After a few days in Vilcabamba the truth is that I really did not want to leave but having to make it all the way to Lima in a matter of a few days to meet Wendy procluded me from extending my time. So I first took a bus back to Loja and then boarded an overnight bus to Piura (a coastal city in Peru near the border of Ecuador and Peru). This bus was indeed quite a bit more comfortable than the one I took previously from Guayaquil to Loja. I slept fairly well until I was awoken at about 3:30 in the morning to go through customs/immigration in order to enter Peru. Of course I got back on the bus after about 45 minutes to go back to bed as quickly as possible.
Upon arriving in Piura I had only two tasks to accomplish. Get some peruvian soles from an ATM and get on another bus to Chiclayo. Fortunately something rare happened when I got off the bus: a friendly taxi driver advised me where I needed to go to catch the next bus, offered to drive me there and stop at an ATM on the way AND he only charged me 10 soles for everything (like $3.25 US). I was pleasantly surprised to say the least after experiencing so many greedy taxi cab drivers that make a living off of ripping off the tourists.
It took about 2 hours to get to Chiclayo at which point I had a new set of objectives: find a hostel and buy a peruvian chip for my cell phone. It turns out that my luck was to continue. As I was getting off the bus I saw a Movistar store right across the street. I lugged my backpacks across the street and left a swarm of eager taxi cab drivers bewildered as I confidently told them that I did not need a taxi at that moment. Card in hand I headed to one of the hostals that lonely planet had recommended and met one of the nicest hostal owners. He not only gave me advice on where to go to lunch, but also personally walked me into town to see if I could exchange chilean pesos into soles. It turns out that I couldn´t but I really appreciated his efforts and kindness. Such things do NOT happen enough when traveling alone.
For lunch I had a uniquely flavored fish-stuffed zucchini along with soup, appetizer, juice and dessert -all for $3.50 US. I think the large, yet cheap and delicious lunch ¨menus¨are my favorite part of multiple countries in South America. Afterwards I went to an internet cafe to check if my only contact in Chiclayo, Diego, would be available to meet up for dinner. Poor guy so graciously offered to host me in his house but due to my horrible scheduling and inability to call him before I had the peruvian chip, I wasn´t able to call him in time.
Since it was my lucky day (overall) Diego was, in fact, able to meet up with me. I took a few pictures (literally only a few) of the main square in Chiclayo which was somehow both peaceful and lively while waiting for Diego to meet me for dinner. We got to know each other a bit over a nice dinner and even moreso over a few drinks afterwards. I tried a very refreshing drink called a chicha morada, which I believe is made from corn, sugar and some herbs. It was delicious!
Unfortunately I had to catch a flight the next day to Lima to meet up with my friend Wendy but I really do wish I could´ve stayed a bit longer in northern Peru. The people were kind, the atmosphere welcoming and the climate quite comfortable. Maybe I will find my way back some day and Diego – you´ll have a chance to host me after all! Thanks for everything – I will not soon forget such a pleasant experience.