In early May we got out of Chile, and came back to Peru to check out some more pre-Inca history up on the north coast near Trujillo & Huanchaco – the Moche & Chimu cultures, and some sea going reed fishing boats, or rafts, called ‘caballitos de totora’ (or ‘de mar’), constructed using ancient craft skills dating back several thousand years and known only to a few. These boats are clearly linked to the Moche & Chimu cultures, and possibly earlier.
However they’ve moved with the times as you can see in the fotos, and now use polystyrene blocks to help float the boats, not something available in these parts two thousand years ago. Although the paddle or oar remains very basic, just a long bamboo pole cut in half lengthways. It looks hard work on the hands…but it seems to do the trick though as they negotiate their way out to sea through decent sized waves, and eventually back in again. The sea here looks and is cold, but the weather isn’t, even now in the autumn – a good 25 degrees minimum most days, and too hot on other days to even sit in the sun for long.
When the men go out fishing they carry out nets that they drop in the sea in a half-circle, with floats to keep them in position. The men appear to work in pairs or small groups, setting up a series of nets. They then sit nearby on their boats for however long it takes, before pulling the nets together and so capturing the fish. Back on dry land, on the stony beach area reserved for the ‘caballitos’, you can watch as they repair or build new boats, using reeds grown in man-made reed beds located 50m back from the coastline, along the beach just outside the northern edge of Huanchaco.
Our 5+ weeks in Chile had been fascinating, the long thin geography of the country, where you can cross from the coast to the Andes and Bolivia & Argentina in a couple of hours, is remarkable. It’s a complex place and continues to struggle with the post-Pinochet dictatorship’s legacy (article to follow soon!), and it’s rampant & extreme wealth inequality. It was also bloody expensive, apart from cheap public transport the cost of living is at UK/Euro prices unless you are very local, or careful, or both. In addition they speak spanish extremely quickly with a lot of local slang, so although we might know what someone was talking about we’d struggle to understand what they were saying at all! Santiago was also heavily polluted, and what must have been a once beautiful valley setting now sits in a permanent smog.
So we flew back into Lima, Peru, where we’d started 6 months ago, largely to pick up on a couple of delicacies we’d not enjoyed for a long time. Unusually Lima airport allows you to buy duty free when you land at the airport, so we stocked up on some decent roll-up tobacco for the first time since January. You can’t argue with 10 x 50g packs for under forty quid!
We also paid a visit to the Tierra Santa Lebanese restaurant for some superb hummus, falafels and stuffed vine leaves, washed down by their very own green plant-based lemonade. Unfortunately they’re in the touristy Miraflores area, and the only reason we go there, but the ‘piqueo vegetariano’ for 2 at a cost of S/.40 (£10) is well worth it, and they have a load of other luscious veggie dishes (see their menus).
This time in Lima we stayed in the Magdalena del Mar neighbourhood. About midway between the airport and centre/Miraflores (so 7km in each direction), it’s another aspiring working class Lima district, with virtual slums existing next door to new apartment blocks. It’s full of small local shops, markets, cafes squares, and traffic, so like the rest of Lima daily life is very noisy! We liked it, and there were hardly any other gringo tourists around, but we passed pretty unnoticed on the streets. Magdalena once fancied itself as a bit of a ‘riviera’ along the seafront but it wasn’t to be and some of the structural work to achieve that is now deteriorating.
As with touristy & expensive Miraflores, the sea is actually located at the bottom of some 200+m cliffs on the other side of a nasty fast road. There’s little beach to speak of, it’s pretty desolate, stony & bare. But the 20minute walk to the clifftops & walk along them was good, as was just hanging around in some of the plazas watching life go by. Magdalena also has a couple of veggie/vegan local cafes, including the excellent ‘Sinfonia vegana‘ on Jr Junin, 685 (website and FB), a superb menu del dia costs S/.12 (£3), and we had vegan fish for the first time – tofu wrapped in seaweed deepfried sure smelt like fish. Other dishes available and reliably open from 12.30-8pm…we’ll be back soon for the vegan chorizo pizza!