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The Long Chiclayo Day

Panoramic photo of Chiclayo's Plaza Del Armas: click on photo to enlarge.

26 November 2010

CHICLAYO, LAMBAYEQUE, PERU–We walked down a crowded, hectic, loud and hot street, dodging and weaving our way between people and I turned to my wife and said, “I like Chiclayo…”

It was around noon. We had slept through the morning and Kristina had decided to take a dose of Cipro to knock out whatever stomach bug she had caught. We were walking through the Plaza del Armas looking for a place to have lunch. We passed a few potential options and, in my opinion, picked the best of all. If you are ever in Chiclayo make sure to get lunch at Café Romana on Balta Street just south of the Plaza. Pass the banks and the street-corner moneychangers and it is there on your left. True to its name it feels very much like an Italian café: high-ceilinged, airy and tiled, full of locals, slightly worn, with a small bar and waiters in white shirts and black ties. It was exactly what we needed, civilized in an informal way, with good service and, it turned out, very good food. I got the cabrito–a roasted joint of baby goat served with beans and rice–a common dish in Peru but the best we had on the trip. Kristina got fried fish and we both drank handmixed lemonade. We finished with a flan cake and espressos. Kristina liked my cabrito so much she made me promise we would eat there again for lunch the next day before leaving town if not that night for dinner.

After lunch we spent several hours wandering through the market. Block after block on the southside of downtown are covered with vendors selling everything one could want, from every type of fruit and vegetable to live guinea pigs, chickens, rabbits and goats to the brujo, or witches’ market, a corner of stalls connected by narrow passageways selling magical items, masks and candles, crude swords and herbs and potions. Even here we couldn’t find the Ishpingo, the special cinnamon my old compañera Blair had tasked me with finding her. Apparently it is a solely Ecuadorian item, not to be found amongst the Peruvians. I bought her a poke of regular old cinnamon and, for my friend Jake, a smooth river rock carved with the Nazca monkey. A little later we bought handmade Andean pan-flutes from a street vendor for each of my sister’s six children. It was revenge for her telling on me once back in grade-school.

We decided to keep our momentum going and caught a collectivo bus just off the Plaza to the Museo Tumbas Reales de Sípan. The museum showcases the artifacts excavated at a nearby complex of earthen pyramids and includes the magnificent funerary artifacts of the Lord of Sípan, onetime king of the Moche people. It is a beautifully laid out museum, with an amazing collection and, to my eyes, rates as having the best use of creative lighting in any museum I have ever been to. The artifacts are lit in such a way that they cast shadows of their outlines across portions of the floor or walls, falling in a way that the shadows create multiple mirror images of the masks and crowns, breastplates and sacrificial knives so that history both glitters in its case and looms darkly over you.

From the museum we went back to town and to a siesta in at Hotel Oasis and it seemed to me that we had been in Chiclayo forever. That evening we decided to go large and to try a high-end restaurant, choosing the highly recommended Restaurante Tipico Fiesta. The establishment is a fairly long cab ride away from the city center on the edge of a rougher neighborhood but the maître’d called a cab for us at the end of the night. The dining room was spacious and airy, with white tablecloths and a Scandinavian feel to its decoration. I wore my tie but felt rather shabby in my now torn and dirty safari jacket. We both felt a little odd and out-of-place after the last few days hiking in Amazones when the waiter wheeled a cart to tableside to build our pisco sours. We ordered the sting ray omelette as an appetizer and it was unique and tasty. The chunks of ray in the fluffy egg were distinctly fishy, but crunchy and chewy and totally unique. For our main courses I ordered the duck and she the goat. The wine list was fairly extensive but in keeping with our location I ordered the Intipalka Malbec/Merlot from Peru’s Valle del Sol which was excellent. Our entrées, however, left something to be desired and suffered from common fine-dining flaws. Both were over-salted and both were sauced with the same red wine reduction. In fact, it was difficult to tell by taste what was goat and what was duck. It was an enjoyable night, however. The service was excellent, the ray omelette unique and the wine was very good but I couldn’t help but think that had we followed Kristina’s original suggestion and had dinner at Café Romana we would have had a better, less-expensive meal with no cab ride involved!

The next day we did, indeed, get more cabrito at Café Romana for an early lunch. Then it was a cab to the bus station and by 11:03 a.m. we were on a bus and soon to begin crossing the Sechura Desert on our way to Piura. From Piura we needed to find a bus to Paita, the town at the end of the road where Bogart ends up at the finale of “Dark Passage”.

Photos of the Chiclayo Market:

Chiclayo Market

The outside vegetable market in Chiclayo.

Afternoon sun on fresh tomatoes.

Peruvian vegetables.

A Girl and Her Mangoes.

Various Peruvian potatoes and other vegetables.

Fruits of the lands.


Banana Dealer.

Vendors in the sun.

Hello from Chiclayo!

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