Surf, sulfur, seafood and other strangenesses

Tired, but dazzled and once again amazed by the beauty of mother earth, the 4 brave Huayhuash-hikers got back to the Hostel. After an amazing shower and luxurious diner (back from a nine day hike a juicy steak is more or less heaven) we all went our own ways again. Australian Tom and I (TomTom) bought a ticket for the bus in the direction of Trujillo where we transfered towards the relaxed surfertown Huanchaco. Tears flowed when “la Furia Roja”  defeated the poor Dutch national team. More weeping when the golden pair TomTom was separated. Australian Tom got en route to the Galapagos islands. I decided to make a stopover in Huanchaco.

Huanchaco Hyves and Mancora malice

The small town of Huanchaco is known for its surfing, fishermen and cool vibe. The “pescadores” still use their traditional fisherboats or “caballitos de totora”. It is said that these watercrafts were the first to be used to surf waves. Thus, finding a symbol for this cool township wasn’t very difficult. I installed myself in “La Casa Suiza”, weird enough a French-owned hostel. Aside from that a perfect spot to stay: good value, comfortable beds and amazing home-made pizza.

Tom and the caballito de totora

During the trip I discovered the thrill of riding waves. So, I was pretty keen on further improving my skills in Huanchaco. Determined as I was, soon a new “golden duo” was founded. Surfing instructor Tommy was appointed as my private tutor, being incredibly motivated to pass on the surfing-vibe. My  surfing-Spanish improved considerably, as well as my handshake.

Slowly I got my surfing at a next level. I drank liters of seawater and suffered severe cold, lying there in the Pacific Ocean waiting for “la ola perfecta”. And… three days later I caught my first enormous (for me at least) wave. And it was well worth all torment and pain!

In the hostel, I met Sofia, a Swedish girl travelling her way up through Peru. And as we were both a bit sick of the lack of sunshine in Huanchaco, we agreed upon moving further north together.

We still had some time left so got to the “Huaca de la Luna”. Together with the Huaca del sol, the pyramids constituted the powercentre of the Mochica culture (100 to 900 a.C.) – Hey, a little history lesson won’t harm you. Another interesting phenomenon to be found on site is the Peruvian dog. The animal is characterised by its hairlessness and was a popular pet kept during the Incan empire.

Incan hairless Peruvian dog at the Huaca de la Luna

Following our brief encounter with one of Peru’s archeological treasures we progressed and headed for Mancora. Only to find out we both did not really like the vibe of this self-called beach paradise. Probably a result of the contrast with the adorable atmoshpere in Huanchaco compared to the “pushy” feel of Mancora. Thus, we spent some time wandering around the beach and surfing before scheduling our trajectory to Ecuador.

Flashy fishermen, mating whales and blue-footed boobies

We dropped our anchor in Puerto López, a small coastal village 5 hours away from Guayaquil.  In the morning, fishermen can be spot on the beach, dragging huge manta rays and marlins shorewards while pelicans are hanging around, waiting to get a tasty bite of the fish. In the evenings, we got some of the best seafood prior to hitting one of the well-lit bars with oceanview on the main strip, sipping a cocktail.

The charming village of Puerto López

Pelicans in line waiting for some tasty bites

Manta rays waiting to be taken to the local fish market

Besides the fishing, tourism is the main industry in Puerto López. The city is the headquarters for the Machalilla natural park, the only coastal preserve in Ecuador. Mid-june to october, the mating whales are the main attraction here. Tours can easily be booked, and you’re guaranteed to spot some coupling humpback whales. And indeed, it’s quite spectacular to see the huge animals jumping around while spraying seawater with their blowholes.

Humpback whales playing around in the Pacific Ocean

We opted for a combined tour, with stopover on the “isla de la plata”, an island a few kilometres offshore. The isle is referred to as “the poor man’s Galapagos”, as some of the same species can be found overthere. And well… Shuffling through my bank statements and hearing about the excessive prices of the Galapagos cruises, I was pretty fine with the “budget version”. We spotted quite a few birds of which the blue-footed booby and frigatebirds were the absolute highlights. We ended our day with an hour of snorkeling in the coral reef the island is surrounded with.

The blue-footed booby

Frigate birds relaxing

The next day, a mototaxi dropped us in Agua Blanca, a small community in the middle of the Machalilla park a few kilometres north of Puerto Lopez. The indigenous people make a living mainly out of agriculture and tourism. Guided tours take you into the community, where the most memorable spot is the sulfur bath. You are meant to cover yourself with some of the mud on the bottome of the lagune to get your skin purified. Allthough the smell of eggs did not really attract us right away, we followed the wise advice of our guide and smeared some of the delicious ooze over our tired bodies.

Sofia and Tom enjoying a smelly-sulfur-mud-treat

Getting back into the village, Sofia and I decided to go our own ways again. Sofia wanted to go kitesurfing, while I was fierce to go for the same thing, only without the kite. Moreover, in Puerto Lopez I got hold of  “the kite runner” through the book exchange, more then enough kite for me.  So a lot of whining and weaping and another adieu…

From Canoa to Colombia…

Shortly after, I arrived in Canoa, more or less the Ecuadorian equivalent for Huanchaco. The coming days I took the time to get some final surfing vibes in Latin America. Especially my last session I’ll remember for a long time.

In my early morning surf I got to know the phenomenon pointed out by locals as “el beso de agua mala” literally translated: “the kiss of the bad water”. While paddling in the ocean, all of a sudden my whole forearm felt as if it was burned and stung with 100 needles at the same time. Apparently I bumped into an audacious type of jelly fish. Luckily the pharmacist was able to give me a good antidote, so I was ready for a second surfing session.

Lying in the water later in the afternoon I suddenly heard a screaming sound. Scanning the ocean promptly I saw a girl struggling in the water. I did not hesitate and with my surfboard I got her back on shore. Quickly I speeded towards the doctor who got the unfortunate young woman back on her feet. A somehow scary experience. Nevertheless, all’s well that ends well!

Surfing Canoa

Leaving behind all the excitement, I packed my bag, ready for some new adventures. I am currently writing from the small Colombian border town Ipiales where I am awaiting the nightbus to Cali. There I will meet up with Roy, a good comrade from back home in Belgium. Together we’ll be cruising through Colombia the coming weeks.  In the meanwhile, I will ameliorate both my Spanish and Salsa skills. And believe me, especially for the latter, there is quite some improvement possible. But, more on all of this in my next post. To end I want to wish everybody a great summer and an exhilarating vacation!

The best to all of you!



One thought on “Surf, sulfur, seafood and other strangenesses

  1. Hi Tom, looks your having great times over there. That mud picture is awesome 😉 Looking fwd to your next post.

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