Land of contrast
The one who thinks of the coastal desert as an endless strip of sand is completely wrong. Here, nature has displayed all its wisdom and has made possible the development of hundreds of creatures who have adapted to survive in this hostile and extreme environment through a process that took million of years. Carob trees, acacias, long-spine acacias, sapotes, foxes, iguanas, dozens of birds and even humans - have learned to live among dunes and narrow valleys, taking advantage of every drop of water to survive and modifying leaves, barks or skin to resist the attacks of drought, wind, and intense sun.
The current coastal fringe that extends between the departments of La Libertad and Lambayeque was formed approximately one hundred million years ago, when the former coastline of Peru sunk in the ocean, taking with it a hundred kilometers of the current continental platform. This phenomenon accelerated the erosion of coastal rivers, widening their valleys, deepening their riverbeds, and enlarging their courses, as well as opening a little space for life. The result is a long arid fringe sprinkled by real oases that are formed by rivers like the Moche, Viru, Jequetepeque, La Leche and Zaña. In these narrow and extremely fertile valleys, humankind achieved an impressive level of social development that culminated in powers as important as the Mochica, Chimu, and Lambayeque, absolute rulers of a great area of the Peruvian North in successive historic periods.
But, let us start an imaginary journey by sea through this land of contrasts, as if we had arrived on a balsa wood raft as did the mythical Naylamp or Tacaynamo, ancient northern divinities who - according to legend - came from afar to rule over the barbaric. Let us anchor then our craft on one of the solitary beaches along this snaky coast line and head towards the east in search of the creatures that live among the dunes and the carob trees.
From north to south, we first will find an extensive strip of sand, one hundred kilometers wide: the southern extreme of the Sechura desert, one of the most arid places in the planet and located between the departments of Piura and Lambayeque. This empty region narrows significantly towards the Port of San Jose, which marks the beginning of the valleys of Lambayeque, Zaña, and La Leche, the last being where the city of Chiclayo is located. Even though 63% of the land of Lambayeque is covered by the desert, it is one of the most fertile territories of the country, as a result of the periodic availability of water and its relief of gentle slopes, which have made it possible to build large irrigation works.
If we go farther to the east, we will find the dense dry forests of Pomac and Batan Grande, two areas protected by the State in order to preserve species like the carob tree, a supremely important resource for the humans living on the coast since the beginning of history. It is estimated that before the Conquest, the vast pampas of Palo Grueso, El Salitre, and Mariposa Vieja - part of the Sechura desert, to the north of Lambayeque - were covered by these forests that provided the people with lumber, food, forage, and firewood to the Pre-Hispanic peoples. Unfortunately, the Conquistadores were determined to provide coal and wood to the growing Lima city and cut those forests down, collaborating with the increasing desertification of the coast. Beyond these forests to the east starts the hilly region. It is here that the rivers Olmos,