Archive for May, 2010

Winter is creeping into Huanchaco; overcast mornings and chilly breezes cutting through the town are becoming common now, and the sea is getting colder every day.  There are also a lot of people leaving now, either good friends made who are travelling and stayed longer than expected (the Huanchaco Effect) but now are forced by schedules to go, or those who escape the turning of the seasons by heading to the next stop in pursuit of the endless summer.  The town is getting more and more quiet, good news for chaps trying to avoid distractions from the quest for an online income.

One of the more original recent farewell parties (despedidas) was a lovely communal affair clustered around a  Pachamanca. According to Wikipedia,

“The word is made of two Quechua roots: “pacha” and “manca”, meaning “earthen pot” (cooking vessel).”

So there you go.  This is a Peruvian tradition said to have persevered since the time of the Incas; a pit is dug in the ground and filled with hot stones, which are laid next to parcels of marinaded meats, ears of corn and potatoes wrapped in banana leaves.  The whole oven is covered with a thick layer of banana leaves and left to slowly cook for a couple of hours.

Pachamanca In Casa Lily

The glorious-smelling, tender meat and soft vegetables that were drawn from the unfurled banana leaves were delicious and it wasn’t long before we were all lying around groaning in food comas.  It’s sad when people leave, but it does give a good excuse for a special occasion.


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Photo courtesy of Maria; "Welcome to Puerto Malabrigo, home of the longest perfect left hand wave in the world"

After a couple of false starts, I’ve finally managed to get my Chicama experience!  Rolling out of Huanchaco with my companions after dark, we overcame all the odds to catch a bus from a junction somewhere in Trujillo and then blunder through the patchy streetlight in Chicama town to find accommodation.  All hostels were full to bursting with excited surfers awaiting the big day, but we all managed to spread ourselves out amongst different hostels and beds.  A quick wander into the pretty grimy centre of Chicama to get a carb-friendly meal preceded an early night, but not a lot of sleep was had as I was too excited…

For those that know me, moving from a prone position in the morning is a task as difficult as pulling teeth, but not on Chicama swell day.  I shot out of bed like a rabbit on amphetamines at 5:30 and bounced into my wetsuit, knocking on the window to the room of my amused Australian travelling companions a few minutes later.  Dragging them grumbling along the 20 minute walk along the rocky headland to the point, there was barely light in the sky, but surfers were already seeping out of every corner, striding down on to the same trail and joining the procession.

We suited up and stretched off at a sandy bay at the point and, inhaling sharply as the cold morning water trickled through our wetsuits, paddled around the craggy black rocks sitting menacingly on the inside.  We were some of the first to get in, but could see more white boards bobbing through the half-light along the shoreline.

Chicama has a strong current; before I knew it I was paddling furiously to stay in position, occasionally losing ground as I turned to attempt a paddle onto a wave in the face of a stiff offshore breeze, dropping off the back of the face before I could catch it.  Suddenly, my efforts paid off as I felt the momentum of the wave pick me up and, back arched, I shot to my feet and dropped in.  It was…short, small and fat.

Yup, not every wave at Chicama is a behemoth kilometre long affair.  This, combined with the frenzied paddling to stay in position for catching the passing waves, took the shine off things a bit.  However, all this was forgotten as I caught waves steadily down the coast into a hollower, steeper, faster section.  Much easier to catch and undisturbed by the wind that was getting to the waves at the point, I found myself staring down an overhead glassy wave as the sun suddenly broke above the horizon and the whole thing turned gold.  It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.  The wave jacked up and I realised that it was about to form a tube; this could be the moment that I’d dreamed about, sitting inside a breaking wave!  I tucked my body up and shifted my weight forward, dropping my board a little lower down the wave.  I saw the lip curl above me and…it hit me in the head.  Never mind, there’s always next time.

Awesome photo courtesy of Maria; Richie tucking in…maybe me next time!

I surfed Chicama for about 6 hours in the end, trotting and paddling around the enormous circuit of the wave and the walk back up to the headland over and over again until there wasn’t enough strength in my arms to push me upright on my board.  The waves filled in throughout the day, getting longer, larger and more powerful making for some epic rides.  My defining memory of that day (apart from my morning golden wave) will undoubtedly be pumping my board like a maniac down the line of a closing wave, going faster than I’ve ever gone and feeling the burn in my legs of the last 500 metres.  I am a lucky, lucky boy.

Awesome photo courtesy of Maria; down the longest line in the world

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A boat docked in a tiny Mexican fishing village.

A tourist complimented the local fishermen on the quality of their fish and asked how long it took him to catch them.

“Not very long.” they answered in unison.

“Why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more?”

The fishermen explained that their small catches were sufficient to meet their needs and those of their families.

“But what do you do with the rest of your time?” “We sleep late, fish a little, play with our children, and take siestas with our wives. In the evenings, we go into the village to see our friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs.  We have a full life.”

The tourist interrupted, “I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.”

“And after that?”

“With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers.

Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can then negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant.

You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City!

From there you can direct your huge new enterprise.”

“How long would that take?”

“Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years.” replied the tourist.

“And after that?”

“Afterwards? Well my friend, that’s when it gets really interesting, answered the tourist, laughing. “When your business gets really big, you can start buying and selling stocks and make millions!”

“Millions?  Really? And after that?” asked the fishermen.

“After that you’ll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta with your wife and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends.”

“With all due respect sir, but that’s exactly what we are doing now. So what’s the point wasting twenty-five years?” asked the Mexicans.

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Thanks to my friend Syl’s big fat SRL camera with a huuuge zoom lens, she was able to snap a couple of pictures of me out for a paddle a couple of days ago.  These are the pretty much the first shots of me surfing that I’ve ever had, so I’m very excited and want to share them with anyone who will pay the slightest bit of attention!

Thanks to the long rumbling lefts of Huanchaco, all the shots are from the same wave as I wind my way down the line.  Thank goodness for her speedy shutter…

Evidence of Surfing


Evidence of Surfing


Evidence of Surfing


Evidence of Surfing


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Boooo, the swell arrived late…just as I started my teaching again!  No Chicama trip to gloat about; never mind, I’ll be here for a few months yet and I’m sure to get the opportunity another time.

In the meantime, bumped into this fairly impressive piece of graffiti in Trujillo.  Great photo courtesy of my Beligian friend Syl.  I’ve robbed a couple of her other ones which you can see on my Flickr photostream.

Flirting, Trujillo

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