The handover takes place at Ica’s best restaurant, El Otro Peñoncito, where Nestor spreads out the polished sharks’ teeth on the dark green tablecloth for my approval. Everyone is amazed — diners, waiters, and sidewalk passersby who hear the fuss. Later, Roberto and Nestor see me off at the bus station and wave until I am out of sight. That’s when I unroll the cotton-wrapped teeth. Suddenly, I understand why Roberto calls himself a finder, not a collector. It’s not about hoarding and storing, it’s about rescuing a piece of the past … before it’s too late.
Gail Harington is a freelance writer in New York who collects seashells, shoes — and now, shark teeth. She has written for Cooking Light, Departures, More, Spa, and Travel + Leisure.
For tours in the Ocucaje Desert, call Roberto Penny Cabrera at 011-51-56-962-4868 or e-mail him at email@example.com. Per-person rates start at $100 per day. Round-trip service between Lima and Ica costs $30 on the Ormeno bus line and takes about four hours each way.