Posted by: Jessie Kwak | November 23, 2009

What happens when the tourists leave Huanchaco?

What a change a Cloudy Monday is from Sunny Sunday in Huanchaco.

Sunny Sunday:

Bodies colorful in bathing suits glut the beach and spill into the cold waves with squeals and shrieks. Children in sand-filled underwear build castles at the water’s edge to be lapped by the waves. Young couples lay close together on blankets, half-naked and oblivious of the rest of the world.

Massive tour buses have trucked in people by the hundreds to buy trinkets and splash in the ocean, eat ceviche and lie in the sun. All of Huanchaco is out to watch them, sell to them, wait on them. Taxis prowl the streets, and ice cream vendors are doing rapid business every few feet. Bars and restaurants Rob and I have eaten at alone for weeks now don’t have a single free table.

Impromptu soccer games spring up everywhere along the beach, bare-chested young people diving for the ball in sprays of sand, flinging themselves into the waves to fetch uncontrolled kicks. Keepers make grand saves that bury themselves in the sand.

Cloudy Monday:

Today there are only a few surfers practicing in the shallows, and a pair of elderly European tourists walking on the edge of the waves, hiking shoes in hand. A few little boys with bodyboards play by the pier, oblivious to the cold.

The empty beach is lain with fishing nets as the fishermen check them for holes, gather them carefully into bundles. A man in tattered surf shorts mends his net with a pointed wooden shuttle wrapped with translucent green filament.

Today the fishermen are unmolested by tourist cameras and halting questions in broken Spanish. Yesterday they made their money taking tourists out on their caballitos de totoro, keeping to the shallows but still illiciting screams of delight as the unstable little boats rocked with the waves. Today it’s back to fishing. They’ve lost their glamor.

A lone Lamborgini ice cream vendor sits on the curb, not even bothering to solicit the few people who wander by, and the man selling sticky-sweet neon orange turrones motions at them half-heartedly as we walk past. A few of the feather earring and hemp necklace vendors have come out, but there’s no one here to buy their wares.

Huanchaco is quiet once again.

Huanchaco beach sunset

Sunset at the beach.



  1. I really like this piece–the dramatic contrasts, and how both sides inform the place, contribute to the whole–neither the total touristy side or the semi-deserted side is complete without the other. I grew up near San Francisco, and always liked going to the touristy places (Fisherman’s Wharf) in the misty dead of winter. Thanks for this!

    • Thanks Lauren–I feel the same way about going to Pike Place Market in winter, or just being any touristy location on the “off days.” It’s an eerie feeling!

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