Buried in a grey English winter, Ben Jones leapt at the opportunity to venture to a warmer country he knew little about… Forgoing Peru’s plethora of tourist attractions such as the Inca trail and Amazon jungle my friend and I headed almost immediately to the beach, drawn towards the coast by the promise of what are regarded as “some of the longest waves in the world”.
Based in Lima for the first few days of our stay we were struck by the contrasts of this fast paced, occasionally hostile capital city, and won over by the boundless hospitality of our hosts and their friends; not to mention the superior culinary delights of Lima’s finest restaurants. The lush green suburbs we frequented during our stay were hemmed in first by concrete blocks of tenement houses then by dusty ramshackle slums that line the coastal road leading south out of the city. Eventually these makeshift abodes gave way to an arid and desolate landscape that was only intermittently interrupted by dwindling patches of green and small towns.
One such town is Cerro Azul. Perched on the coast, Cerro has a stark scenic appeal. The ‘blue hill’ after which the town is named curves steeply into the sea and provides the headland for a long sweeping sand beach that gradually curves north towards Lima. Laidback and with its own distinct sense of charm, not to mention its ideal geography, Cerro is the epitomy of a surfers playground. Waves peel from the point along the bay with what can only be described as mechanical precision, their only hindrance being a prominent and ominous pier some five hundred meters down the beach. The consistent head-height walls of azure green offer rides so long that paddling back out to the point is not an option; it is faster to get out and walk.
After nearly a week surfing the breaks south of Lima the dwindling swell forced our departure north toward the Peruvian surfing mecca that is Mancora. An eighteen- hour bus ride though sparse yet captivating scenery and we were at our destination: Los Organos. Los Organos lies just south of Mancora and is a more sedate and picturesque option than the touristy and often overcrowded Mancora. It boasts an assortment of beachfront accommodation from bungalows to more opulent abodes. The town square, which is set away from the beach, houses most of the local amenities such as the Cruz De Sol bus depot and various restaurants and stores. Organos is small and quiet but has a friendly buzz to it and is unthreatening. It’s also a good place to catch a moto (Peruvian equivalent of a tuktuk) or combini (shared taxi) to Mancora if you want something more upbeat.
The beach itself is a long stretch of sand with the occasional reef that juts out. It is an ideal set up for learners as it offers consistent yet relatively friendly waves that break on a sand bottom. More experienced surfers are a short walk from a hollow consistent left reef break. Despite my poor (or should I say practically non-existent) Spanish the majority of people on the beach proved themselves to be more than hospitable once the initial Hola or que tal? had been offered.
A trip to the north wouldn’t be complete without seeing Cabo Blanco. So with time running out we found ourselves winding down an apparently abandoned dirt track bribing security guards in search of the world-class break. Cabo Blanco was initially a fishing village famous among big-game fishermen but since Peruvian surfer Sergio Barreda discovered the wave in 1979 has become infamous for its hollow powerful waves. Cabo is a sight that has to been seen to be fully appreciated. The massive north swell (the largest in 15 years) pounded the reef and pier with waves that had such ferocity that watching was the only option.
The best place to pass time in Cabo is the restaurant down towards Panic Point. You know you have the right one when you see photographs of Ernest Hemingway and a 700 pound marlin on the wall. Buy the owner, Pablo, a beer and he will tell you of the day he and Hemingway landed the beast of a fish regardless of whether you speak Spanish or not. The restaurant’s nostalgic atmosphere and the great view of the Cabo and panic point make it a great place to kick back and enjoy some of the best ceviche you will ever taste. Our time there was all too short. With great fresh food, friendly locals, awesome weather and stunning waves, what surfer could ask for more?