Ilmo Niittymäki

My name is Ilmo Niittymäki. I’m a curious adventurer from Finland and my next stop is Latin America! I have a well developed hunger for adventure and on this journey I’m pretty sure I’ll have plenty of it. I will be hiking, riding and sliding from Patagonia towards Ecuador with plenty of (un)planned detours on my trip. My lust to get lost will most likely show me places not many people end up visiting while exploring Chile, Peru and Ecuador. I’m so fortunate to have LATAM Airlines support my travels. Their flights will expand my horizons, while my day to day transportation will hopefully be a trustworthy two wheeler with a working engine. I’ve packed my tent, some clothes, camera, surfboard and plenty of creative lunacy to entertain myself while solo travelling through the ever changing landscapes and sleeping under the stars. Lets hope I can extend my Spanish vocabulary from 10 to 1000 while I’m at it. I can’t wait to tell you all the stories.

Exploring Galapagos

The Enchanted Islands of Galapagos are truly magical. Exploring through San Cristobal and its sealions, to walking along Santa Cruz’s Tortoises, to wandering through the magical paradise of Isabela and its sealife –  it still remains to be only a slight scratch of the surface of what Galapagos can offer.

Lobitos

After seeing a lot photos of pumping waves and many testimonials by people that had visited this small village in North Peru, I knew that I had to visit the place. About 10km from the Panamericana at the end of a dirt road lays a dormant fishing village that is blessed with amazing waves. I arrived fairly late in the day and was greeted by a sight of barrels and a beautiful sunset.

Lobitos is the home of some of the best waves in Peru.
Lobitos is the home of some of the best waves in Peru.

Quickly after I had unpacked my bike at Casa de Darwin I went to scout the waves more closely. Even with the dimming light I could see that all the praises were true. A long left hand wave was breaking along the bay with multiple sections to surf. As the light was getting low I didn’t have time to get in to the water, so I decided to find some dinner and call it a night. When I was heading out to eat, two Ecuadorian motorcyclists showed up at the hostel and soon we were sitting at a near by restaurant Tranqui and exchanging stories with a mix of english and spanish.

I was pretty stoked to understand a little when they spoke to me very slowly and simply. Few beers were enjoyed and by ten we were back in our bunks.

The north end of the beach has quite a few ruins on it.
The north end of the beach has quite a few ruins on it.

Eager to surf I woke up before six and got into the water. Amazing waves were rolling in and I had my fair share of them while enjoying the warmth of the rising sun on my back. Quick breakfast and little rest later me and the host Darwin jumped on my bike to check out another wave a short ride away from the village. A nice little right hander was rolling in and quickly we returned to the hostel to get into our wetsuits and grabbed our boards. Back on the bike we rode barefooted through the beach and left the bike on the shore. Only two of us out we got a few fun ones before the wind came on and ended the session.

With a little effort you can always find something empty and fun!
With a little effort you can always find something empty and fun!

I spent the day napping until the late afternoon when it was time to hit the water again. With the wind gone it was close to perfection. Over 20 people were in the water which was a surprise, but soon I realised that most of them were more spectators than participants as they floated away from the break with the current. As we are quite accustomed to strong currents in France I didn’t have a problem staying in position and caught quite a few fun ones. With a wide smile on my face I got back to the beach after sunset. The next couple of days I was just playing the eat, sleep repeat game until the waves started to disappear.

The town is in the middle of an oil field and it is pretty rough.
The town is in the middle of an oil field and it is pretty rough.

The little sampling I got from Lobitos was amazing. If I’ll ever get a chance I’ll return around european spring and summer when the wave season is at its best. Lobitos has so much potential for an epic surf trip. Those who searching for some evening activities it doesn’t have much to offer. In case of a flat spell I would recommend not to stay in this “ghost town”, but move about 60km north to the town of Mancora that has a lot more life in it.

Wandering in North Peru

As the swell started to die off in Huanchaco it was time to take off again. Los Lobitos was the destination in my mind, but as it was a two day ride away I just decided to cruise and see where I would end up for the night.

Leaving the surfing reserve of Huanchaco behind.
Leaving the surfing reserve of Huanchaco behind.

On the way north I knew full well that my dream wave of Chicama wasn’t working, but I just couldn’t pass it without looking at it. It was about an hour and half detour, but I reckoned it would be worth it. At the end of the little road the beach opened in front of me and perfect, but tiny waves were rolling endlessly to the beach. I felt somewhat heartbroken, that I had so little time and I couldn’t wait for the waves to show up.

Chicama: my dream wave doing its thing, but unfortunately the size wasn’t enough for surfing and the swell was just getting smaller.
Chicama: my dream wave doing its thing, but unfortunately the size wasn’t enough for surfing and the swell was just getting smaller.

With a heavy heart I kept going, but I decided that I must return one day to experience the endless ride. The rest of the day on the road went effortlessly and I found myself in the town of Pimentel, where I quickly found a place to stay.

Hunting for food in Pimentel. Beautiful town, but as it was off season it was really hard to find a restaurant open in the evening.
Hunting for food in Pimentel. Beautiful town, but as it was off season it was really hard to find a restaurant open in the evening.

Next morning I managed to find some super glue to fix my boots that had started to completely break apart. It was the third time they needed reinforcement. The terrible quality frustrated me and I kept cursing the lost soul that had stolen my boots in Santiago. After the brief operation I packed my gear on the bike and without thinking about too much I headed of towards north. Normally I would always start the day with a full tank or I would have checked the next gas station for a fill up, but not this morning. Soon I was outside of Chiclayo and 60 km into the desert. I had the wind on my back and the road was just whisking away under me until I realised that I had about 100km left in my tank. As there hadn’t been really anything after Chiclayo I started to be a bit worried about where the next town would be. I pulled over and checked my gps for the options of filling up. With a glance it was clear that I couldn’t make it all the way to Piura which was the first town ahead. Turning around and backtracking for 60km was my only option, as I wasn’t ready to risk it and hope to find some one up the road with spare gas to sell me. I felt drained and sat on the sand next to my bike for a while to regroup. With over 7500km already on the road under my belt the extra 120 km of desert really felt like a bigger issue than it really was. With a bitter sigh I started heading back against the wind. Lucky for me after 10 minutes of riding there was a little hut on the side of the road that I hadn’t noticed earlier and they happened to have gas on store! Soon I was back on the road again and smiling wide. It felt like a great weight had been lifted of my back.

A moment I almost  had a mental brake down. It took me a moment to gather my positivity back and start finding gas.
A moment I almost had a mental brake down. It took me a moment to gather my positivity back and start finding gas.

Once I got to Piura it started to get really hot on the road and as there was some road work on the way the traffic started to pile up a bit. One local biker decided to ram directly on the side of my board rack in the midst of a traffic jam. Some how I managed to stay on the bike, while the aggressor ended up gathering some momentum from the ditch. He seemed unharmed so I didn’t bother stopping and zig zagged onwards in the traffic.

After a long day in the saddle I finally got to the “exit” to Los Lobitos, a dirt road heading of towards the desert. I double checked my GPS, but it insisted that I was on the right road and on I went. After a moment there was a check up station where they took up my details and let me go on. Los Lobitos is in middle of an oil field and there is also an army base, so I didn’t think too much of the document checking. Later on I found out it was also for safety as there has been a history of armed robberies in the area. A little detail that I had absolutely no idea of. Luckily I didn’t find any troubles and I reached my hostel before the sunset with a relief to get off the bike. I felt really tired.

Ready to enjoy the last moments of light and lay in a hammock to relax after a long day on the road.
Ready to enjoy the last moments of light and lay in a hammock to relax after a long day on the road.

Huanchaco

After the eventful night and a morning coffee offered by my hosts I headed of towards north. My initial destination was the dreamland of Chicama, which hosts arguably the worlds longest left hand wave. On my way up north I stumbled into the town of Huanchaco and I’m really glad that I did.

As I was avoiding the traffic of Trujillo I opted for the coastal road which led me to find an amazingly long and empty wave right in front of the little town. Instantly I made a decision to stop for a night or two. Within five minutes I had a private room with a view of the wave for 12€. I jumped into my wetsuit and got in to the water. During my 3 hour surf session by myself I couldn’t figure out the mystery: I wondered if there was pollution, sharp unknown objects in the bottom or sharks in the water as there weren’t any other surfers. I decided not to care as it was way too fun. Apparently my timing was just perfect as locals were working and the odd surf tourist in the town had gone for lunch. I didn’t complain. For the record there isn’t any sharks around or anything other scary things in the water in Huanchaco.

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Perfect lunch: Papas Rellenas, deep fried potatoes filled with egg, minced meat and veggies. After a surf this energy bomb is more than welcome.

Soon hunger forced me to get to the beach and find some food. After a little walk I found a street vendor making Papas Rellenas. For 2€ I had a delicious and filling lunch while looking at beginner surfers get tossed about in the beach break.

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Street kitchen dinners are cheap and delicious. This lovely lady cooked a variety of meat sticks.

After lunch I walked around town to figure out what Huanchaco is all about. The town has a claim on few big things: it is the home of Caballito de totora, a reed craft that has been used for over 3000 years to fish and surf the waves to return to shore. They are still in use today and make for an interesting site in the line up. Huanchaco has also claimed to be the birthplace of cheviche, but it is somewhat dubious. Never the less there’s very good cheviche to be had so I was happy and full. Third fun fact about Huanchaco is that it has been awarded to be World Surfing Reserve, meaning that the WSR organisation is helping to protect the local surf culture and the environment. In Latin America there is only one other spot that has gotten on the list which is Punta de Lobos is Chile.

Caballito de totora is a historic fishing / surf craft that is still in use today.
Caballito de totora is a historic fishing / surf craft that is still in use today.

Overall Huanchaco is a very charming little town with plenty of restaurants, services and hostels of wide price range to meet travellers all needs. For the few days that I stayed in the town it really left a positive impression of its offering.

Inside me there was a burning to keep going though and I left the town as the waves started to die down. The rumors of amazing waves in northern Peru was driving me to explore further.

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Heading to Huanchaco

Its inevitable that slight misfortunes present themselves when covering long distances on the road. The way up north from Punta Hermosa to Huanchaco was definitely a bit more eventful than I expected.

Sunset was beautiful, but it was too windy to camp on the beach..

Obviously as a good start I managed to get lost in Lima while trying to pass the city on the highway. I wouldn’t count this as any kind of misfortune I would say it would be more like a standard issue when passing through any big cities. Somehow I always find myself in the downtown. After finding my way out of the traffic jam the road was pleasant and riding felt good. Boys at Punta Hermosa had given me a tip of a beach up north that would work well with the swell conditions. I guess its quite obvious that I never found the beach, but instead I ended up riding down a dune to one very nice looking beach in the hopes of finding a wave and a place to set up camp for the night. On this deserted beach I came across two young fellows and I didn’t feel comfortable to start setting up camp. Waves were wind blown, and it was throwing sand all across the beach. A place to sleep was starting to be high on the priority list in the late afternoon. I decided to move on and find something wind protected. I gathered some speed for the dune, with the tail heavy load I ended up doing a wheelie once the slope got steeper. After “whopsie” escaped my mouth I was in the sand on my side with the bike on top of me. After a little digging I got my leg out and started assessing the damage. Apart from broken plastic, snapped front break lever and destroyed mirror everything was all good. Gear was in one piece and I had only bruised my ego. Laughing at my stupidity I carried the gear to the top and reloaded everything.

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Involuntary wheelie ended up like this. Luckily no major damage to my beautiful little beast or myself.

It was dark already when I stumbled on a tiny fishing village of Tortugas. The whole place was  without lights and I figured it would make a good place to camp by the beach without causing any trouble. After a little ride around I found a nice little flat spot close to the sea next to a wall that protected me from the wind. As good as any spot to sleep the night. Only proof of life was one stray dog that kept barking in the distance. I felt confident that nobody would bother me.

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Super moon lighted my way while looking for a place to camp.

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Moments before the police came..

Within 15 minutes in my tent I was proven wrong. A police car rolled in with lights flashing and I quickly announced my position by cheerful “hola”. I started to crawl out of the tent and I was met by two officers armed with mag lights and handguns. I started feeling slightly uneasy. After a slight language barrier and a bit of nervousness from both sides the situation started to relax. I managed to explain that I would just sleep few hours before moving on. Shoved all my papers and swore that I wouldn’t cause any problems to anyone. Coppers trusted my pleas and let me get back to sleeping, probably thinking I was completely insane to sleep on the ground like that.

After about five minutes the police had left there was a head peaking over the concrete fence and talking rapidly in Spanish. From what I understood they had called the cops, because they were scared of the bearded motorcyclist, but since the police had said I wasn’t dangerous they wanted to invite me to their home to sleep as it wasn’t safe outside the walls. I thanked dearly for the concern, but I said I was quite alright in my tent. The man insisted and we met half way, I moved my tent on their yard. A big family came to greet the strange traveller and after hello’s I got back to my tent and started sleeping. I had a massive grin on my face, as this was exactly one of those unbelievable things that only happen on road trips. Great memories and good stories always have a little bit of misfortune in it, luckily this one had a happy ending.

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Camping inside the wall. Its funny how things sometimes end up.

Punta Hermosa

After a quick visit to Cusco and Machu Picchu I was happy to return to Punta Hermosa. The vibe at Bravo Surf Camp was just what I needed. The little appetiser of two days I had before going away was enough to convince me to stay a few days more and get my energy levels up again after rather fast paced travelling for the last month.

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Punta Rocas is a beautiful beach with great waves at the peak of the headland.

Punta Hermosa is a nice little town 70km south from Lima and the area has multiple waves that never seem to be completely flat. On weekends the town lights up with people from Lima coming to  enjoy the beaches and apparently the lively party scene of the town. As I was in the area off season it was hard to imagine the raging parties people kept mentioning as the town seemed to be quite sleepy. Which suited me perfectly fine.

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After a long day surfing it feels good to relax in the hammocks, play pool and enjoy a cold beverage. The Chillout zone at Bravo Surf Camps is on point.

Like I mentioned earlier the town has a great range of waves: point breaks, reefs and beach breaks are within easy access. All spots can be checked in few minutes to determine the best place to enjoy the waves. It does help to stay in a place that the host has local knowledge and passion for surfing and for that Bravo Surf Camp is perfect. Abraham is beyond mellow and always ready to go surfing even if the waves are a little average. Also the evenings are entertaining when hanging at the roof terrace playing pool and sinking in a few cold ones. For those who need help with gear or tips in the water Abraham can help you out with both.

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Punta Hermosa beach boulevard is nice to walk around at sunset.

For the 5 days that I stayed in town I surfed 7 different spots and all of them were within 10 minute drive away from the hostel. Also the ocean is very lively in the area and dolphins, sea lions and various birds make waiting for waves special.

It was hard to leave as it was good to be among newly made friends, surf, eat well and live a moment of normal life in the middle of the road trip. The time I spent in Punta Hermosa really got me ready to face the long road ahead of me. I left Punta Hermosa with a big smile on my face and great tips for places to stop on the way up north. If I ever end up close to Lima again I will definitely pay a visit to Abraham and relive the good vibes in Punta Hermosa. If you are in the area I highly recommend a visit!

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There are endless options for surfing in and around Punta Hermosa for any level of surfers.