This morning started off non-descript – which left me quite happy. The only problem I had was a lack of hot water for my shower, which took half an hour to fix. Once cleaned up I skipped the free breakfast at my hostal and walked a few minutes through a drizzle to Panaderia-Pasteleria Santa Micaela, a bakery run by nuns.
I figured that I couldn’t lose with nuns, and wow, who knew that nuns could make such good pastries and coffee? I ordered a black coffee (2 soles), two (but got three) caramandukas (1 sole), and an oreja (2 soles).
There were absolutely no complaints from my stomach, and seriously, that coffee was outstanding.
At 11:00 I headed to the airport for a trip to Trujillo on dreaded StarPeru. Amazingly, the flight only left ten minutes late, and fifty minutes later we were touching down in Trujillo, on the north-central coast of Peru (population about 550,000). Considering what a short distance Trujillo is from Lima, which seems always to be overcast or drizzly, it was surprising to see how arid and brown Trujillo’s landscape is. There are three mountains that one immediately sees upon leaving the airport, and they sit in the brown, dusty distance like stacks of kindling spaced evenly and purposely apart.
From the airport I took a taxi to a wonderful little hostal only about ten minutes away. Rather than stay in Trujillo my first night I decided to hang out in Huanchaco, which is known for its laid-back beach scene, complete with surfing, the nearby Chan Chan ruins, and reed fishing boats (caballitos de tótora) that have been around for three thousand years and are, some say, the original surfing vessel.
This place feels like a world away from the other places I’ve been in Peru and is incredibly charming and relaxing.
After arranging a half-day’s excursions for Saturday, I walked into town and climbed the hilly roads to the Santuario de la Virgen del Socorro, Peru’s second oldest church, dating to 1540.
Its location, with sweeping views of Huancacho and its curving coastline, was probably the most outwardly impressive thing to me about the church.
This was rivaled, however, by the several couples making out behind the stone wall in front of the church.
I’m not religious, but even to me it seemed in poor form to be getting it on within view of the entrance to Peru’s second-oldest church.
I met an Argentine transplant who helped me find the church, and on my way back to town I spent at least fifteen minutes pretending to have a conversation with a friendly local man who was apparently quite opinionated about many things. I really wish I knew Spanish, as the time I spend pretending to communicate with people would be more useful to all parties.
From there it was time to find dinner, and I knew already where I was going: Restaurant Don Pepe.
Yes, Don Pepe is king. At least he is king of the cangrejo reventado (“busted crab”), a dish so messy and difficult to eat that my table ended up looking like the scene of a massacre. I am not joking about that, even if my simile fell woefully short of convincing.
Cangrejo reventado is fresh crab cooked with eggs, seaweed, and ají (chili pepper), and came with steamed yucca and salted white rice. I was given a small rounded club and told to batter the crabs directly on the table until their shells broke open and I could suck down their juicy goodness. This is where my massacre analogy comes in. Every whack I gave my three crabs sent seaweed, cooked egg, and crab guts splattering all over myself, the table, my beer bottle, my beer glass, the wall, the street, the overhead light bulbs, the two bathroom doors twenty feet behind me, the rooftop next door, and one or two of those caballitos de tótoras in the sea directly in front of me. It was impossible to drink my beer because my hand was so slick with my meal that I couldn’t hold onto the glass. I apologized to a table of German women on my way out, and they told me not to worry about it. I think they were just afraid of my week-long beard growth, otherwise I'm sure they would have yelled at me.
I loved Restaurant Don Pepe. It was partly the food, partly the service, partly the view, and partly the fact that my cangrejo reventado and Pilsen Trujillo beer cost me a total of 20 soles ($6.92). Compare that with the $20 meals I was eating in Aguas Calientes, and you can see why I was thrilled.
As if that wasn’t enough – actually, there wasn’t a lot of food in that meal – I ended up getting an ice cream on my way back. Why? I’m not sure. I don’t even like ice cream all that much.
I forget the name of the second flavor I ordered along with chocolate, but it tasted like egg nog and had giant raisins that might have been steeped in rum. Rum raisin? Ron con pasas? Anyway, it was only 2 soles.
Tomorrow I cram in a lot of local traveling and will hopefully get the chance to have some ceviche and end my day in a café once frequented by the famous author and would-be-politician Mario Vargas Llosa, who no longer lives in Peru but in Spain. From what I heard, not only did he leave Peru but upon selling his house here he made the buyer promise to burn it down and build on top of the ashes.