Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Visiting Cabo Blanco

Of all the places I’ve been and things I’ve done since arriving in Peru, an afternoon visit to the town of Cabo Blanco stands out most in my mind. It’s a tiny, one-road town sandwiched on a thin strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and towering bluffs. To reach the town you need to get off the bus (Eppo) at El Alto - another small town located on the Pan American highway. At the bus station ask anyone for directions to the transportation area to Cabo Blanco. You’ll be directed to a small non-descript park where several (if you’re lucky) small pickup trucks are parked. Maribel, Brian and I were fortunate enough to get a ride in the cab section of a newer truck. It was a different story on the return trip. It’s only a short distance from El Alto to Cabo Blanco but the trip seems to take forever because the route involves slowly ascending a mountain and then slowly descending into the town, and all the while the truck is swaying from side to side.

The Cabo Blanco Fishing Club is probably the most noteworthy feature of the town, though it’s actually isolated about two miles to the south. In its heyday many celebrities frequented the club/lodge primarily to fish for giant Marlins that were located near to shore in those days. Today the club is deserted and in poor repair. The attraction for me was that the writer Ernest Hemingway stayed there in the 1950s.

Hemingway always stayed in room no. 5 which is the room lower left in this photo. The club has a colorful history, but because so much information exists about it on the internet I won’t go into it here, other than to say for me it was a personal thrill to stand in the same room where Hemingway stood.

Many off the path beach villages look desolate and decrepit. Entering Cabo Blanco conveys a whole different perception. You can see at a glance that both public and private property is well maintained. The park on the left in this photo is colorful and has a vibrancy about it that almost says “welcome!”

The white sand beach and blue/green ocean is vastly different from the volcanic gray sand and brown water of beaches to the south. What I don’t understand is why Mancora…a tourist beach town to the north of Cabo Blanco doesn’t also have the white sand and blue water.

Being a very small town, there is really only one restaurant, naturally called the Cabo Blanco Restaurant. It’s located on the beach for a great view while eating, and has a wide selection on the menu. Prices are on the high side, but it’s one of those situations where you pretty much expect that and really don’t care. The food was good and the staff eager to talk with us about the town.

If you’d care to stay overnight to my knowledge there is only one option…the Hostal El Merlin. It’s the two story building on the right. We didn’t go inside but from the appearance of the exterior I wouldn’t be afraid to make a reservation there myself. In fact we have plans to do just that during Brian’s upcoming school vacation. I could see myself sitting under one of those tiki roofs on the beach watching the sun set.

Cabo Blanco has the look of a wannabe tourist town, but right now its economic base is fishing. It has the most modern fish processing facility I’ve seen in Peru including a fleet of modern refrigerated trucks, something I’ve never seen in the north.

Which brings us to our return trip to El Alto. Most of the fishermen and people working at the fish facility don’t live in Cabo Blanco, so at day’s end there is a line of people waiting for a place on one of the trucks. There is an informal system where you are handed a piece of paper with a hand written number on it, which indicates your position in the queue. My number was 23, with Maribel and Brian being 24 and 25. That should have meant a wait for at least the third truck, but for whatever reason the woman handing out the slips told us to get on the next truck. No cab this time. We were packed into the back with many others. It was one of those oh so common situations where we were seated half on the seat and half on someone else.

The guy on the left in this photo apparently thought this would be a new and frightening experience for the old gringo, because he started giving me good natured “superior” grins. He was already seated half way out of the truck when he decided to get up and stand on the tail gate, holding on to the bar frame, again giving me a macho grin. Unknown to this guy is the fact that, in another life, I spent hours standing on the tailgate of moving trucks, courtesy of the U.S. Army. So I got up and stood next to him. Now his expression was more quizzical than superior. Then he played his last card. He held on with one hand and placed a call on his cell phone. I don’t have a cell phone. It only took about 5 minutes after returning to El Alto for me to be able to straighten out my fingers and the feeling returned to my hands.



  1. Did Maribel survive the spider hanging above her head in the last photo? ;)

  2. was this your second trio to the Fishing Club?


  3. Hi Jim… We’ve made just the one trip so far but do intend to return within the next three months. There’s something captivating about this little town!