Last Monday was a religious holiday and while some people hiked to the town of Paita, my colleague and I took a day trip to Chulacanas, known for its pottery.
We took a moto to the bus depot, one I'd been to before, in the outskirts of town. Each bus company has their own booth and you locate one that goes your direction, not one direction. :P
My colleague N and I went up to a counter and she said "Chulacanas?" A man answered "Si." It costs us s./4 soles ($1.53 US) to get a one-way bus ticket to the town. We went outside to meet our trusty chariot only to find a rickety relic awaiting us, complete with a young boy checking our tickets and directing us onto the bus. Granted it was a holiday, so I hope he was there because of that.
I momentarily thought my feet would go through the floorboard of the bus, but we took our seats. Sometimes on a bus, you'll have an assigned seat. This time, we were instructed by the boy we could sit anywhere. N warned me not to sit too far back because there are no real set bus stops. So, if you're not careful, you could blow past your stop and be out of luck.
The bus pulled out of the station to begin our trip. Our first stop? The gas station across the street.
Onward and outward we finally went... and it wasn't too long into the journey that the boy porter started his sales shill. He eventually started passing out candy. N explained that he was hoping for a donation. I had taken some of the candy, so when he walked by, I gave a 50 cent piece (roughly 25 cents).
As we hurtled down the highway and out of the city, the landscape started to change and so did the houses. Many of the homes were barely more than shacks, with brightly colored outhouses for bathroom facilities.
We approached our stop, or so we thought, and jumped off the bus in a little village area. Of course, there were taxis and motos waiting for the fresh meat. We had to make a beeline for the bathrooms at the gas station across the street. While not luxurious, they were clean, thankfully N had brought tissue and graciously let me use some (clean) ones. :P
She explained to the manager that we wanted to the ceramics market. Apparently, we weren't near the village after all. A moto taxi pulled in for gas and the manager hired the driver for us. The ride would cost s/.4 - the same as the bus ride!
After the driver was done, we hopped in and away we went. Apparently, we weren't close to the actual city of Chulacanas at all. The young man kept driving when we passed a sign that said pottery with a left arrow. I remarked to my colleague that there was a sign, but the driver didn't stop. We assumed he knew where he was going. We drove into the town, it was festive, bright and interesting. He turned left and then right and around again. I had no idea where we were, and it turned out - neither did he. He stopped, and before we could get out, a swarm of men started coming towards the moto! Finally, he asked for directions and away we went again, on a serpentine journey though Chulcanas proper. Around we went and finally, we went through their mercado. No pottery to be found.
He stopped for gas again and away we went back out of town, back the way we came. The novelty and humor was wearing off for us. Where were we? Where was this elusive market? Finally, we made it back to that pottery sign and he went down the road. It was a barely graded dirt road for about 5 or 6 miles, in a moto taxi, so I felt like I was in the tumble setting on a dryer. I felt all my fat jiggle into new formations on my body.
We went further and further away from the main road. My wild imagination started running. We certainly were going to get shanked or fillayed like two pieces of fish. Thankfully, my worry was assuaged when I saw otehr motos coming our way with happy shopper clutching their ceramic treasures.
Finally, we reached a dusty, low-slung little village. He went down a dusty dirt path and stopped down the main street, if you could call it that. My colleague jumped out to use the bathroom and left me to negoitate payment. Suddenly, the payment he wanted was s/.20 soles! ($7). I argued with him in my limited Spanish. Next, he wanted s/.12 soles! Nope. I said s/.5 and that was it. It wasn't our fault he got lost! Finally, we just walked away.
He didn't follow after us as we perused the shops. We wandered into a small shop and ran into three men. My colleague asked them in Spanish how much a moto driver should charge for a ride. They responded in English. They said they'd wait for us from what I heard, I was wandering around the shop. I figured they were going to help hire us a moto back to town, so we could then catch the bus.
As we were leaving, our moto driver pulled up, with a passenger, he was ready to go. I shoved a s/.5 coin in his hand, and walked off. He took off and that was the end of that hustler.
I enjoyed lookig at a few more shops and it turns out that the men had their own car, and were offering us a ride all the way back to Piura! So, we climbed in with the 3 guys into the nice silver steed. Now, this sounds alarming, but I didn't get any weird vibes from the men. Away we went, they were all colleagues and were out in the town on a sales call for an international food company.
We enjoyed a 45-minute ride with them as opposed to a moto ride back to town, then on a bus, then on a moto home. Having your own transportation is such a blessing. They dropped us off at our house and all was well. After they drove away, I remarked that we were pretty brave or stupid to take a ride like that. My colleague, having lived overseas for several years, said you have to learn to size up help really quick in a foreign country.
Thankfully, we were safe and sound, and got some good deals on pottery, just next time we'll know where to get off the bus.