I´ve managed to find an internet cafe with CD drives, so I could upload 3 albums of photos - Zorritos and the dry forest, catacaos, and Chiclayo and around. But the website won´t let me rotate pictures today, so I haven´t been able to use any that were sideways (to use the technical term!).
The craft market in Catacaos was disappointing. Most of the stalls were selling the same, often tacky, goods, but I found a shop selling some lovely semi-precious jewellery. I had to try on lots of necklaces before I could choose one to buy! The prices were a fraction of those in Cusco. The locals´ market was interesting. Outside, most people were selling their own produce; there were lots of peas and beans, cobs of corn, gourds to be used as vessels or for decoration, a few turkey eggs etc. I bought some little stoneless avocadoes and the man at the next stall asked me to photograph him with his! Inside, I avoided the butchery section and was amused by some of the stalls that sold a variety of things, from rice to cleaning products to toothpaste. They displayed brooms stuck in the sacks of grain! (Aother picture to add to the weird displays collection, along with some - probably the most bizarre - in the "Zorritos and dry forest" album.)
The afternoon was spent on a 3 hour bus journey across the desert to Chiclayo. At one point smooth, rounded dunes appeared, that looked as though they were moving as cloud shadowws passed over them. After the 2 recent dodgy hostels, I asked the taxi driver in Chiclayo to wait while I checked out the place I´d booked, but I needn´t have worried. It´s basic, but very clean, the bed is comfortable, the shower is hot and the staff are very helpful. One of them even walked to the main square with me to show me the best places to eat, and escorted me to this internet cafe! Chiclayo is a big town with a nice feel; the people are friendly and cheerful. There is a primrose yellow cathedral, on which vultures roost every night, and in the nearby streets there are trees covered with huge bright orange-red flowers.
On Monday I went on a group tour, and I was the only non-Peruvian. It was a good chance to practise speaking ad listening in Spanish! In the morning we went, past miles and miles of sugar plantations, to Sipan, to visit the site where archaeologists discovered a mausoleum (1700 years old), where a Moche lord (now referred to as El Señor de Sipan) had been buried with his wife, concubines, son and a warrior (these apparently all sacrificed themselves voluntarily when their master died) and the wherewithal for the next life. At the same site were also found the burials of an earlier lord and an important priest. The grave goods are mostly at a museum some miles away and we went there after lunch. There is a huge amount of gold - pectorals, crowns, nose ornaments, earrings, bracelets threaded with minute turquoise beads, eve gold devices for plucking hair from beards, and everything is beautifully displayed. After that we drove past mills where the locally grown rice is dehusked (there are big black plastic sheets alongside the road, where the grains are left to dry before processing) to Tucume. Here there are a number of adobe pyramids, badly eroded by the periodic el niño rains, but still being studied and excavated.
Yesterday I went off on my own to Monsefu, a few miles away, because I´d read about its annual food and craft fair, which happened to be on this week. The main road had been taken over by dozens of temporary cafes, mostly hung with wafer-thin sheets of dried beef, stalls selling traditional confectionery, and others selling tacky toys and the crafts that I´d seen in Catacaos. There were also funfair stalls and lots of table football. The prizes on a roll-a-ball game might have come from Wilkinsons - plastic storage boxes and mugs! There wasn´t a lot to keep me there, so I went on to the seaside, to the town of Pimentel, which has a fishing fleet and a very long pier from which copper used to be exported. I was dropped off at the main square, which is luxuriantly planted with palms, topiary bushes, pewrgolas covered in bougainvillea and colourful flower beds. I spent some time taking photos of the plants and attendant butterflies, and noticed a young bird sitting by a lod. After a little while a sparrow flew down and the young bird started making "feed me" noises, and the sparrow fed it, although the baby was at least 50% bigger than the sparrow! I eventually dragged myself away and went for a walk on the beach and collected some very pretty bivalve shells, all the same shape and size, but differently coloured and patterned. The beach was lined with cafes, and I sat outside one to eat a very tasty fish dish before getting a combi back to Chiclayo. On the way back to the square I noticed a quirky little house for rent, with a pretty doorway, shutters and a little tower. If it had been in England, I´d have arranged a viewing!
I was back in time to visit the Mercado Modelo, which the book describes as one of the most interesting markets in Peru. It´s very big and very crowded. I was having a lovely time wandering round taking photos (with my rucksack on my front, like the police advise, and trying not to make the camera too obvious), and stopped to buy some apples. I was standing at the stall with my purse in my hand when a man suddenly ran past me and grabbed at the purse. I yelled at the top of my voice and ran after him, a couple of men chased him as well, and floored him. By then I realised he hadn´t actually got hold of the purse, so when they asked me if I wanted to involve the police, I said no - it would have been very hard work - and they let him go. Everyone was very kind and one of the stasllholders insisted that I sit down and drink some water! It´s the only bad thing that´s happened to me while I´ve been here, and I´m glad it didn´t happen at the beginning!
Today I went to Lambayeque to visit another archaeological museum, where I photographed a lot of wonderful ceramics. Unfortunately, most of them need to be rotated, so I haven´t been able to upload them. I´m very frustrated! Lambayeque has some beautiful Colonial buildings with grand doorways and balconies, and some lovely turn-of-the-century doors and windows (photos of which also need to be rotated). The surface of the road around the main square is decorated with a floral design! For lunch, I went to a restaurant recommended in the reliable guidebook and had a delicious piece of grilled fish with garlic sauce and chips (which are not usually good here!), plus wine, for less than 6 pounds. The restaurant specialises in duck and fish and is called El Rincon del Pato, which loosely translates as "Duck Corner".
Tomorrow I´m on the move again, 3 hours by bus to Trujillo. I´m gradually getting closer to Lima and to my flight home next week.