the Degree Confluence Project

Peru : Piura

11.3 km (7.0 miles) N of Chito, Piura, Peru
Approx. altitude: 349 m (1144 ft)
([?] maps: Google MapQuest Multimap world confnav)
Antipode: 6°N 99°E

Accuracy: 7 m (22 ft)
Click on any of the images for the full-sized picture.

#2: Looking north #3: Looking east #4: Looking south #5: Looking west #6: GPS reading #7: En route: in the desert of Sechura #8: Following the river #9: Look back to the south with the river bed below #10: A Condor

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  6°S 81°W  

#1: The area of the confluence (view to NNW)

(visited by Volker Wendt, Luis Miguel Antón Tume, Iris Antón Cherre, Francisco Chunga Bernal and Mariano Edmundo Antón Chunga)

17-Feb-2005 -- When I came across the confluence project web site for the first time, I immediately liked the idea. I decided to participate actively by visiting at least one confluence point. When my Peruvian wife and me planned to visit her family which lives in the department of Piura in the northern part of Peru it was clear that I had to take that opportunity. I told her about the project and so we went back to the web site, looking for the most interesting confluence point in that area.
Finally we identified the point we liked to visit: 6°S 81°W. It is located in the middle of a peninsula formed by the Illescas mountain, which is a relict of an ancient range of the Andes, called 'Cordillera de la Costa' which is nowadays mostly lost in the Pacific Ocean.
This abandoned peninsula forms the most western part of the Desert of Sechura. While not very high - ca. 500 meters at it's highest point - satellite images of the region we found in the Internet showed a seemingly difficult profile. We asked my wife's family members about Illescas, but although it is not far from where they live not anybody of them had ever been in that isolated area. There was hope for mastering the confluence point in a one day trip because maps indicated a river originated more or less in the middle of the mountain running from the north to the south passing close to the confluence point. Therefore it would perhaps be possible to follow this river, avoiding the cliffy terrain for most of the way. We had to go there and to see how it were ...

After two weeks of sightseeing in the southern part of Peru we arrived at Piura airport. From there we went to Bernal (a small village 60 kilometers away from Piura, located on the road to the seaport Sechura at the Pacific Ocean) where my wife's family lives. Fortunately, it now turned out that an uncle of my wife knew a person living in Sechura who sometimes guides excursions to an archeological excavation in the southern coastal part of the Illescas peninsula not far away from the point where our river should meet the ocean. He offered us to contact the guide and to organize a 4x4-vehicle which would be mandatory for that tour. We agreed and a few hours later he came back and told us that we could go the next day.

At four o'clock in the morning the uncle and his son picked us up with a large 4x4-camioneta. Also accompanied by a few more family members we went through the night for one hour until we reached Sechura where the guide awaited us. We told him about the details of our plan and fortunately he stated that it might indeed be possible to reach the confluence exactly on the route we had planned. The river that should be our entry to the mountain would be a dry and relatively broad river bed. As far as we could go by car he would guide us, but then we would be on our own. We picked him up and along the Pacific Ocean the road lead us to the south. Having left the town of Sechura behind us the scenery began to change. With the first light of the day the fields vanished and the ground became more and more sandy until large dunes appeared on the left. We had reached the desert. After an hour on the road we approached the small seaport of Bayovar, to be situated at the northern border of the Illescas peninsula.

Here the road suddenly became worse. The road from Sechura ended up in a small sandy crossroad: To the right the road to Bayovar and the road to Chiclayo to the left. We had to keep straight on and now it became clear why the 4x4-car was necessary. Although marked as a road on most maps of the region, it wasn't much more than a path in the desert, mostly covered by sand. As our guide told us, that track had been in a better state when the phosphate mines of that area were still active. After the mines had been abandoned, the road was no longer in use and little by little the desert reclaimed it. Sometimes we spotted parts of the old pavement, deeply washed out by the heavy showers which afflict even that desert in times of 'El Niño'. Now, only the sparse green islands of the big Algarrobo trees (which is a very typical plant in this area of Peru and from which a nutritious syrup, 'Algarrobina', is extracted) let us realize that there must be some water.

To the right we now could see the destination of our expedition. The Illescas mountain looked like a dark cloud over the Pacific Ocean. Of course, we knew that the mountain is sprawled over about 30 kilometers in length but now it looked really huge. Accompanied by the mountain we followed the road for half an hour until the ground suddenly became flat. We had entered the southern border of the peninsula, which must regularly be flooded by sea water. Although it couldn't be too far away we did not see the ocean: we just saw an absolutely plane and untouched beach.

From there we turned to the west and followed the invisible coast line until after a few minutes we leaved the beach again, turning to the north, to the place where the river bed leaves the mountain. We passed the excavation place but sadly we had no time to have a break. Nearly half an hour later at eight o'clock we finally reached the river mouth. The river bed was flat and sandy and we were advancing rapidly. But the more we entered the mountain the more frequent we found big stones lying around. It became clear that it would not be possible to follow the river by car until the point most adjacent to the confluence. We went by car as far as possible and had to stop at a point six kilometers away from our destination. We probably could follow the river bed for the next five kilometers. The last kilometer would be more or less climbing, but that did not seem to be very difficult, because as far as we could see, Illescas - at least in that part - was a collection of small hills. Five of us decided to go, the rest, including the guide, stood with the car.

At this time - early in the morning - the air was cool and so we had no problems to follow the river bed. It turned out that it was not absolutely dry. We found puddles of water, seemingly very salty because they were bordered by crystals, probably from the same minerals which were produced by the mines of that area. Around this puddles we found mats of small plants and sometimes a small tree so the river bed looked somewhat friendly. We covered the next five kilometers easily whilst the valley became narrower and the confluence came closer. The GPS showed us that it was time to leave the valley and to enter the lunar scenery around when we were nearly one kilometer away from the point. We found a place where it should be easy to climb and after a few minutes we reached the top of the first hill. What we saw then was rather surprising; as far as we could see all around was covered with smooth hills like the one we just had climbed. The hills had few vegetation; sometimes we encountered large mats of dry and pricky scrub; later we saw some cactuses.
Passing the hills we noticed that they are nerved by waterless creeks with a smooth and rocky ground, polished by past waters. Sometimes we could advance faster by following them but sometimes we had to bypass them because they went up vertically like large stairs we could not climb. Half an hour later we finally reached the confluence point which is located in a small dell formed by one of the waterless creeks. There we took the photos and had a few minutes of rest. On the way back to the valley we spotted a big black bird which observed us curiously: A Condor escorted us for a quarter of an hour drawing large circles in the air, sometimes coming as close as fifteen or twenty meters. It was the one and only animal we saw in Illescas. Some hills later we reached the the valley again.

The five kilometers back in the valley now turned out to be much harder than the first time. It was early afternoon and the valley had lost all of it's morning coolness. We had to rest frequently and last we counted every meter. Sometime in late afternoon we finally reached the car. Absolutely tired, we took the same way back to Sechura: out of the valley, passing the excavations, the endless beach, the sandy path to Bayovar and finally the road to Sechura. A small restaurant at the road invited us for a stop. With 'Ceviche' and other delicacies of the region an exhausting but unforgettable day finished.

 All pictures
#1: The area of the confluence (view to NNW)
#2: Looking north
#3: Looking east
#4: Looking south
#5: Looking west
#6: GPS reading
#7: En route: in the desert of Sechura
#8: Following the river
#9: Look back to the south with the river bed below
#10: A Condor
ALL: All pictures on one page (broadband access recommended)