I have known quite a bit about the town of Namora and its lake, San Nicolas, for many months. The volunteer there, Vinnie, has been in contact with Keteka for a while and has proactively promoted tourism in Namora his entire service. As such, I have been excited to see Laguna San Nicolas for months and the anticipation has built as I’ve worked my way north through Peru. Last Saturday, I finally had my chance to visit a community I had heard so much about.

Peru, Cajamarca

Laguna San Nicolas

My first impression was that the town is very campo (country), which immediately made me like it more. My Peace Corps community was pretty country and many of my favorite destinations in Panama and Peru are country, in the physical and cultural sense of the word.

Upon arrival, Vinnie brought me to his host family’s house and they shoved food at me until I begged them to stop feeding me. I only managed to escape the table by stuffing several pieces of bread in my backpack and insisting I’d eat them later (I didn’t). As difficult as being fed this way sometimes is, I love it and it is quintessential campo hospitality.

The first part of my Namora tour was a visit to a section of town inhabited almost exclusively by artisan guitar makers. Apparently, Namora is famous for exporting artisan guitars of varying quality, from their nearest city, Cajamarca, all the way down the coast to Lima (which is about 20 hours from Namora). We visited several workshops, most of which made the guitar bodies, and one who made almost nothing but details. The detail shop was actually my favorite, I think because it is part of the guitar-making process I never really thought about.

Peru, Cajamarca

Details

I always just assumed the decorated part around the hole on the guitar body was painted on, but in this case, the artisan makes it out of wood shavings that he meticulously fits together, dyes, and makes into patterns. The artisan (Julio) walked me through the process and by the end I wished I played guitar, so I could buy an artisan guitar, with details, on the spot.

After the workshop tours, we hiked over the hill to the Coyor ruins. They are pretty overgrown, but I could tell that as soon as the locals cleaned up the area, the space would be extensive, with an amazing view of the Laguna. There, I had a lot of the same thoughts I’ve had while visiting ruins on this trip (and there have been many): What was the last inhabitant doing right before they abandoned this building? Which structures will people 2,000 years from now look at and analyze? Will Jay-Z still be popular?

From the ruins, we descended to the Laguna for a closer look. According to Vinnie, the Laguna is over a mile long and about a mile wide, which doesn’t really seem to be the case until you start to walk around it. We visited a local with a lodge on the other side of the Laguna that didn’t seem so far away until we still hadn’t reached it 40 minutes later. Unfortunately, none of Vinnie’s contacts were able to take us out on a boat that day, but we did see two guys standing on basically a large flat piece of wood and paddling out to fish. It looked like potentially the most unstable way to fish on a calm surface of water.

Namora, Cajamarca, Peru

You think my hat is big enough?

The Laguna is gorgeous and would definitely be a chill place to spend a day and a night, which I certainly would have done if I wasn’t keeping such an ambitious travel schedule. And as much as I may complain about it afterward, I would have also have loved to be force-fed another meal that night by a middle-aged campesina lady.