Tuesday, September 24, 2013
Ilo with some 65,000 inhabitants is the largest city in the Moquegua Region of southern Peru. Copper mines originally owned by the Southern Peru Copper Corporation (SPCC) drive much of the economy. Unfortunately, the copper smelting plant and a refinery located about 10 kilometers to the north have contributed to a large amount of air and water pollution in the region. This gave Ilo some notoriety when it was featured in the Canadian documentary film The Corporation, as an example of environmental problems caused by industries. However, in the past couple of years the government has made efforts to clean up the pollution problems and one of ways was to construct a new promenade along the beach front using lots of grass, plants, flowering shrubs and trees. The result is this gorgeous, green landscape, irrigated by water from the nearby river. One our first night here, we parked in one of the parking areas that was adjacent to a lawned memorial dedicated to the national police force. With lots of tile mosaic paths meandering down to the water and so much lush grass, Winston has in seventh heaven. Unfortunately, it was close to downtown and there was no space to safely let him run off lead so the next morning, we decided to try and find another spot. Driving the costanera, we could see why besides mining, the town also has a strong fishing economy; they have one of the largest fishing fleets we have seen. Everything from small boats to large trawlers complete with radar and presumably all the accoutrements for successful commercial fishing, they are all crammed side by side into the bay. There is a municipal fish market and we resolve to come back and see what fresh catch is available. The port area is also busy with large ships and barges docked and being unloaded and others out in the bay waiting to dock. Interestingly, Bolivia uses Ilo as a free passage to the Pacific Ocean for both recreational and trade purposes. After going to war with Peru in the 19th century to claim a portion of the Pacific, diplomacy took over. Now the Peruvian government has granted a renewable 99 year lease to the government of landlocked Bolivia to use a portion of the port facility as its own, in effect allowing Bolivia to claim to be a "Pacific Ocean nation". Since rain is almost non-existent here, as Ilo is located just north of the Atacama Desert which is considered to be the most arid place on earth, the weather stays warm and consistent most of the year and there a quite a few swimming coves that have been developed for the mostly, Peruvian tourists. One of them to the north of town, Pozo de Lizas looks like it will be ideal for our next couple of days in Ilo. Close to the army barracks, there is no other housing nearby and we can park, perched on a cliff with easy walkway access to the water. There is about a 3 mile long stretch of sand for us to allow Winston off leash and run. Judging from the new looking stucco and tiled tiered building with bathrooms, showers and kiosks for restaurants, in the summer this “balneario” (Spanish word for a commercialized, swimming area) would be a busy place. In winter, it is closed up and deserted save for one security guard. Since there are other coves and balnearios closer to town, in the two days we are here, we see only a few people walking the beach and a fishing boat with a couple of fishermen setting and retrieving their nets. We did see however a myriad of sea birds and a couple of sea lions swimming off-shore. There is a reserve “Punta Coles” close by but we had been told it is closed for 15 days due to contamination, no other information just “contamination”, so we presumed the sea lions were part of that reserve. Sunday, we went into town and walked along the promenade. We visited the fish market and picked up some fresh Albacore tuna and we also found an internet café where we checked on emails and were even able to Skype the kids. After, we returned to our place on the cliff and spent the afternoon alternately playing on the beach with Winston and reading. Tom set up with gas barbeque and we had the tuna which he marinated in a teriyaki style sauce for dinner. It was delicious and a fitting meal for our last night in a town which is touted as having a thriving fishing economy.