Monday, January 13, 2014

Northwestern part of Peru from Ecuador

The drive into the Northwestern part of Peru from Ecuador reminded me of the time I drove through Texas; it was a long distance between nowhere and the land was flat and largely unproductive. A major change from the previous landscapes I have traveled through; I hope the scenery will get better soon. I am staying here for five days then off to Lima before going to the Amazon River.

Just outside Trujillo is the town of Huanchaco where the first ever surfers started surfing. I think I will try my hand at surfing here; their boards are decidedly different… so we will see. Huanchaco became a World Surfing Reserve on October 26 2013; now they are spending a lot of money on developing the beach area into a park to protect it from any future developments. 

Once I arrived in Huanchaco, my senses were immediately hit with the strong smell of sea breeze that had a taste of salt. This lovely little town is relatively unspectacular to look at but has an extraordinarily friendly atmosphere, fabulous beach food, and sunsets to offer.

Huanchaco is a village of fishermen in the Moche Valley, on the northern coast of Peru and has a cultural history dating back 4000 years, from the pre-ceramic time through the Salinar, Mochica, and Chimu, Inca cultures, into the colonial time and the Republic. It is extremely gratifying to observe the ancient culture of the Moche civilization with their unique boat design of reeds.

One of the symbols more emblematic of Huanchaco today is what we call “Caballitos de Totora”. The fishermen call them “balsas” and years ago, was called “Tup” name of the language Muchick-meaning Totota boat. The Totora is a plant that grows near where the river and sea meet. Until now, and more than 1500 years ago, the ancient city of the valley Moche domesticated this particular vegetal and grew it in ponds of fresh water named “Wachaques” or “Balsares”. Now days, every fisherman’s family has between 3 and 5 of these ponds where they grow all year long. This plant is the essential material to build these boats and even local houses. 

The Caballitos de Totora is about 3.5 meters long and built with 4 blocks of Totora. They use string called “guanganas” or “quiranas” to hold them together. The construction starts with the back which is a larger place that will serve as a seat for the fisherman and a space to put the fish and nets. The front narrows and curves upward to break the waves, named “chusca” and will give the direction of the boat. This boat weighs an average of 50 kilos dry and could be 5 times heavier when wet; it will support 250 kilos of fish. The oar is a 4 inch bamboo stalk cut in half lengthwise and about 2.5 meters long.

The kids that hustle up and help the fishermen with their boat get paid in fish. The fishermen are finished by 7am then some return around 11 to give rides to tourists for 10 soles as a way to supplement the family income.

This quaint little town is fast becoming a tourist town. Visit it as soon as possible before the change is complete… It is a great place for the surfer in you, see you in the water…

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