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Published: January 31st 2012
He said, in perfect English, "Take the picture, Dude!"
Our 72 day cruise around South America will give us only a glimpse of this vast continent. With six days in Peru we’ll have a chance to explore just the coastal region of the country. This part of Peru is very unique in that it is a desert, caused in part by the cold Humboldt Current which brings the frigid waters of Antarctica up along the west coast of South America. Even though Peru is located close to the Equator, it is much cooler than expected. The other major factor influencing this part of the world was the colonial conquests. Terry Breen, the Regent destination specialists and resident anthropologist, noted that the intent of the European explorers was vastly different in North and South America. The people who came to North America arrived with the intention of colonizing and settling. However, those that arrived in South America came with the idea of conquering and taking the treasures back to Europe. Ecuador and Peru both had highly developed civilizations which ended with the Spanish invasion. The Inca Empire, the most noted of all, left behind some very important archeological ruins.
At our first port of Salaverry we would get to see
the largest mud city ever built. We took the Pan America Highway from the port to Chan Chan. This adobe city, built over a period of 500 year, was the ancient Chimu capital. Because of the arid conditions along the Peruvian coast the ruins are quite well preserved. The Inca conquered the Chimu by cutting off their elaborate canal system which brought fresh water all the way from the Andes. The Spanish later looted all of the silver and gold from the kings’ tombs, melted it down and shipped it back to Europe. It was ironic that in the nearby town of Trujillo on the day we were there, January 18, we saw a holiday parade honoring Francisco Pizarro, the very conquistador who conquered the country and oversaw the demise of a great civilization. Les and Inge told us that their guide at Machu Picchu showed them a painting of the Last Supper in one of the churches. The artist had included a few Peruvian touches by showing roasted guinea pig as the main course and Judas, the traitor, resembling Pizarro.
There was a heavy pall of smoke surrounding the whole area. We learned that the local farmers burn
Built in 900 A.D.
the sugar cane fields not only to clear them but also in an attempt to create the conditions for rain. This parched land is always thirsty.
Lima means noisy and gets its name from the Rimac River running through it. Along with the tumbling rocks that created the noise, the river also brought sulfur which had its own definite odor. So this City of Kings was known for a long time as a loud, smelly place. Now Lima is known for its ubiquitous overcast skies. The city has changed dramatically in the last forty years and has become a lively, sophisticated metropolis clinging to the ocean cliffs. We went on a Cruise Specialists private car tour with Suzanne and managed to see many of the highlights of the city in just a short time. We visited the Cathedral where Pizarro’s mummified remains remain. The catacombs, housing more than 25,000 tombs, have survived numerous earthquakes. The main plaza is filled with colonial style buildings and surrounded by elegant homes especially in the embassy district. Miguel, our guide, took us to Barranco, the bohemian district of town, to the lovely seaside suburb of Miraflores and ending up at his favorite Chinese
Speaking of earthquakes, I experienced my first temblor here in Lima in 1968. I was on my initial solo international trip and was nearly shaken out of bed in the middle of the night by a 6.9 quake It was pretty scary but at that young age I felt it was just another adventure. Now all new buildings in Peru must meet exacting safety standards and stringent height restrictions as the Peruvians learn to adapt to their shaky world.
We spent the day in Pisco and had a terrific boat tour out to the Ballestas Islands. Because of the enormous numbers of sea life on the islands, Peru considers Ballestas to be its very own Galapagos and is the most important wildlife sanctuary on the Peruvian coast. We took an open speed boat out to the islands and passed by El Candelabro, a gigantic drawing etched into the coastal hills. At Ballestas we got to see penguins, pelicans, cormorants and sea lions…thousands of them. The Humboldt Penguins are so cute and seemed to be very curious about us intruders. We saw two sea lion rookeries. There are still the remnants of the lucrative guano harvesting industry. We
cruised into small caves and under tall sea arches. It was an exhilarating ride and a bit bumpy on the way back and, much to some passengers’ dismay, a rather wet ride. It was a great day on the water.
Pisco was pretty much destroyed by a deadly earthquake and tsunami in 2007 and the rebuilding efforts are slowly moving forward. The earthquake occurred on the Catholic Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the two major churches collapsed killing most of the faithful attending mass.
Our last stop in Peru was at the small fishing port of Matarani. This has one of the trickiest and narrowest approaches to the harbor that I can remember. With Captain Stan’s expert seamanship and the assistance of three tugs we safely slipped through the constricted opening to reach the pier. We took a bus to the nearest village along a coastline resembling the mountainous Big Sur in California-- but without the trees. Many crucifixes lined the highway in memory of lives lost in car accidents on the steep cliffs.
Now we are off to chilly Chile and guess what they’re serving for lunch today? Chili!
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