Mar 26, 2008

Escape From the City

Passing through the small towns eventually gave way to passing through larger cities and as we neared Trujillo, we lost site of the coast. We moved into irrigated farmland and cleaner air, although it was kind of hot. The air conditioner was such a blessing, but we discovered that it was not properly vented and the condensation wasn't going anywhere except on the floor of the front passenger side. Hmmm. The air conditioning got turned off for a while, in hopes that some of the water would evaporate.

Celeste continued to snooze in the back seat and we enjoyed the green of the farms. Most of these farms are cooperatives - the neighbors all work their lands, but share equipment. Usually there are only one or two tractors in the coop and everyone must wait his turn to use them. Donkeys and horses are still extensively used to work the land and lots of hand labor goes into harvest. It was time for the onions to be harvested and we saw dozens of semis loaded with bags of of them overturned on the Pan American highway and another whose strapping had come loose and flung bagged onions across the highway. Several people were on the road, clearing it of spilled onions. More field labor on the farms that we passed, digging and bagging onions by hand. I don't envy them the work. I know that field work is back-breaking work.

Moving out of the farms, we headed into the port city of Chimbote, one of the major fishing cities in Peru and also a producer of steel. Most people that I know don't stop in Chimbote for anything except to refuel the car, if necessary. It is one of two most violent cities in Peru. Callao (also a port city, located inside Lima) is the other. I'm not sure why they are so violent. Some people say that the poverty is the cause, that the employers don't pay a living wage. That may be part it. The part that gets me the most is the smell of the place. Hanging over the city like an ugly cloud is the stench of rotting fish. It's terrible. We rolled up the windows and hoped that Celeste had a case of the gas to blot out the reek of dead fish.

On the north side of Chimbote, we returned to the desert. There was not much in the way of traffic there, and not much of anything, except patches of irrigated farms, all cooperatives. They had signs at the front with a gate across the road, saying who owned the land, and then living tree fences of some kind of thorn-producing bush. Thorns that were about 4 inches in length. I imagine they were planted there to deter thieves. An interesting side note is that semi tractor-trailers tie similar thorny branches on the back of their trailers to keep thieves from climbing onto the tractor trailer and stealing whatever the trucker is hauling. Those thorns are wicked-looking.

So, north of Chimbote is Trujillo, about 2 hours to the north. We arrived in Trujillo about 3:30 that afternoon and felt a distinct small-townishness. Trujillo has about 100,000 people in it - a fraction of the 10 million that live in Lima. Trujillo in known as the city of the Eternal Spring. It is always pleasantly warm with coolish nights. The buildings are painted in pastel colors throughout the city, but especially noticeable around the city center - the Plaza de Armas.

photo by Christina Fish. I, of course, did not think to take any photos as usual.


Wooly Works said...

I always liked the smell of onion harvest. I suppose that if I had ever had to do the actual work, I would have learned to hate it.

Bulgaria had farms that sound similar to the ones you saw, but they were harvesting rose petals by hand. It's so amazing to see donkey carts and horse drawn equipment in the 21st century. It looks very quaint and picturesque, but I can't imagine how much work it is to keep up with harvest using them.

So was this a vacation, or is there family in Trujillo? It sounds like a nice place. I looked on the map for it and it's easy to find.

Pondside said...

Awaiting with bated breath the moment when this trek becomes a holiday - a little fun for you!

wildtomato said...

I love reading about your adventures in Peru. These stories are making me laugh! I can almost smell the rotting fish myself...