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Rocky Buildings To Rocky Waves In Peru

Arriving fresh as a daisy in Lima, we found the streets in Miraflores, Lima's touristy area, cordoned off. With no taxis able to drop us close to our final destination, we lugged our bags to our hostel. Feeling the buzz in Lima, we had a thirst, and it was time for a beer. Little did I know that this beer was the start of an all and mighty 1-week bender in Lima. Think Fear and Loathing!

Bronnie had signed up for one week worth of Español lessons while staying at a house full of other students. This situation left Tas and me on our adventures. During this time, Tas was able to buy a surfboard for himself, which was the main reason he had travelled back to Lima, and Bronnie was able to buy the same model just scaled down a bit. Tas managed to escape after a few nights. Then Triff turned up, and the bender continued. I was feeling the weight of very little sleep, plenty of intoxication and numb body parts. It was time to have a quiet one and watch a movie at the cinemas. This strategy didn't go to plan when Bronnie turned up and said. "I have finished my week of Español, so let's go out and celebrate!" I looked at Triff and said, "oh-oh!"

Sunsetting over Punta Hermosa, south of Lima in Peru
A sunset over Punta Hermosa, south of Lima in Peru

Lima is a fun place to spend time bending but quite a trap. Lucky, the door opened, and we found ourselves in Punta Hermosa, just south of Lima. This location is where we caught up with Seb. We finally surfed a right-hander called Punta Rocas, apart from the rubbery smell in the water and the weird polluted froth. This playtime was a fun wave with a good take off.

Wanting to move on from the contaminated water, we moved on to Cerro Azul, hoping for an epic left-handed point break. Unfortunately, takeoff was just out of reach from the swell.

Off to Huacachina, we all headed, Seb, Triff, Bronnie and I. Triff had been eyeing this off for a while, and it looked like a tremendous relaxed party town surrounding an oasis. We were right, thinking it was a party town but full of trash. The oasis appeared to be an effluent pond or a mozzie breading ground that we were all too scared to go near for fear of catching cholera.

We said goodbye to Seb, as his holiday time was limited, and he was keen to go back up North to the Trujillo area for waves. The next town we stopped at with Triff was supposed to be a quiet barreling beach break, which turned out to be a dumping shore break. We said goodbye to Triff here as he was battling with stomach bugs.

From Chala to Arequipa was one of the most heart-wrenching roads we had experienced on this trip. When looking out the bus window, the road's edge would disappear down high cliffs to the rocks and ocean below. There were many crosses on many corners, which didn't help us to think good thoughts.

The city of Cusco in Peru
The city of Cusco in Peru

Finally arriving in Arequipa, we found an excellent hostel to leave our surf boards while we ventured to Cusco. After spending a bit of time travelling, we kicked back in Arequipa and caught our breath. On the way to dinner one night, we heard a familiar voice ring our names out. Janaka, who we had met in Chicama with his fiancé Emma, whom we hadn't met yet. What a pleasant surprise. That night we caught up for drinks and found a nightclub with good music and lots of dancing.

With the excitement of seeing Machu Picchu, we were quickly on a bus to Cusco with Janaka and Emma. Janaka and Emma booked for the Inca Trail, so they stayed in Cusco longer than us to acclimatise. We had planned to hit and run. We booked our tickets for Machu Picchu, the dawn patrol spot at Huayna Picchu and our return train tickets to the Machu Picchu town Olataymba. Feeling very excited, we still had a day to kill in Cusco. A relaxing town to kick back in, quite beautiful with its old buildings and tiled terracotta roofs.

Ollie and Bronnie with a view of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu in Peru
Ollie and Bronnie with a view of Machu Picchu from Huayna Picchu in Peru

Wow! We had made it to Machu Picchu and had beelined straight for Huayna Picchu, giving us a fresh morning and people free view. This adventure was the beginning of five solid hours of walking, viewing and taking in as much as we possibly could. We strived to conquer just about every path we found, jumping on the tail of a tour to hear a bit of information before discovering the next beauty around the corner. It was a great decision catching the early bird as we escaped the crowd and the heat of the day. We were able to watch the mist rise and clear throughout the morning. The weather really couldn't have been better. A must-see for anyone planning a trip to Peru!

We arrived at our last town in Peru called Ilo. This town is one of our favourite off the beat, Peruvian cities on the coast. No gringos, no annoyances and a friendly coastal atmosphere. On the other hand, the waves are incredibly gnarly with lots of rocks and typically suited to pro surfers.

Bronnie and I hired a taxi for the day and went wave hunting. The swell was quite big this day. I saw a solitary wave off in the distance across the desert with the feeling of failure to find anything that looked reasonable. "There!" I yelled. We saw a wave form perfectly and in slow motion off in the distance across the desert, so we navigated to it in the car.

It looked like a wave breaking in the same spot, unsure of the name of this wave. I committed to the surf, walked down to the rocky water edge and looked out in awe at these massive waves. Deciding that it looked safe enough, I jumped in. You know I'm alive because I'm writing this, but I must say holy shit, I was in for it. I soon realised that I couldn't paddle back into shore, where I had just jumped in without risking severe bodily injuries on the rocks. Yes, I already had that thought upon entering the water.

Ollie inspecting the surf at El Olon
Ollie inspecting the surf before paddling out at El Olon

I paddled and paddled until I was in what I thought was a safe zone on the shoulder. Little did I know that I had to paddle a lot further out. This wave was breaking so far offshore that Bronnie had become a little speck on the cliff looking over me. I tried paddling for some of these monster waves, but they were just too big for me. I took a few on the head. 2 times, I threw my board and dove under, grabbing my leg rope and climbing back to the surface after using the boulders beneath as springboards.

I managed to paddle across to the other side of the wave into deeper water where the wave wasn't breaking. As I was pulled back into the crunch zone, I learnt my lesson of taking a short break and kept paddling away from this monster. Eventually, I was far enough away and had paddled 800m up the coast against the current to where I could see a glimpse of sand littered with big rocks. This area was my best chance; I was lucky with the timing of the sucking and dumping shore break. I clambered up onto the dry shore with a weird feeling of vomiting and excitement combined.

As I sat on the back of the taxi with my wettie still half on, Bronnie explained that she had worked out the name of the break. It was El Olon, Peru's second-biggest wave spot. Feeling relieved to be safe after paddling in sprint mode for the best part of an hour and feeling very nauseous, I filled with disappointment at not catching a wave out there.

Picolini surfing a bomb at Piedras Negras in Peru
Picolini surfing a bomb at Piedras Negras in Peru

The following day we met up with Triff, who had just returned from visiting Northern Chile. The next day we met up with a local called Picolini, who decided it was a good idea to take us out at another kamikaze break called Colegio. This guy is mad; he was jumping dry rocks on waves. I was hit by a huge wave and dragged. When I popped up, I was only a meter from the closest big rock intimidating me. Bronnie and Triff were lucky to be far enough out and make it. Still feeling shaken up from the El Olon experience, I didn't stick around and made my way in through the maise of rocks. I watched Bronnie and Triff dodge more big waves before they were sitting beside me.

The following day we went to Piedras Negras and watched Picolini and his mate eat huge waves on their heads. They rode impressively big waves that sent them weaving between obstacles such as dry rocks to their credit. One set came through, cleaned up Picolini's friend and dragged him underwater a fairway. That was the last wave for him; he was on his way in, dodging more rocks and taking up a spot next to us.

As much as we liked Ilo, we didn't enjoy the surf there. We are thrilled to meet Picolini and another friend, Jim. We look forward to returning. Piedras Negras hasn't won yet!

Bronnie, Jim, Ollie, Picolini, and Triff in Southern Peru at Ilo
Bronnie, Jim, Ollie, Picolini, and Triff in Southern Peru at Ilo

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