Thursday, January 6, 2011

What's Not to Like about...Tumbes?

What could be better than a hot, sunny day on a private, breezy beach? In January that sounds almost too good to be true; nevertheless, that's exactly where Dad and I spent the New Years weekend with our friends and co missionaries, Bruce and Kathryn Ghent. Caleta Grau is a fishing village about 40 minutes south of Tumbes, Peru, on the Peru/Ecuador border. Liliana Silva, secretary in the Area presidency office for over 20 years now, invited us to stay at their family hospedaje after she couldn't find rooms for us at the resort hotels nearby. We are so grateful she couldn't find rooms. Our experience on the beach wouldn't have been so fun and meaningful.

Dad and I enjoyed reading, walking and resting. It's just what the doctor ordered.

This picture is out of order, but so worthy of a place on the blog. We attended church in a casa capilla, a home which the church bought and created a ward building. Some of the ward members gathered for their pictures to be taken. The Relief Society president, a young mother, taught the Relief Society lesson and the Sunday School lesson.

The enclosed yard of the hospedaje was so welcoming--coconut palms, four hammocks, and tables and chairs. The chairs and tables were moved in for meals. We had the chairs at the beach most of the time we were there.

Liliana's mother is taking the grandchildren for a walk. Once Liliana and her family arrived, her mother cooked every meal--rice in broth or coconut milk, fresh fish, ceviche (which we couldn't eat because it is uncooked seafood marinated in lime juice), finely cut vegetable salads, fresh fruits, and eggs prepared with onions, vegetables, tuna and onion with lima juice (absolutely delicious!), and fresh rolls of all kinds. Liliana thought we could either go out for meals or buy food in the nearby market. We discovered New Years Eve the closest restaurant was a rickety mototaxi ride 20 miles away, there was only one restaurant that looked inviting or safe, and the market was out of most everything. On New Years Day we rode into town and discovered all the restaurants were closed. Only the street vendors were out and that is scary eating!

This is the view from the road which leaves the paved highway. Notice the hospedaje is the only developed property with trees.

Sunsets on the beach are particularly spectacular. I took this one as we were leaving to go to dinner New Years Eve.

Tumbes reminded us of angry bees after their hive has been disturbed--noisy, buzzing mototaxis, old rickety, dented taxis, trucks and cars without mufflers, congested sidewalks and streets, street vendors, barkers, crowded and small cafes, old hotels, and children riding in little cars around the main square which was actually fun to watch. Dad, Liliana's husband, one daughter, and her father took a separate taxi and went to a different square. It was some time before we met up, enough time to experience the bustling little city of Tumbes.

Ah, for the peace of the hospedaje! Here we are with the Ghents. The front door is actually a garage door. Novel idea! (An hospedaje is a step down from a motel and is run like a bed and breakfast.) Each room was just large enough for a (very comfortable) double bed and a small, clean private bathroom. We appreciated the ceiling fan and the one overhead light which was bright enough to read by.

The managers, Beto and Milagros, were delightful. She is a distant cousin of Liliana.

The hospedaje has four rooms on the main floor and four upstairs. The view from the hallway upstairs is awesome. We spent a breezy couple of hours lying on chaises and playing with Liliana's children.

Daniela 5 and Genela 7 were equally comfortable with their relatives and us.

This picture is a "Gwen picture." She would love to paint this scene--Daniela and Genela showing their little sister the ocean and waves.

Valeria, pronounced, Viladia, was so cute. One night she kept repeating, "Esta oscuro," and pointing outside. Then she put her finger to her mouth and made the "shh shh" sound. We couldn't figure out what she was saying. Finally, Liliana figured out she was telling us it was dark outside. No one knew how serious she was about the oscuro noche, until she refused to go outside for the family home evening. She was terrified of the dark. Only after the huge fire was lit, would she venture outside.

Liliana (in black), her mother and father next to her on the right, her sister Lesli with Valeria, the two little girs, and the Ghents and us, gathered for a picture after church. I noticed a little girl try to hitch a ride on the back of a moto taxi, my mouth is open to shout to the young fellow driving the taxi. This is a branch, quite remote, in fact. Right now there are no proselyting missionaries, but when the Piura Mission receives more missionaries, they can open up this area again. In the meantime, the ward missionaries are diligent and successful!

The members of this little branch were so grateful to have missionaries visit. It was a tender experience and I had a lump in my throat much of the three hours. They are so happy to serve and to bear their testimonies.

Dad and I and one of the girls rode home in one of three moto taxis. The ride isn't bad.

If I didn't tell you this is a gas station, would you guess it? See the liters of gas lined up?" Yup! That's gasoline for the moto taxis. The larger barrels on the roadside are for the taxis. When we are riding in a regular taxi, we are sitting on the gas tank! Scary. When they taxi is running out of gas, the driver just replaces the cannister.

This is a sunset view of the little fishing fleet of boats and one of the shacks where the fishermen bring their catch to sell to the locals. Each morning Liliana's mother and father walked up the beach to buy the white fish right off the boats. I don't know where they bought the fresh shrimp forSunday afternoon's dinner of cooked shrimp and onions dressed with lime. It was scrumptious!

This view gives an idea of the roughness of the terrain. There was no green grass of any sort. Also lacking were paved roads and sidewalks. We really were reminded of the old Westerns, the TV shows and movies of the Wild West. In some respects the land reminded us of Utah foothills or Kanab and Moab without the red rocks.

Ah, could life get much better than this? We joked about how many men it takes to plant beach umbrellas in the sand...when the wind is against the effort.

Then it turned into a frond waving moment. Shade and cooler air--who could ask for more? The men spent a lot of time chasing the umbrellas which uprooted and blew away a few times each day. The wind wasn't hard enough to blow the sand, just the umbrellas.

Such scenes as this one were so restful and renewing--lots of reading, lots of conversation, and a few cat naps.

Sand crabs are great fun to watch. They dig their holes every morning, gathering clumps of sand and throwing them up and away. They also pat the sand down with their two front paddle like claws. Notice the pattern this sand crab made to create his shade hole for the day.

This picture would be better blown up. Notice the sand crabs in the right corner working on their holes. They pinkish crabs are barely visible.

Kathryn and I spent early mornings collecting large oyster shells. However, when she found this, we knew we had a treasure. It's a honed tool of some kind. The holes suggest the stone might have been a hatchet or a cleaver lashed to some kind of handle.

Besides sand crabs, we watched moto taxis loaded with workers or families, cruising along the beach.

Sand crabs fight any other crabs who try to take over their holes. We watched this one go from hole to hole but he wasn't welcome anywhere. Apparently, he was too lazy to dig his own hole. He was also not pinkish enough. Interesting.

One morning Kathryn and I found this squid washed up.

Of all the beach "characters" this one stole the show. Every day this pink pig and one of his grey pig friends scavenged for food. The hospedaje is in the back ground. Milagros told us he belongs to a family up the beach somewhere.

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