I love those fortuitous little meetings that happen every now and then on the road. We pulled into a random driveway in Zorritos and found Casa de Diego. This chance meeting worked out really well for us. We had only planned to stay a night before moving on… but Diego found plenty of reasons for us to hang around. Casa de Diego. If you are ever in Zorritos, you should try to to stay here.
We had a great time at his amazing beachfront house/hostel, hanging out in the evenings with music and beers and getting some good tips for our route through Peru. But the best part was having Diego as our personal tour guide. He took us to the best surf spots, introduced us to all the locals and took us to the best bakery in town.
He left the best surprise until our last night when he took us to the hot springs on the edge of town. “It will be perfect for your aching muscles after all that surfing” he assured us, as if we needed convincing. “And this hot spring is really special at night time.” We couldn’t help asking why. “You’ll see.”
Four of us jumped in the van and Diego directed us through town and onto a random dirt road that we would never have found on our own. When we got there it was completely dark, not even a moon to light the way. “Should I leave the headlights on?” I asked him. “No we don’t need them. I have a natural light here.” All he was holding was a cigarette lighter and a rolled up piece of paper. I was confused.
He lit the paper and held it over the hot spring which lit up with a huge whoompf. The hot spring is actually an old drill well for oil and gas exploration. Now, hot water bubbles up from the earth below bringing a bit of natural gas with it. And this provided our mood lighting for the evening. We had a good hot soak and I don’t know how many times we looked at each other in amazement and said “This is so cool.”
Next stop was Lobitos. This is an odd little town with loads of good surf spots. It was first settled by British oil company workers and most of the old townsite was abandoned around the early 1900s. So now it is sort of like a ghost town reborn. There are oil wells everywhere, on and offshore. And much of the area is now a military zone. All of this made for a really interesting place to explore. We free camped at the beach for a few days and tried to make the most of the consistent surf. This section of coast is like a wave machine, they just keep coming all day.
The coastal desert of this region has been a real surprise for us. It just stretches on and on. We were driving through bare rock and sand for days, not a tree or shrub in sight. But, every now and then we would pass through a town, offering a splash of colour and a chance to people watch as we drove by. Kicking rice.
We eventually made it to Chicama. More desert and more surf. No complaints from us, we love this style of van life. We spent the afternoon cruising the dunes outside of town, watching the waves and checking out the amazing bird colony at an empty beach around the point. Boobies
Later in the day it was time to hit the water. This place is renowned for having the longest left hand wave in the world. Not sure if this is actually true, but regardless it’s a good spot. The swell wasn’t quite big enough for those famously long rides, but we had a lot of fun trading waves with the local grommets during the sunset session. And in the morning I had the place all to myself.
After an incredible sunset we headed into the dunes to find a camp spot with some protection from the relentless wind. The ground looks firm and rocky, but venture from the well worn path and the soft sand underneath gives way easily. We know from experience. After getting bogged good and proper we spent a couple of hours jacking up the car digging out the rear wheels and driving forward a few feet on scraps of carpet and planks of wood. On the third try (our lucky number in stuck van situations) we slowly crept up and out of the hole, eventually finding solid ground again… and had the most peaceful sleep we could have hoped for. Dusty but triumphant
Home is where you park it
Driving along the highway we could see what we thought were sand dunes stretching far into the distance. Turns out that they are the crumbled old adobe walls of the ancient city of Chan Chan. We were taken aback by the immensity of it all. It was built around 850 AD and was in use until the 1400s and apparently around 30,000 people lived here at one time. This makes it the largest known city in South America prior to the arrival of the Europeans.
We visited just one small area of the city which has survived the years in pretty good shape. Many of the walls are carved with patterns depicting fish and fishnets which were really important to the survival of the people that lived here. They also had some form of irrigation and the remnants of an old well are visible still filled with water and full of greenery. The sacred well
Sechin is another ruin just off the pan-american highway. The old temple found here might be the oldest ruins in South America… maybe more than 3000 years old. The stone walls were covered in carvings and in the museum they had a bunch of artefacts from the area, including a really well preserved mummy, and some mummified tattooed hands.
We had been in the desert for over a week, so as we turned left and headed up the river valley towards the mountains, the green valley filled with fruit trees was a welcomed sight.
As usual, we’re a bit sad to be leaving this area behind. The great surf, the interesting and odd places, the wide open spaces and eating the best ceviche everyday will be missed. But it’s time again for the mountains.
Posted from: Huaraz, Peru