El Salto del Fraile

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With his usual air of mystery, Ivo told me to grab my coat— “Where are we going?” “Ahhh, you’ll see.” After about a twenty-minute drive along Peru’s coastline, we pulled into a small driveway in front of an isolated building. A grinning man in monk’s robes approached us to say hello, but the Spanish was too fast for me to follow. Ivo grabbed my hand and we followed the “monk” around the back of the building.

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The beaches in Miami are sexy. They are for piña coladas, tan lines you can regret tomorrow, and other general acts of gloriously shallow hedonism. What I’ve seen of the coastline in Lima, though, makes me believe you could become a connoisseur of oceans in the same way you could of wine. The scene we walked into behind what I would shortly discover was a restaurant contrasted completely with the calm, lazy Miami waters; if anything, it made Miami look like a lake.

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The rocks we were standing on jutted out into the water, but as black and tough and sharp as they were, the ocean was slowly—albeit clearly—winning the battle. To say the waves “crashed” against the rocks is a bit cliché, but the verb here is exactly correct: The waves crashed, sometimes so hard that they burst upwards into a dramatic spray that haloed whoever stood on the edge of the bar.

After a few minutes of admiring the view, our monk began motioning for everyone to gather around. As he did, Ivo started to tell me about the legend that was attached to these rocks: Around the mid-1800s, a very rich, very protective, and widowed father doted ceaselessly on his only daughter. Naturally, she fell in love with a young man with no money or title (the majority of sources claim it was the son of her nanny). Her father discovers their relationship only when his daughter returns home pregnant.

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Furious, the father forces the young man to join a monastery, and arranges for himself and his daughter to embark on a long voyage to Spain that will depart in one month. Over the course of this time, each member of the separated couple withers; they cannot stand to be parted for the month, let alone for the rest of their lives.

Finally, the day arrives. The young woman has received a tip from her nanny that her lover will be standing on the same rocky outlook that we stood on now, his intention being to wave goodbye. As the ship she is on approaches the outlook, the young woman looks and sees the monk’s robes billowing in the wind as he waves his arms to her while standing at the edge of the rocks.

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Ivo completed the legend for me by translating the name of the restaurant: “El Salto del Fraile” translates to “The Leap of the Monk.” Just as in the legend, our own monk climbed to the edge of the peak, waved his arms above his head toward an invisible ship, and then…

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I am not wholly ashamed to say that I “loudly exclaimed” my shock at the moment; fortunately none of the other spectators spoke English. Suffice it to say, whatever they pay this man to reenact the heartbroken suicide of the monk, it cannot possibly be enough. After too many seconds (I suspect intentionally added for the drama), our monk fortunately bobbed back up and waved to the small crowd; once he had clambered his way back up the sheer cliff drop, Ivo and I were too happy to give him a generous tip.

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After the experience, Ivo and I retired to the restaurant for a pair of Pisco Sours. The monk opted for a repeat performance while we drank, so I can only assume he has a passion for his work. While I doubt the real young man of the story had the creation of this restaurant in mind (and certainly not the sale of stuffed teddy bear monks holding satin hearts), even the shallow exploitation of the legend can’t detract from the beauty of the place itself.

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From our table for two, we watched the sunset cast a shimmering gold line down the water towards the rocks; justifiably, I think, Ivo says this is his favorite color.

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One thought on “El Salto del Fraile

  1. Pingback: The Federle Family Visits Lima (Part I) | La Colorada

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