A budget traveling trick we’ve learned is to take night buses. You save on a night’s accomoation and the 10 to 15 hous of nodding off helps make the long trips feel shorter. Arriving at our new destination at 6 or 7 am usually means we turn into sloths, sleeping the daylight hours away and rising only to eat. This is probably why I have very little to write about our first few days in the beach town of Huanchaco, Peru.

When we did finally drag ourselves to the beach, we found the water freezing! I still found it in me to go for a dip, not Dan though. Although the water wasn’t as appealing as we’d hoped, Huanchaco felt like an important personal landmark. It marked our arrival on South America’s Pacific coast. We had made it “from coast to coast”.

These are the traditional totora reed boats that the fishermen in Huanchaco still use.

One of the benefits of being back on the coast is the seafood. We have developed a love for ceviche–a dish of raw seafood marinated in lemon, served cold, usually accompanied by yucca fries and crunchy toasted maize kernels. People here eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I especially fell for the chicharron style, breaded and fried seafood in the same lemony dressing. Mmmmm…

We did get a little hit of culture, too. A short bus ride from Huanchaco, on the road to the regional capital of Trujillo, is the pre-Incan archeological site of Chan Chan. We took a local micro there, which is a cultural experience in itself.

The men who work on these busses alongside the drivers are remarkable to watch. Their job is to hustle people on and off using a combination of yelling, pulling and pushing as the bus keeps moving at its breakneck pace. On top of this they are yelling their route out the window for potential passengers. In my neighbourhood in Toronto this would sound something like: “Gerrard-and-Jones, Gerrard-and-Jones-Riiiiiiverdale Collegiate, LCBO-at-Logan, Chinatown-Broadview-Chinatown-Broadviewwwww…” When it comes time for the bus to have its route card punched, the hustler hops off and sprints several blocks AHEAD of the bus to get the card punched, making it back with enough time to hop back on without having disturbed the bus’ speed a touch. We figured the bus drivers and hustlers must work for themselves, hence their motivation. I’ve never seen a TTC or OCTranspo employee move that fast.

As for Chan Chan, this 900 A.D. citadel from the Chimú culture really impressed us. Our wonderful tour guide, Percy, who spoke Spanish nice and slowly for us, told us that the adobe brick structures once held a population of 50,000. All that has been excavated from the area is one of the many palaces. Inside, the walls are decorated with well-preserved relief representations of the earth (squirrels, pelicans), oceans and cosmos.

When a king died, his entire entourage was sacrificed and buried alongside him. This included numerous wives (the Chimú were known for their polygamy), warriors and servants. The palace was sealed and only ever visited for ceremonies dedicated to that king. His successor would get a brand-new palace all his own.

I would definitely recommend this site, especially for travellers feeling a bit tired of Incan ruins. And try to get a guide named Percy if he’s around!