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  • Writer's pictureMartijn

Memory-traveling to Peru

Argentina has not been hit nearly as hard by Covid-19 as its less fortunate Latin American neighbors Brazil, Colombia and Peru. The latter is the region's country I know best: Nina spent 4 years there and Alex frequently traveled to Lima for work, so I sometimes joined in. We also attended our friend Flavia Maggi's wedding in Lima and combined it with a visit to Machu Picchu.

After two years in the capital, Nina lived in Lobitos, a small and poor fisherman's village in the North, known mostly for fantastic surfing thanks to its perfect goofy wave, that appeared after the "El Niño" phenomenon in 1998. The previous "Niño" in 1983 had left the village without food and communications for several weeks. The history of the place is interesting and somewhat sad: in 1900, the land was bought by the British because they had found oil. When they occupied it, they brought pine wood with them and built Victorian mansions, a church, a clubhouse, a swimming pool and South America's first cinema. In the 60's, the oil company was taken over by a US firm and later, the Peruvian government bought the land back to install a military base for the war against Ecuador.

Nina was renting one of the more than 100 year old Victorian mansions when I visited in September 2015

During her stay, she interviewed many local "ancianos" to create an infographic on the history of Lobitos for the community called "Memorias de Pescadores", hence my knowledge of the facts:)

Today, the swimming pool is full of seawater, the clubhouse collapsed and what is left of the Victorian mansions and unused military barracks is inhabited by the locals. The oil rigs are still there but are now home to sea lions. The whole has something of an abandoned town feeling to it, but the beach and waves are beautiful.

The ex-clubhouse, the "lobitos" marinos on their oil tower and the beach:

One of the highlights of the trip was fishing with a real fisherman who made ceviche on the boat with our catch

Near Lobitos was a village where you could swim with turtles. Not sure if you know this about me but I love turtles and have a collection of over 40 small decorative ones. I was very excited about bathing with my beloved creatures but when one of them got a little too close I was not comfortable at all. So much for live ones....

Nina was much braver and took a great underwater selfie with one of them.

Then, our friend's wedding and our Machu Picchu trip were in August 2017

And last year in August we spent the weekend in Arequipa after a series of business meetings for Alex in Lima during which I met with my compatriot Leonie who is founding the holistic Con Pazion school in Manchay, the nearby slum (described in a previous post).

Arequipa is a beautiful colonial city and was quite empty because there had been protests against the mining industry in the weeks before our visit, so most tourists had chosen to stay away. We didn't know and only found out once we were there because there were small groups of protestors on the central Plaza, delivering endless messages through loudspeakers. Of course we visited the unique Santa Catalina convent where I was surprised to find out that in the early days there, the nuns came from the wealthier parts of town and their families would pay to build a little house for them inside the convent "village" where they would live with their servants. That was not at all how I imagined monastic life! We stayed in a hotel on the Plaza whose receptionist had emigrated from Venezuela less than a year before and shared details about the situation there and her life in Arequipa. She had decided to leave when she became pregnant with twins. Finding food for a family of three (she already had a young son) had been a challenge but with two more mouths she knew she would not be able to cope. Although she was an engineer by training, she was very thankful for her hotel job.

Arequipa cathedral, surrounded by arcades

Protesters in front of the cathedral

Santa Catalina convent courtyard and alleys

And then there is Peruvian cuisine, pure fusion between Asian, the fish of the Pacific and delicious indigenous fruits and vegetables: hundreds of varieties of potatoes (after all, they originally came to Europe from there) and of course quinoa.

And to top it all: pisco sour!

I really look forward to going back to Peru, but am happy we have visited so much of this amazing country already because if we land there during our earthrounding, it will only be on the West way back, i.e not before 2022.

In the mean time: Viva Peru!

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