The Southern coast from Lima.

The Southern coast from Lima.

The coastal road that travels South from Lima, the Panamericananan Sur, eventually leads to Chile. We have treated the lower reaches of the coast elsewhere. Here, we discuss the towns and cultures which you encounter on this desert strip.

This route has excellent roads, serviced by constant public transport. The towns all have adequate, and sometimes excellent facilities.

Near Lima

The extensive ruins at Pachacámac can be accessed by car from at the Lurín exit from the Panamericana Sur. The village of Lurín itself is a middle income tourist destination, known for its restaurants selling chicharrones, deep fried pork. The ruin is a few kilometres further, and much less visited. (There are, however, mountain bike facilities in the village.)

The ruins are extremely ancient, dating to around 200 BC, but probably settled earlier by the Lima culture, which flourished after 500BC. (More here.) The conquering Wari adopted it as an administrative centre, and it was abandoned, used by the Chancay culture and then absorbed by the Inca. The area has temples and palaces, winding alleys and labyrinths. There are brick pyramids in varying states of repair. There is also a small museum on the site which attempts to explain the resulting complexity. The purpose of the site was undoubtedly a complex and mixed one, but many horizons suggest that people came from all over the Andes in order to make offerings. Evidence suggests that this may have been an oracular or divination centre.

Pachacámac means “animator of all things” in Quechua. He was one of a pantheon of gods whom the coastal people believe sprang from the union of Ocean and Earth, the primordial (female) forces which gave rise to a range of (male) deities. Inti, the Inca sun god, was one such. Pachacámac was another. Temple complexes follow the Lurín river to the sea. Higher, there are the ruins of pyramid-shaped structures at Pampa de Flores, Tijerales and Panquilma.

The Inca added administrative centres at Huaycán, Chontay, Nieve-Nieve and Avillay, and connected these up with a major road which ran to Incahuasi, about which more below. This in turn communicated with Jauja, near Huancayo - pursuing a route that we are going to follow up the Cañete valley - and with Inca centres in the Southern midland coast.

Click here to see a series of images Returning to the journey South, the highway passes a series of beach-side developments - Punta Hermosa, San Bartolo, Santa María, Naplo, Asia, Chilca, León Dormido, Puerto Viejo - which fizzle out as Lima is left behind. One is soon traveling through open desert, and the constant neblina (mists) of Lima retreat to offer a blue sky.

San Vicente de Cañete is around 140 km from Lima, and is an agricultural centre of no great interest to the traveler. However, it is set on the Cañete river, which is a centre for fresh water sports of all kinds. These are based inland, at Lunahuaná, to which it is necessary to travel up the valley that eventually leads to the high Cordillera of Yauyos. Public transport sets out from the suburb of Imperial, which means a change for anyone using buses or taxis. However, short range transport is densely available: Motos buzz about like a hatch of insects. The whole route to Lunahuaná is tarred. We have described this this side trip - and the more extensive route overt he Cordillera Yauyos to Huancayo - here.

Continuing the journey South

Chincha Alta ("tall bug") is less than an hour from Cañete. At its foundation in 1571, the town was graced with the name of Pueblo Alto de Santo Domingo, the High Town of the Sacred Sabbath. However, the people who had lived in the area before the arrival of the Spanish were the Chincha, a major culture before the arrival of the Inca, and the names elided to produce the current oddity. The town grew rich on guano during the 1880s boom, but is now a producer of cotton and fruit, of which grapes hold pride of place. (Images of Chincha and its surroundings are included in the sequence under Pisco, below.)

Chincha is not particularly attractive, although it offers fine seafood in its restaurants. The district of El Carmen is, however, visited for its ethnic distinctiveness, in that much of the population are descended from black slaves imported to work the sugar cane and cotton fields around the huge hacienda of San José. Slavery was abolished in 1854, and the 1880s boom helped the population to integrated itself as smallholders. Distinctive music, food and above all dancing are conserved, however, and the district has restaurants and other locations where these are displayed. The alcatraz, for example, represents the movement of cormorants on the guano islands; and other dances are called la zamba, la zamacueca, el toromata and el festejo. Children often stop visitors to watch them perform the zapateo.

One can see all of this at its peak during February - when the area is full of events, and during which the local drink calle tutuma flows freely - and during the July patronal of the Virgen del Carmen. The hacienda of San José is now a luxury hotel. Its chapel has a baroque altar, and catacombs in which - supposedly - the slaves were housed. These are now hung with the farm implements that they would have used.

Chincha has a number of vineyards which you can visit and whose product you can sample and buy. An amble around these can be combined with a visit to an old house that has become an object of pilgrimage, where the 'miraculous and blessed' Melchorita Saravia lived, and to an extensive archaeological site at Huaca Centinela. This last is once of many ruins scattered through the fields, but is by far the largest. It was constructed between 1200 and 1450 AD, covers about 500 hectares and was built by the Chincha culture. It can also be reached by road, and there are ample guides who will take to the other sites in the Tambo de Mora district, including those called El Cumbe, El Alvarado and San Pablo.

Chincha provides a disproportionate number of Perú's athletes, and is known as the Cuna de Campeones or 'cradle of champions'. Locals attribute this to the regional cuisine. Examples of this are:

Pisco

The town of Pisco is the next stop down the Panamericananan Sur, with the turnoff located 234 km from Lima and the town a further four or so kilometres further on. The Ayacucho road - discussed elsewhere - turns up into the mountains some five kilometres earlier. The Paracas peninsula is close at hand, and its turnoff is a few kilometres beyond that of Pisco.

Click here to see a series of images Pisco was founded by the Viceroy in 1640, under the name of Villa de San Clemente. It was to be the major port in the area, using the fine Paracas bay. Exports of goods from the highlands were to be supplemented by wines from the coast. Unhappily, these met with little favour and proved uneconomic until people began to distil aguardiente for export.

This was known by the Quechua word for bird, "pisco", and its commercial success led to the town being known as the Pisco port, and hence acquired its current name. In fact, although the region grows extensive vines, the distillation, blending and aging is done elsewhere, chiefly in Inca, further down the coast.

Pisco - the drink - is regarded by many Peruvians as emblematic of nationhood. A significant connoisseurship has grown up, based on the blend, maturation method, additives and the like; but it remains the case that the product is essentially a brandy, distilled from grapes and served either on its own or mixed with other things. The traditional recipe is the Pisco sour, which is primarily a mixture with fresh lime juice, and garnished with whipped egg white and nutmeg. It is very good with the other coastal staple, ceviche corvina, a lunchtime dish made from fish that has been pickled in lime juice, chopped shallots, rue and parsley, chilli, choclo maize and boiled yucca.

The richness and accessibility of the sea off Pisco means that it has been inhabited for a long time: perhaps for as much as 10,000 years. The first settled civilisation was, however, that which is now called the "Paracas" culture. This, together with the North Midlands Chavin culture laid the foundations of all the civilisations which followed in the region. (More here.)

The Paracas people interred their high-status dead on the Paracas peninsula, where the saltiness of the soil and the general aridity meant that these were preserved extremely well. The necropolis can be visited, and mummies which have been disinterred can be seen in situ and in the various museums in the Nazca and Ica. There are two points of interest for the visitor. First, the dead were buried in their full finery, and these textiles have survived with their designs and colours intact. The most striking of these are cloaks, usually made of cotton and measuring 2.5 x 1.3 m, dyed various colours and then embroidered with alpaca thread in complex motifs. From this alone we know that they were trading with the highland people. Their ceramics show marine scenes, but also animal motifs which again reflect an extensive trading network.

The second issue is that of skull-binding. Paracas culture was, it seems, obsessed by the shape of the head. New-born babies were strapped between boards in order to distort the skull before the closure of the cerebral commissure. As the consequences of this were severe, it is assumed that this practice was restricted to the elite, but Ica museum has hundreds of such skulls, each distorted so that the skull has the elongated appearance of a water melon, with the face crushed into the end of it.

A consequence of this was a disruption to the circulation of the cerebrospinal fluid, and - presumably - increased pressure within the brain. This is evidenced by the marks of trepanation, in which the skull is cut open with an obsidian tool to expose the brain. Some skulls show evidence of up to seven such interventions, each carried out when the previous one had healed over. Single, unhealed skulls allow us to estimate a 60% death rate from this operation. Lower classes underwent a pseudo-trepanation, in which the skull was scratched but not breached. What humans will inflict on themselves remains a source of amazement.

The town of Pisco is a typical port, full of activity in the morning and evening and almost deserted during the day. It is well-supplied with hotels and restaurants. The Seventeenth Century church - la Iglesia de la Compañía - is extremely fine. (We have used it as the emblem at the head of the general texts in this guide.) It has a baroque façade and a series of crypts and catacombs. The large Plaza de Armas has a monument to San Martín, who landed nearby, at the port which bears his name. He was the first to declare the independence of Perú from Spain, doing so on July 28th 1821, a date much-celebrated locally. The square also has a city hall in a Moorish style and an unusually simple Cathedral.

Pisco is a jumping-off point for two local attractions. One - the ruin of Tambo Colorado - is discussed elsewhere. The other is the Paracas peninsula.

Paracas

The bay of Paracas is notable rich in sea life. Large numbers of birds - pelicans, cormorants, gulls and others - bombard the water when an anchovy shoal comes near the surface. There are seals and a vast array of jellyfish, some mauve, fully a metre across and possessed of tentacles that resemble red garden hose. This richness stems from the sheltered niche that the bay and the islands off it present to the Humbold current.

Click here to see a series of images The Paracas peninsula has a major nature reserve, which paradoxically faces out into the Pacific. The town of Paracas and the ports of Pisco, San Martín and Chaco face into it. They are soon to be joined by a gas terminal for the produce of the Camisea field on the other side of the Andes. Paracas town has little to commend it. It has a large hotel, oriented around honeymooners, and a number of lesser copies of this. The port of San Martín is an industrial site, importing scrap iron and steel pipe for the Camisea pipeline.

The little port of Chaco is, however, worth a visit both for its charm and because it is where one catches a boat to travel to the Islas Ballestas. It is easy to get to Chaco from Pisco, either by taxi or bus. The focus of the town is the jetty, around which fishing life follows a largely traditional pattern, mending nets and painting boats. Semi-tame pelicans beg for bits of fish. Boats can be hired to visit the Islas Ballestas for around US$10, and the reason for doing this is to see the extraordinary bird life which these otherwise barren rocks support. The Humboldt penguin is common, flamingos are sometimes seen and the more common marine birds carpet the available surface. Seals can usually be seen on the shore, and dolphins tend to escort the boat. The ruins of former guano extraction facilities date back to the 1880s.

Boats en route to the Ballestas pass the Candelabro, a 120m high sand glyph on the Paracas shore. The figure is a trident, within the prongs of which one can discern a reptile, a cat and a monkey. Its origins are unknown, but it is thought to date from mariners in the seventeenth century, rather than from local people. Romance has it that this was a signal to pirates, but what was intended by it is not known. Please click here to see a panorama of a beach at Paracas.

The Paracas peninsula as seen from space. You can just see the main road to the port at the top of the neck of the isthmus.

Paracas nature reserve covers 335,000 hectares, extending well South of the peninsula. These Southern reaches are very little visited, and to do so safely requires a 4x4. The land is very dry, and life focuses on the sea. Nevertheless, there are limited areas with land plants, fed entirely by condensation in the early morning. A few scrubby bushes and ephemeral plants are dominated by cacti - e.g. Haageocereus limensis and the rootless species from the Bromeliad family which exist along the coast - for example, Tillandsia latifolia, T. purpurea and T. paleacea.

Animal diversity is much broader than that of plants. Some 216 species of bird, 19 mammals, 6 reptiles and 52 fish exist in the reserve. Birds are also the most evident life to the casual visitor. Here is a partial list of the non-migratory species in the park.

There are a variety of look-out points from which you can watch seals sun themselves. These include the South American fur seal (Arctocephalus australis) and the South American sea lion (Otaria flavescens). The marine otter (Lutra feline)can sometimes be spotted. The common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncates) is often seen nosing around the fishing boats. You may see lizards darting around th ecoastal rocks - these are probably Microlophus peruvianus.

The sea is full of mullet (Mugil cephalus), anchovy (Engraulis ringens), sardine (Sardinops sagax), mackerel (Trachurus picturatus) and Pacific bonito (Sarda chilensis). Turtles. Such as Galapagos (Chelonia agassizzi), leatherback (Dermocheles coriacea) and olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) are not common, but can be seen with careful preparation.

The wildlife is a major part of the Paracas experience. However, the somewhat otherworldly feel of the desert landscape - particularly when adjacent to so much water - gives the place a unique feel. Please see here for a panorama that shows the coastline. The area known as la Catedral has a eroded rock formations that emit organ-like noises, and also look rather fine from a distance.

The reserve has a small bay called Lagunillas, from which fishing is allowed, and the restaurants around it serve the freshest fish imaginable. There are no dwellings, however, and fishermen come in by boat to unload their catch. This is an excellent place to make friends with a pelican, which will eat off your plate is permitted to do so.

The archaeological aspects of the peninsula have already been discussed. The museum of Julio C Tello has been built in the park to show something of the outcome of these investigations. You can see mummies, trepanned and deformed skulls, ceramics and textiles on show.

Ica

The desert after Pisco and Paracas begins to show scattered scrubby bushes and palm trees, fed either on aquifers coming down from the mountains or from condensation scattered by the early morning mists that roll in off the Pacific. The road moves inland and up from the sea and one travels through seeming wilderness. Ica is the first major settlement, 300 km from Lima.

The town was founded in 1563 with the grand name of Villa de Valverde del Valle de Ica. It is a sophisticated place with several hotels of international standard, celebrating its excellent and sunny climate. It is a favourite getaway during the long gray months of winter in Lima. The area has extensive cultivation of vines and cotton, but the focus is as a trading town and the commercial buzz is obvious. (In travels all over the world, I have never seen so many three-wheeled Moto-taxis as there are in Ica: they emerge from the traffic lights like ants from their nest.)

Ica has a fine Eighteenth Century cathedral just off the Plaza de Armas, built to the scrolled and pillared Jesuit neoclassical style. The Plaza de Armas is enclosed on two sides by a galleries set of buildings in the Moorish style, but rather let down by the motley of small shops on the other two.

The Ave. Ayabaca has the Museo Regional María Reiche, named after the famous German lady who dedicated her life to the exploration of the Nazca lines. This has, in fact, an excellent collection of Paracas artefacts - including the alarming skulls - and a full documentation of the Nazca lines and related Nazca culture. There are also Wari artefacts, such as tumi knives, ceramincs and textiles. Inca quipus are also well-represented: these are the braided, knotted strings that were used to tally goods and oher assets. Each quipu master had his own technique that involved knotting forward or backwards,multiple turns in a knot and multiple knots, subsidiary stands and pendant feathers and rags. Their system had best be foolproof, for they were executed if they made a major mistake.

The figure of el Señor de Luren dates to 1570, having been purchased in Spain. Its journey to Perú was disrupted when the Captain of the ship had to order the entire cargo thrown overboard, including this figure. It floated to shore and, having been found, was installed in Ica. It is now housed in its Sanctuary in Calle Ayacucho, a neoclassical building of limited charm. However, the festival that takes place in the third week in October paralyses the entire city for a week. The procession of the statue alone takes 15 hours.

Click here to see a series of images The other major festival in Ica is Vendimia, which takes place in March. This is essentially a commercial event designed to promote local produce - and in particular wines and spirits - but local interests pitch in and stunning quantities of alcohol are put away. There is a special drink - cachina - that is distilled from the lees of the wine and then used as a fortificant, much in the manner of Sherry or Madera.

The lagoon of Huacachina is an extraordinary sight only three kilometres from the city, and is also an attractive place to stay. Extremely large sand dunes - over 500 m high, ring a natural fresh water oasis. This is surrounded by palms and the tamarisk-like trees that are very characteristic of the Ica region, called locally huarangos. A terrace of houses has been added that mostly date to the period around 1920. The main hotel - the Mossone - has its rooms arranged around a square, over which preside 30m trees and an air of calm. One can climb the dunes and see a receding vista of its peers - most striking at dawn or dusk. The sport of sand-boarding has been developed but few people seem able to get the boards to slide.

The location is ancient. The name means, in Quechua, "the woman who cries". The legend is that a woman who had lost her betrothed in battle sat down under a huarango tree, crying over her loss. A hunter arrived, who began to make rough and unwelcome advances to her, and to avoid these she threw herself in the lake. She remains as a ghost, and her cries are said to fill the ring of the oasis when the moon is full.

The village of Cachiche continues this tradition, being noted in the Nineteenth century as the abode of witches. Its inhabitants now ply a flourishing trade as brujas blancas, white witches. The church has a palm tree with seven heads, six of them dead. The locals say that Ica will be destroyed when the seventh dies. The town is only 4 km from Ica.

Ica has many vineyards, and most of these can be visited. Vista Alegre is one of the finest, founded in 1857 and located only 3 km from Ica. Other bodegas are clustered around Tacama (7 km) and Ocucaje, (34 km to the South.) The area of La Tinguiña close to Ica is notable for its building and stables, which were erected by Jesuits as a part of their mission.

The Achirana del Inca is a 500 year old irrigation canal that still does its work, located 18 km from Ica. It was constructed by the Inca Pachacutec in token of his affection for the high-born Chumbillaya, bringing water to her house and lands. (This seems a characteristic thing for aristocratic lovers to do, it seems, as these legends occur right across Peru. Perhaps it reflects the crucial nature of water to coastal life.)

Ica has its own cuisine, and the following are some examples of dishes from it. Many are based on pallares, a unique local legume. They are often served as a salad with boiled eggs and white cheese.

Palpa

The next stop on the road South is Palpa, 395 km from Lima. The town has never developed for tourists and has limited infrastructure. Its three attractions are areas of rock paintings. The first, at Sacramento, is only 2 km from Palpa. A fold in a cliff holds a variety of rock carvings, collectively called the Reloj Solar, of solar clock. There is a lookout point from which the first Nazca line can be seen crossing the valley, reaching towards Nazca.

The second of these sites is at Chichicctara ("rain of sand"), also a short distance from the town. Here there are carvings on scattered volcanic rocks, depicting two-headed snakes, the sun and moon and a variety of (non-local) animals. The third site is 7 km from Palpa, at Casablanca. This has similar artefacts but these depict humans sitting on cubical-shaped objects. The origins of all of these are not dated, but are likely to be connected with the Nazca region.

Nazca

The town of Nazca is around 440 km from Lima. The road from Ica maintains its high quality, but weaves as it rises to encounter the outliers of the Andes. The current town was founded in 1591, and has not much prospered. It lives by tourism and servicing the through traffic on an awkward stretch of the highway. There are a wide range of hotels and restaurants available.

The region is extremely dry, and depends on water that flows from the Andes. Despite its inhospitable nature, it has been inhabited for millennia, and one culture left its mark in the shape of the famous desert glyphs and lines. This group are often called "the" Nazca culture, although there have in fact been several phases of settlement in the area. The key achievements of these people are, objectively, their development of extremely complex systems of irrigation, often entailing long underground tunnels, and the sophistication of their ceramics and textiles, significant amount of which survive. (More here).

Click here to see a series of images It is, however, the geoglyphs which attract the tourist. These come in three types: lines, rectangles and figurative designs. The last are the most attractive and show animals and plants and are restricted to the area between the wilds of San José and the cliffs of the Río Grande, as well as closer to the town itself. The whole area covers 500 square kilometres. Each figure can be as small as 15m along its longest dimension, or as large as 300m. Most are dug around 30 cm deep, unlike the lines, which are chiefly superficial. (This image series includes a variety of other sites of interest.)

The figures show a spider and a snake, a pelican and a condor, a dog and a strange human figure, a tree and a whale. Some appear to be nightmare-ish clusters of groping hands. There seems no system to them, either of orientation or subject matter. Much is made of the fact that the subject of some of these images are not local, but we know from other evidence that the Nazca people traded their ceramics across much of the Andes and that most of the ancient cultures were highly aware of each other and the possibilities of trade.

One can see some of these figures from a 12m tower, built for the purpose. One can also take a flight in a light aircraft, which gives a far better overview. It is a good idea to chose the early morning or evening, when the sun's angle enhances the contrast. In the high season (May to October) such a half hour flight costs US$60, and in the low season, US$40.

People have loaded all manner of meaning on these images, although figures such as Reiche placed greater significance on the lines and rectangular clearings. Her thesis was that the site was a giant observatory. However, exhaustive studies that attempt to reconcile the lines with the stars as they would have been when the lines were laid down have failed to fins anything of significance. Many lines do, however, radiate from and lead to eminences, and it seems much more likely that these were ceremonial walkways. The figures, too, as often constructed from a single line that winds into the figure to its heart and winds out again. This leads many to conclude that these and the lines were devotional, and that people - penitents, mediators, supplicants - walked these at appropriate times.

A digitally-enhanced infrared image of a small section of the Nazca desert. Note how the lines merge, cross natural features and otherwise pursue completely straight but apparently disoriented paths.

The least interesting and most enigmatic of these figures are the rectangles or trapezoids. These tend to be oriented with their long axis running from the sea to the mountains, with the broad end of a trapezoid facing the ocean. Speculation has it that these could be taken as imitations of alluvial fans (although surely bad ones) designed to persuade the gods to send rain, and thus alluvium.

Nazca also has an Incan ruin, called Paredones. This has an array of ceremonial squares, houses and other features of an Incan administrative centre. It is only a kilometre from the town, on the road up to Puquio. The site is near-deserted and in poor repair, but it is worth combining with a visit to the ancient aqueducts of Cantayoc. These are underground, lined galleries with rounded walls and wooden roofs that carry substantial quantities of water for kilometres, and go a dozen metres underground to maintain their level. They have much in common with the Iranian qanat. Built in prehistoric times, they have been maintained for their usefulness and are thus hard to date. Most assume that they were developed by 'the' Nazca culture. (Images of the cisterns and necropolis are given in the series above.)

Cantayoc also has the Telar de Cantayoc, a strange site in which the instruments of tailoring are dug into the ground in the manner of the Nazca figures. One has to climb a nearby hill to discern them - a needle, an instrument called a huso, used in spinning, and a number of spirals, taken to represent wool.

Cahuachi is a ceremonial centre located 17 km from Nazca and contemporary with the line-makers. It is a huge site, covering 25 square kilometres, across which cemeteries and mud-brick pyramids are scattered in no obvious order. A curious set of structures called Estaquerías are located to the East of the site. These are columns made form the local huarango tree, set on adobe plinths. These are alleged to mark a solar observatory.

The largest cemetery is at Chauchilla, 28 km from Nazca. Some 11 of the 400 identified tombs have been left open, complete with cadavers. This and other sites have been ravaged by huaceros, local people who dig the graves in order to sell the ceramics and textiles that many contained. Collectors who buy with provenance in the rich world directly drive this destruction. (Images of this are given above, as a part of the Nazca series.)

The desert at dusk, with mist forming.

Various roads radiate out from Nazca. One heads up to Puquio, and eventually Cusco. This is described elsewhere. The Panamericananan Sur divides South of the town, one road leading up to Arequipa. The other heads down the coast, and this is the one which we shall follow.

Somewhat South of Nazca, at Km 539 from Lima, a short road leads to Sacaco, where marine fossils - including that of a complete whale - have been found. It appears that the area was a bay some 10 million years ago, but the forces of subduction have thrown up the land to its present considerable height above the sea. The area is rich with lesser fossils.

The road drops down to the coast from this point. The village of Puerto de Lomas offers vignettes of fishing life. The village is almost entirely constructed from Oregon pine, imported in the early Twentieth century when what today is regarded as an important resource was then seen as ballast for shipping that would return laden with guano. Close-by is Yauca, an olive grove from the colonial period that offers a patch of green in the otherwise relentless desert. The village offers bread and olives to travellers.

Further, at Km 600, the largest area of mist-fed wild forest in the country appears. These are called lomas and they exist for much of the length of the country. They have a unique ecology, which often appears sour and twisted, and bursts into flower and green growth at the appropriate moment. (This capacity to surge in numbers characterises Perú's coastal insect population, which can blacken the sky when the cotton is growing well.) The loma of Atiquita covers 20,000 hectares and catches mist at an altitude of around 900m. One of the endemic animals is, surprisingly, a frog, Bufo spinulosus. You must either walk to it or use a 4x4, because ordinary vehicles will be marooned in the sand.

The ruin at Puerto Inca.

Six kilometres further, a side road leads to Puerto Inca, probably the sole location where the Inca built on the coast. The ruins are on no great scale, but show the characteristic trapezoid doors and windows of the Cusco style. There is no accommodation at Puerto Inca, but Chala, ten kilometres further South, does have simple hotels. It is a pleasing old town, and a good jumping-off point if you are reliant on public transport and wish to visit either of the two areas just mentioned. Local taxis can take you where you want to go for modest prices. It is also possible to hire a boat to take you out to look at the plentiful local seals, fish or just enjoy the white sand of the beach.

The next major town is Camaná, at Km 834. It was founded in 1539 on the orders of Francisco Pizarro himself. The river Majes discharges here and the flat terrain allows easy irrigation with its waters. The area is covered with cotton, bananas, olives, sugar cane and mixed horticulture; and in season maize, rice and sweet potatoes. Camaná comes to life in Summer, when it is one of the playgrounds of the people of Arequipa. It is well-equipped with hotels and restaurants. The food is excellent, revolving around seafood to the extent that the citizens have erected a statue of a prawn.

Buses leave from here to Arequipa and to Mollendo. We discuss Arequipa here, and Mollendo and the trail South here.