In sickness and in health

14 juni 2014 - Lima, Peru

Hola muchachos!

At the moment, I’m sitting in the nice garden of our hostel while the sky is finally completely blue and the sun is shining. A little family of west Peruvian Doves and Scrub Blackbirds (Guido bought a book with all the Peruvian birds) are searching for food in front of me. Another week has passed and we discovered more about the Peruvian nature and culture. Last weekend we went to the Central Market and we tried the Peruvian dish “Ceviche” (photos can be found at the page of our first blog). This dish consists of fresh raw sea food marinated in lemon juice. It was delicious, however, the place where we settled for lunch was not and the three of us got really sick. Soon I felt better and went to Paracas National Reserve just 3 hours south of Lima. However, now I’m feeling sick again and the boys are spending this weekend at the same place, while I stay in Lima getting better and writing this blog.

Paracas National Reserve consists of beautiful coastlines and tropical desserts. Most of the people I met there, take a combined boat/bus tour to both the national reserve and the Ballestas Islands (close to the park). However, I do not like tours, especially if you go with 30 people in one bus, stop at specific places, have 20 minutes to walk around, go to the toilet and eat something. No, I wanted to walk on my own. It was possible but far (a circuit of 35 km), which I discovered after the 10 km walk to the reserve entrance. Of course I didn't returned and just started walking the circuit. But I was very lucky thanks to a park ranger on his motor. He offered to join him during his vigilance of the park (off the normal touristic roads). The coast and the beaches were beautiful, I saw lots of marine birds like the Peruvian boobies, cormorants, Humboldt penguins and flamingo’s. Furthermore, I saw sea lions, a fin of a dolphin and the shell of a sea turtle at the beach. I had to help clean all the information boards and counting (dead) birds for research. I was so lucky to meet him because walking 35 km in a dessert environment under the full sun would be a complete different experience.

Talking about different experiences, Thursday Raul brought us for the first time in Peru to almost 5.000 meter, to try if we could handle the altitude. While drinking tea made of coca leaves (helps against altitude disease), we followed a river close to Lima called Rio Rimac to about 4.649 m. The sampling we did was just a pilot to get used to the sample techniques, species we encounter, but especially to the altitude. At high altitudes the available oxygen in the air is lower than at sea level, thus making walking and working more difficult. Our first sample area was a lagoon surrounded by mountain tops, some covered by snow. The view was literally and figurally breath taking. After getting both quantative and qualitative samples, we felt light headed, but fortunately we did not get sick. After sampling another site at a lower altitude (3.500 m), we were all tired, done for the day but thrilled to go to Huaraz next week, where we will be working 3 weeks in these kind of surroundings. Next day in the lab, we had to determine the species in our samples. For the biologists under you, we found larva of Chironomids and Caddisflies, Gammarids, Daphnia and Notonectidae. Our work was interrupted by the soccer game of the Netherlands against Spain for the World Cup. Sitting between Peruvian students and teachers (all except for one guy for Spain) we watched the game on a little, malfunctioning television. What a surprise for everybody when we slaughtered the Spaniards with 5-1! We celebrated it with dinner and beers at a little restaurant at the cliffs of Lima.

The next week we will be working in the lab and the group of Earth Science students will arrive in Peru. Our research is in collaboration with the research this group is conducting. Saturday we all will travel to Huaraz, which will be our home for the next three weeks!

Saludos y abrazo,