Wednesday Sept. 9, I first noted smoke as part of our day. We continued to spend time outdoors as we learned about the AQI (air quality index) and began following it as closely as we do Covid-19 stats. We tried to go out at first, but the air was yellowish with smoke. Oregon’s terribly destructive forest fires are not near us, but the smoke cast a pall over the entire west coast from San Diego to Seattle.
Two days later, we knew we had to stay indoors all day. I had an eye appointment in Portland, but that involved ducking out of the car and into the office, then reversing the process. The days were still and smog-filled. If the sun was visible, it was a pale yellow circle, flat and distant. There was almost no wind at all, when normally the wind always blows, everyone setting up their windbreaks on the beach. The smog hung all around us. After five straight days spent indoors or in the car, we were pretty tired of the inside of our (cute, but small) house, reading books, cooking, cleaning, doing crosswords, and looking at each other. Daily fluctuations in the AQI only go so far in the world of entertainment. Finally, it began to rain and the air became breathable.
More than a week later, it was finally safe to go out, and we celebrated with a trip to Hug Point, where I found a piece of beach glass (surely a good omen), and we saw mussels of a good size for eating. Only Oregon residents can get a permit to collect these treasures of the sea, so I advised my sister Paula to get a permit before she arrived. We collected mussels, Jonathan cleaned them, then they steamed in white wine and garlic. We added salad and french bread, accompanied by more wine, and imagined ourselves in Brussels or Paris.
While we were sheltering from the smoke, the dry season in Oregon appears to have ended, and today there are strong winds and lots of rain. If it lets up we’ll go out, but if not we’ll be indoors once more, this time prisoners of the pelting rain and wind.
When it’s good, it’s really, really good, and the days we’ve been able to get outdoors have been priceless. Haystack Rock is the landmark of Cannon Beach, OR, but as we walk or drive south, we’ve visited Silver Point, Humbug Point, Hug Point, and we’re still going. There are beautiful offshore rocks and long beaches.
One day, we skipped over a long stretch of coast to visit Tillamook, famous for dairy products. The line to get into the factory store proved to be too long for us, and we continued out to the coast to visit Short Beach, a wonderful beach full of driftwood and waterfalls. It is also a beach that people visit with buckets. When we inquired from the third group that passed us, we found that Short Beach is a place that is popular for hunting agates.
We have made the best of our outdoor days. With luck, the rain will let up and we’ll get back outside before the month ends and it’s time to move on.
One of the reasons people have had trouble believing in man-made climate change has been the lack of symptoms. Things have changed, or we’ve passed a tipping point, because now everyone sees climate change around them. Summer in Europe turns Florence into an oven, while winter in some parts of the US doesn’t bring enough cold to kill the cockroaches.
This month, climate change is front and center on the beach. Where we spend Nov.-March in Peru there are two seasons. Cool (50s-60s) and humid winter weather runs from June-October, and sunny, hot (80s) summer from December-April. May and November are transitions from one season to the next. According to this scheme, February is mid-summer. If there is coastal mist in the morning it burns off by about 10 am, and doesn’t return until 4:30 pm. When we were here in early 2018, we agreed to buy a room air conditioner for the study if the weather continued to be so hot during the day. At night we were sleeping with two fans going.
We haven’t bought the air conditioner.
Most of February has been unusually misty, with coastal fog lasting all day as it does in the heart of winter, or breaking for an hour at midday. Even stranger are the days when the mist hangs along the coast until mid-afternoon, clearing from 3-4pm. The sun has been coming out just when beachgoers are heading home for a meal after hours spent on the beach (prime beach time is 11 am-3 pm). It has become impossible to predict when it’s time to go to the beach. In a beach community, this is an issue.
The people who rent umbrellas and beach chairs set up their first chairs and stake out their stretch of sand by 9 am, but there are days when no one comes to occupy their chairs until well into the afternoon. I like to go for a swim when the sun is out, yet some days the sun is back under the clouds by the time I get suited up, or worse, I give up on the idea of having a dip and then the sun comes out and roasts me wherever I am in the house. If I change my mind the sun will have disappeared again before I’m out the door.
I was on the beach waiting for a bit more sun before going into the water. I sat chatting with my neighbors who have a regular outpost of umbrellas and towels. I can tell where everyone is sitting even without my glasses. “Where’s the sun?!” I complained. “Right there,” a friend pointed upward. I looked, and there was a pale lemon colored dot in the sky. The sun was out, but heavily veiled by mist. We all noticed there was a halo around the sun, a large white circle with a hint of rainbow colors at the edges. Later, I read these are caused by high cirrus clouds between us and the sun, and the refraction of ice crystals in those clouds.
Every day is not cooler than normal, and the mist evaporates completely on many days, the sun comes out, and the day heats up, but the overall pattern is different than usual.
Most of my readers are in the depths of winter right now. Do you notice anything different from other years?
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…).
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.
Christmas is not just a major holiday in Peru, it kicks off the summer vacation season. Schools let out the week before Christmas and stay closed until March first. Families take beach holidays. Seaside businesses make most of their annual income between Christmas and Easter. This week we started to see the build-up in expectation of holiday visitors. The weather is gradually changing too, with more days of blue sky and bright sun.
No one starts preparing for the holidays too soon. The city is repainting the lines along streets and sidewalks. They repainted one of the big streetside flower pots, too, with just a bit of over-spraying. The city is rebuilding the sidewalk around a small park at the end of the street. I should be happy that it is being done, but of all the civic projects I could think of, this one is at the bottom of my list.
One problem is that all of the houses on the right side of the street are abandoned. Maybe this will encourage someone to buy the vacant properties and redevelop them.
Vendors have started to set up every weekend. This couple has been awaiting visitors every Thursday through Sunday since early November. He tells me they have a business renting small carnival rides to local fairs during the winter (April-November). Business hasn’t been very good, so they decided to come to the beach early.
We are looking forward to the new restaurant that is scheduled to open soon. Since the Las Gaviotas restaurant adjacent to our house closed two years ago, we’ve been waiting for something new. There are lots of restaurants along the beach, but none of them has taken the place of Gaviotas. The new one (no name as of yet) is on the terrace and in the lobby area of what was the Hostal Casa Blanca. The lodging closed a couple of years ago when the city tightened oversight and the owners received a long list of repairs and changes required to be recertified as a hotel. They decided it wasn’t worth the cost. The new restaurant could revive the property.
From this post you can see that we are involved in small town life in our corner of the beach. Neighbors are building new apartments next door, and all along the beach people are cleaning up, replacing the woven mats that are used in sun shades, and painting facades and walls along the street. By the time Christmas arrives, the beach will be looking its best, waiting for visitors to celebrate the holidays.
Other changes are afoot that will take a bit longer to be completed. Some properties are for sale, waiting to be taken over and repurposed like this failed dance hall.
Two houses down from us is an old house, designed and built in the 1940s by an agronomist as the summer house for his family, while he worked on a sugar hacienda in one of the nearby valleys. The family moved to Lima after land reform in the 1960s ended the hacienda system, but they kept the house for the summers. Many years later, the family has decided to sell the property. There is a large undeveloped area behind the existing house and the banner proposes sixteen luxury condominiums, pool, garages, and green space. I will be very interested to see this development take shape, though I’ll miss the distinctive facade of the old house. It’s one of the last of the old houses to come down. Our house is nearly the last one left.
it’s a quiet month here in Barranca. We don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in Peru, making this another stress-free week. Our daily routine of walking to the far end of the beach and back continues to let us monitor all the species of shore birds that are here, as well as the ebb and flow of neighborhood life. The hotel that closed is opening a restaurant on their ground floor. Since our next door neighbor Gaim died and his restaurant, Gaviotas, closed, there hasn’t been a place where people in the neighborhood meet over lunch. This could be the new hangout.
Managing our time, we only go to the market twice a week. It gives us a chance to buy fresh fish along with our fruit and veg. Jonathan is known to the people who sell fish. They call out the species he likes when they see him coming, hoping to sell him a chubby grouper, or a sole as large as a serving platter. It’s best not to look down, as the fish aisle usually has a thin layer of unsavory origins underfoot, but the fish is right off the boats, often still alive or in rigor.
If I am looking for jewelry supplies, elastic, watch batteries, or baskets, I go to those vendors while Jonathan buys meat and veg. I saw a woman with outrageous hair chatting with a friend, and when they’d finished, I asked if I could take a photo. What a look!
Jonathan continued from fish to Adele the olive lady, and back to our favorite fruit stand, across from Pollos Don Goyo, run by our friend Lilliam and her husband. I accepted the gift of a tangerine from our vendor, and we headed out of the market. This year we’ve really become locals, buying a rolling cart to pull along rather than lugging straw baskets of supplies. Now that the grocery store charges for plastic bags, we use our baskets for groceries.
It’s election season in Peru. The president, Martin Vizcarra, dismissed the parliament for corruption, and ordered new elections at the end of January. Candidates have just finished getting their names on the rolls and campaigning is gearing up. Outside Lima, this means lots of new paint on walls. Traditionally, candidates offer to paint large walls with their names and party affiliation. The owner gets the wall painted at no charge, as long as they aren’t sensitive to what the color scheme and logo look like.
Our weekly achievement around the house could be the flowers planted around the trees in the patio.
I’m back in Peru after a full year on the road, eight months south of the equator and four in the US. Where has the time gone! I am happy to be back and settled for the winter. There have been some changes in the past year, though most are slight. I do notice the continued prosperity of Peru that stands in marked contrast to the civil unrest in neighboring Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Venezuela. Despite troubles elsewhere in Latin America, and Peru’s recent political turmoil that resulted in the Congress being dismissed, people are going about their lives, building another story on their home, shopping in the outdoor market and at the supermarket. Shops are busy, construction is underway at several places along the beach, and life is generally bustling. There’s a new Barranca sign on the hillside!
Jonathan has already been here for a month, and has reestablished contact with our friends and neighbors. We had a surprise visit from our colleague Alvaro Ruiz. It was good to catch up a bit. Jonathan has hosted Saturday lunch gatherings with local friends. It’s a chance to sit down and talk in addition to the occasional exchange of greetings in the street. There is always gossip, who is building what, whose family is coming to visit, who is in Lima, how everyone’s children are doing, new grandchildren born this year. So much news to keep up with.
Our annual round of home improvements has begun, with new plants in the patio and our pillow covers from New Zealand and Australia stuffed and deployed. We’re creating a system to circulate water from the well through the yard to fill the small pools and waterfalls that have been dry for several years. By recirculating the water we will be able to make the garden greener without letting any of the water get away. It’s a precious commodity here. Other plans are percolating as we gear up for the visit of our daughters and their spouses/fiancés over the holidays.
The weather turned colder on our last day in Cairns, accompanied by a notable drop in humidity. That was the end of swimming, and we compounded the effect by moving south, to cooler territory south of Brisbane. The first few days here were gloomy, overcast with rain. The temperature didn’t get to 70 and I had some misgivings about spending several weeks shivering under a drizzly sky.
We may not be swimming but the Black Rocks boarding club was out in force on Sunday.
Fortunately the weather shifted. The days turned sunny, the clouds retreated over the horizon and the temperature now reaches 75 or even a bit higher. This is perfect weather for walking the beach, birdwatching, and visiting the sights. The Great Barrier Reef is no longer offshore so there are waves breaking on the beach and the water is blue again–it was brownish green when the reef was just offshore in Cairns.While we’ve been out walking (not me on the paddleboard) we have seen a few whales leaping as they work their way north along the coast. We also visited the easternmost point of the Australian mainland. Jonathan took a photo for a group of young women who threw themselves into crouching, hand symbols, lots of movement. After that, we felt we had to add something in our own photo.
The shortest day of the year is coming up in less than two weeks. I’ve never lived in a place where the shortest day falls during warm weather. It is strange to have the strongly slanting golden light of late afternoon at 2 pm when it feels like summer. The sun rises around 7 am and sets early, so we have to squeeze more in to the shorter day, or end up driving home in the dark at 5:30 pm. It’s another of the peculiarities of living in Australia compared to the northern hemisphere.
I never thought I’d look out at the ocean and think, “Wow, this is the Tasman Sea.” But here we are, looking at the Tasman Sea, the part of the Pacific Ocean between New Zealand, Australia, and Tasmania. This part of the ocean, along with Tasmania and other landmarks, are named after the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman who sailed by Tasmania, New Zealand, and Fiji in 1642-43, the first European to do so. Tasman saw the coast but he barely got off his ship due to rough seas.
Surf lifesaving season began on New Zealand Labour Day, Oct. 24, 2018 and continues until Easter.
Our week began with some of this same weather. The water is very shallow along Piha beach, and waves crash over and over as they come in. There is a constant roar of the surf, not the rhythmic boom-pause-boom-pause I am more accustomed to hearing.
On Sunday, we took a long walk down the beach. The sun was out, and there were people everywhere despite a stiff wind. We passed surf life-saving crews practicing zooming up and down the shore between waves, snatching pretend victims from the sea. There were nearly 100 kids in surf school, running in and out of the water, flopping in the shallows, and following their leader. By the time we got home I was chilled to the bone despite my sweatshirt, yet all those other people were frolicking in the water.
Less than a week in New Zealand and I am already eating the words of earlier pronouncements. Piha Beach, our home for two weeks, is a popular vacation spot, with RVs rolling in and out of the campground, weekend visitors, residents, everyone. There is a Surf Lifesaving Club and a surf club. There are zones for dogs to roam, dogs on leashes, and dogs prohibited. With all these people, there is almost no trash.
I haven’t seen or heard about beach clean-up. Maybe New Zealand is just far enough from the rest of the world that most of the plastic doesn’t get here. So far, I’m pretty impressed. The beach is long and sandy and there is only a small amount of litter visible as you stroll along. How did that happen?
The coast is dramatic and beautiful. Our good luck was sealed by Jonathan’s finding a piece of beach glass on our first walk. It was late in the day and the sun turned everything silvery. The sun sets much later than we are used to, around 8 pm, and it’s getting later every day. We will visit as many beaches in this area as we can, but we will only scratch the surface of the many rocky headlands and coves.
Best known of the northern beaches is Mancora, where surfing competitions are held. The center of town is a bustle of hostels, restaurants and shops. We found a few things we’d forgotten to bring along, like peanut butter, and new flip-flops. Mancora is 100% tourist.
The beach in Mancora had everything we’d heard about, jet skis, horseback riding, and people spending a day in the sun.In town, what looks like a grocery store is an overgrown convenience store, as no one is expected to stay for long. Supplies for cooking include beer, energy drinks and chips. Prices are high compared to elsewhere in Peru. I passed on a crocheted bag to carry my keys and beachcombing. We didn’t need shell souvenirs or bikinis. We strolled the downtown area and then had sushi at Buda with its irresistable wall painting. We have friends who’ve bought art in Mancora. Another recommends the Sirena dress shop.
In contrast to the hostels that are cheek by jowl in town we drove south along the shore road on our way home. This is where you find mile after mile of large houses and comfortable hotels with pools overlooking the beach. This is the Mancora that people dream about.
Good neighbors are a treasure. First Berta comes by with a box of fresh strawberries. These are always perfect, because they are from her daughter and son in law who are growers. They were delicious with brown sugar and lime juice.
The doorbell rings and Leila comes in, holding a beautiful straw hat painted with flowers. She says, “This is for you, you wear big hats.” Yes, I do, and thanks! It’s perfect for summer in Peru, with a big brim and those great flowers. Leila even added the band and matching pompoms at the back. I couldn’t find a hat like this if I looked everywhere.
Days like this are why I always say that what is best about Peru is my wonderful neighbors.
Sometimes there’s a chance to chip in a little, like lending a plastic table and chairs for a few days, or cutting some parsley from the garden.
We had a get-together for Maria-Louisa and her sisters and their families. Many years ago, the sisters spent part of their summers in the house that is now ours. Having dinner together was a lot of fun and the sisters reminisced about what it was like when they spent the summer. The oldest sister remembers when their family owned a neighboring house, but that was when she was an only child……The children were only moderately interested in the fact that their mothers, aunts and grandmothers used to live here, but the adults enjoyed it thoroughly.