Sunday, March 14, 2010

At the beach

Well, as you can see, I took the last couple days off, and truth be told the reason is that I have been pretty lazy. So in keeping with that theme I am going to post up some pictures from my trip to the beach. Incidentally, the day that I went to the beach was also my birthday, but I didn't realize it until about 5pm.

So here we go....

I took the early bus out of lima with a group of kids I met at school at 7:30 am and we arrived at a beach about 10 miles south of the city called Punta Hermosa by 10. The bus ride cost 4 soles (a little over a  dollar!), but it was packed with people; the 7 of us who went were lucky to get a seat as there were about 15 people who ended up standing for the entire 2 hour ride. The kids I went with all attend the university where I am at, one of them lives in the same boarding house I do. There were 3 bolivians and 4 americans, the other 3 being from the University of Wisconsin. Normally I try to shy away from activities where there are bunch of other people whose first language is english, but I was surprised to find that everyone was pretty open to speaking spanish for the duration of the trip. There are a lot of good reasons that it is preferable to not speak english in these situations and I think the greatest of these is that you dont learn anything if you only communicate in ways that you are already comfortable, another is that groups of english speakers tend to draw unwanted attention from all the wrong people. In any case, I was glad that, in contrast to some of my experiences in spain, the kids who were here that spoke english seem to be here to speak the language and take this an opportunity to learn and not just as a vacation.

We got to the beach around 10 and took a couple of mototaxis from the bus stop to the beach front- these are 125cc motorcycles that have been converted into 4 seater taxis. The funny thing is that the 5 minute ride to the beach cost as much as the bus ride out (4 soles for 4 passengers, so a little less), but it was a fun ride.

Punta Hermosa has two sections of beach, one is located in front of a bank of restaurants and cafes and the other is located in front of a group of private homes and condos, although both are open to the public. We went to the private side and picked out a spot under an umbrella. I would estimate that there were about 15 people on 1000 yards of private beach at the time we arrived, I was really glad there wasn't a huge crowd.

Here is the view of the beach a couple hours after we arrived:

The first section visible in the photo is the public portion where most of the people sat and the private section starts about half way down by the big white building you see there. This is as crowded as it got all day long...

The water looks pretty subdued in this picture, but I was surprised by how strong it was even at the lower tide in the morning hours. It got rougher and rougher as the day went on and by 4pm you didn't see anyone who wasn't attached to a surf board venture more than 30 or 40 yards from the shore. We had been warned that the waves and especially the undercurrent were very strong here and there was a little mishap after our first 5 minutes in the water. The bolivian guy who lives in my house didn't appear to be very familiar with how to go through the waves and he got taken under and tossed around in one when we were all standing together about 30 yards off shore. I jumped to break the wave and I felt him underneath me and was worried that I had kicked him in the face. He came up bleeding, he had been pulled straight to the bottom of about 5 feet of water and got the whole right side of his face slammed into the ground and scraped across the sand. He was fine, but I think more embarrassed than anything. We took him up to the pharmacy, got him a bandage and he got right back at it. Although he does look pretty rough today, sort of like he got punched by a really giant fist. I can only imagine how much worse that would have been had we been out in the water in the late afternoon, but I think he figured out what went wrong.

Here is a shot of the waves when they were a little bigger:

Still pretty calm at this point, they tripled in size by the time we left for the evening. the undecurrent was really strong too, you could feel it pull at your feet even right on the shore, I think this is because the level of the sea floor drops really quickly, you were in up to your head at just about 40 yards off of the shoreline.

At about 2 we went up and ate some lunch. Even here outside of the city everyone is pretty agressive and compettitive when it comes to finding customers. As we came up the boardwalk street we had waiters from two restaurants shouting out the specials to us. We chose a restaurant that was offering a Ceviche appetizer, which is a specialty here in Lima that consists of raw fish (not sure which kinds), spices, onion, lemon and lime juice, carrots and lettuce, served with a spicy sauce called aji; along with a choice of main course of chicken and rice; or a dish I had been wanting to try called Chicharron. Pitchers of lemonade, ceviche, main dish and some cookies for dessert were 12 soles per person, or about $3.50.

I had been wanting to try the Chicharron, which can be made many different ways with different types of meat, and in fact, we were supposed to go to a cafe in the city Saturday morning to try a pulled pork Chicharron sandwich, but that got postponed until next week. This dish was made with the same fish used in the ceviche, but dipped in a light batter, fried, and then served with lemon juice, white rice, salad, and a garnish of really large kernelled corn that is common here. The food was great and I am still amazed by how affordably one can eat and get around in this country.

Here is our group looking unabashedly touristy and shooting some pictures after we ate. In the background you can see some of the houses and shops that line the beach. A lot of the houses had signs out to rent rooms to visitors. We saw some that were as cheap as 25 soles a night per person and others (written in english) that were more along the lines of $200 for a weekend. It is pretty common knowledge that there are two sets of prices for everything here: the english speaking tourist price and the I know what I am doing, don't rip me off price, which extends to everything from buses, taxis, restaurants, housing, and even street side vendors. It pays to know how much you should pay for something.

This is one of the private condos that was on the beach. I liked the building so I took a photo. I was talking to a peruvian guy on the beach a little later and he said that houses here went from 100,000 to 250, 000 USD on the low end of things. I'm not sure if that sounds cheap or expensive in comparison to what a house in the city in Lima would cost, but I dont think 100lk would get you too far in Chicago...

This photo I took just before I fell asleep on the beach after lunch. Looks nice, huh?

I slept a couple of hours on the beach and was awakened about 2 oclock to my bolivian housemate asking me if today was my birthday. I said: "What day is it?". He said: "The twelfth" and I told him that it was indeed my birthday. Some people may be surprised by this but I have almost forgotten my birthday on a couple different occasions. I usually think about it a week or so before and then say, "yeah Ill get to that later" and then just lose track of what day it is. In any case, a couple of kids snuck up to a restaurant a bought 3 pieces of chocolate cake which we all split. It was very nice of them. We didnt have any plates or untensils and I was amazed to find that one of the girls with us happened to have a candle with her, so we ate with our hands and got a little sand in our cake but it was delicious, nonetheless.

After getting back from the beach I began to realize that I had a pretty great sunburn going. If you look carefully in the picture you will notice the lines on my arms where I applied sun tan lotion and the very red portion of my chest where I did not. the light here is not very good and it is redder than it looks here, but i havent lost any skin yet, so I'm still hoping there's a chance.

All in all it was a pretty excellent day. There is very little room to complain when you can go to the beach, sleep in the sand, swim in the water, eat a really nice lunch and make it back home again with just 10 dollars in your pocket. I am still feeling pretty lazy, so I am gonna leave this here with a couple pictures of the beach and town, but I will be back tomorrow with more. Thank you guys for reading along with this and for all your comments. I am sure that some of my insights will get a little repetitive, so feel free to ask if there is anything you would like to hear about or see.

Hasta la proxima...


  1. Wow that's pretty good sunburn. Awesome job and Happy Birthday!!

  2. owie! owie! owie! Ben! that's going to hurt! nice bloging job!

  3. It happens exactly the same to me with my birthday... and with yours. I had it in my mind for about three days a week before it, and, then, time passed by and Benjo's one year older. Well, life goes on.

    I agree that the lazy, simple beach days have something stupidly charming. Estás hecho un cangrejo, tío.

  4. Makes me want to head to the nearest warm beach......

  5. Sounds like my kind of birthday (minus the sunburn)! So far I don't find anything repetitive about your blogs; I think the transportation nuances are interesting. Any 'boring' thing you do in Peru is fun to read while at work in the States!

  6. wow....didn't your mother teach you to put on sunblock? what a beautiful beach! I love the blog....keep it up....far from boring or dull

    Love your mommy