Thursday, January 19, 2012

A Day in Pacasmayo

“There is nothing to see or do in Pacasmayo.” We’d heard that comment frequently and had come to accept it as fact, but after our visit yesterday we came away with a different opinion. No matter what your interests are, odds are you’ll find something that will make a one day visit to Pacasmayo worthwhile. Here…let us suggest an itinerary to you.

Start your visit at the (I’m only going to type this once) “Paseo de la Amistad, la Paz e Integración Perú – Ecuador” park. If you’re arriving by bus you have no choice; this is where the busses stop. Be sure to time your arrival in the morning or afternoon. There is little shade and the mid day heat will distract from the park’s beauty and uniqueness.

When you’ve finished with the park, walk west on Ave July 28 toward the pier. It’s a six-block walk on a beautiful tree-lined boulevard. Take a few minutes to visit the old train station (the large cupola structure on the right). There isn’t a whole lot to see inside but there are many photos of old trains and train disasters caused by floods.

Walk two more blocks from the train station and you’ll see a kid’s park and the malecòn on your left, and the pier directly in front of you. The malecòn will tempt you, but ignore it for now and pay the 37 cent fee to walk out on the pier. It’s a very long walk and caution is called for. The pier was constructed in 1880 and not much has been done to maintain it. There are holes big enough to fall through, and planks that are loose.

Still, it will give you a panoramic view of the malecòn you’ll visit later, and if you’re lucky you may see a fishing boat being launched. The process is primitive, effective and entertaining. Two men take one end of a very thick rope and walk out on the pier. The rope is at least 100 yards in length. At a given signal, men on the beach push the boat into the water while those on the pier pull at a frantic pace. It takes twenty minutes for the boat to reach the middle of the pier, and during that time the boat we watched looked to be in danger of swamping several times.

Upon exiting the pier turn left and hike up the hill to the cemetery. You’ll be huffing and puffing when you arrive but it’s worth the effort. Not interested in cemeteries? Do you appreciate really good religious art? How about a cheery place with smiling faces? You’ll find both in this unique cemetery. The walls surrounding the cemetery are in our opinion an impressive art exhibit. Inside, many of the mausoleums; instead of the usual plastic flowers have happy faces of the deceased painted on them in bright cheery colors. Rather than the somber, contemplative atmosphere of most cemeteries, this one feels like you’re walking into a party.

Okay…it’s time to walk the malecòn. I wish the civil authorities and population from Pimentel could see this. This is what a malecòn should look like. It is tastefully done in every respect. There are plenty of benches to sit on, a level, well maintained boulevard to walk, and souvenir vendors and restaurant employees who are not aggressive. There are restaurants and snack shops for every taste and budget. Speaking of restaurants, it’s time for lunch.

This is the Hotel Pakatnamu. Take a seat at one of the outside tables to enjoy the view during your meal. Ten minutes later when no one has appeared, go inside and tell the man at the desk you’d like lunch. He will motion you to return to your table while indicating with gestures that someone will be with you soon. After another ten minutes poke your head in once again. The man will motion you to return to your table while indicating with gestures that someone will be with you soon. After a few more minutes of inattention get up and walk to the nearby La Estaciòn Gran Hotel for an excellent lunch.

Following lunch it’s time to take a leisurely walk back to the park to catch your bus. There’s time to vary your route back, and to stop at one of the small ice cream or pastry shops if you wish. Chances are your bus will be a few minutes late, so pick a spot in the shade, relax, and reflect on what was a very pleasant day in a town that has nothing to see or do.

Tom & Maribel

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Archie’s Place

Archie is an interesting character for several reasons. For starters, he’s an 87 year old native Peruvian who has lived in the Canary Islands for the last 14 years with his German wife. And his name isn’t Archie…its Manuel Bravo Soldevilla. People started calling him ‘Archie’ when he became an architect by profession and the name has stuck for over 60 years. It was while studying architecture in Germany that he met and married his wife. Archie was born in Huancavelica but spent most of his working life in Chiclayo. He has family living in Motupe, and returns to Peru to visit at least once every year.

Another thing that makes Archie interesting is that he is a dreamer. Four years ago he purchased a large lot in Motupe and began constructing a hotel/restaurant/activity hall. He designed it himself and talked with infectious enthusiasm as he showed us where the rooms, kitchen and dining area would be. There hasn’t been much work done on the place lately. Money is scarce plus Archie’s wife is starting to question ‘all the dead money’ he’s got tied up in investments. He says she’s a great wife but there are some things she doesn’t understand.

Also some years ago Archie bought a plot of about 160 acres in a dry forest just south of Motupe. Thirty five years ago the Pan American highway went right past his door. Today the Pan American is many miles to the west and the old road is little more than a gravel path. He built a large house with two complete apartments and six rental rooms. The plan was for Archie and his wife to live in one of the apartments; his sister and her family in the other; and rent out the single rooms to tourists. To date no one has lived in the apartments, and no serious attempt has been made to rent the tourist rooms.

Several of Maribel’s family made the visit today with us, and while most decided to sit and talk out of the hot sun, Archie, Augustine and I wanted to climb the mountains bordering his property. We hadn’t gone very far from the house when we saw three bee hives. We started to approach them when one of them seemed to explode with bees, and within seconds we were surrounded and being attacked. Archie and Augustine were each stung three times. I escaped untouched. I found out I can still run when I’m scared.

Archie led us first through the forest mostly comprised of algarrobo and beautiful green palo verde trees. Once onto the mountain he climbed at a steady pace, undoubtedly going to a specific location. I hope I can climb at his pace when I’m 87. After awhile we arrived at a large flat rock, which Archie promptly sat on and said it was his ‘el mirador’…scenic overlook. (His house is dead center in the photo) He said that often when he returned to Peru he would come to this rock to enjoy the tranquility, and to think about things. He was obviously pleased to see that Augustine and I appreciated the view also, but I had the feeling his preference is to be there alone. I can understand that.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Promesa Peru Year in Review

During calendar year 2011 Promesa Peru sponsored three activities. In March we donated school supplies to the village of Collique Alto. July again found us in Collique Alto – this time providing medical assistance. In December we sponsored a Chocolatada in Las Colmenas.

The financial side of those activities is as follows:


Collique Alto school supplies…………..$330.90……...$63.97

Collique Alto medical campaign………$216.99……....$93.09

Las Colmenas chocolatada……………..$376.64……....$205.18


The cost figures represent purchased goods and services directly attributed to the specific activities, and do not reflect out of pocket or administrative expenses borne by board members.

Cash donations of $362.24 amounted to 39% of activity costs…an increase of 8% over 2010. The value of in-kind donations; consisting of medicines for the Collique Alto medical campaign and candy for the chocolatada are estimated at $250. Our thanks to those of you who helped us to help the poor of Peru. We hope we can count on your continued support in 2012.

Joyce Ann Cline – Treasurer
Promesa Peru Inc.

Rosario Maribel Mestar Macalupu de Filipowicz - Treasurer
Promesa Peru Chiclayo

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Huanchaco Beach

Several years ago while visiting the archeological site of Chan Chan at Trujllo we made a very brief stop for lunch at a small town I later learned was Huanchaco. After lunch we walked on the pier, took a few photos, and went back to Trujllo. We didn’t think about the town at the time or after, until just recently when we decided we wanted to go somewhere for a few days to relax.

I’ve never done a laid-back vacation. I always want to see and do whatever the area offers. I don’t want to return to Chiclayo only to find that I missed seeing the world’s largest concrete sombrero, or drove right past the oldest fossil tamale in the Americas. Now, don’t get the idea I’m a Clark Griswold…I don’t go that far but I am a planner and list maker.

There was to be no planning for this excursion…no schedules, no agendas, no list of things to see and do; no nothing. The only requirements for our getaway were a decent hotel with a pool, bar and restaurant, and a small quiet community on the ocean. With the hope that Huanchaco was the town we were looking for, and that the Las Palmeras hotel would provide the remaining wants, Maribel, Brian and I boarded a bus for the four hour ride.

Huanchaco is not what I expected. It is fairly quiet, but not what I would call a sleepy little village. Our impression is that it is a larger, more modern and civilized version of Mancora; a popular beach community north of Chiclayo. Actually it’s as if there are two towns, with the pier serving as the dividing line. South of the pier the road becomes a modern four-lane highway bordered by upscale hotels and restaurants on the east, and a groomed beach (rare in Peru) to the west. North of the pier the road, beach and buildings have noticeably deteriorated. To walk the entire malecon including both north and south stretches takes about an hour at a leisurely pace, and is well worth the time.

It is definitely a tourist town, with most tourists congregating on the malecòn near the pier. There are large numbers of non-Hispanics milling about; taking photos, buying souvenirs from street vendors, and sampling food offerings in the many small restaurants. One puzzling observation was that a majority of the town’s restaurants and artisan shops closed at about 7:00pm…exactly the opposite of what we’d expected given the large numbers of tourists and slightly Bohemian feel to some sections of the malecòn. If there are night life locations, we didn’t see them.

I can’t suggest things to see and do because we didn’t do anything. Maribel and Brian spent lots of time in the pool and ocean. We walked the malecòn twice daily. We ate each meal at a different restaurant. We watched people catching fish on the pier, or wading in the ocean to harvest an edible weed (mococho) in the early morning. I did a lot of reading. Incidentally, I highly recommend “Water for Elephants” by Sara Gruen to anyone interested in a captivating, well-written and easy to read novel.

We spent hours on the beach watching people, pelicans, waves and sunsets. I listened to the sound of bowling ball sized rocks colliding together as the waves first placed them on the beach and then alternately reclaimed them for the sea. For how long have they been caught in that cycle? Years? Decades? Centuries? With very little effort I could invest them with human qualities. Did they prefer the beach or the water? Was the sound I heard actually their voices, perhaps rejoicing or lamenting their return to the sea?

Huanchaco turned out to be exactly what we wanted. Brian would like to move there. I suspect his meeting 18 year old Alejandra has something to do with that. We’re probably not going to move there, but present plans call for us to return in March. Huanchaco is a great place to do nothing.


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Feliz Año!!

Another New Year Eve in Chiclayo, and though I’ve become accustomed to the traditions associated with it they are still fascinating to me. The wearing of new yellow underwear; taking a shower in yellow flower petals; eating twelve grapes at exactly midnight – all are customs intended to insure good luck in the new year. Chiclayanos take these traditions very seriously – some I’ve talked with indicated they would feel ‘at risk’ during the coming year had they skipped any of them. I don’t share those beliefs but will admit that I wear new yellow underwear and eat twelve grapes at midnight. I figure it can’t hurt. But I don’t do the flower shower thing… it’s too much trouble to clean up afterwards.

My favorite part of the evening starts at about 11:45pm. That’s when the muñecos start appearing on the streets along with an early sporadic fusillade of fireworks. Over the next thirty minutes the sound of fireworks builds to a constant roar making conversation on the streets impossible. At midnight the muñecos are set ablaze and the streets quickly resemble infernos.

Something new for me this year was seeing these men launch a balloon. I’m told its common practice but this is the first time I’ve seen it. It’s really fascinating to watch. As I understand it the balloon, which can be purchased where fireworks are sold, is made of paper. The heat source is a cylinder of tightly rolled fabric saturated with wax.

I had expected to see it either burst into flames or plummet to the ground. It didn’t do either. It slowly kept climbing and drifting to the north, until after some ten minutes it was indistinguishable from the surrounding stars. All during our meal I wondered to myself how high that balloon had gotten; how far it traveled, and where it finally came down after the torch had burned out.

By 12:15 street festivities are mostly over. The muñecos are piles of smoldering ashes, fireworks have ceased and the streets are empty. People are inside eating their New Year dinner. The final part of the celebration for many Chiclayanos after the meal is to either go dancing somewhere until about 5:00am, or head for the beach at Pimentel to watch the sun rise. Brian and some of his friends went to Pimentel. He got in at 8:30 this morning. I don’t do 8:30 in the morning.