Peru; starting in Lima

It is always a bit of a surprise to see that Lima is a very coastal city located on packed gravel/stone rising from the Pacific. The 300′ drop to the sea from the front rank of urban streets and parkland is walkable in a few places but a taxi is the best way back up to “street level”. Once you make your way down to the sea the view back up is very glacial looking, but it isn’t glacial. The sands of northeastern North America were washed out of the rubble and debris collected and moved by meltwater from glaciers that covered the area in the most recent ice age. My Cape Cod beaches are ephemeral and each northeast storm batters and erodes them more and more. The mountains of South America were also glaciated but the coastal material along the shoreline is from uplift and mountain-building more so than from glacial sorting. The stones are rounded and worn smooth from transport in plate movements. They have been rolled and rubbed and tumbled in a tectonic rock-tumbler. The cobble/puddingstone face of these cliffs looks to be welded together with a marl-like limestone. This material was derived from incursions of sea water and the resulting calcium carbonate creatures. Though the cliffs seem solid they do break apart; the beach substrate is all cobble or large pebbles as the limestone dissolves and there is little sand.

As the above images show there is often a fog layer where the cool ocean air hits the warm ceiling of air that sits over the land.

The coast for the most part is not suited to recreation. It is bony and rough. However the city has developed stretches of beach and the surfers and sunbathers enjoy the water and the cobble strewn beach. In the Lima area the beaches are certainly not southern California, coastal North Carolina or the Gulf; but it is more varied than much of our coast.

The cold current that is skived off by the tip of South America is redirected northward along the Chilean and Peruvian coasts. This cool water is what makes the coast, nearly at the equator, something less than tropical. It is not a welcoming sandy beach. It is a surfers beach perhaps, with a hard shoreline.

Why is it that little boys always seem to assume that they have done something wrong? This lad seems to have a “I didn’t do anything” kind of posture.  The sea lion was dead and had just come ashore on the previous high tide.  The shore may be populated with lots of Peruvians but the ocean is still quite wild. Fishes, marine mammals, and sea birds are all rather abundant in the area.

The shore is used by small scale local fishing operations as well as surfers, joggers, and some sunbathers (mostly tourists).
The lamp-post birds in any city are always interesting – unless of course they are simply pigeons. In much of Alaska there are Mew Gulls on the street lights though there are places where Long-tailed Jaeger predominate. In Lima the coastal lamp-posts had Band-tailed (or Belcher’s) Gull and Neotropic Cormorants. The parking lots were populated with Peruvian and Eared Doves.
One of the fanciest terns is the Inca Tern which was quite common on the breakwater leading out to the Rosa Nautica Restaurant. These terns are a bit larger than our Common, Arctic, or Roseate and are not at all white and gray as we have come to expect terns to be. 


This group is four adult Inca terns and one still-begging youngster (closest and back-to). The youngster could fly short distances but was not yet ready to begin the work that comes with being an adult. The adults in this case were quite skilled at ignoring the teen, seemingly aware of how much he had had to eat recently. The Inca Tern is endemic to the cool waters of the Humboldt Current. It is gregarious and easily identified.

Political statements are made on a grand scale in the city. In most cases the messages are spray-painted on wall but, as this banner shows, not always. 

The tourist-rich parts of the city were kept clean by a force of cleaners. This group of mostly women kept up with the debris from visitors of all sorts. Tourists are in the city all the time and weekends are when the local residents come in to the plazas for social time.

There are the usual sorts of things to do in Lima; museums and old buildings, chatting and visiting, and lots of shopping and cruising. This is just like in most cities and in most cultures. In Lima, and most of Peru, the vehicles are mostly taxis and commercial vehicles. Most people travel on buses to and from the plazas and residential areas.  

The people of the mountains are often easy to pick out of a city crowd. The long plaited hair, the apron, and the felt hat all point to a woman from the mountains. The hats, the style of clothing, and the colors worn are further cues to the specific area that the ladies come from. The blend of Spanish, Quechua, and other heritage-groups makes a city like Lima a melting pot.

Sidewalk vendors are always looking for an edge. I am sure that Pepsi will have large can-shaped cooler carts in the next few months. The buskers and vendors brightened up the city.

Travelers cannot help but compare cities, people, scenery, and food.  Like many cities that grew in population more quickly than could be regulated Lima has that brillo-pad look where the electrical wires seem to significantly outnumber the buildings. The wires are distributed above ground and then individual wires seem to run to each apartment or room rather than to an electrical box in the basement of the building. Distribution is external not internal. I tend to blog and show the outdoors of a country and have little to say about the cities – cities are cities in most cases. Some are nice, some are crumby, others tall or short or noisy or dirty or clean; landscaped, or bare concrete. I tend to visit the botanical gardens, parks, and included wetlands when in a city. So if its culture and commentary on modern life you seek – this is the wrong place. But I’ll share all the flora and fauna I can photograph – oh yes, and a little geology.

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