Wednesday, March 10, 2004


The Beach

One excellent thing about having the car is that we can take off to the beach whenever the desire strikes. There are surprisingly few private cars in Chiclayo, so this really does feel a great privilege. The drive only takes 10 minutes or so, and there is virtually no traffic except the occasional collective van-cum-bus, or disintigrating 70’s Ford, which are invariably carrying passengers sardine-style (for a fare of approximately 15p each). As this area is a big desert the drive is not particularly inspiring. There’s sand, and many, many plastic bags blown out to the plains by the constant gusty sea air. We pass a few villages built on the huge sand dunes; it’s difficult to imagine what there is to do all day - but then I suppose few houses have proper plumbing - so the most basic of household tasks must take an eternity. The approach to the beach itself is likewise uninspiring, endless sand and horrible construction rubble line the road. Beside the road people set up huge nets on the plains to gather bird droppings, which they presumeably sell as fertiliser. There ain’t much happening, but the beach itself somehow manages to be mesmerising; the sand is soft and the sun intense. Pacific waves crash in at a level just right to dive into, and fisherman set out in their traditional straw canoes, the same as those used in Inca times. They sell their catch to the little huts that line the shore and serve as restaurants during the summer months – fresher fish can’t be had. The restaurants will go to great lengths in their attempts to hook customers. Our favourite place has a girl of fourteen who runs down the beach to ask us if we’d like a cold beer bringing to us (sold for five soles on the beach, instead of the usual three and a half, she stands to make about 20p a bottle – a sizeable profit.). She’s a pretty, dark girl, very poor, and she has a dozen true stories to tell us everytime... about how last week a couple parked their car on the desert plain for some nookie, went down to the beach for a swim, and returned to find thieves had carried off most of their car... or some such story. Peruvians always seem to have a tale to tell, I bet most of them could fill a book!

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