Huanchaco in Northern Peru

A place to stay

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There are places that are there to stay. And sometimes these are the places you would least expect it to be.

The sound of the waves is omnipresent in Huanchaco, you can hear it wherever you go and stand, you get used to it and yet it brings a smile to your face when you notice it again, just the idea: out there, less than two hundred meters away , the Pacific Ocean is as big as all the continents of the world combined, with more than half of the water on Earth at the front. I always thought that in the mountains, in nature, you feel small, but you can also do that on the Peruvian Pacific beach.

Huanchaco, the beach town near the northern Peruvian city of Trujillo, is particularly well known among surfers. The town has been recognized by the NGO Save the Waves as a “World Surfing Reserve” since 2013, with Huanchaco being the first place in Latin America and the fifth worldwide to receive this recognition. In summer, surf competitions take place here, whereby not only "normal" boards are used, but also the traditional caballitos de totora , bow-shaped, up to five meters long reed boats, which were probably developed 3,000 years ago in Northern Peru - and theirs Design has not changed until today. While the pre-Columbian cultures of Northern Peru took the boats out to sea to fish and sat on the caballitos with both legs hanging in the water, athletes nowadays stand on their companions and use them as surfboards.

Tourists who don't surf come to Huanchaco for a swim. Or they are put on a tour on the beach promenade in the evening and collected again after thirty minutes, Paul complains to me the evening before, who has a café in the old town of Trujillo. The region has a lot to offer, but almost all tourists take the same tour of the various pre-Inca ruins around the city that end in Huanchaco.

"What do you want there, do you start surfing now ?!" was therefore the incredulous question when I told about my travel destination. Understandable - since I am quite afraid of water, it is probably difficult to imagine me on a surfboard, and even worse on a reed boat. "Nope, I just want to be there," was my short answer. I wanted the sound of waves in my ears and sand between my toes, at least for two days.

It takes 20 minutes by taxi from Trujillo, passing not only the Chan Chan ruins, but also a military academy. "There, I was at school!" The taxi driver proudly explains to me and tells me exactly about the ill-treatment he had to endure there, from older students and from the teachers. Peru has an unhealthy relationship with the military, and military schools enjoy a good reputation there, despite - or perhaps because of - the violence there. The country's best-known author, Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, has, in one of his first works, The City and the Dogs, processed his own experiences in a story about abuse and murder in a military school. “Sounds like Vargas Llosa,” I throw in, and I must have hit a nerve. "Yes, some people are weak, they don't get through school like this! Vargas Llosa too, he's weak! ”The driver must have felt my horrified look in the back, because he pushed after:“ Now I'm a pacifist. But I think something like this shapes the character, especially the abuse! ”As inappropriate as it is, I have to laugh. Most Peruvians, according to their own statements, are pacifists and cheer on tanks and soldiers' formations on parades. As a German, I will probably never be able to understand that.

We come to crime from pacifism, and he tells me in detail how dangerous Huanchaco is. "Look how blatantly they secure their houses here!" I narrow my eyes and examine the high walls and barbed wire. That's how it looks everywhere in Peru, isn't it ?! And what if a character-driven taxi driver tells me that ?! I therefore spend the first evening in the hostel. Not the worst decision either - Frog's Surf Hostel is perhaps the nicest and most relaxed hostel I've ever been to. I open my laptop and watch a few episodes of Simpsons with the other guests, and I can enjoy the sunset from the roof terrace. At night the sound of the waves gently lulls me to sleep.

The next day the city looks more beautiful, the sun burns on the beach. It is winter here, that is, it is “only” around twenty-five degrees that still feel like forty in the sun. Huanchaco is small, life takes place around the beach promenade, there are many restaurants that all offer fish, a few souvenir sellers, a church is advertised on Wikipedia, but who wants to see them? Here the sea is enough of a sight, and if the monotonous waves rolling towards the beach are too boring for you, you can watch the surfers, the beginners train on one corner, the professionals train on another, look for the perfect wave, swing onto the board with one sentence and then slide along the spray until it is over and they land in the water again, some earlier, some later, some upside down, others more elegant.

In the evenings, the sidewalks are flipped up in the off-season, and there is no food in most restaurants until the afternoon. But there are vegetarian, pizza, and burgers, and the latter are the best I've eaten in Peru so far. Huanchaco may not have the charm of Puerto López , where fishermen still catch on the beach in the morning, and maybe not the alternative hippie flair of Barranco, where the paths to the sea are lined with street art. But Huanchaco is calm and tranquil, it gives you the opportunity to go on vacation instead of traveling, and it's a rarity in a chaotic and stressful country like Peru. At the same time, Huanchaco is not a place where international tourism hits you in the face, as is the case in Cusco, for example. Here you can sit relaxed on the beach without being addressed every five minutes, here you can see how tourism is slowly establishing itself; how many people try to make sure that visitors stay longer than the thirty minutes that the ruins tour allows.

There are places that are there to stay. I always do a simple test: could I imagine myself settling here and writing a novel? The question is not difficult to answer in Huanchaco.

  1. Dear Ariane,

    how right you are! I spent four weeks in October this year in Huanchaco, more precisely in the Frogs, where I worked, lived and drifted. Hach, how small the world is :) And just as you describe the place, it is too! A real treasure, if not sparkling and glittering ...

    best regards

  2. Dear Ariane,

    very nicely described :-) I felt the same way about Huanchaco…

    Kind regards, Aylin

  3. I am currently planning my tour of Peru for next year!
    Thanks to your post, Huanchao will definitely be a destination. I'm really looking forward to it, your impressions make my anticipation go to infinity.

    Adios (:

  4. Thank you for the great and interesting contribution! :) You really feel like going to Peru ..

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