XXXI. Nazca to Arequipa – Puerto Inka
In the middle of nowhere, as it’s going dark, we see a sign for the Hotel Puerto Inka. It is so remote and unexpected that we kid around about the possibility that there’s no hotel and they just put this sign up some evenings to lure wealthy travelers off the road to a secluded spot to waylay them. But the road is new.
The place itself, which we can see from above before we quite arrive, is set inside a small, natural harbor which, as it turns out, was an important transportation center where fish were gathered to be carried up to Cusco during the Inca times.
It looks like a fairly extensive place, with individual cabins set back in the rocks overlooking the harbor, but it also seems deserted. We see no one; the only vehicle in sight doesn’t look as if it’s been used in this century; and there are no lights on, although it’s nearly dark. Just as we’re about to give up, I spot a woman slipping back into one of the buildings, closing the door behind her. Although this is not exactly an encouraging sign, at least the place is populated – and I’m curious.
I park near the door where the woman had disappeared, and get out to have a look. Soon the woman emerges, as do two youths, and they confirm that the place is open for business. Ragna joins me, and I lock the car and have a look around. It´s an appealing place, though the room rent is high for Perú. We lean toward driving further toward Arequipa tonight.
Unfortunately, though, I’ve locked the key in the car. Ragna has long ago lost her key to the car. We are in trouble. A more mature man emerges, or is brought out by the youths we’ve been talking to. He confirms that there’s no such thing as a locksmith anywhere around. We are not happy. I feel like an idiot, but am beginning to suppose I’ll have to break a window. Finally, though, the fellow from the hotel manages – rather easily, and without setting off the much-vaunted car alarm — to push a window open, without breaking it, and we get the key back without damage to the window. Was this talent the vestige of a misspent youth?
We are grateful. It is also getting dark, and it’s a long way to Arequipa. Or to Camaná, a beach community at which we had considered staying.
So we stay.
The cabin´s a delight. Not fancy, but no one else is around and there’s nothing but our terrace and the rocks between our front door and the waves slamming the beach. The sound of the waves is loud and welcoming.
Supper is good too, although it kind of boggles my mind that the place can be so completely deserted, yet react to our unplanned appearance with two quite delicious meals.
We sup to the sound of the waves, chat a little with the folks there, and relax. The place turns out not to be new at all, and I’m guessing that large groups sometimes arrive in a bus. And that the place does a much better business on weekends, and perhaps during summer. There are extensive play facilities for kids, and a pool.
After supper we take a pisco sour in the bar, where there´s a pool table. I challenge the winner of the game in progress, and play one. Ragna watches, and remarks on the resemblance of my young opponent to her son Thorgeir when he was young. Then we retreat to our quarters, though first we sit out front drinking wine for awhile.
Then we go to bed, the sound of the waves like a stereo left on for our enjoyment.
To me, it’s an ideal spot, for its solitude and unimpeded proximity to the sea. Ragna likes it too, but finds it also ‘a little scary.’ I ask why, but she can´t define it further, or won´t.
In the morning we do wander a bit through the ruins. It’s an appealing spot, the ruins overlooking the secluded harbor. The ruins are not the most extensive or dramatic we’ve seen in Peru; but they’re right there, a short walk from the cabin and with a great view and no one else wandering around them. Just as we’re leaving, we spot a map on the wall showing that there’s quite a bit more in the way of ruins within a modest walk along the sea; but we’re determined to continue on to Arequipa.
We stop in a small town on the coast for a surprisingly good fried-fish lunch, then turn inland, climbing into the mountains as the sun sets. The rest of the drive onward is a high speed race across high country we can’t see in the gathering darkness, then slower progress along roads that twist around a little more. By the time we approach Arequipa, it’s been dark for an hour or more. Near some open-air market I ask for directions, and get a general sense of which way to go.
At the edge of one intersection with a red light, we ask a pedestrian for directions to the Plaza de Armas. He refers us to another fellow, who begins to explain, pauses, and then – just as the light changes to green with cars behind us – snatches the car radio from Ragna’s lap and disappears. It’s perfectly timed. There’s no way I can leave Ragna and the car in the middle of the intersection and chase him. It takes a moment even for me to be clear what he’s run off with, and I can only be glad it wasn’t the video-camera.
It’s not an auspicious arrival. We continue. We try making our way toward some guesthouse that’s been recommended to us, but when it’s not easy to find we don’t pursue it, and just go to the Monasterio, a larger, mid-range hotel we can easily find.
So, if you happen to be driving south on the Pan American Highway, and S./ 180 isn’t too stiff a price for a double room, hang a right when you reach Puerto Inka, and drive to the end of the road. Particularly on a weekday in the off-season, it’s delightful and secluded. If you have more than just the night, it might be worth wandering a little further to see a bit more of the ruins there than we had the time to do.
Or call: 51-54-272663