Huanchaco, Peru. We came back. We fell in love all over again. You know, it’s not the most attractive seaside town. But it’s lovely it its own way. And in the heart of a smitten traveler who finds a haven in the clean, safe refuge of Casa Amelia it is truly beautiful.
Paul and Renée (remember them?) were heading back to Holland for a month. For the first few days, their absence was keenly felt about the hostel. Where was the smell of Paul’s bread baking in the oven? Where was Renée’s face at the kitchen window saying “yoohoo?” But soon we came to know our housemates, Rusty and Kirsty ,from Australia (henceforth known as “Krusty”), Marco from Switzerland, and Hans from Germany.
Everyone brought their own special personality to the mix. Marco was the master fisherman and professionally-trained chef –a decidedly good combination. Hans was the dedicated surfer who disappeared mysteriously for days at a time and came back with stories behind his eyes that his lips refused to betray. Rusty is a health guru with a love of fat and hatred of carbs who, for better or worse, convinced my husband to follow in his footsteps – at least for a while. Kirsty is a quick-witted beauty queen, and it was tremendously fun to have a girl to pal around with.
It’s funny. When I tell people that I went to Huanchaco for six weeks and then returned for another seven weeks, some of them look surprised. What is there to do that keeps you engaged for that long? Isn’t it just a boring, sleepy town by the sea?
Well, besides the obvious draw (surfing every day), there were loads of things to do and see that kept us engaged throughout our stay.
The Huanchaco Fisherman’s Festival came around, which was hard to miss due to the crowd’s and raucous music and dancing in the streets! Below are the caballitos de totora, which local fishermen have presumably used for hundreds (thousands?) of years to bring in their fish.
On the day of the festival, they even prepared a giant version made of many caballitos lashed together, it seemed. The event ferried out the mayor and other local dignitaries with much fanfare as onlookers waved and cheered. Back on shore, it was hard to get a good look at the spectacle, but it seemed to be a very popular attraction.
Finally, the crowd cleared a little and I got closer to inspect it.
Then the Patron Saint of Fisherman was lifted high and taken on a procession through the streets of Huanchaco. A large band of musicians surrounded him.
Everyone was out that day, including the sun! Fishermen partook in races around set buoys; fireworks went off from time to time; street vendors sold all manner of tamales, choclo, anticuchos, papas rellenas, and helados; groups of old men gathered in quiet corners of the streets and shared beers; children ran around covered in sugar and sand; artisans hawked their wares.
The sun doesn’t show its pretty face very often this time of year, but we seemed to get pretty lucky. A few days each week we enjoyed nice, warm days of sunshine. Of course, we and our housemates were ready to take full advantage of them with seaside picnics.
Chilled white wine, a variety of nuts, cheeses, breads and fruits, hard boiled eggs, pasta salad, and salty meats were ready the day the sun chose to shine. This was one of my favorite days in Huanchaco with (pictured below from left to right) Adam, Kirsty, Rusty, and Marco.
A big part of life in Huanchaco is preparing healthy, delicious meals with local produce, and I’ve written about Hunchaco’s great local market before. Several times during the course of the month, “the team” banded together to make awesome family dinners. This one was insanely good. Krusty made meatballs and baked pumpkin goo; I made deviled eggs and guacamole, and Marco put us all to shame with some wild caught seafood deliciousness. Throw in a handful of fine cheeses and what you have is a feast!
Oh, and I made that guacamole with just one of these giant avocados.
As mentioned previously, surfing happened. A lot.
Although July/August isn’t a high season for sun, the waves are as big and consistent as ever. Adam and I rented wetsuits from Indigan Surf School and took up some serious (almost) daily surfing. Over the course of the month our surfing really improved.
Living by the beach, we did a lot of walking along the shore. Huanchaco isn’t the prettiest beach ever, but it’s still pleasant to take a stroll along the tideline. One of the things that makes this activity exciting is that you never know what sorts of items you might find washed up onshore. On one random, sunny day, the beached revealed a higher-than-usual assortment of detritus. Among these items were the following gems:
A giant shoulder bone from some mystery animal.
And a bit of Barbie. Oh, dear.
Later on, Peru’s día de independéncia rolled around. Peruvian flags flew from every building. The parade through Huanchaco was huge and everyone turned out. Once again, fireworks, street food, and public celebration made for great people watching.
Here I am enjoying another sunny day. We really got lucky with all the sun!
Finally, Paul and Renée came back. It wasn’t long before the smell of fresh baked apple pie filled the kitchen and “welcome back” celebrations commenced. Here we are during a little Pisco Sour Power Hour with Krusty and Renée
Next to leave was Krusty – off to the north to visit Ecuador. Then it was all new faces coming and going from the hostel. Adam and I initially planned on leaving on the same day as Krusty, but it was just too hard!
So we stayed awhile.
One day, Paul took me out surfing in front of Casa Amelia. The waves there are a little bigger than in the beginner’s area (my usual haunt) next to the pier. I had tried to surf at this new spot once before and totally wimped out, paddling back to more familiar, smaller waves; however, this time I was ready.
The waves still seemed big to me, but they were also gentle with shallow faces and crumbling tops. I had such an amazing time out there to say the least!
Paul and Renée also took us to the mayorista market in Trujillo. What a joy! So much color and movement. You can buy nearly anything there (except canned coconut milk, which we miss greatly), and we managed to find a huge bar of pure, unadulterated cacao for making chocolate desserts.
Before we finally left (yes, we eventually did go!), we enjoyed a pizza night – all courtesy of Paul’s pizza crust making skill. For dessert, I used the cacao we bought at the market and concocted a decidedly delicious avocado-chocolate mousse. Try it sometime!
As our time to retire from Huanchaco drew near, I began to lament it. Leaving Casa Amelia is like breaking up with a boyfriend or girlfriend who has been nothing but good to you. Our dialogue went something like this:
Me: It’s time to go.
Casa Amelia: Why? Am I not pretty enough for you? Don’t you feel secure with me? Aren’t I clean and cozy?
Me: Oh, you are all those things. But you see, it’s not you; it’s me.
CA: Well, I knew you’d leave me one day. Everyone does. It’s just that you stayed so long!
Me: I know. And you’ve spoilt me for everyone else.
CA: Oh! How could you leave me for another?
Me: They’ll never match you! I’m sure of that!
CA: Then why must you leave?
Me: Call it fear of commitment. I’m just a ramblin’ woman.
And on and on…
Seriously, though. We had a ridiculously happy time there. We’ll miss it so much. But our feet are itchy, and the mountains are calling our names! We’ll miss you, Paul and Renée. We’ll miss Victor and Amelia, too. We’ll miss the clean kitchen, our charming room, and doing yoga on the patio. We’ll miss the surf and the amazing market. And we’ll miss Aníbal, the dog who was always happy to see us return home, and Bartola, the cat we grew to love.
But it’s time to press on. Onwards to Huaráz!