Peruvian people are ridiculously generous and pleasant. From the moment we entered the country on Friday, everyone we’ve met has been unfailingly helpful and nice. Even the driver of the collectivo (a private truck or car that serves as a taxi or bus service in rural areas) that drove us to the border refused our payment. We hadn’t planned to enter Peru that day, but since we’d arrived hours ahead of schedule, we went through the almost-deserted crossing and instantly got a ride to the tiny town of Suyo, twenty minutes from the border. After an hour of watching nothing but taxis and collectivos pass by, we headed into the village to find a place to camp. Although the town policemen were more than willing to let us set up our tents in the main square (“Our town is safe!”), Ellen left me guarding our bags while she searched for a quieter place to camp. On a side street by the river was an empty lot, where a sweet neighbour insisted Ellen and I make ourselves at home. She and her friend came outside with brooms to sweep the sandy ground clean before we put our tents there. Once we were camped, they invited us into the house to watch TV with them. Honestly, we were tired and would have gone to bed right away (although it was only six) but we thought we should accept her hospitality rather than be rude, so in we went. She was clearly poor: the house had a dirt floor, the outdoor kitchen had a wood-burning stove made from bricks, the yard was fenced with twigs (decorated with laundry hanging out to dry) and her garbage was swept out the side door into the very same lot where Ellen and I had set up our tents. However, she lived well enough to have electricity and a small television, and to feed the many neighbours who dropped by. Over the course of the evening, half a dozen people came over to say hello, watch TV, and eat her homemade tamales, which she insisted on sharing with us as well. Ellen and I felt guilty for accepting food she probably couldn’t afford (especially since we weren’t able to withdraw any Peruvian money to leave for her), but we didn’t have any polite way to refuse when everybody else was also eating. We were eventually able to excuse ourselves and retire to our beds for the night, exhausted after our day of travel. I slept like a log, but Ellen was disturbed by wandering bands of pigs rooting through the scraps left over from dinner, which had been discarded a few meters away from our tents. At least the policemen were honest in their promise that the town was safe – although we had pigs, dogs, and donkeys ambling past our tents all night, we and our belongings were perfectly safe. The next morning, we headed out early to try to catch the morning traffic from Ecuador into Peru. Luck was with us again, as a beaten up old car stopped, with three men inside. They were only going a few miles up the road, they said, but could take us to the next town. Of course, their trunk wouldn’t unlock, and the key broke in the ignition, so they hotwired the car as Ellen and I sat pinned under our bags in the back seat. At last we were on the road, chatting animatedly with our driver, Nestor. When he heard we were heading south, he was delighted. “I’m driving to Chiclayo this morning, in an hour or so. I just need to return this car to my friend, pick up my jeep from the shop, and eat breakfast. Want to join me?” We accepted with pleasure. Nestor turned out to be ridiculously generous. He worked in international business and threw money around like candy at a parade. When his jeep wasn’t ready, he hired a collectivo and paid our fares for us. From the next town, he insisted on buying us lunch and continuing our journey together by bus, on his dime. He had offered us a ride to Chiclayo, damn it, and he was going to make sure we got there! (Also, he took a liking to Ellen, so he wanted to keep spending time with us as long as he could.) Ellen and I felt a mixture of gratitude and discomfort at his generosity – we got a lot of insight into local food and culture from Nestor as he and his friend showed us around, but we didn’t feel free to explore the city on our own terms.

We were sure things wouldn’t go as smoothly as we set off on our own once more, but again the Peruvian people impressed us with their kindness. Both our rides of the afternoon stopped to buy us a beer, and the second one dropped us off right at our couchsurfing host’s doorstep. Our host here, Fernando, welcomed us into his home with open arms, sharing food and beer with us. I felt grateful for his hospitality, but I can hardly say I’m surprised. In our two days in Peru, I’ve come to expect nothing less from a Peruvian.

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Peruvian beer, Cristal. Also, Ellen has a cup for a hand.

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