Peru’s Northern Coast

 

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Once we crossed the border into Peru, we headed for the surf town of Mancora.  We’d been told it would feel like a smaller version of Ecuador’s Montanita.  The town’s main road (the Panamericana) was bustling with vacationers enjoying La Semana Santa, getting ready for the huge celebration of Easter.

We felt a bit burned out, stopped for a beer and some Calamari, and navigated our way through the hundreds of frogger playing moto-taxis.

 

Simply camping on the beach here wasn’t realistic.  As we were looking for a place to park (una cochera), our first of many “fixers” came out of nowhere and talked us into checking his place out.  The Italian Peruvian wonder guy set us up at the Casa Mediterana, which he manages.  For 30 Peruvian Sols (about $17.00) a night, we had use of two gorgeous pools, all facilities, and we were right on the beach.  We slept like babies, grateful for the fan and extension cord he’d insisted we use.

We spent two days in Mancora, enjoying how easy everything seemed.  The people paying hundreds of dollars a night to stay there, probably wondered what was going on. They gave us weird glances as they walked by our van, with our drying bathing suits on a clothes line as we were eating our granola and drinking our coffee in our fold out chairs.  WHAT!?!?

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We surfed a point break which was so crowded, the only way you’d have a chance at a wave was to bully your way into it.  The first morning we went out, I learned it was low tide as I got cheese grated on the rocky bottom.

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Simon delightedly skyped with his class, which he’d been asking to do for a few weeks.

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We went out for our first Chifa dinner, a Peruvian Asian fusion, which on the Northern coast are everywhere.  The kids hummed their way through their wanton soup, like they’d won a prize.  That’s right kids, no rice!!!

We spent an hour having a nail-impailed tire fixed while Juanita, my new 4 year old friend cuddled with me whispering sweet little nothings in my ear.

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Peruvian food for the most part is excellent.  They take great pride being creative with their dishes.  Everything is fresh and even the comida typica meals of rice and chicken are surprisingly different and intriguing.  The coast, however, is all about the seafood.  Cevicherias on every corner, serving white and black concha, ray, prawns, squid, tuna, and calamari.  Darin and I couldn’t get enough of the arroz con marisco, served everywhere and every time seemed more delicious than the other.

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Simon’s been drinking Inka Cola.  I’m a bit concerned about the neon yellow color and the bubblegum flavor but,  when in Peru…

Marco found a red fruit punch called Sporade, which he says is his favorite drink ever.  It’s red in color and equally disturbing.  The beer, as always is made up of a choice of 3 light pilsners that once again come in very big bottles…not always for sharing.

Peruvians grow rich, high quality coffee, but they export it all and save none for themselves.  We’ve been drinking instant Nescafe, which comes served with condensed milk out of a can.  I find myself having long drawn out cappuccino dreams.  The other way they serve their coffee is in the form of 2-3 ounces of very concentrated coffee extract, which you’re suppose to mix with hot water to dilute.  It’s weird, but better than Nescafe.

We spent one night in the town of Chiclayo, to get an early start and visit the Museo Tumbas Realo de Sipan, where the archeological finds of the Lord of Sipan lay.  As we pulled into Chiclayo, Darin’s gut had him on high alert, with everything barred up, and weird walls around the blocks of housing.  We found a cheap hotel, where the front desk guy confirmed with us 7 times that our van’s windows were closed and locked. We walked downtown for seafood with the front desk guy again saying things like “be cautious but relaxed, don’t bring anything with you, hold your children’s hands…  On the way, we got caught up in an Easter parade with Phantom of the Opera meets Indianna Jones like music.  In the space of 5 minutes, we’d been pooped on by birds 4 times.  No wonder all the parade walkers and goers were covering their heads.

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Trying to escape the Easter crowd everywhere, we pulled into what was suppose to be the laid back town of Pacasmayo.  Once again, no option of just setting up camp on such a busy weekend.  Every place we went to ask if we could set up shop in the “cochera”, we were asked “para dormer?”, for sleeping??  No.  It was hot, we were getting on each other’s nerves and contemplating driving on when, out popped fixer #2.  Numa, an incredible surfer, driving a fancy car with 5 surf boards on top explained to us that he was staying at the hotel that we’d just been turned away from.  He thought our van was cool, liked that we were there to surf, and back home in Lima, had 3 kids about the same age as ours.  He asked us to wait a moment and disappeared inside.  He came back out telling us he’d worked it all out and that we could stay in the parking lot and use the facilities at no charge, in exchange for giving the front desk guy a tip.

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Pacasmayo was ready to party!  Darin accidentally got caught up in the water’s very strong current, and in order to avoid crashing into the pier, surfed where a surf competition was taking place.  He says he probably scored a 0.1.

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We walked the 600 meter pier, with huge areas of boards missing, where we had to watch our step carefully to not fall through.

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That night, Numa and his girlfriend, sent us to a restaurant called Kafe Kafe, another Peruvian Asian place with just a few tables.

 

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As we waited for our table, we found ourselves surrounded by huge security guards and a hundred people with cameras and cell phones, swarming this couple, begging for autographs.  The Peruvian tv stars sat and ate, while the security guards pushed back the hoard of people trying to bust in.  Everyone was overwhelmed with excitement as we sat there wondering what was going on and who the hell these people were.

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Apparently, people from Peru could go face to face with the Colombians in a partying contest.  We spent the night in the van awake with blaring music coming from all directions.  By 4am, I though, ok, this is for sure the time they’re gonna quiet down…not ’til 5am baby!   I didn’t know this is what they meant when they said “rejoice” in reference to Jesus’ resurrection.

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Marco woke up at 6:30 screaming “The easter bunny came!  The easter bunny came!”.  I had no idea he travelled that far south myself!

We left Pacasmayo in search of a quieter spot and some calmer water.

The driving is overall good here.  The roads are straight and fast, and the trucks aren’t on speed and crack like in Colombia.  Most of our driving has been in the windy desert.  The arid landscape makes us wonder, what do you do if you live here??

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The wind wips, the sand flies, and at one point I checked on the surf board up top and to my horror, it was popping a wheely, almost straight up in the wind.  No wonder people kept flashing their headlights at us.

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We pulled into Puerto Chicama, and found the camp spot we’d been envisioning for days.  Chicama’s left break is the longest wave in the world.  With the right conditions, people ride a wave here for up to 3.2 KM!  The surf here was beyond fun and the camping offered one of our top 4 best views.  With Darin and I tired from surfing and the kids tired from playing on enormous sand dunes until they had sand in every orifice, including the internal ones, I made us a delicious $3.00 sunset dinner.  We slept like babies, grateful for the silence which was interrupted only by the soft sound of the ocean’s waves, which tagged along in our dreams, and might forever.

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We considered staying in Chicama longer, and after weeks of being on the coast, we might morphing from Northwestern amphibians to some sort of dried out lizard.  Besides, Huaraz and the Cordillera Blanca await us.

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3 thoughts on “Peru’s Northern Coast

  1. And…….seriously?……..you’re coming back to Longview?…….after experiencing all that …….. I can’t even think of words to describe your journey!! What an amazing time you’re having. And again, thank you for sharing some of it. Your descriptions and photos are excellent.

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