huanchaco, outside trujillo

temperature: 19 C / 66 F
elevation: sea level

We spent several hours at the Lima airport, then flew to Trujillo. On the flight, they showed a tourism video - once again with volume on, no headphones. What´s with this country that they think we want sound and entertainment at every moment of our day? How very Estados Unidos of them. Annoying.

We opted not to stay in Trujillo. It´s Peru´s third-largest city, the capital of this departmente (state or province) and we already know what large cities look like here. Huanchaco is a little seaside resort and fishing village, said to be Peru´s best beach, quiet in the off-season and even closer to the sites we want to see.

People come to the north coast of Peru for the beaches, especially surfing. The season ends in mid-April; this is the beginning of winter. That´s perfect for us. We´re not beach people but we love the ocean in autumn or winter. We´re staying a few days for R&R: ruins and relaxation.

Our cab from the airport was our first truly nasty experience with people in Peru. (I´m not counting Peru Rail or Peru Bus as a person.) Before we even left the airport, the driver became menacing, telling us we had to pay double the agreed-upon price "because you have money", and demanding we pay up-front. We grabbed our luggage and hustled out of the cab, over his protestations that no, amigos, it´s ok, the first price is enough.

In the long line of cabs waiting to leave the airport, we spotted one without passengers. The young driver warmly welcomed us to Trujillo and made funny conversation with me on the way to Huanchaco. He told us (en espaƱol), that some drivers will raise the price when they hear you speak English, but he does not, because he believes all people are the same. You know I´m happy now. Also, he says, the world will turn, and they will get theirs. Ah yes. If only.

The hotel we chose from the guidebook turned out to be great. It´s a 10-minute walk out of town, along the main street, which runs right along the beach. The hotel is across the road from the beach, with rooms built on terraces. Our room has a full ocean view, and a little front patio with a plastic table and chairs. Below, there´s a pool surrounded by a tropical garden, a big hutch where some parrots live, a welcoming staff (including a lavanderia, which we were desperate for), and a beautiful, blind German Shepherd. As it´s off-season and we´re staying several nights, we got a room with a view at the price of one without.

After arriving, we walked into town and had dinner at a good restaurant. Finally, ceviche! Ceviche (pronounced seh-vee-chay or seh-bee-chay) is the best-known Peruvian food: marinated seafood. It´s not quite sushi, as the acidic marinate "cooks" the fish, but it´s not cooked with heat.

I love seafood, and I was dying to eat this, but I was waiting until we were on the coast, and also waiting for a place that looked clean and healthy. Amazingly, we have seen ceviche sold from buckets - the kind that once held cement or gravel - in the hot sun. No gracias, I don´t need to report on the state of Peruvian hospitals, or come home with permanent liver damage. So finally, last night, a big plate of ceviche and a bottle of Chilean wine, then another bottle on our little patio. Ahhh.

This morning we walked into the little town in search of an internet shop. It looks like an off-season seaside and fishing town anywhere. The beachside outdoor bars are closed for the season, but dozens of little shops and restaurants are open with discounted prices. There are some huge, gorgeous homes right on the main drag, overlooking the water, that appear to be locked up, undoubtedly beach homes. They are the first signs of wealth we´ve seen in Peru.

In the shallow water near the beach, women with nets are wading in the water, gathering shellfish; some gatherers wear wet suits and snorkels. The town is known for its totora, cigar-shaped reed boats which look a little like the ones we saw on Lake Titicaca. These, however, are hollow, and ridden high in the water, using a double-sided paddle, somewhat like a kayak. Because the fishermen ride on the boats rather than in them, the boats are called caballitos, little horses. People have been fishing from these boats for at least 2,500 years. We see them stacked up, vertically, on the beach. Men sit on the sea wall repairing their nets.

This is a quiet, easy-going town, just what we needed. Today we´re just hanging. Tomorrow we´ll visit the sites of Chan Chan, and El Huaca del Sol y la Luna.

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Back in our home and native land, Cody is having a grand time, going on hikes, having play dates and in general getting tons of attention and exercise. Hooray for Ellen the Dogsitter!