Getting out of the city

An American in Peru

Charlie swimming with the sea lions

Between junior and senior year of college, I studied abroad in the rainforest of northeastern Australia.  I spent four weeks living in an open-air cabin in the middle of the forest learning about and aiding local reforestation efforts…the experience of a lifetime.  Afterwards, I spent six weeks traveling in parts of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji, my first stop being Sydney.  Accompanied by five other students from my program, I spent my first night in the city participating in a pub crawl.  The $35 fee covered a ride on the party bus (complete with disco ball), a drink or shot at seven different pubs, and a t-shirt!  It sounded ideal to a 21-year-old who had been living a sober existence in the middle of the rainforest for the past month.  Although I recall very little from this night, I am told that after the 5th stop, my friends found me sitting next to a tree alone outside one of our stops, crying.  Apparently I drunkenly blubbered about how sad I was to be out of the forest.  “The city, it’s so loud!” I slurred, “You can’t see any stars!  The trees are growing out of the cement, not the earth!  There are more buildings than animals!  The ground is so hard!”

In recent years, for reasons such as this, I have written off drinking shots under any circumstances.  Although lately I’ve found myself feeling those same sentiments.  Along with many firsts (first time not working, first time living in a Spanish-speaking country, first marriage, etc.), this is my first time living in a city.  I have always enjoyed going to cities to visit friends, tour museums, and experience a different culture, but living in one is different.  I’m lucky to live across the street from a park the size of a city block.  I frequently find myself getting as close as I can to the middle of it, closing my eyes and blocking out the sounds of the cars.  I try to pretend I’m in the middle of the woods.  Every other day I walk down to Lima’s beautiful coastline, sit in the well kept parks and imagine there is not a road behind me.

Danielle at Club del Bosque

Fortunately, this past weekend, Charlie and I had two excellent opportunities to escape the city.  I had been researching day trips and told my friend Gaby what I had found  She suggested that instead, we go to a club about an hour outside the city.  Her father is a member and with a signed letter of approval and our passports, we could spend the day.  Club del Bosque turned out to be like a mountain resort.  Everything was green!  We arrived in the afternoon and started by taking a nap on the grass under a big shady tree.  We had a late lunch, swam in the pool, then went on a short hike to a beautiful overlook. This being our first close-up look, we were surprised to see the mountains right outside of Lima so dry and barren of vegetation…especially as we were enjoying them from a beautifully green resort.  The resort is in a riparian zone, fed by Rimac River which runs all the way to Lima.  It felt like we were in a desert oasis.  The trip was a wonderful escape.  Thanks Gaby!

On Sunday, I arranged for us to take a four-hour boat tour around the Islas Palominos off the coast of Lima.  Charlie and I have been wanting to check out activities we can take our visitors to do (eh-hem) and this turned out to be an excellent choice!  The boat toured San Lorenzo Island, the second biggest island in the country, currently a Navy zone.  Next we passed Fronton Island, also known as “prison island”, which housed the most dangerous criminals and terrorists in the country until is was bombed in 1986.  We also viewed Cavinzas Island, a popular hang out for sea birds, who produce the treasured guano.  Guano is bird excrement, used in making fertilizer and gunpowder.  This is a highly sought after commodity imported by countries including France, Germany, and the United States.  This particular island is protected heavily from fishing and other disturbances and mined every eight years for its “goods”.

When I was making arrangements for the tour, I read that swimming with sea lions was a possibility, but had no idea what I was getting into.  As the boat approached Palominos Island, the guide told us it was a natural residence and refuge for more than 8,000 sea lions!  As we got closer, the smell of guano became overpowering.  Then we began to hear them…barking, roaring and screeching were thousands of sea lions covering the small island.  The guide explained that the noises they make are their way of defending their territory, then gave us life jackets and told us to jump in.

Although Charlie was, of course, one of the first ones in the water, I was hesitant.  Male South American sea lions weigh up to 770 pounds and their territorial noises felt uninviting.  Initially, I used the excuse of taking pictures to avoid joining them, but Charlie talked me into it and as usual, I’m glad.  I jumped into the freezing water to join my husband and the lions.  The guide said that if we didn’t want them to touch us, we should move our legs around.  Charlie stayed still in the water and one of them swam up against him.  I’ve never kicked harder in my life but they were still swimming within five feet of me.  Yikes!  Due to much stricter rules, you would NEVER be able to do this in the States!

Posted by Danielle L. Krautmann, 04 Feb 2010

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10 thoughts on “Getting out of the city”

  1. Hmmm … even though I don’t actually know you personally, I was wondering what it must be like to live in the big city of Lima. Having visited, I know it is just so sprawling, and the fog, of course, can be a bit dreary.

    Your adventures sound perfect – what a great thing it is to have friends who know what there is to do – available to advise you! I can’t imagine swimming with sea lions, though – I live in Santa Cruz, CA, and we have plenty of them hanging out at our wharf. I’m not sure if they are 700 pounds here, but they’re definitely on the robust size, and they have BIG teeth! And fishy breath! I think you were wise to keep kicking.

    Thanks for keeping this journal going – I am really enjoying it.

  2. With my shaved head and seal-like diving acrobatics in the water, the sea lions thought I was their Master. They were right;)

  3. Similar feelings about the city are what led your Mom and me to hike from Maryland to Connecticut on the Appalachian Trail – 400 miles and 33 days of wilderness living. Ahhh…the peace and quiet of wilderness!

  4. I love your intro about your drunken blubbering in Australia to preface your next story. Well done! Swimming with the sea lions sounds so cool but I’d definitely be freaked out if one touched me, haha.

  5. We’ve been thinking about heading out to the Islas Palominas ourselves, but I don’t think I’d have the guts to jump in with the sea lions. I just stumbled across your blog here, and I love it! My husband and I are from Seattle and have been traveling in Peru for 5 months now. We’ll be in Lima until the 22nd of February–it would be great to meet up! My email is jessie @

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