Saturday, August 18, 2007

"La Catedral" in Paracas

This is La Catedral - The Cathedral- an impressive stone formation in the Paracas Natural Reserve, a peninsula south of Lima and quite near the epicenter of this week's 8.0 earthquake.

For years La Catedral has been one of Paracas' main attractions, not just because of its impressive double arch, but also because of the vault that gives it its name.

Along the southern side of the peninsula there is a long arching beach at the foot of seaside cliffs. The there water is so rough and the currents so treacherous that the local fishermen named it Supay, which means "devil" or "demon" in Quechua.

In 1976 I camped on that beach for a week with my Boy Scout troop, Jesus Maria #82, and La Catedral was one of the wonders we discovered for ourselves.

The land approach is from Supay beach, and through a small door-like opening in a cliff, as can be seen in this photo from a visit I made in July of 2002 with my children, my cousins Jose Alberto and Juancho, his wife, Cristina, and their daughter, Rafaela.

Susana, Jose Alberto, Cristina, Rafaela, Nicolas, and my cousin Juancho
at the entrance to La Catedral

Passing through the entrance and through a short passageway, one suddenly came into a large vaulting cavern, open to the sea.

From the cave the double arches could be seen and the noisy colonies of sea birds observed - as long as one kept an eye open for incoming waves! If one was patient and quiet for long enough, soon sea otters' heads would pop up out of the water to observe their visitors.

The Catedral was carved by immense forces, as evidenced by the massive boulders which littered the leeward side of the cavern. This week, that process -which undoubtedly took many thousands of years- took a drastic leap forward: the earthquake caused the main arch to collapse, sealing the cavern and doing away with a true natural wonder.

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