Peru Part 5: Miraflores & Los Pantanos de Villa
To finish out our great Peru adventure, Apryle and I decided to relax in the ocean-front capital city. After a 600 kilometer overnight bus ride we arrived at the bus stop rested and ready to take a taxi to Miraflores. Based on advice from our friend Liam, we booked a room at the 151 Colon Hostel, which was only a half mile jog from the Pacific Ocean.
We experienced a culture shock as we entered a neighborhood more akin to Waikiki Beach in Honolulu than what we came to expect in Peru. Miraflores had an artificial tourist feel which was pleasant in some ways after a long trip of sleeping in tents and buses, but sad in other ways because it represented the start of our transition out of Peru.
Upon arrival, Apryle and I went for a run along the sheer Cliffside overlooking the ocean, which paralleled the Circuito de Playas. This was a paved trail that was alive and active, with cyclist zooming by, masses of people aimlessly walking, and parks with playing fields every kilometer. It was a perfect stretch of trail to knock out some miles and enjoy endless ocean front views. The last three days in Peru I took to this trail and tested my living at elevation speed. In addition to my daily Circuito de Playas jaunt, Apryle and I explored our surroundings, including the extravagant outdoor mall Larcomar and the Barranco Districts unique architecture.
On our second day in Lima, we made our way down to the Los Pantanos de Villa Wildlife Refuge, which is a birding treasure. This 263 hectare protected wetland is one of the last remnants of natural coastline left in Lima and is surrounded by encroaching civilization on three sides.
While in Lima or any city in Peru really, we were hard-pressed to find a tree, plant or anything green, so Villa Marshes was a refreshing site. The refuge is home to over 208 species of birds and features several walking trails, observation towers and lagoon view points.
Even though it was only 14 kilometer to Villa Marshes from our hostel it was no easy feat to reach the obscure destination. We took a bus to Chorrillos (neighborhood of Lima) and then walked the remaining distance from the downtown area along Av. Huaylas. The walk was uncomfortable, Chorrillos represented a more typical Peruvian city with stray dogs, trash strewn streets and rundown buildings.
Additionally, it required us to walk along a four lane highway past a vicious dog fight and past people that did not seem to like seeing us strolling by. The disparity in wealth in Peru and within Lima from a superficial prospective appears astronomical. Most of the towns consist of crumbling brick/clay buildings with rebar sticking through the roof tops, but in Miraflores, there are skyscraping hotel buildings, expensive retail outlets, and houses watched over by doormen.
We arrived at the entrance gait and continued down the road until we reached a visitors center where we paid a small entrance fee and started on our adventure. There were three main stops: 1. Sendero Tradicional, 2. Sendero Laguna Marvilla, and 3. Sendero Laguna Genesis
1. Sendero Tradicional
This is simply the traditional path that includes some reed strewn trails that meander around Laguna Mayor. Within this section there are two rather tall observation towers that provide a birds eye view of the refuge. Although we arrived in a birding offseason (we were told November is the best time for birding), we were still able to identify an Andean Coot, a Many Colored Rush Tyrant, a Common Moorhen, and a Neotropic Cormorant.
2. Sendero Laguna Marvilla
This was the most difficult section to find because there is no signage. It was a paved road not a trail that we followed to arrive at this quadrant. The street was called Alameda Las Garzas Reales and it led to a gated community called Surco. We showed our ticket to the men guarding the entrance and followed the road past houses that were more upscale than the ramshackle plywood and corrugated aluminum chanteys across the highway.
After passing by a walled-off country club we arrived at the lagoon we were searching for. This was a birding buffet and because the lagoon was situated only a narrow sandbar from the ocean we were able to see both wetland and shore birds commingling in the same location. Here we identified: a Great Grebe, a Snowy Egret, a Cinnamon Teal, an American Oystercatcher, a Grey-Headed Gull, and a Franklin’s Gull.
3. Sendero Laguna Genesis
This was our last stop on the circuit, and an excellent way to cap off the trip to the Villa Marshes. At the visitors center, we purchased tickets for the canoe ride around the Laguna Genesis with the intention of paddling ourselves. However, included in the price of the ticket was a canoe guide who pointed out every species of bird we encountered.
Although I typically prefer unguided tours, this was actually quite fun and our guide appeared to be having as much fun as us after he took about a 100 photos of the Great Egret we spotted along the way. This leisurely paddle looped around a shallow lagoon that was bordered with tall reeds. Within the reeds we spotted several species including: a Black-Crowned Night Heron, a Striated Heron, a Lesser Grebe, a Great Egret and many others already identified.
After our birding extravaganza we taxied back to our hostel, I ran a quick 10 along the Circuito, and then we enjoyed some ice-cream in the park as we peered over the cliff at the vast expanse of ocean. Our final day in Lima was a little stressful due to the difficulty of finding a cab that would take us to the airport. Once we did finally find one, he had to drop us off on the highway because he did not have the correct permits to get into the airport, but it all worked out.
Six hours later we arrived in Mexico City where customs confiscated our avocados, our dinner… We slept in the airport and caught our connector flight to Las Vegas. We had some time to kill, so Apryle and I walked along the strip, and though it was fun for a few hours we found it surprising that it was such an appealing destination. The final flight dropped us in Seattle in the early morning, bringing our Peru trip to a close.