The Poor Man’s Galapagos

Wednesday, July 31

We signed up for two tours suggested by Peru Hop.  Peru Hop doesn’t actually conduct the tours.  They have small liability swales to run the tourists through the riskier bits.  The first was a boat trip to the Islas Ballestas (the “poor man’s Galapagos”) which did not involve getting off the boat.  There were thousands of nesting Peruvian boobies and Inca terns, plus a few Humboldt penguins waddling around. We took lots of pictures, and after about 30 minutes, returned to Paracas.  Some pelicans were happily accepting food from some tourists, which was fun to watch for awhile.  We had some more lovely generic fried fish at a different restaurant.

Humboldt Penguins
Inca terns

A street seller approached the Peru Hoppers standing in front of the hotel with a little cart filled with green seed pods nearly as long as your arm.  The Peru Hop lady bought some and passed them around, saying we had to try them.  They are from the Amazon, and English speakers call them “Ice Cream Beans”.  I took a segment, and ate the pulp, which tasted like ice cream in the Dairy Queen tradition, and ate the bean, which was crunchy.

And then the tour guide said I wasn’t supposed to eat the bean.  I looked it up on Wikipedia (Inga edulis) and found the beans were Poisonous.  Right.  So here I am in a small South American town and poisoned.  How can I do this?  Eating food I’ve never heard of from a street vendor without even asking how to go about it?  Wait, that’s what we do.  But on the incomplete advice of a tour guide?  So much for their avoiding liability by not personally conducting tours, but I am sure they have other ways out.  What’s with poisonous plants named “edulis” anyway? 

A poisonous locust named edulis

enticed both the careless and sedulous

This isn’t going anywhere.  I did what anyone would do, I kept looking up stuff on the Internet, and eventually determined to my satisfaction that the bean was a protease inhibitor, just like Lima beans (and look where is the next stop) and it would only interfere with my digestion of proteins until it was used up.  Who knows, maybe it’s a diet pill.  Attention parents, Lima beans not only taste mealy, but you are poisoning your kid.

In the afternoon, there was a tour of the Paracas National Reserve, a large area of sand dunes with great views of the ocean.  El Catedral, a natural arch which was one of the main attractions, fell down in an earthquake some years ago.  It’s like that, on the coast. 

Finally, we were back on the bus and headed to Lima.  We took one diversion, to Hacienda San José where a complex of tunnels once used to smuggle slaves is now a tourist attraction.  I wonder what the other tourists were thinking.  You have to have some opinion about human indecency.