Posted by: Jessie Kwak | November 2, 2009

Two months in Peru, PART 1: The Peruvian people are awesome.

After two months in Peru, Rob and Jessie take a look back and try to put their fingers on just what it is that’s kept them here so long. In Part 1: The Peruvian People, and How Much They Rock.

One of the harder parts of traveling constantly is the inability to form good longterm friendships. When Rob and I get bored with each other, we can’t just go meet a friend for a beer down at the Summit. We can’t just go over to the Elysian and see who’s working. It can get lonely sometimes, but in Peru we’ve found amazing people everywhere we’ve turned.

We’ve definitely seen a marked difference in the way we’re treated in more touristy areas versus those that are more out-of-the-way. In touristy places where we’ve been just one more gringo couple with shaky Spanish skills people haven’t always had the most patience, but who can blame them? Would you want to live in someone else’s Disneyland?

In Northern Peru, however, backpackers are a rarity. Every place we’ve gone we’ve been met with smiles, patience and amazingly gracious hospitality. Here’s an ode to some of the people we’ve met along the way.

The Kindness of Total Strangers

Flor, an indigenous woman in Celendin Peru


From Flor, the campesina woman who led us around the Celendín countryside for hours just for company, to the three different men who went out of their way to walk us ten, fifteen blocks to various apartments during our Great Huanchaco Apartment Hunt we’ve been blessed.

During our stay in Chachapoyas we learned first hand why it is said the people of the Amazonas region are the friendliest in Peru when we found ourselves taking shots of pisco in 400-year-old Spanish home with Pepe.

The Brilliance of Local Guides

Jose, our guide at Kuelap


Despite the One Bad Experience we had in Huancayo (a touristy town), we’ve had nothing but a string of competent, passionate, knowledgeable guides. There was David at the Gruta de Guagapo, Antonio at Cumbe Mayo, José at Kuelap, and Señora Teo at Gocta Waterfall.

The generosity of Couch Surfing

pisco rita in trujillo


For anyone who hasn’t tried this service, it’s an amazing way to meet up with people. We’ve used it to find free lodging in two of the most different places you could imagine: an empty room above a popular Trujillo bar and a spare bedroom of a family of Colombian immigrants in Chiclayo, and also to meet up with Kelly in Cajamarca.

The Fervor of Football Hooligans

Juan Aurich vs Sporting Cristal in Chiclayo


Peru’s not so great at football, but their fans will never be defeated. We’re in the season of World Cup Qualifiers, and though Peru was never even remotely in contention, their fans and players still fought with pride. We were told before the Peru vs. Uruguay game that Peru hadn’t scored a goal for months and that we shouldn’t waste our time, but watching that surge of joy when Peru, the worst-ranked team, scored to win 1-0 was amazing. Text and Photo Essay.

That was the only game we’ve seen so far that hasn’t ended in a 0-0 draw:

  • Sport Huancayo vs. Alianza Atletico was one of the worst football games I’ve personally seen, though I wouldn’t take back the chance to take shots of rancid rum from a toothless old man: Text and Photo Essay.
  • Cajamarca’s UTC vs. Trujillo was mostly memorable for the extraordinary variety of food you could buy from wandering vendors: Text and Photo Essay.
  • Chiclayo’s Juan Aurich vs. Sporting Cristal had by far the craziest fans we’ve run across—though I’m inclined to argue that because their team at least is farther up in the stats we should give that title to the few but diehard fans of Sport Huancayo. But they were indeed crazy. Long live the Hurricane of the North! Text and Photo Essay.

The Varied Products of Street Vendors

If it can be carried, someone will try to sell it to you on the street. My personal favorite thing you can buy on the Peruvian streets is dry-erase boards. Men walk by with boards of varying sizes hung around their neck, edging past you on street corners, gesturing to the giant boards. Rob and I have our backpacks on and are looking at a map. Do we look like we need a white board? Yes, apparently.

Trujillo, it seems, has a monopoly in needle-threader vendors. Nearly every street you walk down has a man or a woman hawking the neon plastic things—perhaps I’ve underestimated the amount of hand-sewing that goes on in this city.

Every city has a street market, generally located in one area, such as the galerias of downtown Lima. The Tarma Market is the only one that seems to shift so erratically from street to street so that you can never be quite sure whether you’ll find a traffic jam or a shoe shop outside your door when you wake up in the morning.

Thank you, Peru!

These are only a fraction of the amazing people that we’ve met on our journey so far. I’ll be posting a weekly column every Friday highlighting other folks we meet, be it an interview with a friend (or stranger), a profile of an interesting occupation, or just general musings. Keep an eye out for that, and stay tuned for tomorrow’s “travel edition” of our Two Month Recap: How We Get From Here to There.



  1. Your website continues to evolve into an amazingly colorful collage of stories and musings. Both your writings and photographs are personal, informative, and full of emotion. I love following your journey!

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