National Geographic : 1900 Jun
THE ROAD TO BOLIVIA dangerous when you see them in the water, but it is impossible to sink them. When you leave the Guayas River to go southward you strike the " Zona Seca," the desert coast, as soon as you pass the boundary of Peru. The steamer follows the shore as closely as safety will allow. The surf has pounded it until the soft places have yielded and its pres ent outlines resemble the wind-carved cliffs on the American desert, and scattered along are many islands gray with guano, dropped by the millions of water birds that make their home along the way-worn and forbidding shore. There are a few indifferent harbors, but most of the towns lie up on the unprotected beach, and commu nication between the steamer and the shore is carried on in large launches, made so buoyant that theyride safely through the surf. Like the arid lands of Arizona and southern Cali fornia, the desert coast of Peru is rich in vegetable life wherever it can be moistened. About once in a generation A CABALLITOS a shower escapes from the mountains, and the hitherto lifeless earth is immediately illuminated with fruits and flowers whose germs have lain dormant from remote cycles. In 1892 there fell a series of unprecedented rains. The desert was alive with plants and blossoms where nothing but lifeless sand had been before, and where the seeds came from is a question no one has ever been able to answer. The steamer stops at every town for an hour or two, long enough to take on and discharge cargo, and the passengers can go ashore and enjoy diversions from the voyage, which are always interesting. We saw funerals and weddings and busy markets and many queer things unique to this locality.