to Pablo and to Chimbote. After only a “quick” 25.5 hours on the buses, I was home.