Thursday, April 28, 2016


Exhausted from one fun day of riding and one not so fun day, I got to Huanchaco and settled in - and man did I get comfortable. I once again got lucky on a hostel, and it made me not want to leave.

After the rather extended day of riding out of Cajamarca, I finished up the last two hours to Huanchaco in the morning, so I was in town before noon. Due to my continued lack of mobile data access in Peru (still unknown reasons), I was stuck searching for a place with Wifi to look up hostels like the rest of the travelers I've met on this trip. I circled around the town a few times, and ended up at a place with ceviche specials for pretty cheap, and they had wifi. So I parked the bike on the sidewalk and went upstairs, where I was the only person eating - not a great sign, but I'm adventurous.

The ceviche was good, if a little bit of a small plate, and I used the Wifi to find a place down the street that had good reviews. As I was leaving the restaurant, a guy on an old-model KLR rode by, pulled a U-turn on seeing my bike, and came over to talk. We chatted for a bit, but he was headed north so after exchanging info we went our separate ways.

I headed over to the hostel, down near one end of the beach, and asked them about a room and parking. With the long couple days of riding I'd had, I sprung for a private room for the first night to be able to have a little space to myself and relax, telling myself I'd switch to a dorm if I stayed more than one night. As for parking, they said I could leave the bike out in front - I was a little skeptical, but they had a camera there and said someone was on duty 24/7, so I decided it would do. We moved the tables out front and stashed the bike behind them just to make it a little less conspicuous.

The view from the terrace of the hostel.
First priority for me was to get a massage. The day before I'd spent eight straight hours on the bike, and had only gotten off the seat a single time to go to the bathroom. They gave me the name of a Thai massage place down the street, and I set up the earliest appointment I could and headed over at 1:00.

Most of the massages I've gotten on this trip have been the more relaxing type. This one... this one was a workout. I knew it was gonna be rough when, five minutes in, she got up on the table, held my foot up behind me as I laid on my stomach, and walked on the back of my thigh and my butt with her whole weight (granted, not much since she was probably just shy of 5', but still).

This is what I wore for the massage. I wasn't sure at first if I was getting a massage or a job.
An hour and a half later my muscles were sore and aching, but a much better kind of sore and aching than they had been. They gave me a cup of ginger tea to drink when I finished, and I caught a bus back down the street to the hostel, where I promptly fell into a chair on the terrace and sat back to relax.

I spent the entire afternoon relaxing and meeting people at the hostel, and then headed out with a few of them to go watch the sunset from the church up on the hill.

Beautiful view from up there.
The clouds were just right to give one of those long sunsets that lasts for a while.
We walked down from the church as the sunset was ending, and walked out to the main pier - apparently you have to pay to go out to the end, but it was worth it to catch the end of the sunset from there.

Beautiful, and very tranquil with the sounds of the waves rolling in.
After the sunset, we ran into a couple other hostel residents on the street who were heading to a restaurant nearby called Meri's, so I joined them for some dinner.. I couldn't decide between the tacos, the falafel, or the curry - so I went with the curry and vowed to come back.

I went outside while we were waiting for our food to snap this picture before the colors disappeared.
I spent the rest of the evening at the hostel drinking beers and playing card games with everyone. We played a couple fun games that didn't involve a ton of skill (fun when you're drunk), and then played a drinking game but without too much drinking. Well, maybe a little. We also played "Murderer" which is like mafia but a bit simpler - whoever the murderer is kills people by winking at them, and everyone else has to try to determine who the murderer is. A wrong guess will get you knocked out of the game too, though, so you need to be careful about who you accuse.

In the morning I was planning on switching rooms to the cheaper shared dorms, but between the beers and games the night before and an early wakeup call to meet some people for surfing, I just wasn't up for packing up all my stuff and moving it. By this point I had things strewn all around the room anyway, so I decided to go ahead and fork out for the private room another night.

Two girls from the hostel and I went to get some breakfast at Meri's (waffles for me), and then went to a surf shop where we rented some boards, and one of the girls got a lesson. We went down to the beach a did a little warmup run and stretch (something I rarely do before surfing, but really should do more), and then hit the waves.

The surf was pretty big out there - not huge, but bigger than I'm used to. I caught one or two waves and missed quite a few more, and then looked up and realized the current had dragged me way down the beach. I cruised to the beach and walked back up to where we started, but after a few more waves, I suddenly got a massive sinus headache. I'm not sure if I just took too much water up my nose, or it was just spontaneous, but it pretty much incapacitated me. I tried taking one more wave, but the headache was too much, so I went back to the shop, dropped off the board, and went back to the hostel to rest. Still not a bad day of surfing, and I had a decent number of waves.

The afternoon was another day of lounging, playing guitar, drinking beers, and trying to stay cool in the shade - even just sitting around I was dripping sweat, though it was a nice change from how cool it had been up in the mountains for the past few weeks. I went out for dinner to Meri's again, this time getting the falafel.

Another gorgeous day.
One of the things I loved about this hostel is that everyone was really social and friendly, without it being a party hostel. People would invite others to lunch, to go surfing, or wherever else they were headed, regardless of whether they knew each other before or if they were already traveling with friends. That night we got together again for more games and hanging out and guitar playing - the hostel had two of their own guitars that other people were jamming on as well. One of the employees there, Ben, was a recent hire - basically, he'd been bumming around town long enough that he got a job there (it was his third time back in town, actually), and so he'd just kind of hang out with us like he was another resident. Except that if we asked him for a beer, he had to go get it and put it on our tab.

The next day I went out with a couple people from the hostel to go see the nearby ruins of Chan-Chan. It was one of the few tourist things I wanted to do while I was there, and I was glad to have some people to do it with.

We started by catching the bus down there, and then got dropped off near the entrance. We'd been informed by the people at the hostel that the guide makes the tour and is totally worth the money, so when we spotted a guy outside a car there with a badge around his neck, we jumped at the opportunity. He gave us some info, quoted us a price (a bit more than we'd heard from people at the hostel, though) and then drove us over to the main museum where we got our tickets. He said he'd wait outside while we wandered through the museum and we could meet up with him after - a bit weird for a guide, but it was just the museum. It took us all of 15 minutes to wander through, and then we went back out to meet him, and he drove us to the site of the ruins.

Here, our "guide" (we were beginning to doubt that) said he was going to wait outside again, and this time we questioned him on it. But he gave us a little pamphlet, and said he'd give us some info when we came out. So we started to go in, where we were then offered a tour from an English speaking guide - for exactly the price we'd heard at the hostel. Apparently the guy we'd hired was just a driver to take you between sites, not an actual guide. We went back to him and explained, and he got a little angry with us: "I never said I was a guide, you just misunderstood," etc. We gave him six dollars for his time (he'd quoted us $20 for a three hour engagement, so that was pretty generous considering it had only been half an hour) and he went back to go try to find other tourists to dupe.

The ruins were extremely interesting - we walked through one of the "ciudadelas," a complex of rooms, chambers, and plazas that housed the royal class. Each king had one built for him, and when he died, he was buried along with all of his wives (yes, they were buried at the same time as him - even if they hadn't died yet), and then another one was built for the next king. Only one of the ten ciudadelas has been excavated so far, and the others are waiting on better archaeological techniques. Since the city was made out of mud bricks, it's very vulnerable to damage from wind and rain (though they hardly get any rain), so they're going to leave the others buried for now.

The main complex of rooms.
The huge swimming pool! (At least that's what I think it should be.)
One of the main plazas, supposedly for the king to throw parties.
I also learned from the guide about something I'd seen in Leimibamba which had stumped me. There were a couple old Peruvian men sitting around a table, all drinking beer from the same bottle. When they got down to the end of the bottle, they'd pour the last little bit into a cup on the table, and then get a new bottle and do the same. It turns out that there's an old tradition dating back to the times of these ruins where the men would sit and pass around a bottle of fermented corn drink, and when it got down to the last bit, they'd pour it on the ground as a gift to the gods to bring fertile grounds. Nowadays bars don't like it much if you pour beer on the ground, so they pour it into a little cup instead.

The tour was 100% worth the $3 each that we paid, and made the tour of the ruins way better - otherwise I would have just been wandering through staring at things and wondering why they were like that.

After the tour we went back and spent the rest of the afternoon (once again) relaxing and playing songs on guitar. Hugo, a French guy, picked up the guitar too, and also shot a few pictures with his nice camera. He's traveling around doing photo stories of mixed race people - check it out on Instagram here. He sang some songs in English, in French (though when he forgot the words and started improvising, I was one of the few people who could tell), Spanish, and even a little Dutch. Color me jealous.

Hugo playing.
Belting it out.
"I like taking pictures of you making weird faces" he says. Apparently I make a lot of them.

He did get one or two normal ones of me though.
That evening was salsa night at the bar next door, so after a few beers and more card games at the hostel, we all walked next door and danced our hearts out. There was a professional dancer up on stage who we all gawked at for a bit while he did a pretty intricate salsa routine, and then we all went back to just enjoying ourselves.

At some point a little early in the night, I went back to the hostel to use the bathroom (the ones at the bar were full), and was a bit tired. So I decided to lay down for a minute and rest, and then I'd go back for more dancing - salsa is exhausting! I lay down with the salsa beat still coming through my window from next door.

I woke up a little bit later, refreshed and ready to go back... before I realized I couldn't hear the salsa music anymore. I looked at my phone - 5am. Oops. I'd fallen asleep with my lights on, my clothes on, and my shoes on. I changed into pajamas and got back into bed. On the plus side, I got plenty of rest for the ride the next day.

One last beach shot, with the bike all packed up and ready to go.
In the morning I took my time getting ready to head out, playing a bit of guitar even after I was packed up. I think I picked the right day to head out, as the entire sky was covered in a haze and the sun was nowhere to be found. Eventually I said some goodbyes, exchanged facebook info with quite a few of the people there, and headed for Huaraz. It was only about 300km to get there, but I had a detour I wanted to make, so I decided it would be two easy days of riding.

When I left Huanchaco, it felt less like I was traveling and more like I was leaving home for a weekend trip. The people I met there were so open and inclusive that it felt more like a group of friends getting together than a hostel where we'd all just met. If I went back I know I wouldn't get the same experience, as almost all of those people have moved on, but I'm sure that I'd stay at Casa Fresh and make new friends.

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