San Martin, Peru
This is our last port-of-call before we start heading across the Pacific toward Easter Island this evening, several days away – 2,200 miles. We haven’t yet started changing our clocks – still on Eastern Time, but now the watches will start turning rapidly.
We docked at 6am this morning and as the sun started rising, we saw quite a contrast & dissimilarity from the bustling city of Lima. Imagine pulling up to the side of an enormous sand dune and securing the vessel to a concrete slab at its base – that’s exactly what this is – way out in the middle of nowhere! The landscape here reminds us of a port in Egypt last year – sandy hillsides bordered by water colors you find in the Caribbean. We’re stopping here because this was once home to one of the most developed coastal civilizations in ancient Peru. There’s a small archaeological museum at the site, but the main attraction is the native wildlife. Several large colonies of marine birds, including a large society of flamingos, live in the reserve. Natural scenery in the offshore (known as Islas Ballestas) is spectacular! Although the region itself is arid and devoid of plants, the islands offer the opportunity to view sea lions, penguins, pelicans, boobies, flamingos, among others. The penguins here are a much smaller variety than what we saw in the Falkland Islands last year, but the one constant is that the grounds are covered in ‘guano’ and the odor can be quite pungent at times – but they are still adorable creatures and well worth a close look! The guano itself is quite a business – in fact, it is collected once every 8 years and processed for fertilizer. When asked why it isn’t collected more frequently, we were told it’s because when humans go in with equipment, the process partly disrupts & destroys their natural habitat.
The west coast of Peru is influenced by what are referred to as the ‘Humboldt currents’ – sweeping currents from the south & southwest making this area one of the most fertile fishing areas in the world. The fishing boats here are at sea for as long as 2 months at a time, returning with literally tons of tuna. The currents sweep in millions of anchovies & shrimp, which the larger fish chase & feed. The other unique inhabitant here is the jellyfish. I’m not exaggerating when I say there are thousands – you can stand on your balcony, look down, and see HUGE jellyfish – some white, some brown, as large if not larger than a grown man – dozens & dozens of them right next to the ship! You see an occasional sea lion amidst the jellyfish, but they don’t seem to bother each other.
We left the ship at 10:15am – not by bus, but rather small jet boats that pulled alongside. The other option was taking a shuttle bus to the marina to then board a tourist boat for a trip out to some remote islands for a closer look at all the wildlife – this saved us about 30 minutes on both ends of the trip. Hopefully the pictures we post here will begin to capture the beauty of the incredible rock islands & wildlife we encountered. This is definitely on a ‘must see’ list if you someday visit the area!