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"Been riding through the desert on a horse with no name..."

Cabo Blanco to Chiclayo, Peru

sunny 10 °C

I left Cabo Blanco, the fishing town today, heading South. I am to be in Cusco for Saturday night. Sunday is the Festival of the Sun, celebrating the solstice. Its one of Peru´s biggest festivals and has been going on since Incan times.

I actually cried a little when I left Cabo Blanco, winding up the desolate, barren slope to El Alto, the fishing ships looking smaller and smaller below me, bobbing in the waves. I loved that place. The dusty streets, the friendly children, even the adults. Once suspicious and ignoring me, they had become friendly, protective, and sometimes mothering.

People kept asking me, "Why Cabo Blanco?" It is so far off the beaten path, and no gringos go there. That´s precisely why. And in the five days I was there, I experienced a myriad of emotions. I showered in public showers. I went fishing, and caught many fish. I partied at an 80th birthday party, and drank chicha, the saliva fermented alcoholic corn drink. I swam in the pacific ocean, under the shadow of a giant oil rig. I participated in the filming of a movie, ate, drank, and sunbathed with cast and crew and got paid for it. I slept in an extra room in an old fisherman´s house, and laughed along with his gap-toothed grin at Simpsons in Spanish. I met the Old Man as written about in Hemmingway´s The Old Man and the Sea, and dranks beers with his grandkids. I ate fish barely an hour out of the sea. I posed with locals for photographs. I sunbathed on a boat moored out at sea. I played soccer in the streets with the children. And every morning, while the air was still cool and sweet, I ran along the beach beside the pounding surf. Life doesn´t get any better than this; this is why I chose a tiny fishing village.

Right now I am in Chiclayo. I travelled 8 hours through the desert to get here. I wish I could describe the desert in a way that did it justice. Near Cabo Blanco, it was hot. The hills were etched with the power of sudden rainstorms. The locals told me it only rains once every 12 or 15 years, when the clouds pile up and come over the mountains. But it comes in torrents, and the loose sand and stone on the hills bear the scars. In town, channels are built under the road for such rare but monumental events. The only vegetation to be seen is te occasional scrubby shrubs, more black than green, that exist only on the flat valleys. Some valleys are giant, dominating the landscape, a thousand meters deep. Surely, at one time, water flowed here. Or maybe, it still does, during the rainstorms.

Soon the hills disappear as does the vegetation. I´ve seen the prairies, and thought it was flat. This is something else entirely. Not even an undulation disturbs the flat, ochre surface. Winds wisp sand and grit in waves along the surface. Tavelling further, the sand organizes into dunes. Real, migrating sand dunes. A whole field of them. For countless miles. I sit high in my seat, mesmerized. I remember from Geomorphology. Slip faces. Rates of movement. Orientation to the wind. They are beautiful, like perfect crescents from the ideal bakery. I want to run my finger along the peak of each one.

Hours have passed, and the desolation continues. Suddenly out my windows, I see green trees, palm trees. Green! Its been too long. I think my eyes actually twitch. I can´t fathom the reason. To my left, green trees. To my right, desert. I think I see a stream but I must be dreaming. It gets greener, and I see grass. GRASS! It´s been more than a month since I´ve seen grass. Montañita, too, was on the coastal desert in Ecuador. Something is going on here.
The explanation arrives, but only brings more questions. A giant river. Wide, wide, much bigger than the Ottonabee at home. A huge river running through the desert. Will wonders never cease?

Soon it´s Puira and time for my transfer. Its 1:30- the bus for Chiclayo leaves at 2 pm. Three more hours of desert, tiny black shrubs breaking up the landscape, but no more dunes. THen its Chiclayo. I knew it was going to be so, but it is now cold. I shiver in my shorts. I´ve gone too far south now. I must don pants and shoes for the first time in a month and a half. Horrors.

Well I am going to go now. Almost 9 pm here. Going to go to the market tomorrow am! Shall be fun.

Love and miss you all!

Posted by SJS 18:21 Archived in Peru

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