August 27, 2007
The next place I wanted to go to was Chachapoyas, a small city in a remote part of Northern Peru that several people have recommended. The problem was that the first few people I asked how to get there told me to go Chiclayo first. That city's on the coast, so I'd have to make a huge detour by going that route. My rudimentary map of the area clearly showed a road going straight from Cajamarca to Chachapoyas, and I figured there must be a way for me to take it. When I asked my hostel owner how to get to Chachapoyas, he suggested going to Celendin first, then worrying about going the rest of the way. I examined my map again and, sure enough, Celendin was right in the middle of that direct road. Finally some sane advice, or so I thought.
I made my way to the bus terminal and bought a ticket for Celendin. I gave the bus attendant my backpack to put underneath the bus and started to ask him if I was going to get a ticket for my backpack, but before I could finish my sentence, I heard mooing. I poked my head in the luggage compartment, and sure enough, there was a cow looking back at me. The same bus was being used to transport chickens and guinea pigs, but they were no big deal. This was my first cow bus. I just made sure my backpack was stored as far away from any potential cow pies as possible and got on board.
It was a long ride on a bumpy unpaved road. I tried reading, but my book was getting jostled around too much for me to focus on it. Gabriel Garcia Marquez isn't exactly light reading anyway. But soon I figured out a much better form of entertainment. A duffel bag had become half dislodged from the overhead compartment a few seats in front of me and was about to fall on some guy's head. Every time we went over a large bump, I watched it slide out a little further. A few people got on and off the bus, but none of them ruined the game by warning the guy of the bag's presence. Even the chickens seemed to be clucking in anticipation as the bag hung impossibly far over the edge. After an hour of wishful thinking, we hit a particularly large pothole and then BAM! Orgasmic laughter erupted throughout the bus as the guy clutched his skull, cursed his luck, and placed the bag right back into its original position.
We arrived in Celendin early in the evening, and right away, I set out to find the bus to Chachapoyas. Too bad everyone had the same answer: Buses only left town on Sundays and Thursdays. Today was a Monday, so I'd have to wait three days in this dusty little town with nothing to do. But there still was one other possibility to get out of here earlier. Apparently, trucks leave every morning from a certain location in town, so maybe I'll be able to ride in the back of one tomorrow. I'll start searching early in the morning. It'll be an adventure as usual.
I was a bit bored tonight so I took a walk around town. It was bigger than I had imagined, considering that the only other towns within a day of here are themselves isolated places. Still, I think more people stared at me in Celendin than anywhere I had been in the last six months. Everyone was very friendly and said "hi" to me on the streets, but they acted like they'd never seen a 6'3", 160 pound white man before. The attention made me feel like a rock 'n roll star.