Thursday, January 30, 2014
Here is the link to our photographs of Peru. Copy and paste the link in your browser, play as a slide show and enjoy. https://plus.google.com/photos/118181109521024542820/albums/5974771671332511873?authkey=CLOIkPyig5rVlQE Hapy viewing everyone.
Wednesday, January 8, 2014
We finally found our final oasis in Peru at Costa Blanca Camping, close to Caleta Cruz. Situated on a gorgeous stretch of beach front, we had fabulous views of the ocean from our camping spot. Plus, we were the only people there for most of the time. With electricity, access to hot water showers and internet, we decide to hang out for 4 or 5 days. And hang we did. Winston and Tom played in the water as much as possible, Winston and I ran up and down the beach and we both played ball with a very happy hound. Unfortunately the property is steadily being parceled and sold off for development with the current owners keeping just enough to build a small hostel although they assured us that they would keep camping spots open for overlanders and our larger vehicles. I have also initiated contact with some people in Ecuador, spreading the word that we are going to stay in the country for 6 months and want to rent a house. In addition we want to look at land for purchase. We booked Danny and Nicole’s airline tickets for visiting us in January. We had initially thought of Christmas but the prices were outrageous and we also realized things were quite booked. Given the fact we are flexible and really want to take them to the Galapagos Islands, January seemed like a safer bet. First, a gentleman called Gary responded, who put us in touch with Sean a realtor in the Puerto Cayo area. He has two homes for rent and one a 4 bedroom/4.5 bath really interests us. It will be large enough for us to have the kids and people visit us. So after arriving in Ecuador we will head up the coast and with luck, meet up with Sean and check out the houses. We also spent time reminiscing about Peru. We have enjoyed ourselves in the country immensely and many aspects of the country surprised us. It is much more developed than we expected, mostly due to their foreign tourist industry. With so many amazing sites to see which are spread throughout the country, the infra-structure is very well planned and thought-out. And those sights are spectacular and most of them are well documented and world renowned. The beautiful, white Spanish city of Arequipa, the breath-taking, literally and figuratively Lake Titicaca, the Condors of Colca Canyon, the extremely intriguing Nazca Lines, the spectacular Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. From having the worlds highest navigable lake, the deepest canyon and a plethora of ruins, it’s history, its people, its sights and its cuisine, Peru seemingly has it all. We have spent 4 and a half months here and still feel as though we have only scratched the surface. Here, as in many places, we have made new friends and met up with old ones. And in this, our last stop, we found those elusive palm trees swaying in the breeze and warmer water. Our last day, we played on the beach, prepared a barbeque for our final night and sorted all our paperwork for crossing the border into Ecuador. Although we are a little sad at leaving Peru where we have had such a superb time and seen some unforgettable sights and sites, we are also looking forward to getting a house for a while and being settled.
Monday, January 6, 2014
We had intended our first stop to be the famous La Brea Tar pits but were disappointed to find that there was no evidence, no signs, nothing to indicate where they are. What we did find was oil wells, lots of them, some abandoned but most working, pumping, collecting one of the commodities that run the world economy and half of Peru’s domestic consumption. Striking out on the tar pits, we continue to the coastal town of Talara and head back south down a gravel road to our next stop which is the westernmost point in South America. Punta Parinas is just that, a point with a working lighthouse. There is a cove with a small beach where we can park and stretch our legs, however to get to the lighthouse is quite a trek and a climb up a cliff. Westernmost point it may be but we simply did not have the time for a possible 3 hour round trip hike across sand and up a cliff just for a few photographs and a pat on the back. So, after some photos with a zoom lens, we headed for our next interesting stop, Cabo Blanco. Starting in El Alto, we leave the Pan American again to start a steep descent of some three miles to Cabo Blanco, with all immensity of the ocean in front of us. Everything seems stuck in time, back in the golden age of the 1950s, when Cabo Blanco was known as the world Mecca for sports fishing, and for playing host to the international jet set. Marilyn Monroe, Paul Newman, James Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, Rockefeller and, most famously of all, Ernest Hemingway, are among those who visited here. Hemingway resided for more than a month in this tiny town to write part of his novel, The Old Man and the Sea, for which he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1953. The sea around Cabo Blanco has a peculiarity that makes it unique in the world, as it is here two great currents, El Niño and the Humboldt, meet. Providing a diversity of marine life, it also ensures that the water is neither cold nor warm, meaning that marine fishing is available year-round. Fishing for black marlin, swordfish, turbot, tuna and sailfish are still one of the major draws for the laid-back town and fishing competitions are held regularly. In 1953, Alfred Glassell Jr. caught the IGFA all tackle world record black marlin, weighing 1560 pounds and 650 pounders (300kg) are still recorded here, although large tuna are the most commonly caught. The town is undergoing somewhat of a “facelift”, with a new promenade featuring brick inlay work, a playground, outdoor fitness equipment and a modest statue of Ernest Hemingway – a bust set on a granite pedestal with a plaque honoring the great writer. A new concrete pier has been built replacing an older wooden one which was destroyed by the high surf that pounds the shore. According to many surfers, Cabo Blanco has one of the best waves in Peru, a hollow powerful left-hand break that reaches four meters in height. Called the “Peruvian Pipeline”, referring to the “Banzai Pipeline” in Hawaii, it demands a certain level of experience so as not to end up crashed on the rocks. This wave is joined by another, at the southern end of the beach, whose name says it all: Panic Point. Swells from Hawaii does in fact go on to reach Peru; and one of the best ways to get a surf forecast is to monitor via internet the Hawaiian surf and whatever swell they have will arrive here about 5 days later. The wave inspires a kind of fanaticism among surfers. Crowds of surfers are drawn to the wave from Lima and from around the world. With modern swell forecasts and the internet, it's easy to know when swell is on the way and the surfers once there all pack into a single tight takeoff zone, despite other waves elsewhere in the area. Looking out towards the horizon, in addition to a flotilla of fishing boats, are oil rigs which resemble metallic mushrooms. A blight on the landscape or an inevitable necessity? Environment versus economics. Unfortunately, this stretch of the Peruvian coastline is where they extract the most oil and currently economics wins although there is tight control because of the fishing revenues in the area. Economics again! We are tempted to stay overnight but the only viable spot is at the end of the beach, close to the pier. It is not the prettiest of places nor the best smelling with scores of discarded, rotting fish littering the area, so we once again decide to keep driving in our quest for those swaying palm trees.
Saturday, January 4, 2014
The street noises woke us early which was okay because we really want to find that elusive beach, the ones we have heard and read about where the sand is white, the waves roll in and the palm trees sway. That kind of beach! So after quickly passing through Piura, we once again left the Panamerican for route 2 toward Paita and the coast. Just north of Paita is the small beach town of Colan. Unfortunately a lot of the land close to the water has been sold and for much of the beach road, there are just tall walls, protecting the houses hidden behind them and protecting their little portion of the coastline. Fortunately for us, development has not spread to the far southern end of town – give it a couple of years – and we find a gap with some vacant lots with no signs indicating private property. Since we have unobstructed ocean views this will be a nice spot for overnight. We have our very own ocean front site for the day. Winston wants to run, so we take him down to the water where he is enjoying running in and out of the waves. The water and weather has been subtly changing as we have come further north. Now the skies are bluer, the water warmer and the sand, well sandier. Nestled into the backdrop of the hills, is a series of man-made holes with water in the bottom which is a bright rose pink color. These are salt beds and piles of the harvested pink salt lie around waiting to be bagged by a couple of workers who must be paid by the hour and not the bag since in the time we were there, they managed to fill maybe a dozen bags between them. We have found it in the markets here but most of it is exported to high quality markets around the world and sells for maybe 10 times the price of regular table salt. Winston was intensely interested in the large mounds of salt but quickly lost that interest when he discovered it was pretty much inedible. Our day and evening passed peacefully by, disturbed by only a few workers, a man with his horse and cart and a couple of people walking the beach. After a gorgeous sunset, the stars were out in full force. The next morning, we had one stop to make on the way out of town. Colan is home to the oldest colonial church in Peru. Built in 1534 by Dominican friars, the church is perched on a hill close to the entrance to the town and although we had passed it yesterday we did not stop as we wanted morning light for photographs. The 16th century church was built on an Incan stone foundation with adobe mud walls and a formidable set of heavy wooden doors. It was part of the first settlement established in Peru by explorers led by Francisco Pizarro and would become the seat of Spanish colonial power. The settlement which was called San Miguel emerged two years after the arrival of the Spaniards, who would then spend the rest of the 16th century destroying the Inca Empire. Evidence of the church’s existence was found in a document sent to Queen Juana I in 1539 by a Spanish monk which mentions the church and a will from 1548 by the Spaniard Anton de Carrion, a Piura inhabitant who asks to be buried in the Church of San Miguel de Piura. Now called the Iglesia de San Lucas, the walls have suffered some deterioration over time, but the rectangular stone perimeter and the doors remain intact. There is a newer wood belfry since the original collapsed a long time ago. Inside, the original leather straps support the roof structure and there is an amazing gold gilded, baroque style altar. While we visited, half dozen locals were cleaning and polishing the wooden pews and bringing in scores of flowers for Sunday mass. The place sparkled as did the sun outside and after a few photographs, we were on our way. We are driving again and have a few more points of interest to visit before finding another beach for the night.
Thursday, January 2, 2014
The northern coast is supposed to have some of the nicest beaches in South America and some of the best surf spots in the world, although few tourists get here because Peru has so many other places that are more popular on the tourist radar. After visiting the museum, it is already afternoon and our goal is to just reach the coast and find a spot for the night. Two hours later we leave the Panamericana Highway for route 4 which will take us to the Bahia de Sechura. From our map it looks as though there are several tiny towns and one fairly large one to choose from and the road appears to be paved. Maps! The road may have been paved at one time but right now it is part paved, part gravel, part dirt and lots of potholes. It also did not highlight the first town Bayovar, is a commercial mining town and port and owned by the companies. With guards posted at the entrance, there was no chance on stopping there. Circling the bay, we passed two small towns, which consisted of only a few makeshift shacks and small fishing boats and with very narrow dirt tracks giving access to the beach. No go there either so we pushed on the Sechura, the larger town anchored at the north end of the bay. The town is still quite small with narrow streets and difficult beach accesses. Heading north on a dirt road on the peninsula, we finally found a spot that would work for us. On a headland overlooking the ocean but quite secluded. As we turn off the road, there is a policeman on a motorcycle checking traffic and we stop to get some advice. After Pimental and being asked by the local police to move under lights for our safety, we are erring on the side of caution. Sure enough, he told us it was not a safe area to spend the night. Too secluded and too dangerous, he said and advised us to go to the next big town Catacaos, which is the self proclaimed capital of artisania, where many of the souvenirs and crafts you see for sale around Peru are made. It was not on our places to stop, since we have really purchased all the arts and crafts that we wanted at other towns along the way. Discouraged, we check our map again. From here the road goes inland to Catacaos which appears to be another hour drive, minimum and it is already 5:30 and sunset is at about 6:15. But with no other viable option, we give Winston a quick walk and start driving again. We finally get to Catacaos at 6:45pm. It is dark and we pull into the first gas station we see. There is no overnight parking allowed but the streets are wide and we simply pull into a side street off the Panamerican for the night. Not ideal but good enough. It has been a long day. We are not on the coast. We are tired and grumpy. Tom gets the motorhome ready for the night and I walk Winston. The streets are mercifully quiet and there are grassy areas and trails off the highway to walk. Not ideal but good enough. By the time I got back, Tom has fixed soup and sandwiches for dinner and started the generator so we have electricity. After dinner, Tom gives Winston his final walk of the night whilst I clean the dishes. With the generator now silent, we settle in for the night with our headlamps for reading. Pretty soon Tom is asleep and snoring, Winston is asleep and snoring and I read. It is quiet outside and I realize – this is definitely good enough.