Living it up in Trujillo

Peru, Travel, Uncategorized

A [non-exhaustive because we are not intrepid] guide to an unexpectedly cool city.

The hipster Chimus made some sweet walls in Chan Chan.

You know those places that you have almost no expectation of? Some place on the way to some other place? For us, Trujillo was one of those. Until we arrived.
Trujillo is up from Lima to the north, on the coast. It’s has a nice climate, not hot, not cold, and dry. It’s not a big tourist destination. But we reckon it’s a good place to live it up, and thought we’d offer up some tips on how.

HOW TO LIVE IT UP IN THE BIG T*[*No one calls it that]

First up, we got to swap the van out for a sweet apartment in a sweet neighbourhood in a sweet gated community. Right near a fancy mall. How? Amazing family. [Soz to anyone looking for overlanding or hostel recommendations].

Level of living it up: 100 

Second up, we got to see some really amazing archeological sites, and cool old buildings. We could drive to these easily, and most sites had guarded parking [for anyone driving]. 

Level of living it up: 200

Third up, Trujillo is pretty famous [with Peruvians] for its food. So we went on an eating mission. 

Level of living it up: 1000

So here’s what we did, that might help someone else live it up too!

DAY ONE: Old Stuff
We checked out some cool old stuff made by people who don’t exist anymore.  Our picks to see are:

Chan Chan

The Chimu people were a busy folk who made a lot of cool shit around 850AD especially so we could visit. Chan Chan is a big sand-mud brick – city that some how hasn’t been totally destroyed.

Huaca la Luna y Sol

A sweet Moche temple site, made by another bunch of people who utilised slaves/peasant well. It’s crazy because every hundred years they decided to build a new level of their temple, and cover up the old one. Because you know, why not. 

Leader: ‘Time to build another level’, Peasants: ‘General sighing’.

The place to observe [the no longer living] peasants.

El Brujo
This one’s is about half an hour or more out of the city, but was super interesting because it had a kickass princess-leader mummy covered in tattoos. Oh and massive temple site still used by the world’s shamans [Mum if you’re reading this, you should go].

Proof we leave the van to see things.

Place they found the mummy boss lady buried with tons of treasure and a bunch of expendable people.

DAY TWO: Food and old buildings
Peruvian food is amazing. We made it our mission to spend the whole day eating. The problem? Peru’s portion sizes [enormous] and Pisco Sours [so tipsy]. But we still managed to eat breakfast lunch and dinner, because we are warriors. 

We also checked out some cool buildings on our way.

Here’s where to eat in Trujillo [if you’re not from Trujillo and don’t know anywhere better to eat in Trujillo].

Breakfast: Panadería Fito Pan [the one behind the Plaza de Armas].

Sándwiches are a big thing in Peru. We saw a bunch of elderly people flocking here and felt a calling to enter [our people].

You get freshly baked bread, and Peruvian level tasty fillings. Try the Pork Mechado [slow cooked goodness] or if you’re a Gringa like me and get excited by cheese and ham toasties, that was pretty good too. Can’t go wrong with a fresh fruit juice.

Backup: La Lucha is a chain, but they also make pretty damn tasty sandwiches, La Luchita is my fav.

Eating break: go see old stuff

Find the pedestrian walkway area off the Plaza Armas, and basically walk into every old building you can [stop when security kick you out].

My king of living room!

Stumbling on Peruvian socialist political history [don’t believe them when they tell you the old cool guy became president, because he didn’t]

This [amazing looking] club is exclusively for a handful of elite Trujillo fams. Why?!

Lunch: El Mochica
Oh no! We were still full from breakfast because it was only 2 hours before lunch. But because we’re ninjas, we found a way to fit in a pretty epic lunch at this Trujillo stalwart.

Pisco Sours and the best Causa de Cangrejo [crab causa].

Cebiche a la Casa y Pulpo

Pisco sours have 3 [!] shots each, and made us need to nap pretty hard.

Backup plan: Mar Picante serve up some tasty ceviche and other seafood dishes.

Dinner: Koi Maki Bar 

If there’s one thing better than regular Peruvian food, it’s Japanese Peruvian food. That’s because they wrap up all your favourites into maki rolls, which are smaller, and even tastier than the regular dishes. 

Yes! That’s Ceviche sushi!

Add to that some time watching movies, [window] shopping, a pizza night, beers and plenty of sleep, and you’ve got a pretty high living it up level, maybe even 1001.
If you’re reading this and know things about Trujillo, tell us what we missed to give us FOMO!

Gringo Privilege in South America


Oh hai colonialism! 👋

We walk into the hostel bar. A group of white backpackers are dressed as ‘cholos’ (indigenous Peruvians) in ponchos and beanies. They are entertaining the other backpackers by play acting a ‘traditional wedding’ between two of the (white) travellers. Everyone is laughing at the pretend ceremony. An actual Peruvian seems to be leading this weird act of cultural misappropriation. I guess his job is to entertain the gringos and keep them at the bar so they keep drinking.

We are with a couple of friends. I look over at Mao. He looks quietly horrified. What the actual fuck is going on?!, he says with his eyes. Why are a bunch of privileged white young people dressing up as one of the most marginalised groups of people in Peru, and finding it hilarious and unproblematic? 
If the actual scene in front of us isn’t bad enough, the backpackers volunteering at the bar aggressively try and make us participate in whatever the hell is going on, completely ignoring the look of horror on our faces.

This is the second time we’ve entered the hostel universe in Cusco. The whole thing makes me feel deeply uncomfortable. I’ve spent months thinking about why, so have decided to pen some reasons down…. [fully tasting the irony of writing this from my own place of white privilege, but hey Mao wanted me to post this].

Unchecked white privileged 
Yes 21 year old backpacker from the US/EU/AU with the bracelets and harem pants, you are incredibly privileged. No amount of time on your yoga journey can change that. I wouldn’t think it’s necessary to point out your privilege when every day you pass elderly people trying to make a couple of dollars selling sweets, or blind people busking because they don’t have any support from the government. But it doesn’t seem that your privilege computes. 

Just because you’re carrying your belongings in a bag and you have a limited daily budget, does not mean you are subjected to the systemic oppression, racism, and difficulty people face every single day in Peru. And no, you should not expect to pay the exact same price as a local for everything, unless of course, you would also like make less than $400 a month. It also does not make it ok for you to try and get out of paying for things like bathrooms. No, bathrooms here are pretty much never free. They also cost about $0.20, of which that money goes to a family trying to get by. So when you refuse to pay on ‘principal’, you are also refusing to help a mother to feed her kids.

And no, Peruvians are not being systematically racist to you when they’re not overly friendly at the shops, or aren’t overly keen to help you. If you knew anything about the history of the country, you’d know, trust is a rare commodity. You’d also know that white people have (and continue to) plundered, and robbed most of the nation’s wealth. So yeah, it’s a bit bigger than you, these interactions are laced with eons of unconscious history. Not everyone is nice to you at home, so why expect it every time here?

And if you really don’t like it, you know what? You can leave. And go back to the US/EU/AU [wherever] Unlike the majority of Peruvians, whose visas will be rejected, and will never be able to see the sites of your country. Ever. 

Arrogance or ignorance?

I’ve been in situations several times where local people feel unsafe, while the visitors are convinced everything is hunky dory and dismiss local concerns with that everything will be fine attitude.

This in itself is a form of privilege. When you have not grown up getting held up by gunpoint near your house, your outlook on life is fundamentally different. If that has never been your life, you have the luxury of assuming everything is fine. You have the privilege of living free from the fear of such incidents. 

Many South Americans simply don’t have the privilege of that outlook. Maybe they’re more likely to feel paranoid about going out at night, more like to be distrustful of strangers, or more protective of their possessions. But it’s probably because their own personal history has been written in part by these fears.

When traveling in the van we’ve also realised other people seem to have this sense that they absolutely have the right to be… just about everywhere. Beaches, cliffs, forests, for free. We have the opposite feeling, constantly questioning if we should be pulling up next to the village or beach, always asking local people if it’s fine to stay. Of course, many travellers do the same. But that it’s similar to the privilege of expecting everything is safe; expecting everything is free and that you have the absolute right to stay there. 

Just… no 

One night we go clubbing. It’s pretty much just a massive room of white people, and a handful of locals. Horny backpackers hooking up with other horny (and mostly white) backpackers. Like a tiny alternate universe to the street a few meters away. Suddenly all the backpacker budgets seem to disappear as they sink all their money at the bar. It’s no problem to pay for beer and drugs, but of course no one wants to buy anything from the elderly folk selling candy at 3am in the cold outside. No one wants to pay too much for a taxi home even though that taxi guy definitely isn’t driving at 3am because it’s fun.

That night Mao goes to the bathroom of a club and is asked by an English backpacker if he’s selling cocaine. Seriously. Like the only reason for a Peruvian to enter a club in Peru is to sell you cocaine, of course. Another time, Mao is rejected from a famous backpacker hostel bar because he doesn’t have his ID. The rest of us [we’re all white] are never asked for any ID, ever, at any place. The guard shouts at Mao, the only Peruvian there, to piss off.

I guess that’s the thing that makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s a weird little white bubble all these people are traveling in. A bubble that at times, doesn’t even let local people inside.

Most of these young people have come to South America to experience new places and cultures. Yet they all stay together, mainly meeting other Europeans, Australians, or Americans. To me these hostels seem like little universes of whiteness, where young people brag about how deep they went into their Ayuhasca trip, or how little they managed to pay for something… it seems very much about… them. It seems that very few actually wants to know anything about what life is actually like for local people. Or anything about the complicated histories of the places they tramp around in. 

We travel in our van, and come across uncomfortable stuff all the time too. People not wanting to pay for their parking or camping spots, or searching for free wifi that some small family run hotel is having to pay for. People who are normally traveling with more funds than these families would make in a year. 

The answer?

The worst part is, I’m not sure I have any answers either. How would it work in any other way? How could backpackers travel outside the bubble of whiteness? Would that even work? Maybe locals are more than happy for the gringos to stick to themselves. Maybe these worlds exist for a reason. Maybe it’s better young people ‘find themselves’ with a bunch of other white folks doing the same thing?

And perhaps it’s not actually the bubbles of whiteness that make me so uncomfortable, so much as the seeming lack of self awareness? To be able to enter a country, and travel around, seems to me, a great blessing and privilege. Especially when the majority of locals you meet are unlikely to be able to do the same. It seems to me, the perfect opportunity to travel humbly, and learn about the people and the place you’re lucky enough to be in. It seems to me the perfect opportunity to be aware of, and maybe even confront, your gringo privilege.

[Of course this has been written with gross generalisations, and there are plenty of backpackers and travellers who are perfectly lovely and self aware, who we have been fortunate to enough to meet].

A shotgun van conversion

Travel, Van info

Our lazy guide to the cheapest / fastest possible van conversion

We’ve all seen #vanlife on Instagram and been blown away by the amazing vans/homes people have built.

But maybe you don’t have bucket loads of time, a big budget, or the skills required?

Yeah, neither did we. Our mission was: get on the damn road as fast as possible.

So we did a super basic, super fast, and super cheap van conversion. 

Bedroom / living room / office / place to hide from street dogs

Is it perfect? Of course not. Is it just like those dreamy vans on Instagram? Nope. Should you take any advice from us? Probably not. 

But our set up does the trick. We have somewhere to eat and sleep. And more importantly, we’re out on the road and exploring which was our #1 priority. 

The lowdown

Vehicle: 1998 Mitsubishi Delica DX Time taken: about a week Connversion cost: about $230

Not the biggest, but Vanito gets the job done


You know all those vans with inside kitchens, bathrooms, living rooms, attics, cellars, and sun rooms? Forget those. There is no space for that.
Our layout includes a bed, storage, ‘kitchen’, and outside tables and chairs. 

Insulation: $30

Hate spending hours on the net researching insulation options? Us too!

There’s about 183719 materials options and about double the opinions. We were mainly aiming to keep warm. We didn’t have many materials available (we did this in Lima, Peru). So we chose the easiest thing: sun protectors (those foil looking bubble wrap looking things for your windscreen). 

We pulled up the plastic floor cover thing and taped a bunch of these bad boys down with electrical tape

We ‘installed’ these into the ceiling of the van, the floor, and stuck two on the rear passenger windows. 

Hot tip! Shove these guys into your roof! (Ours always had carpet stuff, so we slid them in under that)

Bam! Some level of insulation! We’ve been in warm (30+ and cold (-5) and we have always been comfortable. 

Bed: $100 (50 on the frame 50 on the mattress)

You know those fancy folding beds that convert into seats during the day. Forget those.

We really like our sleep. Like, really like our sleep. We decided folding our bed up and down every day would be annoying. You don’t mess around when you want to rest. 

Our bed feat. Mao’s lovely sister. We made this up as we went, and for stability added wooden braces at the end of the legs.

We built a 1.5 person bed frame from solid wood, built high enough to fit plastic storage containers underneath. The wood we got cut at the hardware store when we bought it (they offered 3 cuts free per piece). We drilled it together with the cheapest screws we could find (using a borrowed drill). It took us a few hours.

We did not attach the bed to the van floor. It’s pretty heavy, and so far, and with everything stacked around, it hasn’t moved. 

We got a normal 1.5 person mattress for it. It’s super comfy. We weren’t about to mess around with sleep comfort.

Kitchen’: $50

You know those amazing tiled sinks, and fold out cook tops people have in their vans? Forget those. 

We use the term kitchen loosely here, cause you know, you wash up with buckets. 

Straight up my brother told us cooking inside with gas was a death wish and basically threatened us with death if we tried.

The chef serves breakfast

So we opted for a nice double burner stove, and we carry a 5kg gas bottle. Open the back of the van up, and bam, you have a place to cook.  

We store a plastic table and camp chairs down the side of the van. Takes a couple of minutes to set up, but it’s easy, and we don’t mind the camp kitchen vibe.

A Virgo’s nightmare / back door kitchen

For washing up we use basins, and when we drive all our pots / pans / utensils are stored there. We use a couple of cheap plastic containers and a polystyrene box to store our food. Which means restocking fresh stuff every other day, but hey, we like markets!

Storage: $30

You know those pretty hand made wooden cupboards people have that fit perfectly above their beds but don’t hit them in the head? Forget those.

Plastic storage containers with wheels is where it’s at. All our possessions (clothes) fit under our bed. They’re super easy to access by just pulling out the container.

Curtains: $20

You know those beautifully pleated curtains people have that block all light yet can be easily adjusted for the day? Forget those.

Curtains get their own heading because they were the hardest part, but on the road have definitely been of the most important features.
We chose thick black fabric, which is good for light blocking, but makes the van surprisingly dark during the day. A positive is that it’s really hard to see anything inside of the van at all (sup thieves).

Back door curtain shoved into roof gap, and side curtains stuck on with tape, when we drive we roll up the back and peg it.

For the curtains I measured the windows, cut the fabric to size, and hand sewed (!) the rope into the hems. That takes for freaking ever. And in the end, it was even needed (this made me question my own existence).
Turns out, you can just use a screw driver to shove the material into the roof join. And it stays up! 

For the passenger windows (that open) we use a bunch if thumb tacs, double sided tape, and safety pins. For the other passenger windows we put a layer of foul stuff and then attached the string to plastic suction caps (which didn’t stay so we taped them on).

Making it feel like home 

Little things can make a tin can with a bed feel like home. Obviously maps.

BEST TIP?! Buy a bunch of lovely cushion covers, then stuff them with your coats and spare blankets!! Seriously, this saved us a bunch of room and helped make us comfy for Netflix times! Also, I cut up all our receipts and stuck them to the roof ’cause I thought it was ugly.

Hang stuff! This handbag is my random crap shelf, the little bag is the first aid.

Home is where your hat is? Dunno but we put a bunch of hooks up to hang stuff… dry towels etc.


So by now, you can see we tricked you!! We didn’t really convert a van. We just put a bunch of stuff in it. Which means anyone can do it. 

Really this unhelpful guide is more about just getting out there and doing what you want instead of getting everything perfect up front. There are a lot of perfect van set ups. If you have the time and money, do that! But if you just want a simple set up so that you can go out and adventure, you’ll be surprised at how little you need to be comfortable. 

If all that’s stopping you is a place to eat and sleep, then just get going and think later.

So your morning view can look something like this.