All at sea

Trip Start May 08, 2013
Trip End Sep 30, 2013

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Flag of Peru  , Ica Region,
Wednesday, May 15, 2013

We have spent the last couple of days in the small town of Paracas. There are two reasons people visit here: the Islas Ballestas and the Reserva Nacional de Paracas. Islas Ballestas are 15 miles off shore and we took a two hour boat tour to visit them. On the way we went past El Candelabra, a feature in the sand that has been there for hundreds or thousands of years (depending on who you ask). The unique climate of Paracas means that it has not been eroded over time by wind or rain.

We then headed for the Islas themselves, a protected sanctuary for bird and marine life. All the way out we saw birds flying overhead and dive bombing for food, and seals occasionally popping out of the water. None of this could prepare me for the sheer volume of creatures on the islands though; there were thousands (if not tens of thousands) of a whole variety of animals including terns, cormorants, vultures, penguins and sea lions. At one point we could see a black 'carpet' covering a large area; this was actually densely-packed cormorants. Our boat came up very close to some of the creatures and we were able to get some great photographs and videos. All too soon it was time to head back to Paracas.

About an hour later our bus arrived for the Reserva tour. This consisted of a 40 minute visit to a museum, 20 minutes at one site, 5 minutes at another site then over an hour at a 'lunch spot' (read 'expensive turistico restaurants'). This took almost 4 and a half hours in total. So while I enjoyed the things we did see, it felt like the whole thing was drawn out far too much; and I didn't like the strong encouragement to eat at the mandated place/time. Ignoring that, the scenery was really interesting. Millions of years ago the climate here was very different, more tropical and the wildlife would have been particularly diverse. Today you almost feel like you could be on another planet. Away from the coast, the landscape is desolate and far from anything I've seen before.

Upon returning to the town of Paracas, we headed out to a restaurant called Sandra, on the recommendation of the owner of the hostel. It was part of a long row of similar places, all quite small and almost all entirely without patrons. We were the only people at Sandra, and we were a bit unsure as to how good the food would be, and indeed whether or not it would be safe to eat! We were hungry so we gave it a ago, and chose the 20 soles (5) set menu: two courses and a drink. I had sopa de verduras (vegetable soup), Jen had sopa de pollo and we both chose arroz chaufa con pollo for the main course. Both our drinks were in out-of-date bottles - not a good sign! As we waited, we watched a couple of people from the restaurant leave and come back with ingredients in paper bags. Perhaps they weren't expecting anyone for dinner? In the end the food was okay. Not nearly as good as our experience in Lima, but it was edible and didn't make us sick.

Today we packed up our bags again for the short one hour hop to Huacachina where we will spend the next 2 days. This time we travelled with Oltursa, another high quality company who are slightly cheaper than Cruz del Sur.
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