After several months of busing, hitching and walking through South America the prospect of buying a car and roadying up through central was Very attractive. Cars turned out to be a bit harder to come by in Panama than anticipated and we had pretty much given up and gone to Bocas when we heard through the F-book wireless that some Aussies had just driven down from Mex and had a mex plated car to sell. ’99 Ford Explorer 4WD. So back to David to check out this dream mobile. Perfect. A couple of days of lawyers and paperwork and the car’s ours – well once we get it out of Panama anyway. The Aussie boys bring it back over the border for us then head off south to Panama City. All looks to be good to go except….when we get to the Costa Rican side they turn us down flat. Car can’t come back into the country until September… Arghh. This throws a bit of a spanner in the works as we’re now stuck in a dodgy boarder town without being able to cross back into Panama or onwards to Costa and there’s good swell about to hit Pavones. Luckily things aren’t so secure on the costa side and we slide down a side road and on to Pavones.
We do this every time. A week or two on the coast, early to bed, wake, surf, eat, surf, surf, blah blah then decide to head to somewhere touristy for a few days change of scene. And every time we end up somewhat dissapointed. This time, Bocas del Toro on the Caribbean coast of Panama. Bocas at least has waves; short period, lumpy bumps but fun none-the-less. Especially as everyone parties hard & dawn sessions are empty. So some wave were had, rum was drunk, the same dodgy dealers were turned down time and time again (goldfish we called one ulta-persistant retard) and a sweet mast swing was rigged up on a sunken pirate boat (seriously – the guy is actually a Pirate who bumped off members of the Bocas ex-pat community to aquire property!!). But it all feels a bit stale – touristisified and shallow. Back to west – fresh, blue, pumping and empty. Amped.
After a pretty gross overnighter from Peru into Ecuador the slide exits South America and begins the Central leg. Panama City is a cross between Miami apartment tower and Rio slum and after the mandatory Panama Canal visit we’re pretty keen to get out. Plans to head up to Bocas del Toro in the Caribbean are scuttled last minute when we’re invited on a west coast roadie by DT and Cal. Good lads from Cali and the UK. After a brief unplanned detour through the slums of Casco Viajo where we’re told to 1. wind the windows up, 2. stop taking photos and 3. get the hell out, we find the Pan-American and head north.
First stop the jungle-lined beach breaks of Playa Venao. Spend a few cruisy days getting woken by howler monkeys, surfing small beachies (and a fun reef called Dinosaur) and talking incessantly about how good this place would be with swell. Onwards to Santa Catalina. Famous for a grinding right hander, its smallish and surprisingly crowded. Given my aversion to crowds I opt for an empty right hand reef that’s throwing a few little tubes but the boys battle the crowds and snag a few goodies. With water temps pushing 30 wax is literally melting off the board and surfing in a T-shirt is even a bit warm. With swell charts lighting up for both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts in the next week waves look to be on the way. The only question is which order we hit them in…
Last days in Lobitos, roadie fail, rig jump V2, police still staking out Casona, round 2, leaving friends, loose in mancora, Timmy late night dolphin surf, body hurting – not 21 anymore, glad to escape, overnight to Equador, time to leave South America So long, it has been great. Hello Central.
With a big swell finally due there was one point in North Peru that I still really wanted to surf. My success rate on roadies has been pretty good so far on this trip (see: Chicama and Crown Jewels) but laziness coupled with a few other mistakes and a good dose of Peruvian incompetence meant we didn’t have a car for The day and had to make do at Lobitos. Still had some pretty good waves (see last post) but felt a little ripped off. Kind’ve knew it was all over but we organised a car for the next day anyway and headed north with Matty, Tim and Elmo. Return to Lobitos several hours later. Fun day but swells dropped and no waves. Fail. However, in true surf-mag travel article style, I will put up a few pics that make the surf look great and everyone jealous at home. Ha.
And things in Lobitos just keep getting stranger… Sitting on the front deck of La Casona a couple of mornings ago enjoying some post-surf sunshine when we’re stormed by 20 police with dogs and 6 municipality officials wielding warrants and video-cameras. Figured they had the wrong place and the international drug bust was going on down the road but nope, it was us. La Casona was shut down immediately and until further notice!? Front door sealed up and military guards placed on 24 hour surveillance… This is all a little confusing as no one here speaks or reads much Spanish and the injunction is 2 pages of hand-written bureaucratic jargon…. So, they leave and after a few more minutes of eyeing our new guards, we try the windows which are still open and begin our new life as ‘squatters’.
Pretty sweet – window access, no room fees as we’re all ‘volunteers’ now. Well, the boys all volunteer for surf duty as the new swell filled in. While we didn’t do quite as well as the boys down south at Chicama or up north at Pavones; we do manage to find a few goodies to ourselves at a fickle little lefthander around the corner. Yeeow.
Oil rigs – we’ve got heaps. 530 or something ridiculous. And in typical Peruvian style once the oil’s dried up decommissioning involves removing lights, safety equipment and leaving them to rust in peace. Growing up in NZ on an upbringing of ‘if its high, bomb it‘, getting a fishing boat to run us a couple of K out for some sunset dives seemed like a great idea. Was a little higher than it looked from shore…. We should have guessed when the Argies turned up in full wetsuits for the jump. Kiwi Matt’s flying fox into staple does not end well for him but is hilarious for all others concerned. Been a good few days in Lobitos – friends arriving, friends leaving, new friends made, fisherman festival in town and the swells finally on the up! Thanks all – esp. Kel & Rach for all the Central America surf/driving tips. Legends.
Classic compilation vid pulled together by JP. Nice work.
Back home. Well second home anyway – nothings going to replace Pichilemu and Atlantis for a while… But Lobitos has become a close second. Not quite sure why, its isolated, the surf is consistent and reasonable but crowded. La Casona must have something to do with it – the people, the view! Left the rest of the boys still partying in Huanchaco and headed north solo. The sand on Lobitos has changed a bit from last time; not the same hollow, sand-hugging tubes but still long, fun walls. Some swell finally snuck through those highs and turned things on a bit. Mornings are a bit chaotic but, like last time, lunchtime/siesta sessions are empty. 3-5 of us out for 3 hours yesterday – exhausted but just couldn’t leave with empty waves like those coming through. Should get heading north into Central America but as the very well surf-travelled Mr Allan Weisbecker once wrote “you should never leave good surf”. In which case you could get stuck here for a very long time…
First up, PQs vid from last Lobitos trip. Then, sick of front-deck sunset shots, i’ve tried to find a few new angles. Enjoy.
Couldn’t stand Talara last time around but enjoying it more this time – sit back with 4 sol Ceviche and a beer, watch the world go by & the fruit market is off the hook.
Huanchaco, home of caballitos de totora (reed riders) for over 3000 years and now home of Roof dog. Nothing escapes a verbal dressing down from Roof dog, particularly men in hats and small children. So, we finally went to Huanchaco. Not that we’d been particularly avoiding it but I just hadn’t seen the point (excuse the pun) when there are much better waves around. It turns out that its actually a cool little town – fun, cheap and full of tourists and learner surfers. While learners can be a bit annoying at times (English accent: So yea, today like, I got three really good waves and there was even a dolphin riding in one of them) they’re a lot better than Argentinian almost-pros (well in their own mind anyway). Spend a fun couple of days hanging out with new people, eating good food and logging the mushy left. Greg decides to take up Spanish lessons & I decide to get the hell out of there and find some waves again.
Reed riders Roof dog – badass
Overnight to Lobitos. No power, no running water, hot & dusty. Lunchtime solo session at the point. Simmons is flying. Lobitos makes me smile.
With sweet F-A swell floating around the East Pacific courtesy of one jerk of an anti-cyclone we hold off on heading back north and go south to Punta Hermosa instead. No idea where to stay so we just get the taxi to take us to the best lookout point and hope something but comes up. There’s a restaurant there with a classic Italian guy named Mario. He loves Kiwis and hooks us up with a 3 story apartment with rooftop balcony looking out over Senoritas, Caballeros and the mighty Pico Alto. Result.
Punta Hermosa is a string of beaches and headlands and is kind’ve the getaway spot for the Lima rich. Read ugly clifftop terrace apartments lining the coastline and stone faced rent-a-cops manning road checkpoints every couple hundred metres. Pretty gross but town itself (where the plebs live) is cool, people friendly, food is good and cheap and each of those headlands has a left and right off the end – kind’ve Peruvian Taranaki. Picks up all swell so is a great option when things are small. Even get to surf a few rights for the first time in months!