Even before arriving in Peru I had decided there were three activities that were absolute musts. In no specific order, I wanted to see Machu Picchu, take a boat ride on the Amazon River, and visit the places frequented by Ernest Hemingway. I’ve long been a fan of Hemingway and have read and reread several of his works, which is why me, my wife and her son found ourselves in a hotel in Màncora planning a side trip to Cabo Blanco.
Much has been written about the town of Cabo Blanco and the Cabo Blanco Fishing Club so I needn’t bother to go into detail. Suffice it to say the fishing club was started by some wealthy oil men in 1951 who charged wealthy sportsmen $10,000 or more just for membership. Many celebrities visited the club until it closed its doors in 1970 due to a hostile political climate and a change in the Humboldt Current which negatively impacted the fishing. Hemingway was a resident of the club in 1956 for about six weeks. There was apparently an attempt in 1986 to reopen the club but today it sits lonely, abandoned and in disrepair atop a bluff slightly removed from the town.
The combi driver who dropped us off (we were the only passengers…”nobody comes here”) said that if we talked nice to the resident vigilante he might let us inside. There was no vigilante to be found but there were plenty of open doors so we let ourselves in. We later learned the vigilante was busy in town cooking at the restaurant where we had lunch some hours later. He was disappointed to learn that none of the three dogs in the club house had attempted to bite us. Actually, they didn’t even bark but we didn’t tell him that.
I’ll let the photos of the club speak for themselves. I will say that as I walked through the rooms, halls, and stood at the bar where Hemingway drank Pisco sours I felt a rush that far exceeded my expectations. But there was also a feeling of despair, perhaps much as Hemingway felt when he pulled the trigger on himself five years later.
After our tour of the club we walked to town and by a stroke of luck ate lunch at the Restaurant Cabo Blanco, owned by Pablo Cordova Ramirez who was a barman at the fishing club during visits by Ted Williams, Jimmy Stewart and Hemingway. Pablo was eager to show us the many photos adorning the walls of the restaurant and talk about their history. At one point he asked if “my friend” Barry Goldwater was still active in politics, and seemed genuinely sad to learn that Goldwater is dead.
Cabo Blanco is a short (but attention getting) combi ride from the town of El Alto located on the Pan American highway. It is a tiny village devoted to commercial fishing, and I would guess it shuts down completely at sundown. With its white sand beach and friendly people it is definitely worth a half-day trip, and if you have any appreciation for history at all, do not miss a visit to the Cabo Blanco Fishing Club.
The main entrance. The words Cabo Blanco Fishing Club are barely visible above the door.
The town is behind the bluff
Did Hemingway stay in this room?
A 1,560 pound fourteen feet plus marlin
Pablo poses in his restaurant with the gringo
Pablo claims to be the barman on the left in this photo of Hemingway.