Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Chocho Mystery: Huaraz, Peru

Every different place I visit holds new treats to be tested that are unique to the region. I am always eager to try out a new sweet, chocolate, drink or street food. In the beautiful mountain town of Huaraz set in the Cordillera Blanca with snow capped mountains, curiosity was getting the better of me when I saw signs for Chocho everywhere. What could Chocho possibly be? The bar beside my hotel had one such sign so it had me convinced that Chocho was an alcoholic beverage. Could it be a chocolate alcohol?
After days of pondering Chocho I finally had the chance to go out and try some. I was sitting in a restaurant when someone handed me a flyer for a party in a bar. Huaraz is in low season for tourism so I was alone but thought I would go to the bar anyway. I was also eavesdropping on the good looking guys at the next table who were going. When in the bar I introduced myself to said good looking guys who happened to be Peruvian university students doing research in a small village near Huaraz. They were quite funny and I had a good laugh chatting with them. When it came time to order a drink I said I wanted Chocho. They looked at me like I was crazy. They had no idea what I was talking about. Maybe I wasn’t saying it right. They thought this whole Chocho business was pretty funny and it became a running joke throughout the night. After many beers we were saying salud for Chocho. My nicknames became Tracy Crazy and Teresita Chocho. I wasn’t crazy there is such thing as Chocho! When we left the bar, I dragged Omar (one of the guys) to the bar beside my hotel, but the bar was closed and there was no sign for Chocho. How could it be gone? Maybe I was going mad.
The next morning I walked outside and there it was Chocho, where was Omar now? He came by my hotel later on and told me he was surprised to see the Chocho sign as well and thought I had made it and put it there. We decided to end the mystery and find out what it was. I walked in and straight up to the owner and asked what is Chocho. We found out it is like a bean or chick pea. People eat Chocho in the afternoon with beer. It’s a social thing to sit with a beer and chocho and talk. We then ordered Chocho and a beer on a Sunday afternoon.
The bar was actually quite cool but dated. Looked like it had its hay day back in the grunge era of the late 80’s early 90’s and looked like my dad decorated it, with pictures of Elvis and the Beatles, light fixtures made out of beer crates and wood beams everywhere. After having quite an interesting conversation about the bar and Peru with the owner we emerged into the daylight full from Chocho and beer. I haven’t gone mad just yet.

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