Puerto Malabrigo, Peru – The other Peru: the desert

The road drops and drops and drops, down to the ocean, while temperature rises. The sky turns from dark to light-grey. Bananas reappear and palm trees, mangos, rice, and grapes. It becomes drier, the river thinner, and a reservoir has already lost quite a few meters of its water level. Cacti appear until even they don’t find enough water anymore to survive. Sand accumulates at the surrounding hills. As we turn south onto the Pan Am we are completely surrounded by desert. Nothing grows here, dunes pile up and sand drifts over the road. The light is always murky and the sky shows milky blue.
It’s only early afternoon, but we can’t resist. In Paiján we turn right and reach the Pacific Ocean after 20 km in Puerto Malabrigo. To reach Peru’s best surf beach, known also as Puerto Chicama, head north in front of town following a sand road and passing a whole row of stinky fish factories. Keep your left in front of the last factory, then take one of the beach accesses and continue along the beach. 4WD and differential lock can be useful, the sand is soft. The windy beach is miles long. For camping stay well off the fish factories and choose a place between the dunes – high tide can get far on the beach.
A two kilometres long and two meters high wave can arise between March and June, when the National Surf Championships are held here. The water temperature shall be good for swimming only in summer, from December to March. We try. Our toe thermometer shows frosty 18° C / 64° F. No way. Puerto Malabrigo beach, S 07°39’13.4’’ W 79°26’41.3’’

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