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4 October 2012 / leggypeggy

Camping at the home of ceviche

caballitos de totora

A wall of reed boats—caballitos de totora

Ceviche is a sort of pickled seafood dish popular in many parts of South America. It’s marinated in copious amounts of lime juice, which more or less, cooks whatever seafood is used.

The first time I ever tried ceviche was in Burma. Poor John was in the Australian Embassy there and I was a member of the International Cookery Group. A Columbian woman made ceviche for us when it was her turn to host a group luncheon. I loved it then and still have the recipe (I’ll share it when I get home).

But imagine my surprise yesterday when we camped at the Naylamp Hostel hostel in Huanchaco, Peru—the home of ceviche. Oral history has it that the first ceviche was made with lemons from Simbal (a nearby village), chilli from the Moche River valley and seaweed from the sea.

caballito de totora

You will get wet

As it turned out, we didn’t have ceviche in Haunchaco (fish instead), but we did see their other claims to fame—plenty of surfers, plenty of caballitos de totora and the Huanchaco Pier.

Surfers come from around the world for the annual longboard event. To be honest, the surf isn’t amazing (although maybe it is better in January when the competition is on), but surfers do get a long run in on what seem to be rather small but nicely rolling waves.

The caballitos de totora are traditional reed boats. They’re lined up on the shore, waiting to give tourists a ride that guarantees they will get wet. These boats have been used by fisherman for more than 3000 years. The way they ride the waves to shore has caused some to debate whether these fishermen were the original surfers.

Brown pelican

A brown pelican on Huanchaco Pier

The pier is popular with tourists, more fisherman and pelicans. It cost about 20 cents each to enter the boardwalk and it was well worth it.

We joined hundreds of others (many more than we expected on a Monday) and saw a fellow doing a brisk business renting fishing lines and bait. There were plenty of fishermen, lovers, families, trinket sellers and four or five pelicans waiting for a handout.

It was puzzling and a bit distressing to see a fellow onshore haul a pelican away by its neck. We didn’t see exactly what happened and how the guy came to have the bird. The locals weren’t happy about it, but the man strode away with the pelican half-heartedly struggling to escape. Surely a pelican is too tough an old bird to be dinner?

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