The ship docked at Salaverry harbor at 9am and we were on the dock with the bicycles by 945am. No other large ships could be seen, but a few tugboats and some small fishing boats and skiffs were moored to buoys nearby, 100 yards offshore. In the background lay a 500 foot high hill with a lighthouse atop it. To the east lay a sea level short plateau beneath another plateau 500 feet above it with a large portion of farm fields green with crops. I wondered whether the visible small bushes 2miles away were grapes for a new Peruvian wine industry. Our handout for the day from the NCL Sun indicated, however, that the area was well known for export of white asparagus. Certainly, the bush-like crop laden fields were not asparagus, but they could have been other crops like citrus. The weather was warm and dry but a haze lay in the air along the coast and into the hills. As the morning progressed over the next 15 minutes, higher mountains began to spear out of the mist behind the higher plateau.
Our ride began with the ride around the pier area and into the customs area which was minimal. We obtained a map from one of the 10 or so taxi drivers and passed out of the controlled area effortlessly. We started down a long four pane divided road out of the harbor area accompanied on the right by low adobe buildings, some containing commercial establishment s like food shops and restaurant/bars, and some containing homes. A few streets opened toward the mountains, revealing adobe homes stretching 1000 or more yards up a shallow slope. Few people were out this Sunday morning. A few curious three wheeled vehicles passed in both directions. These were driven by motorcycle engines and were completely enclosed. Some were used as taxis and some carried merchandise for sale. A strip of curio stands attracted the cruise passengers not planning to go to the city of Trujillo 15 miles away or scheduled to visit the archeological sites nearby.
The ride out of the harbor stretched on for more than five miles. On the seaward side, deep unoccupied beaches eventually gave way to warehouses, many completely enclosed by ten feet high walls. I don’t know whether these were for security purposes, but I surmised that tides, floods, and tsunamis might have convinced owners to protect the contents from water in this area no more than 10 feet above sea level. On the land side could be seen similar walled-in warehouses, some small farms, and some roads deeper into the residential part of Salaverry. The farms were small, some with a few cattle or sheep and goats, and even one with a mare and her colt.
All construction was with a brick-like material I later realized was adobe. Roofs varied from cardboard covered by dusty soil to corrugated metal. All were flat. This was the first time I realized that adobe is actually sun-dried mud bricks. At one point down the road, I saw a wet muddy area from which someone was actually cutting the mud bricks for adobe. The shape of the bricks was marked out in rectangular oriented lines spread over a half acre area and I could see that the exposed bricks had been cut three deep in the mud. Aside this area was an area of stacked damp bricks drying in the sun. Further down the road, I found a 20-30 foot high structure, also made out of adobe, which contained open areas at the bottom, 10 feet apart. I surmised that fires could be lit in these pits to assist or complete the drying process. As I understand it, adobe is not as strong as fired bricks and cannot be used for multistory buildings, certainly not anything more than two stories. Thus, 99% of the buildings I spotted over the next 15 miles were one story adobe brick structures.
As the road angled away from the coast, I could see larger farmed areas on the seaward side and realized later that an entire small town, Mochi lay along the coast on this side of the road. This road was not crowded on the way out, although a few taxis and busses passed. At an intersection 5-7 miles from the harbor, a single road met our path at an angle. The path to the right was marked as going to Lima, while our path to the left was marked for Trujillo. A gasoline station lay at this intersection, in fact two and I realized as we rode toward Trujillo that the number of stations was much larger than I would have expected for the area. Stations lay every half mile or so. Each station was more a truck stop than a station, containing 6-9 pumps, a small office with bathrooms for customers, and a very small shop selling snacks and sodas. We looked in vain over the next 10 miles for a coffee-selling establishments containing wifi capability. This road stretched on for five miles with only farms on both sides, occasional businesses like repair stations, tiny restaurants, and a few hostels. A park at one point indicated an ecological area and presented a few rides for small children along with a not-open-yet restaurant. The roadside was also littered with trash and garbage. We also passéd at least two carcasses of dogs, apparently killed by traffic. We have seen none of this anywhere else in our South American travels. Peru began to take on the appearance of a third world country.
The first circle we approached contained four gas stations, none with a decent-sized restaurant, several closed. We moved on toward Trujillo and the next circle. The area became more urban with more traffic, residential areas spreading out on both sides of the road, and more people on the streets. At the next circle, only a mile from downtown Trujillo, we encountered a very busy bus station and many stands selling food along the street. One common sight was a cart carrying sugar cane sticks and a press to create a sweet sugar-laden liquid. These were very popular. We pushed on toward town, looking above the myriad of one story adobe homes for taller buildings which might house the kind of establishment we would be willing to relax in, particularly if it contained a wifi connection. To make a long story short, we never found one. Each taller building in the distance turned out to be empty, either under construction or destruction. After chasing two or three, we decided to find the main streets. We passed a few small two story churches and came to a busy commercial district with mostly dilapidated stores. The streets became very busy with people and traffic. We did find a few newer buildings, some as tall as three stories, but none had more than 20% of the stores open even in the mall-like stores. Apparently, Trujillo opens late on Sunday. We also found several government buildings (also closed) and several statues and billboards describing historical sites. We stopped at a few.
We searched for a place to purchase sugar free cola, either Coke Light or Pepsi light, but neither restaurants nor retail food stores had what we wanted. We decided to turn back for the ship. Three blocks into our journey back, we spied a corner restaurant which appeared to be open and which appeared to be relatively clean. Upon entering we found the product they sold which was a sugar free cola was called Coke Zero. Perhaps I had made the error in all of my earlier searches by asking for the light product. Nevertheless, we locked the bikes in front of a guard who indicated he would watch over them and relaxed for 15 minutes with our drinks. The food being sent out to adjoining tables looked very enticing, but I could not convince Marilyn to share any with me, so we didn’t eat here. My effort to pay revealed they would not accept credit cards, didn’t want dollars, and would also not accept the Argentine bills I still carried. Eventually, I convinced them to accept two of my dollar bills and they gave me 1.60 Peruvian Solis in change. As we were leaving, we noticed that the two managers continued to peruse my bills. I don’t know whether they were checking for counterfeits or were simply amazed by US bills.
We were disappointed that we had not made it to the ancient sites at Chan Chan but we thought time was running short. Our ride back to the ship was unremarkable except for the wind which had picked up and was now in our faces. But Marilyn began to slow down half way back to the ship and I began to worry that she was either dehydrated or running out of energy. I therefore took up position behind her, rather than in front of her as was our usual practice. She slowed down considerably, sometimes to as slow as 2-3 miles per hour, and occasionally drifted across the road, but she reacted to my shouts to keep on the right side of the road, and we made it back to the ship successfully.
I am left with the impression that this part of Peru is indicative of a third world region. I believe the roadsides contained open sewers. I found running water wherever I stopped, but the hardware was crude. I found no hotel I would like to live in comfortably for more than a night in passing. The people were dressed to indicate jeans and shirts were readily available, but nicer dress was available only to a third or fewer of the population. The children were schooled and I think they had occasional access to computers and the internet, but nowhere near the degree as was available elsewhere we visited. The streets were littered with trash and garbage. The bike ride was safe but hardly enjoyable except from the aspect of seeing people living in ways I have rarely seen before. I found the people comfortably friendly and helpful. The weather was warm, but the haze was a little bit depressing. Trujillo has a long way to go before it can call itself a tourist attraction.