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Report 2038: Peru with Kids

By ktp from California, Fall 2012

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Page 12 of 14: Robert Penny Cabrera: Explorer of Ocucaje

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Roberto Penny Cabrera with crystallized whale brain, Ocucaje Desert

An entire trip report could have been written just on our experiences with Roberto.

The day before our adventure, Roberto, who is a self-taught explorer/finder who we describe as dashing with disarming blue eyes, came to our hotel and gave us an overview with satellite maps and brought a meteorite and megalodon tooth to get us excited. Then he and my husband went to get provisions.

He picked us up at 4am the next morning and took us south to Ocucaje. We made time for good strong coffee and purchased chicken sandwiches at a trucker stop (where Roberto threw rocks at dogs that threatened me as I attempted to use the restroom).

As we turned toward the desert, a stark and beautiful church appeared along with fighting chickens that looked like dinosaurs. As we left this tiny town of Ocucaje, Roberto spotted a fox, which we chased to get another glimpse.

Over a 14 hour period, we crossed 300 km in the driest desert in the world, south of Ica between Nazca and the ocean. This Altacama desert has the largest repository of marine fossils in the world. Many periods are represented, including Jurassic (our kids liked that movie reference).

It was an incredible day. Here are just a few highlights of what we saw and did:

  • Viewed several whale fossils, with baleen and flesh intact and even a crystal brain
  • Hunted and found megalodon teeth
  • Encountered pre-Hispanic human remains, including an intentionally elongated skull
  • Witnessed a desert tornado
  • Visited a canyon that resembled Petra inhabited by condors
  • Glimpsed an outline of an alligator fossil just starting to emerge from the desert floor
  • Saw stone (rather than carved) Nazca lines pointing to good water sources

Roberto recommends 2+ night camping tours of the desert to gain the full effect. We didn't have the time but instead got a rich overview of the desert. This tour offers a sharply contrasting experience to the Andes.

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