Vern: A five hour bus took us from Chiclayo to Trujillo from where we caught a sunset coloured local bus to Huanchaco. Previously a sleepy fishing village, surfers have since taken over Huanchaco. In front of a wide, dusty beach large waves were curling into aggressive tubes out at sea, but no surfers were out to entertain us as we drove in. We were dropped off in front of the budget hostel we'd planned to stay at but this was was closed so we checked into the much nicer place (too nice for our budget, in fact) next door and then went for a walk on the beach.
We found the surfers in a protected bay, in front of a slither of a beach. Many looked like beginners so these waves were a lot more sensible than the open sea. The boardwalk was very busy with Peruvian city folk watching the surfers and the sunset before boarding the Sunday evening buses home. A few fisherman were rowing back in on their distinctive reed paddle boats which have a pointed tip curved to face the sky designed for tackling the surf. Several of these boats rested on racks on the beach and created picturesque silhouettes against the setting sun. We went for a drink with a Norweigan I'd met at the hostel, and soon after we'd sat down a baby faced Peruvian (originally seated on the other side of the patio) said he'd heard us speaking English and asked if he could sit quietly at our table and listen to us to improve his English. This was a trick! Immediately as he sat down, he started butting in with broken English peppered with expletives. Apparently he hates the United States as he blames the country for the heroin habit he picked up there (though supposedly he's now clean and functions day to day on lithium), and he thought that the Norweigan had an untrustworthy face. We told him off and raced through our drinks so that we could leave but unfortunately had chosen this particular dive bar because of its drink special and had more drinks on the table than we usually would have had. He did make us chuckle though, when after we'd ignored him for a while he blurted out, "Parenthesis!" and made bracket shapes with his hands, so as to insert a new point into our conversation. "That´s more of a written thing", explained Andrea. Finally we took our last sips, made our excuses and left. We had a pizza dinner with an Irish couple who'd been teaching in South Korea and couldn´t wait to get to Lima and go to a restaurant there which served the Eastern cuisine which they craved.
The next day we moved to a slightly cheaper hostel and then took a bus to the Chan Chan ruins. Before the Incas, the Chimu people built this massive labyrinth out of a beach sand composite and at one point it housed 10 000 people. The walls were still very much intact (imagine what a 20ft high sand castle might look like after high tide) though only a few of the original fish and pelican engravings remained. However it is undergoing extensive restoration and in the closed off areas of the site, workman (professional sand castle builders, I presume) were working the sand into the original designs. We were quite impressed, though we suspect that whenever the historians didn´t know what a space was for they decided to label it as a ceremonial hall because every single room we entered had been used for some celebration or offering. 'Where did they sleep?!', we wondered.
The next day I turned 30 and to celebrate the consequent slow down of my metabolism, we went out for pancakes for breakfast. I feel quite privileged to have had the opportunity to spend my last three birthdays in London, Paris and Huanchaco, Peru all with my lovely fiancee. I followed breakfast with the first surfing lesson of my life. About time really! The first 45 minutes were spent in the classroom, learning how to jump up on the board, how to paddle out to sea and (optimistically) how to dismount from a board in the shallow water having taken a wave to the shore. Then with my personal instructor in tow I headed out to sea. I paddled out to where the waves break and then he would decide which waves were goers. He shouted, "One" and I braced myself and then as the wave took the board, "Two!" and I jumped to my feet: knees bent, shoulders rolled inward boxer style, and eyes facing the beach. The first wave was a success and I rode it steadfastly until I ran out of speed and sunk slowly into the water. With sporadic success I caught wave after wave while the instructor patiently swallowed salt water until I was absolutely exhausted. Andrea had been on the beach (putting up with over-friendly Peruvian men) taking photos and told me I looked really good out there, and the instructor said that he'd given me an 8-foot board (still more ship than surfboard) and that he starts most beginners on a 10-foot board so my ego was purring after the afternoons successes.
We splashed out for ceviche and fish & chips for dinner, and then went for coffee and cake at 'Mi Luna', a cafe so stylish it belongs in Paris. Every piece of furniture was a sculpture and the interior spaces included a haunted-forest themed library and a cinema with a day bed. This place is an oasis in this weather-beaten surf town. Andrea told them it was my birthday and so they delivered my slice of cake (on the house) with a tea candle on it and all three staff members came out to sing "Feliz Cumpleaños". Of course the third repetition was a little awkward because they didn't know my name but Andrea covered the gap by belting it out at the top of her lungs. Andrea then gave me my gift: a thirty-page coupon book! The vouchers included: a ping pong lesson (as in spite of my recent wins, Scott taught her well and she is still the master), a massage, and the duty of packing up my backpack (a daily chore for nomads). The chocolate cake was indulgent though the custard apple cheese cake was a little odd and it turns out that 17 years of caffeine drinking hasn't numbed its effects and I was awake until the late hours of the next morning.
On our last day in Huanchaco we felt quite like the homeless souls we are. We had to check of the hostel early and were to catch a 9:30pm bus so we had to keep ourselves entertained, sheltered, fed and watered for the whole day without spending too much money. We took a long walk and then watched a couple take a surf lesson. They fell a lot and Andrea assured me that I was much better than them (I don't know if my thirty-year-old neck can hold this big ol' head). Then we went back to Mi Luna and ordered the cheapest thing on the menu so we could use their cinema to watch Reservoir Dogs. As evening descended we made our way back to Trujillo and to the bus station where we settled in to partly-reclining night-bus seats for the drive back into the mountains to Huaraz.