Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Patapo Project

Northern Peru has a lot of tourist attractions scattered across the Lambayeque Region, but what it doesn’t have is a legitimate tourist town. I’m talking about a town similar to those in the States who have reinvented themselves to become not just a base for tourists, but have become an attraction themselves. Frankenmuth Michigan and Wisconsin Dells in Wisconsin are just two that come to mind. Their key to success is to develop a common theme throughout a large section of the town and to base that theme on the town’s unique strengths. In our opinion, the town of Patapo, located just 30 minutes by car from Chiclayo has the stuff to duplicate that process and become the tourist destination in northern Peru.

To begin with there is its location. Patapo is bordered on three sides by rice paddies and sugar cane fields. To the north is a range of small mountains. We’ve discovered that many visitors have never seen rice paddies or sugar cane, and enjoy having the opportunity to actually walk among the fields and touch the crops. And seen from the mountains, the fields and town present an impressive panoramic view. If you click on the photo and look closely at the mountains, you may see the outlines of ancient walls and fortifications built by the Moche and Wari cultures. There are hundreds of these ruins scattered from the bottom to mountain top.

The town as it stands now has nothing to offer, and has done nothing to appeal to tourists, but the untapped potential is already there. It has a broad main street running all the way from the highway to nearly the foot of the mountains. There are two equally broad and attractive boulevards branching off the main road; each extending for more than two blocks. The one in the photo is the shorter of the two. Right now they are sterile and lifeless, not even much local traffic can be seen on them. They would be perfect for some type of interactive tourist attractions.

The red line on the accompanying town map is our view of the tourist walking path. The two boulevards are to the left. An attractive ‘farmer’s market’ is included in the tour. The area outlined in green is forested and set aside as an ecological area. We could easily see a zoo with native animals plus goats, sheep, etc, and perhaps burro cart rides. The area outlined in blue is currently where bricks are produced. Everything is done outside and we believe would be of interest to visitors. The walking tour would finish at another spacious park. This would also be the departure point for those interested in continuing on to explore the mountains, where they could walk through ruins or simply hike in the desert.

The buildings on the main street lend themselves to the ‘common theme’ mentioned earlier. The following present/future photos hopefully convey some idea of what could be done. I’m certain that local artists would be much more imaginative than I am.




And speaking of imagination… I’m told that at night there are light shows and reenactments of ancient ceremonies at Egypt’s pyramids. When I sit on a mountain top at Patapo I look at the ruins and envision much the same thing occurring right here. I imagine tourists assembling in the lobbies of Chiclayo’s main hotels, waiting for the busses to take them to ‘Patapo’s Famous Light Show.’

Why not?


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Three days in Lima…

…three sunless, cold, damp dreary days in Lima. We always enjoy our visits to Lima. There is so much to see and do there, but our previous visits have always been in pleasant weather. The weather this time was not so pleasant – in fact it was just plain disagreeable. We were cold both outdoors and inside. In our apartment we watched television at night covered with a blanket. Even the normally interesting view from the apartment was a bit depressing. In bright sunlight Lima has the look of a vibrant, modern big city. Seen through a cold drizzle, the row after row of pasty grey-white condos and office buildings take on a brooding, forlorn, ‘abandon all hope ye who enter here’ appearance. In addition to the weather, things just generally didn’t seem to work out for us this time around.

There were highlights – there always are. One of them was having dinner with our friends Sonia and her husband at the La Carreta restaurant on the first full day or our arrival. They had promised that I would finally find a steak to rival those I missed from the States, and they were right. Smothered in sautéed mushrooms and onions, I savored every bite. I highly recommend this restaurant to anyone visiting Lima. Check out their web page if you’d like.

Regrettably we won’t be having dinner with these folks any time in the near future. Soon they will be leaving the country; for a while at least. In Sonia and her husband Peru is losing a class act.

Given the weather it seemed the smart thing to do for our remaining two days was indoor activities, so Monday we rode a combi to Museo del ejercito “Real Felipe” – which was an 18th century fort and is now a museum. Unfortunately for us we discovered the museum is closed on Mondays. But not to worry…the Naval Museum is only three blocks away so we took the five minute walk to find the museum is…closed on Mondays. We ate a so-so lunch at a nearby so-so restaurant and went back to the apartment to regroup. The best we could come up with was walking around the Larcomar shopping center and taking in a movie – The Prince of Persia. Brian liked it; Maribel thought it was okay. I enjoyed the popcorn while wondering how a fine actor like Ben Kingsley could have fallen to such depths.

The next day the zipper on my jacket broke. Not wanting to have it constantly flapping in the wind, I pinned it in several strategic places, which made for a fun activity every time I needed to take it off and put it on. Not to mention that I was sure everyone on the streets was looking at me and whispering nasty comments to their companions about the gringo nerd.

Another highlight was visiting Maribel’s old apartment. She had lived and worked in Lima for many years, leaving for Chiclayo some 18 years ago. She enjoyed seeing her old neighborhood again. Call it coincidence if you will, but I think some other power was at work when a contractor working on the building showed up as we were leaving and invited us in to look around.

On the final day of our visit we visited Barranco; a suburb of Lima. It’s well worth seeing, though it’s not a place that words and one or two photos can describe. Sections of it have a definite bohemian look and feel, which makes me think it really comes alive at night.

There’s a little electricity museum that was surprisingly informative and entertaining. We even had the pleasure of depositing one ‘sol’ in an old Wurlitzer juke box and listening to the Beetles ‘Strawberry Fields’ on a scratchy old 45rpm.

Now we’re back in Chiclayo, and as I type this the sun is shining, the patio door is open and a warm breeze is circulating through the apartment. It feels good to be home.


Friday, June 11, 2010

You’re welcome, Lima!

At least thirty tons of fish if not more are headed your way and will be in various markets by 6:00am tomorrow, having completed a land journey of 470 miles through the night that began at 5:30pm this afternoon in Pimentel. We watched three trucks being loaded with ice and fish and suspect there were more both before we arrived and after we left.

It’s always enjoyable to watch the unloading process when fishing boats arrive off shore at Pimentel, San Jose or Santa Rosa. To someone unfamiliar with the process it looks chaotic, with all the manual labor involved, shouting and the crush of onlookers but there is a method and things move surprisingly fast. Fishermen at Pimentel have had to adapt to the closing of the pier where they had formerly docked and unloaded. The pier has been closed to all traffic and there is no indication as to when the planed reconstruction will begin.

Smaller boats are now used to transport the fish from the big boats directly to the beach, where each container is unloaded by hand. This added step and resultant additional labor needed may have resulted in a rise in price.

Once on the beach employees and/or family members of the boat owners inspect the fish and repack them in the containers to be weighed. About 90% of the people in these photos are simply observers. Some of them attempt to convince the workers to sell a few fish which always results in a firm no and sometimes leads to loud arguments.

Not all of the fish are destined for Lima. Some catches go to the processing plant in Chimbote. These fish will be sold locally. Others may be sold on the beach. In this case an anchored ship puts out the call that it will sell its cargo. Upon getting the word a fleet of reed boats (almost identical to those used by the Incas centuries ago) scrambles out to the boats; buy enough to fill their space, and return to shore to resell them to waiting customers, who will also resell the fish.

The reed boat owners prefer to sell their fish to one buyer and generally have no problem doing that, though it’s not difficult to buy just one or two for dinner. It’s amazing how little time elapses from the time they first launch their boats to get their fish until the moment they’re stacking them on the beach until the next time they’re needed.

We hope you Limeños enjoy your fresh fish. We’ll be enjoying them also, and perhaps even more because we paid less. : )


Friday, June 4, 2010

Hair care in Chiclayo

We receive many emails, letters and even phone calls from people who have read our blog, seen our photos and are interested in learning where I have my hair styling done and what process/products I use to maintain my hair between visits to the stylist.

Chiclayo has many beauty salons – most of them of the unisex variety, but in my opinion, if you’re really serious about your hair, the only place to go is Johnny’s Beauty Salon and Boutique. The shop has been on the corner of Balta and Lora y Cordero for many years.

To service the steady flow of regular clients Johnny has a staff of seven specialists – all well qualified with years of experience, but the only person who touches my head is Johnny himself. I don’t consider myself to be vain, but as nature has seen fit to endow me with a rich and luxurious head of hair, I feel it is my duty to maintain and display it to the maximum.

Incredibly, no appointments are necessary at Johnny’s. Now, don’t get the impression from this last statement that the establishment is nothing but a cut and brush assembly line – far from it! On the day of my visit – usually every three weeks – I set aside a full two hours. That’s because it takes me one hour and forty-five minutes to get there, plus I average twelve minutes of waiting time, which leaves the three minutes it takes Johnny to work his magic on my hair. We normally don’t bother with tinting, frosting or layering...both Johnny and I preferring to let the natural flesh tone and contour speak for itself.

The services of a creative genius like Johnny and his staff do not come cheap. My three minutes in the chair carries a price tag of eight soles, or $2.81, but the smiles and inviting glances I get from the admiring chicas upon leaving the boutique are well worth the price.

At home I have a full suite of L’Oreal hair care products, though if I were limited to just one, it would be Elvive Shampoo Treatment. Since discovering this product I have never had a problem with tangling, and it really has enhanced the texture of my hair. And of course to keep the rich sheen I brush my hair every morning following my shower with a special burro tail brush (medium stiffness), being careful to stroke from top to bottom at least fifty times. I am absolutely convinced that regular brushing is the single most reason why I don’t have a problem with split ends.

That’s about it for hair care. Be sure to watch for next week’s entry…Pedicures and general nail care.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Lambayeque…a big little town

If I were to decide to move to another city in northern Peru, Lambayeque would probably be my choice. It’s got a lot going for it in a quiet sort of way. By quiet I mean it doesn’t have the hustle and bustle of Chiclayo. You won’t find the taxis so prevalent on Chiclayo’s streets, and with a population of about 50,000 there is not the constant crush of humanity at every turn. There are a ton of motos for transportation, but somehow they seem less intrusive.

Lambayeque boasts at least three major parks, all beautifully landscaped and well maintained. The principal park with its surrounding well preserved colonial architecture reminds me of Lima’s Plaza de Armas, though of course on a much smaller scale. The town also has the only national university in the entire Lambayeque Region.

Lambayeque has made and is making an attempt to preserve some but not all of its colonial buildings, probably because the first calls for independence from Spain were voiced here. Two of the more noteworthy are Casa Descalzi (now a tourist restaurant) and Casa de la Logia known locally as Casa Montjoy, with its 400 year old 220 foot balcony. Casa Cùneo shown here dates back to the 1820s and according to printed information on the door supposedly played some part in the design of Peru’s flag. Many visitors voice the sentiment ‘if you’ve seen one colonial home you’ve seen them all’ but for me it’s not possible to look at what remains of this home and not get lost in thought wondering about the home and its inhabitants nearly 200 years ago.

The facade of this ancient church dates back to the mid 1500s according to local residents. It is probably the most photographed object in town. I always think of the Alamo when I see it. The church two doors to the right of the ‘Alamo’ is either being renovated or demolished. I wasn’t allowed access inside but in peeking over the thatch sheets was able to see many beautifully carved massive wooden columns inside the building.

Lambayeque has two major museums to house and display the artifacts found at the many archeological sites in the area. The Museum of the Royal Tombs of Sipân (Museo Tumbas Reales de Sipân) is the newest and is considered one of the finest in all Peru. My personal favorite is the Bruning Archeological Museum (Museo Arqueologico Nacional Bruning) located near the center of town.

There are several fine restaurants in town, including El Rincon del Pato, El Pacifico and Algarrobos. El Pacifico is a favorite of many Chiclayanos, and particularly on Sunday afternoon lines of cars can be seen dropping off customers for lunch. What puzzles me is that the restaurant is only open until 5:00pm. I suppose they have their reasons for that.

If there is any night life in Lambayeque I am not aware of it. I suspect there must be something available because the town is the home of Peru’s 7th Infantry Brigade, headquartered in this impressive colonial structure. I don’t know how many men are in a brigade, but unless things have changed since I was in the army these guys aren’t just sitting in the barracks at night writing letters home.

If you’re in the area set aside a half-day or more to visit Lambayeque. The town is clean, safe and most attractions are centrally located or easy to get to. I think you’ll like it.