Enjoying the Slow Lane

We walk to the opposite end of the beach and back almost every day. We walk down on the sidewalk by the seawall, and back on the beach. You’d think we’d get tired of the up and down, but we always find new things to look at. By taking the same route every day, we notice tiny changes. Ask anyone who walks the same route regularly and they will tell you about small changes they notice (We do not look at our phones while we walk…).

First one direction
Then the other direction

Monday is always quiet, the beach empty except for the few men who fish from shore every day. They spend hours casting into the surf, and we don’t see a lot of fish, but there they are every day. Every Monday is a new season, a fresh start, and the beach seems expectant, waiting.

Then the hardest-working men in Barranca come by, their truck lumbering down the street, honking, honking, honking to remind people to bring out their trash, and the spell is totally broken. Monday is the day with the most/messiest garbage. This is a beach community, and in the summer, Sundays have the most visitors, and the most people likely to leave styrofoam containers of leftover chicken bones and cold french fries on the beach for stray dogs to tear apart. Best not to look down on Mondays. Fortunately, there is a new environmental awareness. These signs appeared on the beach right where the most people pass by. “To enjoy the beach is to keep it clean,” “Take your backpack, your phone, your trash,” “Thank your for visiting my beach. Keep it clean.”…

I’m happy that people are becoming more aware of how quickly trash ends up in the ocean. It will take time to educate people, and to reinforce new habits.

During the week, the beach is often quiet all morning, a perfect time for a walk. Over the years, we notice more people walking their dogs on a leash, more joggers, more people doing exercise on the beach. There are soccer training groups who meet, running around lines of cones, jumping over strings, working on drills. There are a number of surfing and body boarding classes, too.

I watch construction projects: a new story is added next door, and down the street an old house was torn down to be replaced with apartments. Bricks, sand, and cement sit in piles on the street one day, and are gone the next. Hammering begins at 8 am Monday and continues off and on until Saturday noon, when the work week officially ends. It’s common for people to leave rebar pointing skyward, waiting for funds to build another story. I am waiting to see whether the current projects will get completed before we leave in March. Farther down the street, a homeowner added the first wall of a third story room and then stopped, tiled the facade, and now the single brick stub is a reminder of what may be coming.

More charming than brick walls are many tiny bright spots. The city installed streetside planters a few years ago. Most have not survived, though a few benefit from tending by the residents. This one broke recently, and I wondered what would happen to the lovely flowers planted by our neighbor who lives opposite. I was astonished to find a huge and brightly colored new planter delivered on Saturday, and even more surprised to find it newly painted and replanted on Monday.

The next day we saw another miracle of the beach. A San Pedro cactus that has been growing in the sand sent out a gorgeous bloom. These last only a day. Most of the time, these cactus are easily overlooked, and this one on the beach didn’t look like a candidate for long term survival. Someone has been watering it, because it is even sprouting a new branch. The flower is lovely and so fleeting.

I’m not sure who decided that putting an old tire around the base of a tree planted on the beach would protect them, but the city planted coconut palms all along the beach this year and came by the next day to ring them all with old tires. The day after that, word went around that the city would be unable to water the trees regularly and was counting on the neighbors to take care of them. A brief discussion among homeowners and caretakers divvied up the trees so that each homeowner knows which one is “theirs” to water. If they survive, they will be lovely, and give a tropical fringe to the beach. In the past, there have been efforts by the city and by homeowners to plant palms along the shore, and only a few have survived. This is the first time for coco palms, and we are all hopeful.

Friday afternoon is the beginning of the weekend, and the noise level rises. More restaurants are open, and each one seems to need to play music–often pretty loud music. We have tried to convince the restaurant that is beside us that when people eat out, they want to have a conversation, and this is impossible if the music is very loud. It’s a tough sell. Fortunately, they close at 6 pm, just when we emerge to set up chairs for watching the sunset.

There are drumming groups (bateristas) that practice several days each week, and then spend all day Saturday and all day Sunday drumming their way up and down the beach. Combined with the restaurant music, music from private cars with their doors open, the honking of mototaxis in search of passengers, the bateristas can be the last straw, turning the atmosphere into a wall of sound. There is a “minimalist” piece by the composer John Cage called 4’33” during which the piano soloist sits at the piano but does not play for just over four and a half minutes. The idea is to get people to listen to what is around them. (At its inaugural performance, a lot of the audience left.) Here in Barranca, 4’33” would be a riot of music, drumming, car horns, and crashing waves, possibly with a few squealing children. It’s summer, people are on vacation, and that’s the soundtrack to living on the beach.

Every week we see new things, and say hello to almost everyone we pass, whether we know them or not. Some are people we know well, others are people we see regularly…nodding acquaintances, and others may just be visiting for the day.

Our biggest adventure lately has been dealing with a vicious dog that attacks our dog, and now us, every day. We get one attack as we go down the sidewalk, and another on the way home. In Peru, dogs are not regulated, and it is permissible for an owner to let a dog go free all day.* The only recourse neighbors have is to go to court–rather extreme. We have tried to think of ways to deter this dog. It’s a bit unnerving to be rushed by a dog with bared fangs twice a day.

We finally found the solution, a giant squirt gun. Yes, there’s something new every day.

What will we see tomorrow?

*We take one dog for a walk on her leash every day. We have another dog who has lost or gotten rid of every collar we’ve ever put on him. Though we try to keep him in the yard, Ruffo escapes as often as he can, and he cannot be caught. We’ve tried. He’s fast, and wily. When he’s ready to come back, he comes to one of the doors and paws it. Before then, no inducement works–Ruffo is well known along the beach. I may not be a fan of the Peruvian system that lets dogs run wild, but I have a dog that participates.


Published by winifredcreamer

I am a retired archaeologist and I like to travel, especially to places where you can walk along the shore or watch birds. My husband Jonathan and I travel for more than half the year every year, seeing all the places that we haven't gotten to yet.

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