May 24, 2016 – June 12, 2016
After a tiring week of physical activities in Huaraz, we headed next to the chill coastal town of Huanchaco for work exchange. Many people love this small but bustling town so much that travellers who were originally meant to stay a couple of days in Huanchaco end up staying a week, a month, or even forever. The weather is warm and sunny most of the time but since it’s along the coast, it could get a little chilly too.
We volunteered, rather worked in exchange for accommodation, in La Gringa Hostel. The hostel owner is quite the character but nothing that we couldn’t keep up with. Work was 5 hours a day, six days a week. Normally I wouldn’t go for one day-off but we didn’t have much choice as she was the sole host who replied to me in workaway. Anyway, work hours are divided in 3 shifts: morning, mid, and evening. There are 4 volunteers that take turn with the shift. JC and I count as one but there were a few days when we had to work separately since we were short of one volunteer.
Morning shift (7am – 12nn) volunteer opens the hostel, cleans the first floor dorm room, the common area, and kitchen as well as mans the reception. Guests usually arrive early in the morning coming either from Huaraz or Lima. Mid-shift (12nn – 5pm) cleans the second floor dorm room, toilet, and, private room. After doing all those stuff, the volunteer then mans the reception slash bar. Evening shift (5pm – 10pm) volunteer cleans the rooftop, takes care of the orders from the bar, and closes the hostel. Julie (the gringa) comes in at 9 or 10 in the morning (depending on how new or how much she trusted the volunteer I think?) and most afternoons return to her place for lunch and siesta before coming back at 5pm-ish. Whenever there’s new volunteers or that time we were short of volunteers, she took over. I like that she trusts her volunteers. If you do well, you will definitely hear praises for it otherwise.
Huanchaco is a World Surfing Reserve and is home to caballitos de totora that local fishermen has been using for over 3,000 years! They also use these watercrafts made entirely out of reeds to surf back to shore and is believed to be one of the first forms of surfing. I don’t know about you but I find that really cool.
How do I love Huanchaco? Let me count the ways.
1. We are almost always gifted with a gorgeous sunset like this one.
2. Food we mostly cooked (and by we, I meant JC) meaning we were able to save money. But some days we get lucky and we score free food courtesy of la gringa. Cooking is cheaper than eating out and it’s really great that we have a local market nearby.
3. Burger Sundays and impromptu breakfasts and lunches. Everybody loves Sundays because meats are grilled, salads are made, tummies are satisfied. A lot of things might be said about the gringa but one thing I’m sure of is she’s one very generous woman. Even non-guests come to the hostel for the burgers hehe.
3. Guests-turned-friends. On the week of our arrival the hostel was packed with tons of guests. We met a mixture of people from different backgrounds who we became really close with even after leaving the place, some of them we’re still in contact with til today.
4. Biking around Huanchaco be it in the morning, afternoon, or late in the evening. When no one is renting the two hostel bikes, we were allowed to use them.
5. Argolini’s chocolate croissant. Huanchaco is such a small town that when news of a cheap but incredibly good croissant reached us, we wasted no time to find out where it was. They only start selling it at 4pm and it sells fast so best to get there early or on time (some people are known to hoard ’em too crazy!). It took all my will not to eat this everyday but by golly it’s the best 2 soles you will ever spend in Huanchaco!
6. Menuland. Perhaps Huanchaco’s biggest kept secret. You gotta love your fellow backpackers for sharing their best finds in any place. In Huanchaco, it’s Menuland. Just look at the ridiculously cheap prices! No wonder this is another favourite spot by budget backpackers (which is basically us).
I’m afraid in the short list I made, half of them was mostly about food lol. People go to Huanchaco to surf, which I never did because 1) freezing water 2) scrimping 3) I had an ear infection I’m still nursing at the time.
But if you ever find yourself in Huanchaco either by choice, volunteering opportunity, or by chance don’t miss to surf. Huanchaco is very popular for its year-round waves whether for amateurs or pros.