Peru is the third largest country in South America; it has a population of 30 million. The currency is soles here, and the costs seem to be on par with Ecuador thus far.
My journey from Ecuador to the coastal town of Huanchaco (wan-chah-co), Peru was a lengthy one but smooth. From Cuenca in Ecuador, the trip took 25 hours and involved 3 buses, including an overnight one that got me across the border and 3 taxis. Needless to say, I was pleased at the sight of the Pacific ocean again as that marked the end of my journey.
As the sun rose and I welcomed my first day in Peru, it was obvious from the bus that the landscape changed dramatically. I was back to sea level, and the north coast of Peru is the land of sand. The coastal belt is mainly desert filled with a multitude of sand dunes, and flat open spaces.
Huanchaco is small beach town, population 18 000 that once upon a time was a quiet fishing village. It has a cultural history dating back 4 000 years including the Inca and Moche civilizations.
It is still quiet but thrives more on tourism attracting surfers, backpackers, and Peruvian holidayers, and has taken on somewhat of a bohemian feel. The ocean is cold here as the air can be cool with gusty winds. So surfers bear a wetsuit which eliminated any desire of mine to get in the water.
One of the symbols emblematic of Huanchaco and has been for 1500 years are the ‘Caballitos de Totora’. The are small fishing vessels that are straddled and rowed. They are about 3.5 metres long, built with four blocks of Totora. Totora is a freshwater plant found in South America, mainly Peru. It thrives where rivers meet the sea. Today though, in Huanchaco, it is a much more common sight to see the men entertaining tourists on them, taking them for a ride. The beach is saturated with them.
Huanchaco is an effortless town to spend a few days – whether you choose to stroll the beach, take in the nearby ruins Chan Chan, engage with the bohemian jewellery makers, browse the modest tourist market, people watch on the boulevard or simply enjoy the fresh seafood and the Peruvian beer. Everyone is friendly and welcoming and it was a gratifying reception into Peru.