Saturday, October 29, 2005

Sailing to Mars:

The voyage to Paracas was fantastic, fraught, exhausting; 19 hours onboard galloping and bucking just a little east of straight into the wind and waves. Never so clumsy in my life, hanging on with every muscle and operating on sheer excitement while the three other hands scampered the deck like lizards, sometimes like cats skewing for traction on a slippery floor. Didn't have charts for the usual route way out to sea and then southeast, so we paralleled the coast 10 miles out. At midnight we cleared the edge of the fogbank and Mars, historically close, was already high between the almost-full moon and the mast. I saw Mars again in Paracas, but at sea it was impressivly bigger and brighter red. At apogee Mars was directly over the mast, with the mast rocking and reeling and whirling circles around it, like being drunker than I've ever been. Just before dawn we passed the guano islands off Paracas and their sudden land-ho stink in the dark. We left Callao, Lima's port, at 12:30 Thursday afternoon and anchored off Paracas at 7:30 Friday morning.

The house in Paracas is at the less populated southern end of the bay. Turn left in front of the house and you can walk toward the Reserva into nothing but beach and birds and seashells, along the water's edge or trekking the dunes toward where flamingos stand in a long line just offshore. Farther on, the Reserva with its desert and wild beaches is like the moon with an ocean, like the beginning and the end of the world. Turning right from the house takes you along the bayfront houses to civilization at the nice old Hotel Paracas with its gardens of huge ancient bougainvillea and an outdoor bar for a pisco sour, the Peruvian national snort, while swifts and swallows whirl around dipping into the pool. With the long winter neblina, Lima never sees stars or sunrise and sunsets are rare, but in Paracas you can watch the sun up and down most every day. The dark nights in Paracas are fabulous with stars and the Milky Way.


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