Salty Stories: Drama in Chicana, Peru

by brian lam

Here’s a salty story by reader Duncan Fitzgerald, surfer, shaper, photographer and Australian native. His grandpa was a poet, and wrote neat poems about Manly beach. Send in your salty stories to .

The longest left-hander in the world, perfect uncrowded waves in a land of endless left point breaks. As a goofy footer living on the Goldie the lure of myths and legends such as these was too much for me. Since I first heard of the treasures of Peru I had made up my mind. I was going.

Peru is like no place I’ve been, the coast is a harsh desert right down to the oceans edge, yet 100 clicks east are the mighty mountains that make up The Andes. Dirt roads, ramshackle houses, horse and cart still more common than the car in many places, it is a poor country with all the hardships that poverty brings with it.

It is often the way that when we want something so badly it provides us with more than we bargained for. This was certainly my experience at Chicama. My girlfriend and I had made the journey to the region and were staying in the town of Huanchaco. In this town fishermen still fish from “caballitos de totora” (horses of reed). It is reputed that it is actually from these ancient fishermen standing up and riding in on waves with their catch that the idea of surfing was actually born.

Chicama itself was a bus ride to the town of Malabrigo. A cold harsh ghost town that felt like the set of a John Wayne flick with bits of rubbish instead of tumbleweed clumps rolling down the street. It was by no means welcoming. Like most, surf travel for us mere mortals not bankrolled by big surf companies, it’s a game of planning and prayers. This day in Malabrigo wasn’t pumping, but even a 2-foot wave that peels perfectly for 2 kilometers is a sight to behold. After surfing “The Cape” for a few hours with only a couple of other local surfers around we soon found ourselves alone as the others drifted off to wherever.

I had just paddled out for my last lap of the 2-foot spinners when I heard screams on the beach. B was standing and screaming with some guy right near her. Two of them must have been hiding in the rocks moments before while I had been speaking with B. They had waited till I was out in the surf and then confronted my girlfriend with their t-shirts wrapped around their heads and brandishing a silver revolver. I hadn’t seen the gun so paddled and ran in as fast as I could up the beach. By the time I got up the beach to her the bandits had disappeared back up the cliff from where they had come.

“They had a gun” was all B could tell me, with that I had no desire to hang around any longer. We headed into the police station where the cops initially threw up their hands and basically rock, scissors papered for who had to deal with our problem. I was bundled into an old ute with police lights taped onto the roof and doors that would not shut. B refused to get in the vehicle, and I don’t blame her. So myself and 2 coppers out of Super troopers backfired our way out of town and into the desert to look for the bandits.

“Dos personas, una con pistoles” explaining that the robbers were armed in broken spanish. I could see myself getting caught up in a shootout in the desert. The other scenario that I considered was the police taking me behind one of the many rocky sand dunes of this landscape and finishing me off themselves to avoid the inevitable paperwork from me, another pesky gringo.

We never did find the banditos or my gear but learnt alot about how easy things can go from cruisy to crazy. It made me understand more about what is really important and how little a life is sometimes worth to another.

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