We rushed through the workshop yesterday in Moquegua in order to be ready for a van pickup just after noon to haul us the 45 minutes to Ilo. All consumed box lunches along the way as we lurched around highway curves. Little styrofoam boxes full of spaghetti and a rather single large well done (tough) pork chop. Armed only with a small ineffective plastic knife and fork and buffered with a tiny 5 inch square of napkin, I was quite ineffective. I managed to consume the spaghetti but declined the pork chop, needing to keep my dry-clean-only pants presentable for ten more days. The Decana gladly took the chop off my hands. Finger food. Another trick (that I haven’t yet mastered) is drinking juice from small plastic bags. No way in the van. Overall, maybe less than a four star dining experience.
Ilo is about the same size as Moquegua but as one of Perú’s four ports, it’s thrived in recent years as the economy has boomed. Totally different vibe. As we drop into the city, everything slopes toward the water. The fishing fleet is sprawled around the bay, but no bulk freighters at the moment. Ilo is hot though there was a pleasant afternoon breeze off the Pacific. No old colonial character downtown as everything seemed rather new and more prosperous, and also energetic with lots more activity, the Plaza de Armas full of people in the evening. There were even a couple of food trucks outside my hotel. We did our afternoon workshop, starting almost two hours late, in a building that had been closed up for a few days. Though there was a cool breeze in the street it was at least a sweltering 85 inside as all participants wilted and we cut things short.
This morning, Ilo shared its peculiar aroma as the onshore breeze came from the huge fertilizer plant. As a fishing port there is an enormous harvest of anchoveta, a small fish in great abundance in the cold offshore waters, generally used to make fertilizer. Ah, breathe deeply…..Thankfully, essence of anchoveta had dissipated by noon. For lunch we went to a cevicherria (fish and ceviche restaurant) and as our ceviche arrived a couple of guys about my age showed up. They uncased their guitars and rambled through 4 or 5 traditional criolla songs (think plaintive Spanish love song) with masterful guitar work. Much better than my last inebriated restaurant singer a couple months ago.
To return to the airport in Tacna, I was in a little colectivo car, driver and only three others, along the coast highway in the late afternoon. Initially, there were flat deserted beaches almost a quarter mile wide, then long stretches of huge black rocks in the surf, many crowned with white guano and hundreds of seabirds. The marine life in this part of the ocean is incredibly rich, from plankton, little fish, big fish, seabirds, and even an abundance of sea lions. In Spanish they’re known as “lobos del mar,” wolves of the sea. Further south along the beach were expanses of salt marsh and hundreds of pink flamingos, all the while on the other side of the highway nothing but rocks and sand. As we turned inland toward Tacna we passed miles of olive trees again and as dusk arrived, the moon was already well above the south horizon, brightening full.
Planes, trains, and automobiles morph to Planes, colectivos, and taxis. I’ll sleep in Lima tonight, at least for a few hours.
The HBI Blog is a rotating journal from our staff. Our Blog is a series of messages from the field, insights from our work, and lessons in service.