Hang loose and unwind – Huanchaco, Peru

It’s two AM and the Ecuador/Peru border crossing is upon us.  Thankfully both the Ecuadorian and Peruvian immigration officers have their heads screwed on and it’s a one building, quick as you like process ensuring before long were all back to sleep on the bus.

 The Border with Bolivia.  Peru.
Hello Peru!

In Piura Matt looked for an ATM that would let us take more than US$200 out but failed, the most we could get was $300 from Scotia Bank. This sucked as overseas bank fees are a bitch and you can easily shell out a chunk of your cash on bus tickets. Heading back to the bus station it was a seven hour wait as we’d missed the morning connecting bus for Trujillo and our final destination of Huanchaco. Lucky for us there is no shortage of cheap eats near the Itsa Bus terminal, and a couple of beef and egg sandwiches tie us over until a late almuerzo lunch is served at the restaurant next door.

On the Itsa bus from Puira to Turjillo.  Peru

On the Itsa bus from Puira to Tur

On the Itsa bus from Puira to Tur
Burning rubbish on the Itsa bus from Piura to Trujillo

When the bus it’s clear to us this is the plushest bus we’ve taken since hitting South America.  Lovely wide reclining seats, drinks and snacks (sugar and bread based products being the norm) are handed and the TV is fired up. Passing through desert so flat and vacant you felt like you were on Tatooine, the only entertainment came from dubbed version of Lucy on the TV and a local guy trying to pour his refresher towel into his coffee thinking it was sugar. We fall asleep that afternoon with the assurance that the luggage has been checked with a ticket system and all passengers passed a metal detector and a pat down prior to boarding.

Finger printing for a bus? Itsa Bus.  Puira,  Peru.
Safety first on Itsa bus

Itsa Bus.  Puira,  Peru.

Passing piles of burning rubbish as far as the eye could see, a depression sets in and you wonder how the hell anybody could live here. The place feels like a land of lawlessness, a fact solidified when an Aussie we met in Lima told us he’d been shot at, forced into a ditch and robbed of all his belongings along with two others whilst cycling through here only a few days before. We should note that when they reported this to the local police, they were promptly thrown in a police car which then gave chase, catching two of the three robbers and happily shooting one guy in the leg in the process.

Itsa Bus.  Puira,  Peru.

Itsa Bus.  Piura,  Peru.
Sugary snacks included

An uneventful journey has us in Trujillo bus terminal on the wrong side of sunset stranded with no more minivans and in full knowledge that the taxi drivers have the advantage.  Meeting Ville, a fellow traveller from the land of snow and reindeer, Finland, we use our collective bargaining force and grab a cab out to the coastal town of Huanchaco.

Huanchaco, Peru.

Huanchaco, Peru.
Huanchaco

Just for shits ‘n’ giggles, Finland is also the first country in the world to introduce a masters degree in futures studies, has 2 million saunas and a tax accountant who died at his desk and his 100 colleagues didn’t notice for 2 days. Ville’s got a place sorted so we arrive at the Naylamp, dump the bags and head out to La Gringa Hostel for a few in the front patio bar to become acquainted with our new playmate.

Huanchaco, Peru.

Hostel in Huanchaco, Peru.

Huanchaco, Peru.
The chilled out haven of Naylamp Hostel

After getting a little carried away last night, Naylamp’s breakfast of bacon and eggs made for a gut pleasing cure to the beer still swilling around.  Taking a much need chill day after 30 hours of travelling, we didn’t venture any further than the hostel, ordering a Hawaiian pizza to eat on the first floor terrace overlooking the beach front. At first glance we’re a little weirded out by the fact that there were peaches on the pizza, but the hangover hunger persuaded us with little to no resistance and we hooked in. Whilst the peaches made for a strange though welcome addition to the Hawaiian, the base of the pizza, where the heart and soul is, letdown what could have been an excellent pizza.

Peach on a Hawaiian Nylamp Hostel.   Huanchaco, Peru.
Peach and pineapple Hawaiin pizza at Naylamp Hostel

Dinner time soon arrives and the three of us (Ville) head out looking for the dish that Peru is famous for, ceviche.  Now this dish can be hit or miss in most parts of the world, though we’d been reassured many times that Peru by far and away have the best of the lot. Made of raw fish ‘cooked’ in lime juice the addition of tomato, onion, coriander, avocado and others varies from place to place.

La Barca on the sea front.  Huanchaco, Peru.
La Barca by the seafront

La Barca on the sea front.  Huanchaco, Peru.

Huanchaco, Peru.
Ceviche at La Barca

Being hit upon many times over the day by restaurant touts, a sure sign the venue is shit, we settle on La Barca a short walk along the beach road from the hostel. The service is friendly, location perfect on the beach front and the Pisco Sours strong (we think it was the first one) coming with a shot glass of an unidentifiable creamy substance.

What the F*ck is that?

Matt exclaims.

Oh yeah looks like ‘Leche de Tigre’

Ville replies.

Milk of Tiger? There’s no fuckin’ tigers in Peru!? What is it??

A quick search on the internet reveals that it’s the juice that’s drained off the ceviche (yep, limey, fishy goodness…).

Well, lets have it then

and with that Matt downs the shot not know if a bad case of campylobacter bacteria means his healthy hours are numbered.

La Barca on the sea front.  Huanchaco, Peru.
Leche de Tigre

La Barca on the sea front.  Huanchaco, Peru.
The slightly disappointing main course at La Barca

Moving on to the ceviche, a deliciously presented, fresh tasting plate is laid before us as the sun begins it’s final descent for the day. The main of over fried seafood was unfortunately a disappointing end the meal, though sipping on our first Pisco Sours with a gorgeous view in a tranquil town, does it get any better than this?

Huanchaco, Peru.

Pisco Sours.  Huanchaco, Peru.

Huanchaco, Peru.

This little part of Peru has over 4,000 years of cultural history, with civilisations who were taken over by the Inca. The Moche civilisation left behind what has now become the symbol of this small, dusty Pacific Coast town, the totora reed fishing boats. Nicknamed ‘Cabalittos de Totora’ due to the way the fishermen would straddle the boats like riding a horse, they’re around 3.5 meters long and can weigh up to 50kg, more when they’re wet. The front of the boats are pointed and curve slightly upwards in order to break the waves, and a small hole near the back serves as storage for fishing nets and up to 250kg(!) of fish.

Huanchaco, Peru.

Huanchaco, Peru.

Huanchaco, Peru.
Huanchaco’s famous totora reed boats

Walking along the esplanade, part washed out by violent seas a week back, numerous photo opportunities lay before us. The fisherman head out at the break of dawn before propping them against the sea wall to dry for the rest of the day, before heading out again at sunset. The fading suns silhouetting these vessels has mostly likely be happening for centuries unchanged only now the development of modern man is the unfortunate back drop.

Huanchaco, Peru.

Huanchaco, Peru.

Huanchaco is the quiet sibling of Mancora up the coast and it shows.  The locals are laid back, easy to talk to, you don’t see as many gringos and the music isn’t pumping until all hours, unless it’s Reggae night at My Friends Hostel (also the best place to catch a football match).

Huanchaco
My Friends hostel

It’s the middle of the night and Matt awakes to a battalion of kamikaze mosquitoes dive bombing any exposed flesh hoping to bathe in bloody glory. This along with the unmovable heat that lingers in the still night means it’s time for the DEET. Having applied and gone back to bed it’s not 30 seconds before Sarah’s awoken to the same onslaught in the bed above. DEET’ed up the mosquitoes change direction again, attacking their next tasty victim.  He’s soon out of bed as are the remaining two roommates in quick succession as the little bastards move from victim to DEET-less victim.

Huanchaco, Peru.

Huanchaco, Peru.

A little dehydrated though thankful to still have blood coursing through the veins, we feast on a massive Naylamp yoghurt, fruit and muesli breakfast before catching the 2 sole (USD20c) minibus toward Trujillo, alighting at the adobe ruins of Chan Chan.

Chan Chan ruins

Chan Chan ruins
Chan Chan ruins

If you’ve ever dreamed of building the worlds biggest sandcastle, this isn’t a bad place to get some inspiration. The Chimú people gave it a good shot around 850 CE, building what is still the worlds largest adobe city covering over 20 square kilometers. When the Inca’s arrived in 1470 they liked what they saw and soon took over. The ruins are massive and only a small portion of the main city area has been excavated from the impending sand dunes. Most of the beautifully repetitive designs represent the local people’s life source, depicting fish, boats and other oceanic creatures, including pelicans.

Chan Chan ruins

Huanchaco, Peru.
Chan Chan ruins

A guide here could be of benefit as explanations are completely non-existent (you can get one at the entrance), and be sure to arrive early as the sea breeze doesn’t reach here and it will become unbearable hot very quickly.  You can visit the museum, a short bus ride down the road toward Trujillo, though the three of us recommend you skip it, reading better information on the World Wide Web.

Chan Chan ruins

Chan Chan ruins

Chan Chan ruins
Chan Chan ruins

Back in Huanchaco we ate at Restaurant Marcia across the road from My Friends Hostel. Matt’s Arroz Mariscal (seafood rice) was delicious whilst Ville and Sarah’s fried fish begged for less bread and a little less time drowning in oil. Suckers. Washed down with a cold brew after the heat of Chan Chan, there’s nothing for it but laze around in the hammocks at Naylamp.

Huanchaco
Restaurant Marcia for cheap seafood & rice

Huanchaco, Peru.
Another stunning sunset with Finnish mate Ville

Back out on the esplanade we take some time to hangout with the locals, watch the surfers (you can give it a shot pretty cheaply here and the conditions are perfect for beginners) and the hippies selling handmade jewelry. Arriving at Bily’s Bar we take a seat out front to witness another beautiful setting of the sun. Service here is terrible though the potent drinks and music playlist manage to make up for it. Having a round of Blue Hawaiians (which were described as a daiquiri but arrived far from frozen), and a few beers the three of us soon found ourselves again at the backpacker hangout of La Gringa. Run by a slightly eccentric expat American, she’s a lovely, talkative lady that loves to be surrounded by world nomads.

 Bily's Huanchaco, Peru.

Huanchaco, Peru.
Sunset views at Bily’s Bar

Next morning the air’s stale, the mosquito’s have had a field day and we stumble out of bed feeling a little worse for wear. Unanimously we all decide that a burger and  fries for breakfast is the wisest cure. Heading over to cheap looking Menu Land which we’d seen the previous day ( (same road as My Friends Hostel), the quality of the plates being served for the cash being paid was a tightarse’s dream. Matt went straight for the egg, bacon and pineapple (that counts at breakfast right?), and accompanied with a mountain of fries all for around USD$2, it was difficult to move from the chairs after finishing, which Sarah didn’t, the burger was so big it defeated her.

Menu Land Awesome Burgers.  Chan Chan Ruins.  Huanchaco, Peru.

Menu Land Awesome Burgers.  Chan Chan Ruins.  Huanchaco, Peru.

Menu Land Awesome Burgers.  Chan Chan Ruins.  Huanchaco, Peru.
Sarah and the Menu Land breakfast burger that defeated her

Properly stuffed the thought of food made us ill for the rest of the day…until the hangover hunger kicked back in around dinner time. After walking around for an hour we opted foolishly to settle on one of the only places in town which was open. We received a flyer when arriving which should have, and usually does, give us the red light to avoid, and as expected El Rey on the beach road was crap. Winner of the worst ceviche and the saltiest mains possible, the fact we were the only people in the restaurant also should have given us the hint. One to avoid guys.

Huanchaco, Peru.
Yet another stunning Huanchaco sunset

Yay! An overnight bus to Huaraz after drinking sounds fun. Taking a 30-45 minute minibus to the bus terminal in Trujillo, our newly formed trio observed that when stuck in traffic, the locals would rather stay on the bus for 10 minutes than walk an extra 10 meters, which probably accounts for the high level of obesity we also observed!

Huanchaco, Peru.

TIP

Wanting to book a bus from Trujillo to your next destination?  There’s a Movil Tours office in town which will book tickets for you. Then all you need to do is get a minibus from town for 3 soles (around USD$!), easy as ABC.

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