Thursday, September 24, 2009

Reserva Nacional de Paracas

South of Lima is a protected desert coast – the National Paracas Reserve. Here the earth is piled in dunes, all crust-brown and burnt yellow, layered sediments and fossil beds that take shape under the scalpel of etching winds. The day we visit, the landscape is distinct against blue sky and the frothy-edged blue-green sea. Paracas is home to sea lions, a few remaining sea turtles (humans have eaten them close to extinction), and more than 200 bird species; many species come especially to dine on anchovies (who come to dine on the plankton). Creatures were carrying out necessary parts of their lives. I felt I was apologetically trespassing - I wanted to gather memories and take pictures, but I hoped to keep a low profile. I couldn’t resist trespassing into this place that isn’t mine. It doesn't belong to anyone; it is only the passing residence of other beings, and for 45 million years it has collected a fossil record of those beings. The most recent layer, the strata of this age, will be full of plastic. Walking along a path to view trolling flamingos I noted the low tidal flat was dotted with piles of seaweed and plastic in equal parts.

I only met dead sea lions this visit. They say the fishermen and sea lions (lobo marino) don't get along. December to April the moms come to have their pups and the Andean Condors come from the mountains to eat the sea lion placenta. Wow!

Pisco Sin Fronteras - rewarding work

This is Harold on the left. He's the director of Pisco sin Fronteras (Pisco without Borders), an organization bound to help people rebuild their homes after a 2007 earthquake destroyed 80% of the homes in Pisco, Peru. We worked with him and more than 50 volunteers the short time we stayed in Pisco. Some volunteers had been there for months. Finding the work rewarding and a great crew of companions willing to work by their side, people seemed in no rush to leave. Old t-shirts nailed to courtyard walls express the sentiments of volunteers, like this one, which says, "thanks for making our honeymoon special!"

Yep. Hard work never disappoints.

Pisco Sin Fronteras for more info

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

San Miguel Mountain Project

September 18th

Twelve Pisco Sin Fronteras volunteers (from Australia, America, France, Denmark, the UK and Germany), with pick-axes and shovels, packed into a few tuk-tuks. Transferring into a mini-bus we headed for nearby barrio San Miguel. There we were instructed to hack into the side San Miguel Mountain, a distinctive chalky hill made of sandstone and calcium carbonate sediments. This is what a family, whose home was destroyed in the 2007 earthquake, need - our labor. It was hard work and while we did it, I wondered if this was a less desirable, but affordable piece of land. We were leveling a spot for a home – creating a terrace on the slope of San Miguel. I’m unsure about how earthquake safe this kind of building location or style will be, but terracing hills and mountains to build and farm on has been going on for centuries.

Pisco Sin Fronteras

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Pisco sin Fronteras

In 2007 an earthquake and tsunami impacted coastal areas in Peru – I’ve learned about several of the communities in my short stay here - El Chaco, Ica, and Pisco. Aid and volunteers with an organization out of San Francisco called “Burners without Boarders” helped with repairs in these communities. Burners inspired a Peruvian guy (Harold) to start his own group that would carry on the work in and around Pisco. We learned about his organization, Pisco sin Fronteras (, and decided to volunteer with them.

We arrived at dusk, deposited by our bus into Pisco’s waiting taxi lot. We chose our driver quickly; he assured us he knew where we wanted to go and we agreed on the price – 10 soles (about $3.30 US). He took us down a rutted main drag toward the sea to a place we’d researched the evening before on the Internet.

Our taxi driver seemed a bit lost. He asked a boy on the street if he could give directions. As it turned out the casa we needed was on our right and we only had to peer harder through the mottled smoggy light. In the first moments out of the cab we met three or four fellow volunteers in the street, exclaiming, "more had arrived!" In fact there were nearly 50 people here between two tiny houses. They were from all over: the UK, France, Denmark, Canada, there were Aussies and Kiwis, Californians, New Yorkers and now two New Mexicans. Some had just arrived, some were weeklong or even month long residents, and some had come and gone and returned again many times. I don’t know what their projects entail yet. I know there are some musicians among them because of an impromptu concert, and many play soccer and were off to a spot when we first arrived. Someone has told us about a biodiesel project – I’m sure we’ll learn more tomorrow.

There’s a cake lady too. Apparently she makes the best cakes in Pisco and before we traveled en-mass to the soccer game we stopped over at the house window from which she sells her cakes. Now I’ve got another bunk to sleep in and a lot to learn...tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


One way to leave Las Cruces, New Mexico - wait for a greyhound bus at a chevron gas station. Wait because the bus that's coming at 7:50pm won't arrive until 2:15am. Wait with others who are stuck because their connecting bus to L.A. was oversold and the driver couldn't let them on. They look around wondering where they've been left. What is this place? This is how the city I've known, resided in for years, becomes a foreign place. We, travelers all, wait for buses to roll up out of the darkness and take us in. Finally, they do.