Paracas & Islas Ballestas- Days 124 – 126

Tues 5th – Wed 6th Jun

Following a brief wander around Miraflores, I bid farewell to my hosts at Passport and jump in a taxi to the Cruz del Sur bus terminal.

I’ve read this is the best company and even the terminal doesn’t disappoint…clean toilets (with toilet paper!), phone charger points, cafe.

The bus was even better – big comfy seats with blanket and pillow. Fold down bit for legs with stowaway tray and also a tv. The 5 hour journey is great and I lie back and watch The Greatest Showman and Pitch Perfect 3, get served a rice and beef dinner and arrive!

I will definitely be using this service again!

I walk the 15 minutes to my hostel and check in. The guy there isn’t happy when I ask to change rooms because the WiFi isn’t good on the top floor but it turns out the WiFi is pants everywhere in this hostel…maybe even the town!

I go off for a brief wander before it gets dark. Paracas strikes me as a kind of out-dated English seaside town. I think it might be a bustling little town in summer but on the approach to winter it looks a tad sad and desperate. Restaurants open with no customers, too cold for people to sit at their outside tables and bored employees almost giving up on attracting in passing by people.

I settle to buy some food from the little tienda and not eat out. The prices are a bit expensive for where I’m at.

Back at my hostel I meet a nice guy called Daniel who has booked on to the tour run by the hostel. He’s done the research on prices meaning I don’t have to do book on as well.

Aside from being a little beach town, most people come to Paracas to go to Islas Ballestas and the National Reserve which has been dubbed the poor mans Galapagos…

Wednesday, I’m up and ready to go for my pick up at 0730. We walk the few hundred metres to the boat port and pay out 22soles entry fee.

The one thing that strikes me now is that I’m well and truly on a tourist path. Now not just backpackers but holiday companies bringing in hoards of tourists.

We queue up then pile like lemmings into the waiting boats. 42 people on each and there’s 3 of them!

Again, the weather isn’t on my side and I wonder what I’ll get to see with lots of fog, cloud and rain. The guide keeps saying it doesn’t rain here being in the Atacama desert…but – it is!

The rugged coastline/islands are beautiful

and made up of arches and caves which reminds me a lot of the English Jurassic coast – a bit like Durdledoor…

We see a lot of birds – the Peruvian boobies (but not the blue footed ones although I’m told they do live here), the Peruvian pelicans amongst others (bird names isn’t my string pint). There’s also a lot of sea gull looking things but it’s not what they are and also vultures (which we are repeatedly told feed on the sea lion placentas during birthing season…sorry, but just had to share that with u also)!

Up on the cliff top we see some Humboldt penguins but I was hoping they’d be a little closer so I could properly see them

We see a few sea lions pop up as they play in the water then we pass 2 different ones resting on the rocks….this is pretty cool!

In the distance u can barely make out the Candelabra geoglyph.

This is 595 feet tall snd can be seen from 12 miles out at see (unfortunately – not today!). There is much debate about this, when it appeared and what it means. Some link it to the Nazca Lines, a trident belonging to the god of lightening who was seen in mythology throughout South America.

Some say it’s a navigational guide for ancient sailors and others that it’s a representation of the hallucinogenic plant called jimsonweed.

The white stuff on the rocks is bird poo (called guano). It is a little treasure for Peru…due to the amount of minerals found in it, it is great for fertiliser. Collection has now been limited to every 10 years to protect the area.

After about 2 hours we’re back on land. Daniel and I head to a local cafe for a bite to eat and me a good old cuppa to warm up…bloody cold out at sea!

At 1100, we’re picked up for the next part of our tour to Paracas National Park. I read about this online but can’t quite remember why I’m going or what it entails….

Our first stop is the museum Julio C Tello, named after the archeologist who discovered a lot on ancient Paracas culture and focuses a lot on the flora and fauna if the region. I find it a bit boring so go in search of the path down to the sea to see the flamingos. Most are not here as they’ve gone on holiday (migrated for the winter) but there are still a few stragglers remaining. Once I walk down there I realise u can’t walk all the way so they remain just lots of tiny pink dots on the horizon!

Next stop is La Catedral which is a million year old rock formation which once was a cave but collapsed in the 2007 earthquake. Again the rugged cliffs are quite cool.

Next stop is Playa Roja. This is one of only 4 (maybe 5) red sand beaches in the world. The red sand is caused by the nearby massif of Punta Santa Maria, formed by a sort of igneous, which contains solidified magma which then settle on the beach. It is quite a stunning landscape with the contrast between the sand and the rocks.

Last stop is Playa Lagunilla. A busy fishing hub and a collection of purpose built tourist restaurants. Having not long ago had a snack I’m not hungry so don’t eat but do get to sample a maracuya sour!

I go for a stroll around the busy fishing area with the boats bringing in the days catch and watch the pelicans swarming nearby trying to nab anything they can off the boats.

By 3pm we’re setting off for home which doesn’t take too long. My expectations weren’t particularly high – especially due to the price I paid (75 soles). It was an ok day out with some great scenery in a place where there’s very little else to do but I do think living off the name of poor mans Galapagos is definitely a bit grandiose.

I did however have a great laugh with Daniel and say adieu to him as he sets off North and I go in search of the bus ticket shop to head South and find something for dinner.

Back at the hostel I plan on an early night and watching some Netflix but the WiFi is still pants and all my downloaded programmes have expired…bugger!

I chat to an interesting Canadian couple for a bit who cycled to LA for a wedding then decided they didn’t want to go home just yet so headed through Central America and are now in South America. Wot an awesome journey they are on but looking at the weather out there, I’d much rather be in a bus tomorrow than 2 wheels! Good luck any way guys…awesome adventure…

I read for a bit but it’s not long before fatigue wins and I’m soon in the land of nod!

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