I come from Portland, Oregon. So one of my goals, in arranging this vacation, was to escape the clouds, rain and cold that hang over Portland more often than not. In choosing Peru as my destination, I was interested not only in adventure but also in a break from our miserable winter back home.
But fate had other plans. While my friends in Oregon are telling me that they’ve had clear skies, I have not been so lucky. When I arrived in Lima, the entire coastal area was shrouded in a thick fog they call the “garua'”. According to the internet, the garua’ is only supposed to hang over Lima during certain months of the year; it’s not supposed to be there in February/March. Alas, this is only of only three or four times when the internet was wrong. The garua’ was there during my entire stay in Lima (both times).
I knew it was the rainy season in the high country of Peru. But, upon my arrival in Cusco, all hell broke lose. Normally it rains for a while and then clears up. But this time the rains were so heavy and persistent that news reports were telling of overflowing rivers, collapsed houses and several fatalities. I had brought record rains to Cusco and Machu Picchu. The river that flows past Aquas Calientes, near Machu Picchu, had overflowed. I saw the river myself (I think it’s the Urubamba River) in this state. It was frightening. The rains continued unabated nearly the entire time I was there and some time after.
My next destination was Iquitos. It’s the rainy season there too, and locals had told me that it usually rains for two or three days and then lets up. Not so when I was there; it rained on me every single day – and not just a drizzle either. It came down in buckets and torrents, even as we were paddling down the Nanay River. It threatened to fill our canoe and capsize us. Our guide explained to us that, due to the heavy rains, our chances of seeing wildlife were diminished. So were our chances of catching anything while fishing. The rain finally abated on the day I left.
Among the driest places on Earth is the Atacama Desert in northern Chile and southern Peru. The city of Tacna lies slightly north of it and the entire surrounding area is a desolate wasteland where little grows. Nevertheless, the clouds followed me even there. This time they brought only a drizzle.
I took the bus to Arequipa, which is in the high country. I wanted to get a good view of the famous vulcano that lies nearby: El Misti. It was clear in the morning but I couldn’t get a good view of it due to the buildings and cables that hung overhead. I’d booked an afternoon bus tour of the city, which, they assured me, would include a nice view of El Misti. Shortly after we started the tour, the clouds rolled in. When we got to the best viewing spot for El Misti, the tour guide explained that we could not see it due to the clouds.
By this time my cold had gotten worse and I realized it would be foolish for me to go ahead with my plans to take the bus to Puno; I had enough trouble breathing as it is and Puno is even higher than Cusco. Also, I’d had enough of the cold. I wanted a warm, sunny, place.
The lady at the hostel told me that Mollendo is just such a place. Highland Peruvians flock there for their getaways and it’s supposed to have nice, sunny, beaches. Early the next morning I was off to Mollendo.
When I got there, it was overcast. When I asked the hotel lady if the clouds usually clear up by mid day, she responded, “It’s always sunny here. I don’t know why it’s cloudy today; I don’t know what happened.”
I’m considering selling my services as a rainmaker to certain Middle Eastern nations. After all, I’ve accumulated quite a resume’.