For Easter weekend (aka “Semana Santa”), we headed south to get away from the noise, traffic, and crowds of Lima for a few days. As we were preparing for our trip, I became worried that all of Lima, too, would be heading south for the holiday along with us. The day before we were set to leave, I saw a woman on the bus reading El Comercio, one of Lima’s major newspapers. The headline on the front page read, “Dos Milliones de Viajes Para Semana Santa.” I envisioned all two million of those travelers crowding the streets of Punta Hermosa, creating a mini-Lima, and ruining our vacation.
With our crew of seven travelers, we lugged our backpacks and surfboards onto an unusually empty bus, and shot down Avenida Benavides until we reached La Universidad de Ricardo Palma, or “La Richie”. From there, we were bombarded by taxi drivers from all directions, shouting out prices and various destinations they were willing to take us. After a few minutes of haggling, we commandeered two cabs, loaded up our luggage, and were heading south on the Panamericana Sur towards Peru’s southern beach towns.
After about 15 minutes of driving, the scenery along the Panamericana changed drastically. The fairly modern infrastructure of Lima’s main districts gave way to barren dirt roads, trash fires, and windowless shanties clinging precariously to the desert cliffs. It looked like a bomb had gone off, and nonone had bothered to rebuild. I asked our taxi driver in Spanish what they name of this area was. “Esto es Lima,” he replied. I couldn’t believe that in the capital city of Peru, people lived under such extreme conditions.
Traffic on the Panamerica was pretty minimal, and we arrived in Punta Hermosa around 1pm. The streets of this small beach town were unpaved, and there was no traffic, no street signs, and very few people. I immediately fell in love with the place. We checked into the Punt Hermosa Surf Hostel, our home for the next four days, and headed down to the beach for some lunch. Along Playa Negra, the main beach in Punta Hermosa, there are some nice restaurants where you can enjoy fresh ceviche, arroz con mariscos, and a cold Cusqueña while watching the surfers catch some waves. After lunch, we were all itching to get in the water, so we threw on our wetsuits and had a nice afternoon session.
Although the waves weren’t that great during our stay, we were told that they can reach double to triple overhead on large swells. One of the owners of Punta Hermosa Surf Hostel, Nicolas, told us that when it gets big, the waves break along La Isla, which is a small rock formation that juts out from Playa Negra into the Pacific. Nicolas told us that the surf can get pretty dangerous in Punta Hermosa, and just last year, two of his friends had died while surfing here. Luckily for us, the waves remained at a manageable size.
One morning, we made the hike over to La Isla to check things out. The island is basically overrun with seabirds of all varieties, and is covered in bird shit. Still, it offered some pretty nice views of Punta Hermosa from the sea, and we had some fun checking out the little caves and crevices found on the island. The small island also offered a nice vantage point to scope out some waves at different spots along the coast. We saw a few outside reef breaks that looked pretty promising – definitely something to check out during the next visit.
In the evenings, we drank beers on the roof top terrace of our hostel, listened to some incredibly funny stories, and tried to practice our Spanish with other guests of the hostel. We even had a barbecue one night where we grilled fish, baked potatoes, and fried some camote (sweet potatoe). Overall, the trip was really fun, even if the waves were a bit dumpy. We had a relaxing four days away from the car horns of Lima with some great people – a perfect way to spend Semana Santa!