Saturday, January 4, 2014

Colan, Peru

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.

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