Friday, June 29, 2012

Loving La Libertad: Macabi Island

Remember that New Year's resolution of mine to discover my department (state) of Peru more? As the year progresses and work keeps me busier and busier, I have had less time to bop around La Libertad. But today was a holiday, St. Peter and St. Paul Day, so I hopped over to my nearest beach and had an adventure. Island story starts now...

My friend Erin lives in Puerto Chicama, a beautiful beach town about an hour from my site. Sidenote- It would take Ginger and me about 30 minutes to get there, but you know, busses and cabs and Peru and all... so it takes me about an hour to get there. Erin finishes her service in about 3 weeks, so I am trying to squeeze in as many little day trips to Puerto as I can while she's still there. For a few months now, I've known about this island outside of Puerto that was rumored to be home to hundreds of sea lions, penguins, and birds. As soon as I heard about this, I wanted to go. Penguins live like an hour away from me? No way. I had to see it. 

Lucky for me, Erin is marvelous and happens to be pretty well connected in her community... that's what two years of being the resident gringa will get you :) So once we figured out a day that would work, Erin had a boat trip to the island all set up. I should explain how this was so easy, because it's kind of impressive- at least to me. Erin works with a surf school in her site and has a group of very pleasant and polite teen boys that she has done a lot with over the past two years. Some of the projects she has done with the surf school that I can think of off the top of my head are a CPR course, mural painting around town, geography classes, beach clean-ups, recycling campaigns to raise money to make t-shirts to sell for the surf school, etc. Because of this, the staff and students at the surf school love her dearly. For her birthday, they had a cake for her and invited some of the surf boys to come sing to her on that Saturday afternoon. For our recent Camp VALOR, Erin's boys were arguably the best behaved and most enjoyable group, even providing some unexpected entertainment at the campfire with some spot-on animal impressions. Anyway, a couple of friends from her surf school and the local resort were happy to take her out to the island one last time with a few friends. 

As timing would have it, Jake's family is visiting from the States this week so he was able to bring them along for a nice little coastal treat before they head to Cuzco. So Jake, along with his dad and sister, as well as Sue Song and I headed over to Puerto Chicama this morning to meet with Erin and her friends. Erin has a great host family who is going to miss her a lot, so she invited her host brother and his wife to join us. Altogether we were 12 people in a little speed boat out in the great Pacific ocean. Not a bad way to spend a Peruvian holiday that happens to fall on the Friday of the July 4th weekend. 

Puerto Chicama, also known as Puerto Malabrigo, boasts the longest left hand wave in the world. Look it up, it's true and it's cool. This little treasure makes Puerto a 'hidden surfer's paradise.' Great waves, no crowds, good prices. Basically I love Puerto Chicama. But I don't mention the wave to gush... I mention it because this morning I got to bob along it in a boat. I got so wet and salty for the first 20 minutes or so of the 45 minute ride to the island on account of that wave, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat. It felt so nice to be in a boat. On the ocean. Another sidenote- I've been getting sorta sad lately seeing facebook pictures of people in boats enjoying the Wisco summer, so it was real sweet to be in a boat off the coast of Peru, on the longest wave in the world. My life is awesome. Apart from the wave and the point where it begins, we spotted a few jellyfish on our way out. I love those things. So weird and so awesome. Nice as those things were to see, the best boat-ride find was the first sea lion we spotted of the day. 

Having never been to the island, I wasn't sure what to expect. It's Peru, I've pretty much stopped expecting. Haha. Don't anticipate just participate, right Sarita? What I mean is that I didn't get my hopes up for the droves of animals I would come to find, so when that first sea lion popped his head out of the sea, we were all delighted. 

Little did we know there were a few hundred more where he came from. I mean, Erin and the driver knew- they had been there before. But even Erin's friends and family members from Puerto, who  had never been there before, were thrilled to discover the island COVERED in animals. I mean that literally, it was covered with animals. Everything I had heard about this place was true. It houses sea lions, penguins, boobies, pelicans, and more. I have never before seen so many wild animals together in one place, so seeing them so closely was incredible. 

A few things I should explain about the island are A- That it is used to harvest bird guano (poop) for fertilizer and B- There are no tourist opportunities established to share this with the world. Erin explained that there are always 2 people on the island who stay for 2 months at a time to harvest the guano and guard the island. The local resort and surf school take people out there, but there are no formal tours set up. So it was really cool and kind of special to be able to go with locals who know the area and have safe boats, life jackets, etc. It was great of them to take us out and share this with us. Good people. 

Another thing I feel like adding here, just because I'm in a random sharing kind of mood, is that this little day trip made me miss my brothers. I say this for two reasons. The first and most obvious one is that Wild animals. Good local people sharing their holiday with us. A weird little hidden piece of wildlife. Everything about this has Ben and Bryan written all over it. The second is that it was sort of touching to see Jake and his sister hanging out after almost a year of separation. He's a few years older than her and this is the first time they've seen each other since last September. Before leaving for Puerto this morning, I guess he had told her to change her clothes/ shoes and I'm pretty sure I caught an eye-roll from him regarding her adorable sunglasses. Totally things my brothers do. It was funny to me because Jake's sister was looking real cute in a summer dress and sandals for the boat trip, while I showed up in (smelly) sneakers, (dirty) jeans, and a North Face (which has a hole in it), with a hat stowed away in my backpack just in case. My host family told me it would rain -which it did not- and I imagined a soggy boat ride, so while I planned for the day, I thought, "what would Dad/ the boys say?" I had Bryan's voice in the back of my head and images of him shaking his head and rolling his eyes at the clothing choices I decided against. Weird how I'm 26 years old and have experiences like this where I think, "What would the brothers say?" I will probably not admit that apart from this blog post ;) Weird as it may be, it's a good thing. I may have been a little toasty while waiting for the trip to start under the morning sun, but I was the driest, warmest, and most comfortable one on the boat. No one was teasing me anymore for looking like I was ready for a hike when they needed to stow their cameras/ phones in my backpack :) So thanks brothers. Even though you think I'm not listening, I am. 

All tangents and random thoughts aside, today was wonderful. Peru continues to impress and amaze me. The company was fantastic too. It's great meeting fellow volunteer's family members and spending time with the volunteers who are about to leave. Great opportunities taken advantage of all around today. Thanks for the holiday, Peru. You're too good to me. 

This bird had impeccable timing. 

Lobos Marinos. Yes, they call sea lions sea wolves. 
So many of them! 


Guess what! The pelicans aren't all dead!!! 
They're just chillin' in Puerto. 

Erin and me. 


That poop in the upper right is the guano they collect from the island for fertilizer. 
If anyone can explain how they go about collecting it, please do. 

I love penguins. 

These guys remind me of Nemo. 
So many of them too! 

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