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I had never heard of fishing in a desert nor getting sunburn right on the very rims of one’s eyelids. Both are possible as I discovered last week on a fishing trip with some Peruvian friends. And the sunburn, though I wouldn’t recommend it, was made up for with some lovely shots.
Pretty much the whole of the coast of Peru is desert from the northern border with Ecuador to the southern frontier with Chile. Sometimes known as the Sechuran desert, it occupies a narrow strip of land between 20-100km wide along the entire length of this incredibly long country. On its western edge, the Pacific ocean and on its eastern, the foothills of the western Cordillera and Andes. The Pan-American highway ploughs through it in a straight line north to south meeting some of Peru’s largest and best know cities along the way – yes, desert coastal cities: Lima, Trujillo, Piura, Pisco and Ica.
Having traveled up and down the Pan-American highway of Peru many times and watched the unchanging grey and dusty landscape pass by for hours on end at a time, I had never really considered this as a place to explore too much – especially as a wildlife photographer. But nature always finds a way and so, after only spending a few hours on a short stretch of this coastal desert, I came away with a few lovely shots and a desire to return with more time .. and sunblock on my eyelids!
The particular location we visited was a stretch of beach a few kilometres from the coastal village of Poémape – a seemingly abandoned collection of ruined adobe-brick constructions at the end of a dirt track road but which it turns out are half-built holiday-homes that are awaiting electricity and water supplies before being finished and becoming part of a growing seaside resort of sorts. Here we turned off the dirt track in our convoy of two 4x4s and out onto the beach. At first sight, I doubted that this grey, hot and dusty environment could harbour much wildlife until, to my astonishment, there was an angry sealion on the beach barking and lurching aggressively as our first car passed.
The next encounter was with the thousands of bright orange ghost crabs with the eery, elongated eyes that sit like periscopes high up off their ‘heads’ and follow you through 360 degrees as you pass – get too close and they retreat cautiously down the holes they dig in the sand, appearing again as soon as you have passed a safe distance.
I had wondered how it was possible, in a coastal desert, to know where the sand of the beach stops and that of the desert begins. But a narrow strip of sand dunes only a few metres wide with low, thick, desert-like vegetation clearly marked the divide and it was along here that I spent a little time investigating and came up with most of the shots you can see in the main Poemape gallery.
But here are some of those shots including some that didn’t make it into the main gallery – and if you look closely, you can even see the sunburnt eyelids:
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