Published: May 9th 2011May 9th 2011
Leon caught my attention as he walked 3 dogs along the streets of Haunchaco, I was particularly taken by one of the canines who looked like he may be knocking on deaths door, yet his master handled him with an expert poise and our skinny sickly friend was obviously his companion, Of course I was intrigued.
Over a period of a few day I noticed this man and his canine crew march the streets of Haunchaco and grew more interested, what made it even more unusual was that JD said he was sure he knew this man, I had to ask, I am an annoying cow after all and I decided to approach this man, in the most endearing way of course.
One of his dogs was obviously very ill and that for me was a reason to talk to him, I am a dog lover by the way so my interest was genuine, My introduction to him was me asking "you have your hands full there mate" his answer " I can't take anymore dogs" The ice had been broken. I introduce myself as did he and we moved on.
I am fed up with travel stories
and have decided to try my hand at something else, people's stories wherever they are from.
Life continued in Huanchacho with the taxing efforts of sunbathing , eating cervices and perving handsome boys on the beach behind dark sunglasses and a book that was probably upside-down, Life is good.
A couple of days later I met Leon again and finding he was an ex pat in such a small town I felt he might have some stories to tell so I asked him if we could meet for a chat and explained briefly my blog intentions, He found this highly amusing but we agreed to meet the following day at his apartment.
Arriving at Leon's place was a frenzy of a completely mad Irish setter called Red Head, A gentle miss called chocolate and poor sickly skinny. It would seem Leon likes bitches.
Now I had a few questions in my head for this man, forget it, he was giving nothing away but being that I have lived in South America a number of years myself I have feel for these tentative folks and have at least a little understanding of why they are here and
more importantly why they don't want nosy people like me imposing on their lives.
Never mind he invited me into his lovely apartment and while I had interrupted his lunch he made me feel at home and offered me a glass of wine, after a short period of time he sat beside me and obviously slightly confused asked me what the hell I was there for. I explained that this was a travel blog, one that i didn't want to tell my readers about how wonderful hostel is or a town, I wanted an opinion of someone who could tell me about the real Haunchaco, man was I disappointed, Yet I remained intrigued by him.
Originally from Kanas Leon got involved in the oil industry as a young man, eventually becoming a rig mechanic and therefore opening a world of possibilities to him, he could work anywhere in the world. He choose Ecuador.
After about 8 years working in the Ecuadorian oilfields as the world knows the politics of the country changed, What is comically known as the pink tide had hit Ecuador as Correa was elected, the foreign oil industry was now a thing of the
past, He wasn't the only one, People who had invested foreign money left i droves, Leon needed a change.
With his then girlfriend they jumped in the car and headed South, "lets see what Peru has to offer" Their experience was one that dictated their future together in Peru, Leon is a man who believes that there are two philosophies in life, communism and capitalism and they where disillusioned by the way Ecuadorian politics was heading, Peru looked so much more promising, In his own words, Immigration was simpler, Banking was a doodle and corruption was not as prevalent as it was in Ecuador, It looked like Peru is was.
After numerous trips up and down the coast of Peru which is where they had definitely decided to settle Haunchaco looked like a little paradise, at this this stage anyone in the oil industry in Ecudaor was getting to hell out of dodge, the industry was dead for foreign companies bust was not the word, the whole thing went tits up and even though some out of Ecuador companies are getting a lot of flack, In some cases well deserved, Ecuador new government left its oil companies to
Petroecuador and a few Chinese companies who will pay anything for energy, leaving the precious Amazon in the hands of fools, the damage done by them is huge compared to some of the companies formally involved prosecuted fined, thats another story
Leon like the majority of his colleagues had had enough and Peru was the next stop. Huanchacho seemed like a wee bit of paradise and He and his lady agreed this was the spot, He felt life had become in tolerable in Ecuador, The government had made it clear foreign investment was not the way forward for Ecuador,A man in his position with his career did the right thing and got the next boat out.
Choosing Hannchaco was simple one, a friend of 30 years had sang its praises and after some research and serious consideration it seemed like a simple choice. Upset with the politics of Ecuador he viewed Peru as a country with potential, progressing forward to benefit the next generation.
My initial interest with this chap was the guy with the rudimentary leads attached to 3 hounds who I saw walking around town, His story with his dogs is one that every dog lover will understand, It pretty much involves a big softy who finds it hard to say no. Red head he found on the beach having been hit by a car, her pelvis was shattered and her leg broken, he rushed her to the vet with little hope for her survival, she did above the odds and is now a looney with ridiculous amounts of energy, Chocolate on the other hand was smart, she figured out that these people would feed the stray animals on accession and decided to hang around out side his porch, Off course they fed her and eventually she moved closer and closer to the door, he now has a lovely comfy bed, regular meals, lots of love and attention and is a gentle old girl. Skinny had been begging on the streets for a while and Leon had seen him around, he survived on the kindness of tourists and the odd litter bin with discardedfood, the locals called her Flaca (skinny) She came to Leon and he didn;t have the heart to turn her away, Unfortunately she is ill and the vet is unsure of the causes, she is very skinny now despite Leon's encouragement to eat, Her future is at best uncertain.
I asked Leon about things that perhaps the average tourist might not know about Haunchacho and he pretty much said he kept himself to himself, preferring his own company or the company of a small group of good friends.
He mentioned the drug culture that is prevalent in most of peru and Haunchacho is no different, It is pretty much socially acceptable here, there is a massive police presence here yet they don't seem interested in the odd pot smoker or the odd sale of Cocaine but their indifference stops when it comes to trouble makers. Men hassling women, pushing drugs, getting aggressive, using too much, bringing "dirty" drugs to town and other crimes they feel damages the low key community vibe. These guys are warned several times that their activities have been noticed, if these warnings go unheeded the general punishment is to be taken into the desert where they are stripped naked shoes and all, beaten severely and left to make their way back, repeat offenders have been known to disappear, they community as a whole don't seem to mind this form of punishment after all it's their town and their tourist dollar, Violent crime is very rare here.
I asked him about the fishermen who worked so hard, Leon said he can't understand it because the water is unseasonably warm right now but generally the water is cold and the catch very small, He doesn't understand how this centuries old tradition still exists.
The plan is to stay here, its cheap, it's pretty and it's far enough away so people will leave you the hell alone, He will leave if the next election votes for the social candidate which is a trend enveloping all of South America, lead by Chavaz, It is gaining momentum,
He hopes to work again soon probably in west Africa or the middle East, He doesn't seemed too pushed either way, working as an oilrig mechanic his choices are endless.
He claims the only real changes in the town in the 6 years he has been here is that the type of tourist has changed, there are less Peruvians and more Gringos, I'm not sure I agree, the weekends here are full of happy Peruvian families, He takes nothing to do with town affairs and asked why as he lives on the main drag so any parades going by he can watch from the comfort of his own living room.
Stating that Haunchacho like a lot of small towns is full of eccentrics and a fair share of addicts I suspect he may be a little eccentric himself. Leon didn't give me the Huanchacho gossip or folklore I had hoped for but I have made a friend and we had a great afternoon, Unfortunately its just him and his dogs now as his relationship with his lady didn't work, He makes for interesting viewing as the drag him up and down the pavement, I'm glad we had our day, I like this rather private man who made me feel at home.
His final quote was, You will talk yourself out of more sales than you will ever talk yourself into.