Trujillo is the 3rd largest city in Peru and is located on the coast about 300 miles north of Lima or 100 miles south of Chiclayo, from which it is a tolerable four hours away by bus. The city has malls, cines, museums, restaurants for every budget, and several major archeological sites. It’s biggest draw for us is not the city, but its neighbor to the west, Huanchaco. Many Peruvians prefer Mancora to the north as a favorite beach town but we think Huanchaco has it beat. That is where we were for a five-day Valentine Day vacation.
The hotel had, but doesn’t have a restaurant now so we went in search of one for lunch. Huanchaco is in reality a one-street town so if you walk far enough you’ll see everything the town has to offer. We saw what looked like a fine restaurant with uniformed staff and an open second story dining room overlooking the sea. The restaurant’s name is Big Ben. It’s not football season, so we’re thinking that maybe we’ll get a chance to meet Big Ben Roethlisberger; the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback. Nope. Turns out they named the restaurant after that famous tick-tock in London. We both had fish, and the quality and quantity were excellent, though I will say that it is one of the more expensive restaurants we’ve eaten at outside of Lima. But all the ladies were given a free Valentine’s Day cupcake so that counts for something.
One afternoon we visited the archaeological site of Chan Chan. We had been there six years ago but it was worth seeing again. We hired a young female guide who spoke Spanish and English and who was very knowledgeable not only about Chan Chan but about many sites in Peru. One thing I found curious was that she continually commented on the wealth of Chan Chan belonging only to the king and a few elite, while the workers who built and produced everything had nothing. Further discussion revealed that her beliefs were aligned with feminism and socialism, which she acknowledged. We agreed to stay on the subject of Chan Chan
During the heat of the day we searched out malls and cines in Trujillo for air conditioning, returning to Huanchaco to walk the beach in the late afternoon and evenings. The beach area is about as bohemian as I have seen in Peru. There you will find the 1960 Volkswagen Kombis parked with a make-shift shelters attached and young people in bib overalls selling trinkets and pot. Guys and gals with the Jamaican look will be selling trinkets, braiding hair, painting nails or singing while playing a guitar or an exotic instrument, all hoping someone will put a few coins in a hat.
The beach pier is usually crowded unless the red flags are flying, which means the waves are too big to be on the pier or beach, though everyone ignores the flags on the beach, preferring to stand on the shore and let the crashing waves pummel them about. But whether open or not the pier area is where the action is at, especially at night.
If you’re not into action or the Jamaican scene or exotic music or shoulder to shoulder crowds on the beach, a good alternative is to observe the sunset with a glass of Cusquena beer from the sixth floor of the Mochican Palace Hotel. It worked for us.