Saturday, October 8, 2011

Chiclayo & Pimentel – Peru

Our journey to Chiclayo began in the afternoon from Huacachina to Lima, from where we had to wait around with enough time for a bit of dinner before boarding our overnight Cruz del Sur bus to Chiclayo which also provided a nice hot dinner.  Arriving in Chiclayo we found a cheap(ish) hotel, although it was now consistently slightly more expensive than it had been in Bolivia.  Chiclayo is quite large and definitely more of a big city than a sleepy village but that comes with its benefits.  One of the highlights of the city is its monster market which sells all things from pirated football shirts to a shady witch doctor’s market flogging good luck potions and all manner of weird and not so wonderful products. 

Poor dead monkey in the witchdoctor's market

Around the outskirts of the market were a few street food vendors, one of them selling ceviche, a fish dish that I had long awaited to try.  I believe it is generally made from the fillet of a white fish of no specific type in particular and it is prepared merely by covering the chopped uncooked flesh in lemon juice and chopped raw onion along with some seasoning and garnish to the chef’s preference.  It is also possible to get mixed ceviche which we had in this instance where the dish also contains prawns, squid and shellfish.  The lady serving us had lots of personality and was delighted with the fact that we liked the food which was unsurprisingly the cheapest we had had yet in Peru.  I bought a few replica football shirts and we walked around to look into the various activities on offer.  It was possible to go to a nearby national park with a reputed abundance of wildlife but it was towards the expensive side and it wasn’t possible to get an English speaking guide.  Alternatively there were excellent Adobe ruins within a bus journey away, much cheaper and whilst there would be more opportunities for wildlife we might not be able to be this close to Peruvian history again. 

Hanging with the ceviche lady

Nice plate of ceviche for about seventy pence

The next day we got on our bus to the ruins at Sipán.  We arrived in time for lunch, more ceviche of course and then visited the excellent museum which was similar to the Pre-Inca museum in Cuzco but with better presentations albeit no English translations.  They had an example of an open tomb as it would have been when the person of importance was laid to rest.  There were also various artefacts that had been recovered from the tombs although many of the relics had made their ways to neighbouring museums.  When we were museumed out we made the short walk to the actual ruins, many of which had active excavations taking place on them. 

An excavated mask on display in the museum

Kate posing as the Senora of Sipan

The ongoing excavations

There were small boards with very basic translations written on them to give us an idea of what we were looking at.  The tombs are of the Moche era and are famous for the tomb of El Señor de Sipán (Lord of Sipán).  It was only discovered in the last thirty years and although there had been some looting by locals in some of the tombs, the main tomb was found undisturbed.  Unfortunately looting is a big problem in Peru as there are too many sites to police, the looters believe they have ‘rights’ to the loot as it is on their land and can discover and ‘excavate’ faster than any official archaeologist adhering to protocols.   The excavated items on display in this instance included Moche jewellery, masks, and art.  The tomb of the Lord of Sipán has been dated to around 100 AD.  The tombs themselves in the area are of adobe construction, originally of pyramidal shape but now looking like mounds of earth having been generally weathered and withstanding successive El Niño events.   The replica of The Lord of Sipan's tomb could be seen from above.  Also discovered were hundreds of small clay pots with individual faces, understood to be offerings made by the lord's subjects.

Excavated tomb restored to how it originally looked

Reconstruction of the tomb belonging to the Senor of Sipan

Contrast showing adobe brick before and after

Locals trained in excavation to deter looting

Replicas of the original jars found within the tombs

That evening we left for the fishing village of Pimentel, opting for a solitary hostel next to the Playa de Rocas or beach of rocks.  When arriving in town we took a tuc tuc, yes they have them in Peru too, to our hostel.  Not knowing what to expect we were obviously blown away when what looked like a camp for some new age religious fanatics emerged from the sand, pyramids and all.  We checked into our lodgings which consisted of a pyramid of our very own but at a price of twenty pound per night, though not bad considering it was like a mini house to ourselves and included breakfast and dinner.  There were animals everywhere including a very friendly cat and an angry looking dog, friendly staff (Kate received a red rose) and a windy beach but that was about it.  What a change from Chiclayo’s bustling town.  It didn’t take us long to get settled but we didn’t have many provisions as we weren’t aware of how remote it was going to be.  Fortunately the owner drove us into town for free and we stocked up on water and other essentials for the next couple of days.  

The angry looking dog

Katiwira from the outside

The pyramidal lodgings

The pyramid where we stayed

Inside the pyramid on the bottom floor

On the eighth of September we headed out for a walk along the beach to see what we could find close by.  All along the seafront, but especially once we got close to a mini district of restaurants and vendors selling marine-influenced jewellery, were these simple boats called caballitos (little horses) which were made from reeds and were used for fishing.  A group effort was taking place to launch a more modern ship into the sea from the shallows.  In general everyone was having fun and there was a pretty good vibe in the air, that of a local holiday resort. 

Caballitos on the beach

Group effort to move the boat into the ocean

More caballitos on the beach

Previously we had asked the staff at camp hippy, sorry Katuwira, if they could teach us how to make our new favourite dish of ceviche which they had agreed to.  So after we had relaxed even more with a couple of drinks watching the tide we flagged down another tuc tuc and made our way to the fish market.  The driver took us to his counter of choice and we ordered half a kilo of fish fillet along with a quarter of scallops and ten large prawns for the equivalent of about six pound.  Upon our return we washed our hands and had our ceviche lesson. 

Step 1: Begin boiling some potatoes and yucca too if you are in South America
Step 2: Chop fish fillet and place in bowl, add water and rinse.  Drain before adding the juice of two large limes
Step 3: Avoid prying eyes of angry looking dog
Step 4: Slice red onion and cook up any shellfish
Step 5: Mix in some cilantro (what we at home call coriander) and some aji (red pepper) to taste
Step 6: Season with salt and pepper and an elusive ingredient which we hadn’t come across before called Aji no moto
Step 7: Remove potatoes and present with sweetcorn and lettuce

Preparing the fish fillet in the market

Cutting the raw fish before washing it in water

Boiling up the prawns

Shallow fried scallops

Preparing to add the red onion (after washing several times) and the juice

Not sure if we can get this back home

Et voila! The ceviche is served with potatoes, yuka and a salad. Yummy!

That evening we enjoyed kicking the ball around with the angry looking dog before having our dinner and going to bed.  The following day was an exercise in relaxation.  The hostel staff said goodbye and dropped us off at the area with the restaurants where we hung out, having a delicious lunch before heading back into Chiclayo where we had booked our bus to Guayaquil two days prior.  We checked our bags in with the bus company and Kate was able to call her mum to wish her a happy birthday.  Soon we were back at the bus station and boarding the bus to Ecuador after our first stint in Peru.  We would be returning to Peru in order to take our flight from Lima to Miami, but judging from how much we enjoyed the country we would probably be back sooner unless Ecuador had some pretty damn good reasons for us to stay.  We had had an amazing time at Katuwira in Pimentel but all we could focus on now was how extremely excited we were about our Galapagos adventure which lay in front of us.          

Football with the angry looking dog

The quirkiness of the lodgings

Kate in the kitchen/dining area

More pooches on the premises

The angry looking dog in a sand buggy

The beautiful beach at Pimentel


  1. I am an American retired and living in Pimentel with a few other gringos that live here also. It is a laid back quiet town with little traffic a beautiful beach and great seafood. Evenings, there is little to do especially in the off season months but Chiclayo is close by.

  2. Actually, the name is "caballitos de totora" (Little Horses of California bulrush)