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Following our non-scheduled beach stop in Mancora, we decided to keep going with the surfer vibes and headed over to the birthplace of surfing in South America. Huanchaco and the surrounding area home to the “Caballitos de Totora” o little reed horses, a watercraft used by Peruvian fishermen for more than three millennia to ride waves back to shore after a full day of fishing and possibly the first form of wave surfing. It is still possible to see the little boats stacked upwards around town and near the pier today.

Huanchaco is a 15KM drive north from Trujillo, Peru’s third most populous city, known for its proximity to Pre-Inca ruins Chan-Chan and Huacas de Moche. The first being the capital of the Chimú Culture and the largest adobe citadel in the world and the later being a pair of shrines built by the Moche culture for both administrative and ceremonial purposes.  

Upon our arrival, we stayed at one of the most popular hostels but after a couple of days, we moved to not only the newest but possibly one of the best hostels in this little surfer town. We loved it so much we ended up staying more than ten days.

Like most beach towns, our lives slowed down quite a bit while we were in Huanchaco. We did not do as many activities as we normally do, but it felt great just to relax and connect with not only other backpackers but expats and long term travelers. Being woken up by the sound of the waves from our oceanfront room was a treat, every day.

On one of our first days in Huanchaco, we hopped in a cab and headed to the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Trujillo where we attended one of the “must do” things in the city, the Paso Fino horse show. A dance and training display of these beautiful animals with a Peruvian twist. We had an (almost) private show as there was no one else in attendance until about halfway through the show. Towards the end, Danielle was asked to dance as part of the show. In the end, we felt like we got our money’s worth and left quite happy.

For our visit to Chan-Chan and the Shrines, we hired a $50s tour straight out of Huanchaco with a Trujillo based company.

Around 9:30 we got picked up and driven to the Moon and Sun shrines south of Trujillo. These two massive structures at the bottom of the Cerro Blanco were the center of the Moche culture. The Sun Shrine was used as an administrative and political center that was, like most of the Inca ruins, sacked by the Spaniards during the 17th Century and it’s not open for visit. The Moon shrine was used as a ceremonial and religious center and you can walk through it. Having a guide was worth it to get to know the culture and how they build layers upon layers of adobe bricks every 100 years. Our tour also included time to visit a museum located just a very short drive from the Shrines.

After the shrines, we headed back to downtown Trujillo for lunch. We were not given many options as we only had 35 minutes, and our guide was really adamant about making sure we weren’t late one second. On the way out towards Chan-Chan, we stopped at the Rainbow Shrine, located within the city limits but on the way to our final destination.

Chan-Chan sits between Trujillo and Huanchaco. From the PanAmerican Highway, the site does not look very big but as the van drove off the road, the adobe walls start to become distinct a couple of kilometers before reaching the main building, and the impressive size of this citadel becomes more apparent.

For everyone else, the last stop before returning to Trujillo was Huanchaco. For us, it was our cue to get off and get back to our little beach town, a family style dinner with everyone we met awaited.

(Some of the photos were taken, with my camera, by the amazing Paulika Pietrzak, who has a blog of her own with amazing photos and good stories about her travels.)

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