The hotel in Trujillo wouldn’t have qualified as 3 star by our American standards. It was clean and there was hot water. However, there was no heat in the hotel. Fact is, most dwellings in Peru have no heat. Despite the fact that showering was a slight form of torture with the cold, I will soon look back on that hotel as the epitome of luxury.
Marca. How can I possible describe Marca and convey how different it is from anything that most of you and I have ever seen? It is another universe. Good thing I have plenty of pictures.
First, let me describe the journey. I feel the need to describe it in every painful detail. I’m trying to give you an authentic feel of my adventure. Because the entire trip, obviously, was not meant to be easy for us. Because the travel gods were having too much fun at our expense. Because we must have the worst luck. Because we were just too stupid to look into it before, we found out the hard way that there’s no direct or easy way to get to Marca.
Option 1 – Take the long 10 – 12 hour trip south back to Lima. Take a 4 – 6 hour bus to back north to Barranca. Take a 1 – 2 hour combi to Marca. 15 – 20 hrs total
Option 2 – Take a 2 hour bus ride to Chimbote. Take a 6 hour bus to Barranca. Take a 3 hour combi to Marca. 11 hrs total
Do you remember this map? Option 2 seems to be the most direct and the shortest no brainer choice, right?
Well, the first bus was alright. The second bus, the longer lag, was crowded, smelly and hot. We get to Barranca and what must we do, but hop on one of those tiny cabs I swore never to go on to get to the combi stop. There were seven of us, with at least two suitcases each, but we managed to fit all of it in 2 of these teeny-tiny death traps cabs.
So, now we’re at the combi stop. In case you were wondering what a combi looked like… Ours had a much, much higher pile of luggage.
We were squeezed in like sardines.
There were 15 actual seats. Three in the front, including the driver. Four people on a bench right behind the drivers. Then some rows. Then they “created” another seat with a small stool. See the man in blue? He’s the on the stool that’s not anchored to anything. We had 17, possibly 18 people in total.
The trouble was we had to wait for the seats to fill up. They were not leaving until they could milk every single soles out of the trip. To wait another 45 minutes to an hour before we could take off on a 3 hour trip was too much. By the end the passengers joined the driver in soliciting additional passengers.
Please come take a 3 hour ride to a remote village in middle of nowhere. No? Pretty please? No? There’s a festival going on with free food and booze. Sold!
OK, that’s not what really happened. But we were close.
We finally left around 6PM. We were on a paved road for 2 hours, but steadily climbing up a mountain. Then we made a left turn to Marca, onto a bumpy, rocky dirt road. One hour of swaying, bouncing, and a painful bump on the head later, we got to the house.
The road, literally carved into the side of the mountains. I’m so glad we couldn’t see it at night. At the speed we were going, I would have had a heart attack and died. This doesn’t even show how narrow the road is and how steep the drop.
The house. I almost died anyway when we got to the house. It looked like our idea of a house until we walked in. The floor was made of dusty, dirty concrete. The rooms had no proper furniture or beds.
We had to make the beds with two flimsy foam mattress on a cot with just a flat sheet that kept slipping off. There were no proper bed lines. The pillows were stuffed with old sweaters and bumpy.
The bathroom looked almost normal, except the water had been shut off. Which, it turned out didn’t matter anyway because there was no such thing as a hot shower. The hot water, even in the most generous sense could only be described as cool.
I would have cried that night, but I was too exhausted to even shed a tear. S and I just collapsed into bed and passed out. When I woke up the next morning, I didn’t want to face the day. Forgive me, but I was still tired. I felt dirty. It all seemed so impossible. It took me an hour to girdle up my loins.
I got up eventually, gave myself a mental slap and started making do. The water was still off. Cousin Miriam, who must have been tired, had kindly fetched water from the well and boiled it for anyone who wanted a sponge bath.
I washed a few necessary items and hung them in the attic to dry. No washer or a dryer.
“Washing machines” were ladies washing clothes in the river. I think we could have paid them to wash our clothes, but they would get dirty again 2 seconds after we stepped out of the house.
You see dirt was inevitable when the road and even the very house you lived in was all made out of dirt. In fact, Tia Louisa’s house (Miriam’s Mom) was positively modern compared to the rest of the village. We learned to live with the dirt.
We learned that everything’s relative and started appreciating the most simple things. Cold water is better than no water. Sponge bath with boiled hot water mixed with cold water is better than showering under cool water in 30 degrees. Hot shower in a cold bathroom is positively a luxury.
Clean and modern is a relative term, too. Most houses in Marca are built from home-made adobe bricks. The walls may or may not be whitewashed. The floor is the dirt ground that the house sits on. The roofs are made of tin.
The courtyard of Cousin Aquilae’s house where D’s Grandmother, S’s Great-grandmother lives.
The “kitchen” which is open to the courtyard and is just an open fireplace.
The dining area next to the kitchen.
The adobe oven that is in the front part of the house.
Not everyone has an oven. Neighbors pay either in money or bread for the use of the oven.
Grandmother’s bed which is in a room on the perimeter of the house. The bed was so fragile that when D leaned on the bed to put a picture on the wall, he broke a supporting beam.
A funny story. D felt horrible for breaking his Grandmother’s bed. Just horrible. As you can tell by now, resources are slim. We can’t just go to a store. We finally found a carpenter to make a new one. Later that day, we check to see that the bed’s fixed. The beam is still broken. We asked what happened. The carpenter fixed the broken beam, but another grandchild came for a visit and broke another one!
Of course, Grandmother’s been sleeping on this fragile bed for goodness how long without any problems. I don’t think she weighs much.
The entire village, nestled in a valley, is so tiny we could circle it in 15 minutes. Except that we kept running into family so it took three hours. D still has aunts and first cousins in Marca. Plus, second cousins, third cousins and cousins of cousins and cousins removed. I swear at least 50% of the village, if not more, are family.
The Plaza de Armas. This tiny village that’s not even a dot on a map in the remote Andes mountain with population of, what, a hundred has a plaza de armas.
In fact, Marca boasts two plazas.
The village has a surprisingly large police station, a medical clinic, an elementary school where S donated a bunch of pencils and crayons, and a secondary school.
The medical clinic. The doctor rents a room at Tia Louisa’s house. I heard him shower every day and marveled at how not a whimper could be heard. Perhaps one gets used to the cold.
Random piece of information. This is election year in Peru and voting is mandatory. We saw campaign signs everywhere we went. In rural places like Marca, it was common to see the signs painted directly on the walls of houses and buildings.
Peruvians take voting seriously. You get fined if you don’t vote.
I wish I could end this post with a picture of the night sky. None of the pictures I took came out. Imagine a black canvas. Imagine the canvas riddled it with pinholes, almost to the point where you can’t see the black canvas. Then turn off the light and shine the brightest light through the holes. That’s like the sky of Marca. Except bigger. Grander. Brighter. More beautiful than anything I’ve ever seen.
That’s Marca for you. Dusty, dirty, and run down and yet, so beautiful. I can understand why D’s Grandmother would rather live and die in Marca then here. I got to enjoy it for two night and already I long for the stars.