The owner of Wakama has welcomed the ORCA Peru volunteers to come to the reserve and conduct their surveys, and at one time ORCA Peru maintained a station on the beach where sea lion pups were rescued and rehabilitated.
We disembark from the bus on a desolate, barren stretch of the highway. On this trip are Carlos, Fio, and I, the sun is hot but we have our sombreros and water, and Carlos tells me that it is not far to the refuge. We cross the highway and head west toward the ocean, I can see it stretching away beyond a sharp contrast in the yellow sand; we are on the edge of a huge cliff overlooking Wakama. We make our way down the face, the sand is the texture of wheat flour and it isn't long before it is coating the lining of our mouths. It is best to zig and zag while descending, and I find that my past alpine snow skiing experience is valuable here. I pop off my heels and twist to the left...POOOF...landing in a perfect pile of yellow powder. We continue this way, winding through the dunes and continuing to descend until we are among the brightly painted azul, roja, amarillo, and verde painted houses.
The "town" is a quiet place, and we are wearing our ORCA Peru staff and volunteer shirts so we are welcome. We use the bathroom, get refreshed, and relax for awhile in the shade of the town's cantina, which serves its patrons gourmet pizza and a variety of wines. Workers are painting bamboo furniture with linseed oil and scrubbing the wooden verandas. The beach is picked nearly clean of trash, which is a delight to my eyes. Presently, Carlos wants to head out to the station and off we go, just a short trek further up the beach about 400 meters.
The site of the old station is a crumbling 4 room structure that once contained bedrooms for staff and volunteers, a kitchen for cooking and for meal prep for the sea lions, and a nursery house. The earthquake of 2007 took out the porch, fence, plaster, and floors when the sea level rose temporarily and washed out the station. The construction of the facility was funded by the owner of Wakama but sadly he no longer has the funds to rebuild for the ORCAs. Carlos tells me that the station was a success with staff and volunteers at the site on a round-the-clock basis (during El Nino, Wakama is the site of numerous strandings of sea lion pups) as well as visits from school children who helped with beach cleanups. Carlos' dream was to have a science center at the site and to invite school children from other countries to learn about the marine biology of the South Pacific. It saddens me that the station was never rebuilt and I can't help but think how it would take just a few individuals with enough money to pitch in to rebuild a new station.
|The old ORCA Peru sea lion station at Wakama, after the earthquake|
|This is a guest house in Wakama of similar design||to the ORCA station|
|This is the actual building that was used to rehabilitate the baby sea lions, it is now being used as a playhouse in Wakama|
We pass two fishermen who are demonstrating a style of net setting that I have not seen; these men deploy their nylon filament gill nets into the water by wading out into the surf, and they tend the line higher up on the beach by wrapping the bridle line around their waist. They are fishing for anchovies and guitarfish, a cartilagenous species that resembles a skate.
None of the fishermen we meet are having any luck, they have been on this beach since early this morning. Carlos tells me that this area used to be a very profitable fishing ground due to its rocky bottom, but things changed two years ago with the completion of the mile long oil pipeline dock and the crescent shaped breakwater that goes with it.
|Tursiops truncatus, bottlenose dolphin remains at Wakama Reserve|