La Punta, Lima: migratory birds and daytripping humans
La Punta (“The Point”) is a tiny spit of land that juts into the Pacific from Lima’s Callao neighborhood. It’s as far away from the hustle and bustle of Lima as you can get without actually leaving the city, and by some reports, it’s the city’s best beach for relaxing.
We took a bus from our hostel in Magdalena (Tambopacaya), to check it out. First stop: the beach of Chucuito. A lovely shady park provides access to the beach, which has been a historic day-trip for Limeños for a century or more. The old ticket booths and bathhouses (built in 1943) have been painted with nostalgic scenes, and an old ship has been pulled up on the rocky beach, a statue of a pirate placed on the deck. It has the feel of a whimsical Disneyland, the past artfully recreated for your pleasure. You can even take pictures of yourself in a set of nearby stocks.
The beach is entirely formed of smooth round stones which give off an intense glowing warmth, and on a lazy Monday afternoon, only a single small wave lapped at the shore, swimmers bobbing gently in its swell. Yachts and shipping vessels float far out, hundreds of them slightly veiled in Lima’s grey mist.
From the beach we walked along the Malecón Figuera, past the Peruvian Yacht Club and the tall, bright condos with their fat, old palm trees. Everyone was out, eating ice cream and sunning themselves on the rocky beach, even though it was only a Monday.
There’s a naval base on the very pointermost point of La Punta, and just beyond it a waterfront park is being constructed. From the little we could glimpse through the boarded-up work area it looks like they have a lot of work to do, but it should be lovely.
The waves become stronger as you round the tip, and a massive concrete sea wall has been constructed to guard against them. We ran the gauntlet of a strip of seafood restaurants while waitresses followed along behind us shouting menu options in an attempt to be heard over each other. We had planned to stop and eat, but we make it an unofficial rule to walk away as soon as someone starts waving a menu in our faces. You can go hungry for a long time in the touristy areas of Peru with a rule like that.
We finally did settle in at one of the last restaurants on the strip, a mellow, empty place just in view of the Poza la Arenilla. The poza is a human-made lagoon that creates a long strip of wetlands for migrating birds to feed. It provides a small wildlife sanctuary for flocks of gulls, terns, and pelicans, as well as less common species of marine birds. The lagoon is within sight of Lima’s skyscrapers, but the thousands of birds feeding there didn’t seem to mind.
La Punta looked like the sort of place that shuts down after dark, so as the sun began to set we caught a bus back to Magdalena. We missed one of the main attractions of the area, the colonial-era Fuerte Real Filipe, so we’re planning another trip one of these sunny Lima afternoons.