Traveling North: Lobitos to Zorritos

“How are we going to get back north?” I asked. If was the night before our AirBNB reservation ended in the desert surf town of Lobitos, Peru. We were over three hours away from our next destination. “Can we grab a bus?”

I hoped we didn’t have to take another taxi ride, the buses were definitely preferable. The tourist buses in Peru and Ecuador were the more luxurious types with two rows of two cushioned seats each. The seats leaned back with more space than airplane seating. There was usually wifi and a TV. The only fault with the tourist busses was that their TV was almost always loudly playing a violent American film (or an untimely holiday movie). If you were traveling for more than five hours, Sylvester Stallone or Steven Seagal were guaranteed to make an appearance. If you were traveling in July, a Christmas movie that went straight to video would almost certainly play. Regardless, the bus more appealing than the other options we had explored on the way down.

“Espera.” Toni was texting on his phone. “Felix,” he said with a way that pronounced the “F” in a playful way as if he was a soft wh. “Whay-lix,” he continued, “he is coming through here from Lima and he is going to north.” It was right on our way.


“Si, tomorrow. You want to go with him?” Toni asked.

Felix was a guy in his early 30s who regularly looked like he was ready to go clubbing in Miami. His signature look was large mirror lens sunglasses, a popped collar tee shirt, either Gucci or Louis Vuitton, and a constant stream of instagram selfie stories being taken. He always arrived with a warm party energy and wanted everyone to have a good time.

“Is he going to be sober?” I asked, “have you ever driven with him?” I was a little concerned he would show up still drunk or that even sober, Felix would be a terrifying driver.

“He’s with his mom. They have been ok since leaving Lima,” Toni was half confident in Felix, explaining that they had made it safely on an 18 hour trip, thousand mile trip from Lima, so hopefully that would continue when they picked us up.

“I’m willing to try it.” I said. I was debating whether being in the car with Felix driving 80 mph around the desert turns would be better or worse than another sardine packed van ride. At least with Felix we could comment out loud to him on any craziness.

The next morning, we surfed and packed up. Boards, bathing suits, hats, all the surf trip essentials. “What time do you think he’ll be here?” I asked Toni as I zipped my suitcase closed and was ready for a morning coffee and walk on the beach as we waited.

“Um, ahora.” he replied.

“Right now? Like, ahorita, right, right now?” I tried to clarify the time vocabulary.

His phone rang. “Whay-lix, ya, we’re ready, where you at bro,” Toni continued in rapid Spanish and I got serious about actually being packed up and ready. I didn’t have much time though because a minute later the dust swirled in front of our apartment and Felix screeched in with windows down and his clubbing music blasting. He was driving a red, brand new Toyota RAV 4.

At least it has good safety features, I thought. An oddly responsible choice.

“Caroline!” Felix jumped out of the car and greeted me with his arms wide open for a big hug. “It’s been a long time, how are you doing? Yeah, things have been crazy. I’ve been in Lima…” he continued. He kept talking as Toni began to pack up the car with our suitcases and surfboards.

“Felix!” Toni yelled as he stood inside the car door and peered over the top of the roof. He threw the surf leash over the roof and to the other side of the car. Toni had tied together the velcro ankle straps from our leashes to serve as the rope to hold the surf boards on top of the car. “Enough talking, help me with this.”

“Caroline, yes, so good to see you. Ok Toño! What do you need? Lima has been crazy. Puta madre, you don’t have a rope! Toño is this going to work?” Felix’s voice screeched and he looked at the ankle strap at the end of the leash in question. “Caroline,” he looked down, “my mother is in the car, she has a puppy.”

Four stout puppy legs flopped out of the car and ran around the RAV 4 to visit me and my dog who were watching the surfboard packing scene.

“Aye perrito!” I heard a woman’s voice.

“It’s fine, he is here!” I called out to her. I picked up the trailing dog leash to take the chubby Jack Russell terrier puppy back inside the car. Felix’s mom sat in the back seat of the car. The puppy had a brown patch over his eye, like the Wishbone kids TV show character.

“Ok, Caroline, we’re ready.” Packing the car when quickly. The boards looked secure enough, the leashes were wrapped tightly, once around the middle of the silver board bags. I grabbed my purse and my own dog and off we went. I wasn’t really sure to where.

I sat in the backseat with Toni to my left and Felix’s mom, her big pink purse, and her chubby puppy, to my right. Her purse was filled with various makeup products and applicators. Brushes, blush, and lipsticks were all slightly spilling out onto my lap, as well as the floor. She was soft spoken and very kind. She told me how she worked in a rhinoplasty surgery office and how she worries about Felix all the time.

“Aye, las chicas. They only want his money! And the drugs the women have now, he has to be careful.”

I could hardly hear her over the Reggaeton dance mix music that was playing. I looked up out the windows. We were going up a narrow, large hill of sand that was more loose and soft than the other roads we had traveled to get into the town. The tires skidded, struggling to get up the incline.

“Hey Toño, I think this is the wrong way,” Felix called out over his music, hit the breaks, and made a U-turn. Before we could check a map, he booked it down the sandy hill a little fast. Everyone took their phones out to see where we went wrong in the vast desert. Most of these roads lead to remote oil drilling areas, rather than the Pan American highway.

After a quick conversation of which way to go at every unmarked desert cross road, we finally saw the highway.

“Puta madre, I thought we were going to be in there forever,” Felix wiped his brow and turned the music up. “Yo Toño, where are we going?”

Toni looked at me, “Do you want to stop in Mancora?” We were only a few minutes into the trip and Toni seemed to be making sure we didn’t do the whole trip to Zorritos with this crew.

“Sure,” I said, “we just need to find a place to stay.”



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Caroline Walsh

Caroline Walsh


Former CIA Analyst and Coastie. PhD Student. Author of Fairly Smooth Operator: My life occasionally at the tip of the spear, available now!