Trujillo, Peru is a six and a half hour bus journey south of Piura. ‘Trujillo es muy peligroso’, said the taxi driver who dropped me at Itka’s terminal in Piura. ‘Es muy peligroso’, said the taxi driver who took me from Trujillo terminal to my hostel.
Great. Danger, danger all the way. I debated whether to just move on to Huaraz but then thought better of it. I’d prefer to figure this place out, and its dangers, for myself.
El Mochilero had been recommended to me as the only real hostel in town (many of the other places being more hotel based). Only a few blocks from the shops, cafés and parks, it was a convenient spot. I was craving company so some social space was a must and this place offered it with hammocks, sofas and communal kitchen. Messy beds and a few belongings scattered around signified that there were people there. It was a good start.
Trujillo centre has a real charm with blocky, colourful buildings and churches that poke out of a relatively low skyline kept to three storeys. The streets are busy, the pedestrianised Francisco Pizarro acting as a nice starting point to explore the city centre. The streets are lined with ice-cream parlours (with the first mint choc chip ice-cream I’ve found in South America) and eateries and fashion shops selling branded trainers stacked high to the ceiling. And pharmacies. (My experience of Ecuador and Peru thus far is that you’re never far from a pharmacy and if everything else is closed, a pharmacy is still likely to be open).
Near the top of Pizarro is a park pequeña with some small statues and benches that serve as a place to take a pause from the day, but further down at the opposite end by Diego de Almagro you have the more impressive Plaza de Armas. Flanked by wide roads, this is the place to sit and eat toffee apples (maybe part of the Halloween efforts that have taken over this town?), meet with friends for a chat or pose in front of the Freedom Monument. Traders of all sorts attempt to sell you chocolate, books, drinks and tour to surrounding attractions, such as the Chan Chan mud ruins. Yellow, blue and white buildings stand out against a bright sky, the strong and consistent breeze blowing in some occasional cloud cover. Sweepers quickly brush up any litter from the smooth, stone pathways. I get told off for lying back and putting my feet up on the bench. My shoes weren’t dirty but it simply wasn’t allowed. It’s a clean park, a clean place and obviously I was negatively affecting the image of their town.
Walking through Trujillo, I was approached by four different Peruvians, all who wanted to chat and help out with directions or practise their English or tell me about how their parents were forced to leave China due to communist rule and ended up here, happily. They all seemed friendly enough. In fact they all seemed really friendly. None of them tried nick my wallet or hold me up at knife point. The stereotyped dangerous Peru? Nah.
But I was also approached many times over by people asking for money: for their children, for their families, for treatment for their infected leg (and it was horrific and would surely needed amputating if he waited any longer). Some traders were really pushy, shoving chocolate bars in my face, refusing to accept a firm ‘no gracias’ and only leaving once I adopted and held an averted gaze. It wasn’t comfortable.
But then why should it be? I might feel poor and on a tight budget but the fact I am here, travelling, having new adventures and seeing the world, well, it does highlight a massive disparity.
Trujillo also seemed to have a real disparity of wealth amongst its own population: fashionable folk wandering around buying up S/.50 goods without hesitance and paying with S/.100 notes, others bedding down for the night wrapped up in makeshift blankets of cardboard pieces left out by the shops.
And the dangers? I’ve read about them, been told about them, but thankfully did not experience any trouble first hand. I couldn’t decide whether the high presence of park wardens and ‘securidad cuidano’ and police officers made me feel safer or more nervous. I left feeling positive; the people had been kind, friendly and welcoming and the town itself was a pretty place to get on with normal life.