Excerpt: The long way around at Chicama - by John Veage

Stu Nettle
Swellnet Dispatch

A huge Cronulla Sharks rugby league fan, John Veage is, by his own admission, not really a surf photographer, but a photographer who surfs. Unless he’s getting paid, of course, as he doesn’t like to stand around when the surfs pumping taking pics for the hell of it. As John happily informs us, “If it’s not for a photographic job, I’ll take a few frames to record the moment, but of course I’d rather be surfing...unless it’s 15ft,” he adds with a chuckle.

John is a founding life member and club patron of the mighty Cronulla Sharks Boardriders club, established in 1978 and a valued member of several ocean-based committees including the Cronulla Surfrider Foundation, Surfing Sutherland Shire, and Cronulla Beaches National Surfing Reserve. He also worked on the Sutherland Council Surf Gallery installation celebrating 100 years of Cronulla surfing as well as the Greg Noll Surf Retrospect events, so you can obviously see how John easily qualifies under the banner of "one of Cronulla’s Favourite Sons".

John under moonlight at his beloved North Cronulla

He completed his apprenticeship in 1981 as a sports photographer before joining Fairfax Newspapers full time in 1987 and has worked in the media ever since - now as a photojournalist. John shot and wrote travel stories for Tracks for a decade and has written surf reports in the local paper for the last ten years, he's also published four books, one being 'Southern Surf: A Pictorial History of Cronulla Surfing'.

Here, John shares with us here a story from the early days of his career and I think you’ll agree with my own interpretation, that it’s a career as colourful as the character himself.

“I was in Peru in 1985 doing a story for Tracks and found myself in Lima. The travel company couldn’t find my boards, so I spent a few days chasing them down and, when finally reunited, I decided to stop at a pizza joint only to have the windows of the place shot out while I was eating, apparently by a vindictive business competitor. Thankfully no patrons were hurt in this bizarre attack, but all the windows were shattered and so were the customers. People were crying and yelling and the chaos grew exponentially, then cops were everywhere.

"Next morning I drove 1000kms to Trujillo which is a fantastic visual indicator for my destination - the fabled surf break named Chicama. My usual routine while documenting these travel stories was to surf the location, take pics after sampling the delights, and enjoy my day. My brief was to write a story about a random surfer just turning up and surfing this mythical location that we had only ever heard about in hushed tones. I was also directed to capture a few images to complement the story, so I did. 

“I’m completely by myself and it’s another 60kms from Trujillo to Chicama. I’d never been there before and was working on the directions from a random map I had found. At dawn the next morning the swell had apparently picked up and while driving my shitty little hire car across the desert on the way to experience a great day, I had a flat tyre and I’m fucking blowing up deluxe by this stage at the very ordinary hospitality Peru had served up in the last 52 hours. I had lost boards and been in the middle of a shootout in a restaurant and now a flat tyre in the desert. And, as it turns out, the wheel brace used to fix said flat is the wrong size, rendering it, and me, useless in this screwed up situation.

"To add to my personal moment of sinking frustration, I could feel the wind puffing up offshore and knew the swell was pumping. Yet I couldn’t replace the tyre to get there and by then I was totally fucking blowing up deluxe at nobody in particular. Suddenly, I see way off in the distance, like some sort of miraculous mirage, this local fella walking straight toward me out of the desert and we happily greet each other but don’t speak each other’s language. So a good old-fashioned game of charades it was as I pointed to the tyre and show him the faulty wheel brace all the while performing a funny little Australian dance of frustration to complete my impromptu mime show. My new friend simply smiled, turned and without warning, calmly walked back off in to the desert in the direction from whence he came and I just stood there in total helplessness wondering where he went. But, forty minutes later my relief was palpable as ‘new mate‘ reappears out of thin air with a correctly sized wheel brace. Flabbergasted, I change the tyre and thank my kind saviour profusely - it was like a fucking miracle mate.

“I then drove the remaining 20kms through the desert to Chicama. Cresting the final hill I witness something you rarely see - quality four-to-six foot lefthand point waves, breaking for at least 700 metres with not a soul in sight. Not a surfer. Not a person. Nobody. Fucking zip mate. No-one! Naturally I shot a half roll of film at my first breathtaking sight. Apparently the only other photographer who had previously visited the spot had been shot and robbed, so for my film to survive I pulled it out of the camera that night and hid it separately to my other stuff. I hid this half roll well because, seriously, that roll of film harbouring that lineup shot, has profited me for over twenty years.

Chicama, 1985, four foot high, one kilometre long, no-one out

“For six hours straight I excitedly surfed each wave as if it were my last and at the end of the day, after absolutely no food or anything to drink, the cold water and bleeding wetsuit-rashed armpits finally took their toll as severe fatigue set in before one other surfer turned up late that afternoon. I had surfed perfect Chicama the entire day by myself and it was fucking incredible, so after all my previous travel dramas, the dedication shown to my mission certainly didn’t go unnoticed by the powers that be and the ocean loved me in a profound way, filling the bank with magical memories - and later on my bank account with similar blessings. I surfed Chicama, took the picture, got out of the joint alive with my roll of film to safely sell and the shot picked up a cool $20k which financially set me up rather well. And I’ve sold that shot over and over again over the years and it’s been an awesome payback for the shitty time I had to get there.

"The ocean definitely loved me back on that occasion as this place is so fickle, mate. It breaks fuck all and I just happened to be standing there with my camera at the ready. These days you have all the relative info at your fingertips to make surf travel decisions, but back then it was just go for it, mate. You will never never know if you never never go, as they say.” 

This was a popular Aussie tourism slogan doing the rounds on TV in those days, enticing people to just grab a map and go check out the environment for yourself. Sometimes you get skunked and sometimes you score and boy did John score on that occasion. No-one could tell him the best season to go to Chicama because no-one he knew had previously been there. 

It was Christmas and he spent the entire time with a family there, practicing traditions unknown to him in a language he didn’t understand, so, as John said, he certainly paid his dues to get that shot. He’d only seen one random picture taken of the place ten years earlier and that’s the only reason he knew the place actually existed.

I’m in awe at his experience and feel a little smidgen of jealousy as I think of being in that magical place and making a living off the experience, but I pull myself back to my own reality and ask if John surfed the whole break or just set up camp at one particular spot along the way, and he regroups to enthusiastically reply: “I surfed the whole break which was probably a kilometre in length and I ran back to the take off spot upon completion of a wave to begin again. I estimated that I ran twenty kilometres in six straight hours of surfing that day and I just kept surfing the loop, knowing this was an extremely special moment in my life and was worthy of my effort as this day may never happen again. Surf to the end, run back around, jump off, surf to the end, do it again, no-one around, just keep going, don’t stop, still no-one,  jump off, surf to the end, do it again ‘til the sun goes down or exhaustion gets the better of you! That was my philosophy.

"In local terms, the length of the wave was a comparable distance if you imagine Snapper Rocks to North Kirra Surf Club – a pure surfing heaven! By the end of the day, my armpits were bleeding and I didn’t drink or eat a thing as the day rolled on, and amazingly, the guy who turned up to surf right on dark, offered me accommodation at his cabin which I gratefully accepted. And you probably wont believe this, but as I threw my bag on the bed in his spare room and looked up, I was greeted by a beautiful poster shot of my Cronulla mate Chris Iredale, standing tall in a gnarly barrel at my home break of Shark Island. I just stood there looking and I really can’t believe the coincidence, all those miles from home and I’m being watched over by my home break as I slept the night away”. 

// JOHN VEAGE and CHRIS GUDENSWAGER

The above story was taken from Chris Gudenswager's two-volume set, 'Does The Ocean Love You Back?' Click to order online.

Comments

Agitator's picture
Agitator's picture
Agitator commented Monday, 12 Oct 2020 at 9:30pm

What an absolutely awesome experience that one day of surfing would have been. Highlight of a lifetime of waves no doubt.

zenagain's picture
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zenagain commented Monday, 12 Oct 2020 at 10:44pm

Epic!

Fortune favours the brave.

1173

PabloM's picture
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PabloM commented Monday, 12 Oct 2020 at 11:06pm

Best long boarder wave in the world hands down.

Johknee's picture
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Johknee commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 12:05pm

Agreed.
Chicama is a fat-burger even at 6ft. Of the well-know points on that coast, Pacasmayo is (slightly) better.

_Bodhi_'s picture
_Bodhi_'s picture
_Bodhi_ commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 5:08pm

Yep. good for longboarders. We surfed chicama with the biggest swell of the winter & still it was only about 3ft & lots of sections, the best section towards the end. It’s a bit overrated... There are much better waves elsewhere on that coast.

fitzroy-21's picture
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fitzroy-21 commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 7:16pm

Right now, I would be quite happy to take six hours on my own at that "fat burger"

Spuddups's picture
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Spuddups commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 5:11am

Good story.

groovie's picture
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groovie commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 6:38am

Sometimes everything falls into place hey John! Reminds me of my first trip to South Java scoring perfect G-Land with half a dozen other surfers for 2 weeks in the early 80's! Hellish road trip, boat wiped out on the first attempt @ crossing the river mouth @ the local village across the bay & then discovering a perfect left & right in the jungles of Java when G-Land was maxing out. We were also confronted by a troop of huge Orangutans which became very aggressive when trekking through the jungle to get to surf our new discovery. It all came together scoring perfect waves & surviving the awesome reef surf & jungle locals!

grubs's picture
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grubs commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 9:33am

I’m so jealous.

thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 10:00am

Always wondered just how long it is.. Google suggests 2km from the main point to the pier, or 3.4km up to about where you might be able to catch a rideable wave.

juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 10:20am

It's very long, way longer than the superbank I reckon, BUT, it needs a big swell to connect it all up. When I went it there it wasn't close to linking up and we just surfed a section that was about 400m long.

Doesn't barrel like the superbank either but it doesn't have a million people surfing it either.

Also, the walk back from memory sucked. No nice(!) sand, just rocks and seashells and shit. I think they have a boat to take you back if you're not a massive tight arse like me.

Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous's picture
Ape Anonymous commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 10:26am

Ah Trujillo. Yep, I've have the same experience just 4 years ago. Alone, 6-8 foot, one kilometre long waves (not Chicama). Wen't top to bottom on an 8' board until the point that I was standing at the top of the wave, looking into the desert with no one around -my joy turned to sadness and grief: coming from the Gold Coast, you pray for this, my whole life -looking for this freedom -found it, and then,,, now what?? So lonely at the top of that wave, I'll never forget the feeling.

velocityjohnno's picture
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velocityjohnno commented Friday, 16 Oct 2020 at 7:44pm

That's profound. So completely surrounded; so completely alone. I know that feeling.

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 10:38am

Nice revision of the old classic tale : Boy meets girl , boy falls in love , boy sells out girl .

Ain’t love grand !

juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 11:26am

I surfed Chicama, took the picture, got out of the joint alive with my roll of film to safely sell and the shot picked up a cool $20k which financially set me up rather well. And I’ve sold that shot over and over again over the years and it’s been an awesome payback for the shitty time I had to get there.

That bit was especially gross. Rich foreign man comes and can't even speak a word of the language, gets in trouble, pouts like a 5 year old because it's not like Cronulla, gets bailed out by great people, has an all time experience, returns the favour by profiteering off the wave and fucks off into the distance with a cute surf story.

Never mind the fact that 20 grand is probably a kings ransom to 99% of the people that live in Chicama and have done for hundreds of years.

Did he even give back at all? Or just try and profit more from that book?

Just my opinion.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 11:35am

Really, mate?

Bruce Brown's got a lot to answer for then.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 12:04pm

I'm not saying right or wrong but I think it's a cool story.

Conversely to what you're saying above- how many local people has that photo enriched? On the strength of that one shot, you and hundreds if not thousands of others have followed in his path and brought prosperity (not necessarily by our standards) to people in that area. Businesses have started, people have jobs, kids have been sent to school. I think you're looking at a half-empty glass.

PS- maybe you shouldn't have been such a tight arse and stumped up for a boat ride to help a local out?

1173

juegasiempre's picture
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juegasiempre commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 12:36pm

ahhh, this argument. The people of Peru have been around since time immemorial and what a terrible life they had until they were brought 'prosperity'. After all, them or the Hawaiians are the OG surfers. It started with the Spanish bringing them disease, taking their gold and ultimately taking over until this dude rocks up and takes a photo and profiteers off it. Prosperity indeed.

Just like the American missionaries that told the Hawaiians to give up their traditional way of life (surfing during winter as a priority) and take up Jesus. A good trade!

As for giving back, I plan on living in the Americas and I've been working/saving to make that dream a reality. From next year it will be, COVID came along and my plans have changed to travelling AUS/NZ surfing but the long term plan is to move over. As I'm financially setup, I plan on giving free English lessons, free lessons on coding and empowering THEM to go and chase the $ if they want.

Not wealth coming to them, wrecking their way of life and telling them they should be grateful for 'prosperity'.

This is just my opinion. I'm comfortable if people don't agree with me, it wouldn't be the first time! But I'm always looking to have my mind changed and unfortunately, that argument didn't do it. All the best.

derra83's picture
derra83's picture
derra83 commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 12:31pm

" I plan on giving English lessons, lessons on coding and empowering THEM to go and chase the $ if they want."

Why stop there when you can give them lessons in self-righteousness and being a judgemental twat too.

juegasiempre's picture
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juegasiempre commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 12:35pm

lol, do you like to read something until you get triggered? I concluded with the below;

This is just my opinion. I'm comfortable if people don't agree with me, it wouldn't be the first time!

I'm not sure that smacks of being self-righteous or being judgemental.

derra83's picture
derra83's picture
derra83 commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 12:41pm

lol, you got "triggered" first, remember?

And recognising you are a wanker doesn't make you any less of one.

juegasiempre's picture
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juegasiempre commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 12:49pm

:O

Name calling! I remember that from primary school. If you have any more to throw, give me your best.

I thought this was a forum, "a meeting or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged."

All the best mate and I'm sending you nothing but good vibes and love.

zenagain's picture
zenagain's picture
zenagain commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 1:07pm

And I was not trying to trigger you, I was just pointing out that in my opinion, your argument fell a little flat.

I read a quote many years ago by I can't remember whom and I'm paraphrasing here- "The smallest deed is grander than the most noble of gestures". And while your plan is a noble one indeed, it still remains just that- a plan. Come back to us when you're over there and doing what you plan to do.

Second, mentioning the ancient Hawaiians and Spanish Conquistadors is kinda moot. Bro, we're talking the 15th century, things have moved on just a tad.

Third, doesn't what you plan to do lead these poor sods on the path to prosperity and enrichment? Hasn't the money provided by your predecessors enabled the locals to build businesses, buy boats, educate their kids? Of course there will always be the travelling tight-arse who takes and gives nothing back, but there's always the ones that tread lightly, share what they can and try and leave what they found a little better than the way they found it.

Peace to you too mate.

1173

juegasiempre's picture
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juegasiempre commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 1:45pm

No, I was replying to old mate about the triggering, not you. As to your points.

I agree that there is a world of difference between thinking/planning and doing. I'll endeavour to check back in but given the state of affairs, who knows when that will be.

The point about the Hawaiians/Peruvians. When you view things through the economic lens, you're right, the popularity of waves brings economic benefits to the community (although there's an argument to be had there about how much). My point is economics is fiction and this becomes very obvious to anyone that's done psychedelics and has pulled out a $50 note and it just looks like a bit of plastic. So if economics is a fiction, then what are they really getting in return?
A life of pretend money which they have to work for and can exchange for goods and services vs a life of unlimited surfing the best waves on the planet and the time to do it, an abundance of food+water and a rich culture. I'd choose the latter given the choice.

3rd. The path to prosperity isn't open to them, if I can open it for them (urggh, incredibly egotistic thing to write), the choice to walk it is theirs alone, I only would want to try and provide equality of opportunity, not outcome. But given the economic system that we all live under, the following points you made are true.

All the best to you too! I've enjoyed reading your posts over the last few months and if we disagree on anything, I don't take it personally and I hope you don't either.

EDIT: But as I'm here instead of working, Hawaii is a great example of why I disagree with your prosperity argument because it's already played out to the end.

I watch youtube and I see JJF and JOB living in front of pipeline. I see Zuckerberg buying property and sueing the locals (https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jan/17/mark-zuckerberg-hawaii-e... ).

The argument might play out in a classroom when discussing the ideals of Adam Smith, but reality has shown, time and time and time again that the indigenous are ALWAYS fucked over by the wealthy. Who knows? It's hard for me to mount the case because I'm 3rd generation Australian with all the benefits that brings and it seems to me the indigenous here curse the arrival of 'prosperity'

yvdreh's picture
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yvdreh commented Wednesday, 14 Oct 2020 at 11:11pm

Unfortunately the history of colonialism is still kicking around. 15th century or not that shit has a lasting impact on a nation.

Enjoy your argument fellas!

Ape Anonymous's picture
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Ape Anonymous commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 12:21pm

Usually this logic would be sound -Gold Coast/tropical paradise turned into a parking lot in this way. But this is Trujillo. Its desert. It's a long way from anything ah... nice and / or pretty / instagram worthy. This is the wild west, do or die -smoke em' if you got em'. Banditos, crack cocaine, museums full of gold, a nearby temple used to sacrifice people to the... Gods?? Chicama still has a very small crowd during the week (no local town). And the surrounding breaks are high quality and empty.. all the time, and will remain that way because it's such a hard place, dangerous, very very dangerous.

juegasiempre's picture
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juegasiempre commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 12:52pm

I agree with all your points. I spent 6 months in Nth Peru, maybe more? Too much time playing the gatorade sax to remember the exact amount of time.

The only issue is profiteering off other peoples natural resources and not giving back. My disposition might be because I watched this last night and felt sick to the core. I have a lot of love for that whole coastline.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikneKQAeUp0

ringmaster's picture
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ringmaster commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 2:47pm

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikneKQAeUp0

I just watched that. Fucking sickening that this can actually happen and these piece of shit corporations think they can justify their actions and absolve themselves from blame.

What hope has the planet got?

Especially when a legal system that is supposed to exist to provide justice is actually in partnership with the perpetrators.

andy-mac's picture
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andy-mac commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 2:43pm

Fuck that video makes me so angry and sad.
Will have an effect upon all of us eventually, humanity needs to change its way.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/oct/12/western-worldyour-...

Botak

andy-mac's picture
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andy-mac commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 3:15pm

But enjoyed article.... Sessions like that last in your memories forever!

Botak

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andy-mac commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 8:25pm
SI's picture
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SI commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 2:04pm

I see where your coming from, but it seems a tad harsh. I loved the story and especially the part that the elusive man helping out with the wheel brace part. I’m trying not to focus too much on the teller of the story being the main protagonist. In reality, he isn’t. He’s just one of many parts that turns the wheel of the story. And there is his karma yes, but it too has to be considered in the bigger picture. It is just his action. He was there just like the man who helped him. They shared something pretty special and the man helping him is just as much a mystery as the whole story. If he didn’t come then none of the rest would have been the same. I would like to look into his eyes! It’s funny that some people have commented on Peru being dangerous. Maybe it’s true and maybe it isn’t. The man helping out wasn’t very dangerous and that is what I have found travelling to remote places. Mostly people, especially the locals are helpful and show kindness and good will. I know there were some shots fired, but that was probably a private matter. And he didn’t start out his story saying he was trying to save the world or anything either, so I just took as a pretty pedestrian story from a guy who felt some gratitude for the experience. Sure he was upset at the gun shots and being stranded in the dessert, but he’d probably feel like he was having a bad hair day wherever those things happened. I would also be happy to meet him as he came across to me as a real honest feeling person. But thanks anyway for your perspective because no doubt there is something in it too. I like the idea of giving back which you put forth. But giving back comes in many different guises, even story telling.

Barrelrider

dawnperiscope's picture
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dawnperiscope commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 10:53am

A photo of shark island, are you kidding me!! That's a ridiculous coincidence.
Great work sharing this story with us Stu - Thanks. I also grew up with John's photos and articles but didn't know anything about him.
I'm now reminiscing about sports section in the Leader through the 80's..

Ride on

mbuckis's picture
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mbuckis commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 3:08pm

Saw that pic & it was my life ambition to get there - then got it in 2001 sooo good.... Like the chilean points better though...

Tim Bonython's picture
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Tim Bonython commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 6:43pm

And that is how good surfing is. Great experiences.

gsco's picture
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gsco commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 6:54pm

Epic, love these travel tales.

kooklife's picture
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kooklife commented Tuesday, 13 Oct 2020 at 7:18pm

Longest wave of my life out there, over a minute and a half long!!! Legs burning by the end....then the long walk back up the point... to do it again....ahhh the memories. There are other waves in that are that are more consistent and heavier but Chicama really is something else

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Thursday, 15 Oct 2020 at 4:09pm

Handy with a camera, handy with a planer...maybe.

This John Veage shape (rare?) has just surfaced, it's well loved and being ridden a few clicks south of Cronulla.

I focus's picture
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I focus commented Thursday, 15 Oct 2020 at 4:57pm

Chicama by far is the longest wave I have ridden (87) 4 to 6 ft waves running for about a 1/3 of the total length but starts getting harder to hold position around the take off zone as the size increases.

In summer water is fu(king cold and often surfed in fog where you couldn't see further than 20 metres. Paddle out with some one after take off never see them again for the whole session.

I remember when I spent time there they held the Peruvian national tiles (the boys were ripping) you could still find a section to surf with easily 60 guys in the water the break is so long when it lights up.
Met another Aussie who had it over 6ft with the odd wave running the distance he recon 8 waves and you were done for the day.

Stayed at Hombres and remember the graffiti on the bed room wall of previous adventurers, one Aussie wrote it was his 5th Peruvian expedition (this was in 1987) and thought gezzas mate you will have some story's to tell.

Chicama itself was pretty safe but the authors drive up would have been quite dangerous especially the flat tire bit heard many horror stories.

Food was basic staple when I was there chicken, fish and rice that was barely eatable used to go back into Huanchaco for RR when the swell dropped of.

As others have said better waves in the general area.

goofyfoot's picture
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goofyfoot commented Thursday, 15 Oct 2020 at 8:55pm

Interested about the horror stories and the danger of the place ifocus, I’ve never been there. But have been to Mexico and it sounds like a similar vibe to that. Is that accurate?

I focus's picture
I focus's picture
I focus commented Friday, 16 Oct 2020 at 7:02pm

Interesting question GF, I could write several books on the answer.

Remember my context is 1987/88 kicked off in the US and then crossed the border bridge by foot with back pack and a 6'4" board with a girl from WA who actual knew a bit about traveling, (me zero just what I had read) from El Paso over the Rio Grande into Ciudad Juarez on our way to Chihuahua to begin 12 months Mexico down to the bottom ish of SA. I remember her parting words as she headed back to the US when I told her to be careful, "you are the one that needs to be careful".

By far and away Peru at the time was more hazardous, it was far poorer, everyone who travelled there lost some thing if not all their gear / money, I kept hearing stories from people coming up as I travelled down and it was all about Peru and all were true many people losing every thing.

You just couldn't carry anything on your back without getting it getting slashed, couldn't wear a watch it would be striped from your wrist, ear rings torn from ears, all money and passport etc had to be kept below the belt line in a money belt, pockets had to be empty and dressing down was very necessary.
I found my board was excellent in fending people off front and back in and around bus and train stations.
Walking the streets in Lima was a hazard, met an Ozzie guy in immigration who was just about to exit the international terminal after arriving, a police officer demanded his passport walked off and never saw it again, when I saw him he had been at it for days getting through the bureaucracy.

That's before you get to the Sendro Luminoso (Shining Path Guerrillas) had already killed 93 police officers in the first 6 months of the year.

More later

Blowin's picture
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Blowin commented Friday, 16 Oct 2020 at 7:47pm

Holy shit

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Friday, 16 Oct 2020 at 7:24pm

To be honest I'm more curious about this statement:

"Chicama by far is the longest wave I have ridden (87)..."

Do you mean you've counted all the places you've surfed and there's been 87 of them with Chicama being the longest?

If so, who does that..?

I focus's picture
I focus's picture
I focus commented Friday, 16 Oct 2020 at 8:28pm

Sorry Stu 1987........

toncie's picture
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toncie commented Saturday, 17 Oct 2020 at 6:17am

Thanks god, its only another I surfed it in the 80s story and not I got stranded there for a perfect season during covid story.

I focus's picture
I focus's picture
I focus commented Saturday, 17 Oct 2020 at 3:08pm

I travelled with a 35mm camera (Pentax K100 remember them?) in Ecuador I took photos of markets tourist / local no problems I took none in Peru you just couldn't get your camera out in crowded places,

A quick look through my travel diary, after crossing the boarder the bus was stopped and search twice about 20 ks out no big deal after the bus searches in Columbia (another book).
After that ruckus some where after about 6 or so hrs some one shot dead the political head of the town we were about to enter. The place was swarming with uniform and plain clothes security guys heavily armed bus was searched on entry middle and exit again after Columbia no big deal excepted the second time they were threatening to shoot the driver who was angry about stopping twice, had kids on the street shaking there hands laughing "you're in big trouble". Got to Hunanchaco 3.30 am next day after 18hrs crammed on an old bus.

The day I got to Huaraz late arvo got mobbed at the hotel like a rock star (along with a Danish guy) by 20 uni girls from Truijillo they wanted to go dancing.
We were both shattered after catching a local bus up from Chimbote up the Santo Rio Valley and through to Canyon de Plato (diary says fu(ken scary)

We then got the news a German was shot dead on one of the trails that day while being robbed.

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Blowin commented Saturday, 17 Oct 2020 at 10:40am

Mobbed by girls vs threat of being shot dead.

The scales are perfectly weighted on whether Peru is worth visiting.

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I focus commented Saturday, 17 Oct 2020 at 3:15pm

Mexico on the other hand was quite US centric in its thinking many things measured in US dollars, lots of US expats at various levels of psychotic craziness or on the run living or searching for answers in Mexico that they would never find. Lots of surfers driving down in cars or RV's coming down the Baja, the adventurist crossing from Cabo San Lucas by ferry and on down the west side.
Few like me were overlanding it with the locals it made no sense if you could drive it.
There were undercurrents of violence, an American was shot dead near by when I was at Pascuales (heaviest, deepest barrel I have ever made was there I remember few waves in the detail that I remember that wave). The killing was a falling out not a robbery so nothing to worry about the locals told me.
My last diary entry for Pascuales, "Feel good, surf bigger but lost shape, last wave got nailed good and proper, ripped tee shirt off back, another trip to Tecoman for yogurt and breakfast at Jojuana, on to Rio Nexpa"

This is all before the cartels started their carnage in Mexico unlike Columbia where it was in full swing where in the daily papers often the 1st 3 pages where photos of dead bodies from cartel or FARC violence, you could buy magazines that were dedicated to showing it all in graphic detail all feeding the machismo males.

There was a war on drugs (thanks Regan) in Mexico but it was directed at spraying dope plantations particularly in Michoacan where you found the best heads, this is before serious hydro where most dope sold was leaf.
An Aussie I knew gave an old bloke $5USD for some Michoacan heads thinking he would get a sample of the local product before moving on, the old man disappeared some where in to the hills returning next day with a hessian bag full beautiful bud presenting a major dilemma.

Having a few joints and throwing the remainder or staying around to smoke the bag.

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I focus commented Saturday, 17 Oct 2020 at 2:33pm

Goofyfoot, Mexico was good and I had a lot of very good waves in warm water more waves than in Peru's cold water.
Mexico had many sights other than surfing (didn't visit the pacific coast).
At the time Mexico city (I think) was the latest populated city in the world and was talked into going there by a couple from South Australia to checked it out on a side trip while heading for Escondido.
In Puerto Escondido the military did patrol the beach but never heard of any serious issues. Side story, I met a couple of hard core Londoners they were serious travellers coming out of SA and I was keen to get information on travelling down.
They were not happy at the price of beer around the beach invited me to go drinking with them up the back of Escondido some where with the locals.
Walking through the back streets for some time we came across a grotty little bar straight out of "The Good , Bad and Ugly" complete with characters.
One of the Londoners said "here we go a complete shit hole .....just what we are looking for" and strides in.
The clear bottle Coronas you buy now were the cheapest beer in Mexico at the time (20 to 30 cents AUD)there was a better Corona but sold in dark glass (40 cents).
"The shit hole" only had clear glass Corona.

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I focus commented Saturday, 17 Oct 2020 at 2:48pm

Mexico was good but Peru was heart and soul so much better even in those troubled times.
I didn't surf as much in Peru not because there were less waves or they were no good the place pumps any size, type you want from the very north to south or that living was harder just Peru was so much more.
I would get up in the morning and before opening the door think, "WTF will happen today"
Open the door and and for want of a better phrase "shit would start going down" in a good way.
The Peruvians were far friendlier, you could stop anyone in the street no matter what the time and have a 2 hour serious conversation, they were generous souls who looked out for you while travelling, they too were getting robbed and it didn't matter that you were a foreigner with a bag pack and surf board many a time locals had my back.
There are layers of history on street corners every where, and then there are the high Andes, fu(k they are some thing to behold,

Peru I hope to go back to some day.

PS forgive me for the memory dump.

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seaslug commented Saturday, 17 Oct 2020 at 3:13pm

Keep it coming "I focus", great, enjoying

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I focus commented Saturday, 17 Oct 2020 at 3:03pm

Blowing in those days Machismo was a thing a local girl could not look at a local bloke with out him thinking she's fair game.
Foreigners on the other hand the girls knew they could talk to and not get raped and in Peru the girls were particularly aggressive at meeting you not for sex or money they just wanted to check you out.
The Truijillo girls ended up on a mini bus with me, the Danish guy and a Swede travelled up to a glacier (5000 metres) you could walk to the top 5,500 mts where I saw my first snow ever, we all went to a disco that night which got embarrassing dancing with 30 hot girls, got pissed (Peru made good beer) woke up next morning alone with the worlds biggest head ache, Huaraz was at 3000 metres as it was running up and down at 5000 metres then dancing while swilling cheep piss.........you would think I would have gotten my priorities in order a bit better .

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stunet commented Saturday, 17 Oct 2020 at 3:05pm

Great stuff, I Focus. Love it.

And feel free to continue if you wish.

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Blowin commented Saturday, 17 Oct 2020 at 3:13pm

Second that.

Thanks I Focus.

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simba commented Saturday, 17 Oct 2020 at 3:24pm

yeah i second that ...plz continue I Focus

simba

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zenagain commented Saturday, 17 Oct 2020 at 3:45pm

Don't stop. This is epic.

1173

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Patrick commented Saturday, 17 Oct 2020 at 4:16pm

I'd love to hear more too. I was in Lima & Cusco last year for six weeks, loved it and was going back this year to travel along the coast... but alas!

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goofyfoot commented Saturday, 17 Oct 2020 at 8:02pm

Epic tales Ifocus! Keep 'em coming

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ringmaster commented Sunday, 18 Oct 2020 at 12:09am

That's what it's all about I Focus!

Enjoyed reading your stories.

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djizzah commented Sunday, 18 Oct 2020 at 10:46am

its going the wrong way though

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ringmaster commented Sunday, 18 Oct 2020 at 12:29pm

It's all life experience mate. Won't learn/see/experience that in a classroom or in front of a screen.

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I focus commented Sunday, 18 Oct 2020 at 2:32pm

Hopefully gents this won’t become a monster and remains interesting.
Apologies to the John Veage didn’t mean to hijack his excellent story please just treat my bits as a foot note.

Reading Johns story brought back to the surface my 12 months overlanding it through Latin America in bright 4K colour, a journey I hadn’t thought about for a very long time.

Catching my attention was the headline Chicama, the blown tire, and making $20K.

Chicama dwelled long in my imagination along with the high Andres, story of the Incas and Machu Picchu for as long as I can remember.
Why I don’t know, I have always been a dreamer.

Good mates had travelled and surfed Indo late 70’s a couple went beyond through to India and Nepal, one further travelled on through Iran using his wits to get out across the boarder as the American Hostage situation unfolded.
Me, mean while wandered around WA working, surfing until I went north lured by the Bluff, Gnaraloo , but Chicama always in the back of my mind.

The blown tyre John experienced reminded me straight away of the fresh scar across the head of a local Truijjillo tyre dealer, he showed me as we drank beers on the beach in a shack bar Huanchaco.
He had stopped to help a break down on that stretch of highway, bashed unconscious he was robbed and had his car stolen for his troubles but he was thankful to survive.

And the $20K, to put that into perspective it cost me $10K for the whole 12 months including return airfare Perth / LA, around 3 intern flights in Latin America my exit flight out Ecuador to LA.
My weekly budget on the ground was $100 USD (Kiwis were traveling on $50 USD / week) using Thomas Cook travellers cheques held in $USD.
Robbery was all most a certainty so you had to have strategy on how to play it.
A professional knew you had a money belt and in Peru it had to be below the belt line so it was there I kept the travellers cheques and a bit of cash.
An Australia passport was worth $2000 USD at the time this I kept with a few USD notes and a credit card (for an emergency airfare home) in a pouch slung over the shoulder hanging in the arm pit.
The plan was to immediately hand over the money belt and obey the rules (made by the man holding the gun….”wise old jungle saying”).

Nearly everyone I heard of getting shot dead (and there were a few) argued with the gunman, breaking rule number one.

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I focus commented Monday, 19 Oct 2020 at 3:34pm

In South American you came across contradictions every day, however one thing that was set in place was that society was a layered cake along with corruption.
On the bottom it was black or indigenous rising through various shades to white at the top.
Few Latin counties could out do Columbia for arm conflict and violence resulting in huge death tolls of civilians and combatants.
My guide book gave warnings nonstop about Columbia for travellers, as I said before the news was nonstop photos and footage of dead bodies mostly civilians and commonly children.
And yet Columbia for me was problem free, no issues, threats, no pick pockets; people were really friendly, helpful. I never met another traveller in Columbia; I was on my own as I transited through, I was on my guard the whole time but there was that contradiction, there was conflict all around me but it never came into my space.
I got jolted back into reality on the overnight bus trip from Cali to the Ecuadorian border. The bus was stopped and search serval times and it was intense.

Bus searches were common particularly leaving border areas sometimes some just prodding and probing of baggage, money would change hands and off you would go.

Other times it got more serious when negotiations broke down between those on the bus trying to sneak goods in and the authorities shaking everyone down.

I repeatedly chose the wrong bus when leaving boarder areas. The bus would be overloaded with goods headed for resale in the capital city it was a real pain in the nuts.

When it all went bad the bus would be completely unloaded, usually I would be asked what belonged to me, I would grab my back pack and surfboard and be told to stand out of the way strangely I was never targeted. The officers would then go to work and people had to buy their way back onto the bus and if lucky with whatever they were trying to get in.
Once it all got sorted I would secure my stuff get back on and off we would go for another 10 or so K's until another check point (there was always another one) then whole process would start again.

The Columbian bus I was on was stopped by the military; everyone was ordered off, women gathered to around the front of the bus men stood up alongside the bus hands up against the side feet spread.

There was a mounted machine gun covering the scene (at least 40 cal) troops (African Columbians) had weapons raised clear of the machine guns field of fire, other troops were pulling all the luggage apart turning the bus inside out, I had gotten pretty good at reading situations / people but anyone could see these guys were really tense.
A white officer checked the women’s ID keeping an eye over the scene, a white NCO / Sargent directed the bus search and a mixed Latino corporal did the search of us men.
The corporal placed a whistle in his mouth, his leading foot inside the person being searched foot and a submachine gun hung under his arm pit ready to go.

The layer cake at work

There was silence other than orders being issued out by the NCO.

Then the whistle blew, holy fu(k my butt cheeks clenched, the corporal stepped back raising his weapon. The guy being searched had a gun, turned out to be a police officer……..why the fu(k didn’t he say something beforehand. I heard this very same story happening to someone else.
Next town he got off, the next search followed the same routine except I moved to the end of the que up against the bus.
A bloke on the bus told me later those road blocks were regularly getting shot up.

My diary entry was, travelled all night Cali to Ipiales no major hassles.

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simba commented Monday, 19 Oct 2020 at 3:40pm

Awesome stuff i focus,looking forward to the next instalment.

simba

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Rabbits68 commented Monday, 19 Oct 2020 at 3:54pm

Amazing tales IFocus! Thanks very much for sharing. Keep them coming :-)

Pristine

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Spuddups commented Monday, 19 Oct 2020 at 5:09pm

Fark, that sounds heavy. I don’t think I could stomach that sort of thing.

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zenagain commented Monday, 19 Oct 2020 at 5:58pm

Been really enjoying iF's travel diary.

1173

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I focus commented Monday, 19 Oct 2020 at 11:39pm

I first heard about Rio Nexpa while at Pascuales , the locals told me it was worth staying there and that the surf could be quite good.
There had been some good waves at Pascules including my all time best tube, an American living there told me later that wave was as good as it gets.

Below pic is my beach front hotel at Pascules, high tide step off into the surf. Garbage from the hotel thrown straight over the wall onto the vacant block.

But I had grown tired of the continued floggings and worried constantly about breaking my board, saw more than 20 broken sticks over just two weeks. The boards were light weight for small waves but the Americans did impressed me as they generally didn’t shirk pulling in and getting eaten.
Guys would turn up from the states Texas, Florida or California with two or three boards, snap the lot and have to go home. A couple of Aussies did setup in Mama’s sticking boards together again for cash.
A Queenslander (good surfer) blew an ear drum just paddling out getting worked by the white water.
I took a local bus from Tecoman down the coast enjoying the relaxed trip friendly locals getting on and off chatting away so much so I missed my stop at Nexpa and got off at Caleta de Campos. Only one hotel in town and it was full ended up in a room with ½ a door under some ones house for a restless night.
Next morning hitched a ride with two Mexicans in a kombi running on one cylinder back to Nexpa to start 34 nights sleeping in a hammock staying at “Larryo’s” (aka face on a stick) on the point.

My Cabana on the point next to the two coconut trees.

As waves go you wouldn’t say it was exceptional and it changed constantly as the river moved the sand around the point each day bringing almost a new setup.
It did hold reasonable size and my dairy notes the 6’4” I had getting over powered and going sideways a few times.
However a couple guys from Port Macquarie veteran traveller’s really next level had it the week before I arrived churning out solid barrels. Both these guys could rip and were an education for me on travelling. I hung on their every word as they threw around ideas on their next money making scheme.
One idea was stuffing the spare tire in their Kombi with the area’s finest heads and heading back north over the border. (They didn’t instead ended up heading for NY jumping on a yacht and heading off to the Caribbean.)

Caleta de Campos.

I took a trip into Caleta with an South Australia couple Richard and Jo, Richard wanted his deposit back on a water bottle but when dealing with the seller they said they were not interested. Richard was another one of those guys who had travelled surfed Asia and then onto India saying you don’t come out of India the same person you went in.
So Richard wasn’t fazed and kept insisting to the point he said “OK I will have to get the police involved”
The reply was shrieks of laughter followed with” the police won't come here its too dangerous”……….
I was thinking hmmm good point I would have walked but undeterred Richard pressed on and finally got his deposit back and no one got hurt.

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zenagain commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 12:06am

This is gold iF.

How much was the deposit worth?

1173

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I focus commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 9:56am

Cant remember Zen, would have been $.50 to $3AUD at the most, I was living at Larryo's for a $1 a day as were the other Aussies, Americans were paying $5.

Richard was a really good negotiator so it wouldn't have been over the odds.

My hammock that I bought in Caleta cost 30,000 Peso's, I think Richard payed 20.000 some thing.
Had never slept in a hammock before or after Nexpa, used to wake up out the point thinking I was home it was that comfortable, plus out the point there was no mossies for some reason. The hammocks were handmade from thread and you slept across them so your back ended up perfectly flat.
Met some pretty switch on people there it was a great time

Diary entry "Ron Porosi = Rocket Fuel" it was very cheap as was the local product.

Edit, exchange rate was around 1400 Pesos to $1USD

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stunet commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 10:22am

You hear much about Petalcalco, I Focus? You weren't far away. It was probably ruined by that point, the river that provided the banks was dammed and diverted, but did you hear stories of the place?

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zenagain commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 10:24am

Wow man, cherished memories. Bit more adventurous than the average Phuket jaunt goes without saying.

1173

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I focus commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 2:21pm

No Stu don't recall anything, I did go into Lazaro Cardenas a few times for supplies and there were a couple of resident Yank surfers in the area (completely psychotic minds totally out there) that I got on really well with that told me about the area in that loud in your face way that some US citizens were prone to do those days.

Also the Americans surfing the area generally flew into and stayed at Zihuantanejo further south and there were other breaks around but regularly the guys would come up from Zihuantanejo to surf Nexpa thankfully bringing their hot looking girlfriends with them.

There was a scene on the beach one day with one of the American girls in tears saying that she only had two weeks vacation for the whole year and didn't want to spend it at a god damn dive like Rio Nexpa.

The fact that most of us there hadn't showered for weeks likely didn't help.

The girl desperately wanted to go back to Zihuantanejo.

Needless to say her boyfriend complied complete with look of loss as Nexpa was solid and going off.

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I focus commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 2:55pm

When I started writing in this thread I went searching for my photos and I know I also had other notes plus I asked everyone I wrote home to please keep my letters which thankfully everyone did.
For anyone who has never known a world without internet they might shudder at communications from Latin America in the day. I made an effort for the sake of my mother to write letters frequently (heavily censured and up beat) but didn’t receive mail from home for at least 4 months away.
To ring home you had to find a phone box usually in a major post office that did international calls and often have to book the call. Then when the operator finally connected to Australia it was always in Spanish, I didn’t phone home often as I was usually somewhere relatively remote.
Back to the search I was increasing getting more and more anxious the longer the search went on until the last spot I had over looked with my wife telling me they won’t be there……..my wife is never wrong only yesterday did I find them tucked away in a box and in there was gold.

The opening lines from one letter to my parents in 1988.

“Giday trying to think of something different to start this letter how about a weather forecast, fine and sunny with moderate stealing in the streets mid-morning with no signs of beggars around the main Plaza but possible light gun fire in the back ground…nar just joking. “

At times it wasn’t so far from the truth.

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ringmaster commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 3:30pm

Ha! Classic mate!

I remember phoning home from Spain in a post office in 1988 in the exact circumstances you outlined above. I was in Pamplona and when I told my mum I was running with the bulls the next morning she started crying down the phone in between saying "No you're not!"

"Yes I did mum"...... but I made sure that I kept my promise to ring her when we drove out of there a few days later to let her know I got through it un-gored.

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I focus commented Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020 at 8:04pm

Now that's a classic Ringmaster, saw something the other day about sons being easier to raise than daughters but harder to keep alive.