(From 06/25)

Today I was able to combine two of my favorite rural Latin American travel activities: talking with old campesino men about their farms and receiving armloads of gifted fruits and vegetables.

I visited the community of Callanca, which is locally famous for its amazing food (over 2,000 people come in from the city every weekend just to have a big family lunch). The town is long, as it snakes along the river, taking advantage of the natural fertility to tend livestock Lambayeque, Peru, Chiclayoand grow carrots, mangoes, avocados, corn, yuca, maracuya fruit, lemons, and many other fruits and vegetables. In our tour around town, the local Peace Corps volunteer took me to visit one of the more diverse farms in the area. While wandering the fields admiring the produce, we bumped into the owner, an old campesino man named Jose.

Jose put down his machete and sack full of fruit to offer a calloused, cracked hand in greeting. He had teeth missing and short, fast, often unintelligible sentences. In other words, he was a classic old campesino man and I immediately liked him.

We began by looking at his orange trees, which were flowering. He explained their season, when they were planted and which fertilizers worked best for growth. He then began pulling down oranges and dumping them in my arms. We sat down on a tree stump nearby and sampled a few. Tart, fresh, juicy, and utterly delicious. I had a second as soon as I finished my first.

Peru, Lambayeque, Chiclayo

Jose

The tour followed roughly this same pattern for every flowering tree we came across – Jose would talk about it as only a farmer can, then pull down armloads of fresh produce and give them to me. Occasionally, he would ask me to reach the higher fruits, since he’s only about 5’3 and I’m a staggering 5’9. I love being tall (and never am in the States).

The highlight was definitely the avocado. I never realized there were so many different kinds until we walked through Jose’s farm. Many were just as you picture an avocado, though some were long and thin, some smaller and rounder, and a few trees had avocados that were honestly the size of footballs.

Jose topped off the tour by insisting that we sit in his home for a few minutes and enjoy fresh-squeezed glasses of maracuya juice, which was excellent.

After the tour, my tote bag was so full that there was a lemon poking out of the top and I was hand-carrying a football-sized avocado.

Anyone without travel experience in rural Latin America should note that Jose’s hospitality and generosity are by no means unusual or provoked by my writing a travel guide promoting tourism in his town (he expressed interest in being a host family house for

Lambayeque, Peru, Chiclayo

Giant Avocados!

tourists). I was just a friend of the local volunteer’s, which was grounds enough to dump armloads of produce into my hands at every opportunity. This is the type of experience you’ll probably never get with a travel agency and one of the many examples of why I love this type of travel. And of course, just another reason to use Keteka as your guide.