Day 5 - Paracas, the pelly and me
Trip Start Apr 05, 2010
32Trip End Jun 25, 2010
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Where I stayed
Hotel Machu Picchu
It started at the (less than) ripe old hour of 6am this morning. The tour was supposed to start at 7:15, so had a nice lengthy (and surprisingly warm) shower before heading down to check out, and handing over 50 soles for my night in unnecessary luxury.
The battered old minibus (I believe most of them are old ones from the US) took us out of Pisco along unsealed, dirt roads - Pisco, I am sure, is not the place it was before the earthquake - and down towards the coast. We passed a lot of fish processing plants lining the coast, meaning that the whole place of cat food - they also grind down the old scallop shells for the 80% calcium they contain.
After filling the coach with people from various hotels we arrived at the pier in Paracas - a western outpost amongst piles of rubble (it had a Hilton and evryfink!) The sea was eerily calm - we got into the dual-outboard speedboat and headed to the Ballestas Islands at a speed approaching 25 knots, yet it was incredibly comfortable
On the way, we stopped at the Candalabras - an Incan etching into the desert, some 128m tall. Jolly impressive, but I get the impression that the Incas really were a lost civilisation. The guide suggested only some theories as to why they had bothered, but Iīm now fairly convinced that we know more about the creation of the Earth 5 billion years ago than we do about a civilisation which ruled much more recently.
Afterwards we jetted (well, actually, propelled) on for a good 15 minutes or so to reach the Ballestas Islands. Ballestas means rock formations - there are a large number of arcs and caves. It was fab to watch the way the waves filled and emptied the caverns, as the sea was rougher here (with each wave, the boat would rise and fall at least 10 metres). The islands have two other nicknames: the mini Galapagos islands (Iīm not convinced) and the Guano Islands (absolutely true - they clear it off every five years, and it takes 100 men two weeks). Apart from that, though, we saw an awful lot of sea birds, a South American penguin (there are only three species here) and some pretty cool seals and sea lions, just chilling out on a cliff face. However, in my opinion, this was quite a lot of the same.
From there, we headed back to base, where we were given 40 minutes to wander round Paracas. This is a single strip with about 10 cafes and an artisan market - I bought a coffee, sat on the dock of a bay and watched the ships roll in...
Then came the highlight of the trip so far for me
But it was proper desert; not like the Mojawe desert or the Australian deserts, which actually contain plants: there was nothing here. Even the road was made out of salt, sand and clay, and not asphalt - and there wasnīt a huge amount of road! This made for some pretty stunning pictures, and some pretty bad sunburnt patches which must have Tefloned the suncream earlier in the morning. Here I met a couple from Hastings, the only other English people on the trip. They had planned a similar itinerary to me, albeit a bit longer. Our first stop was some fossils from when this part of the desert was the sea bed. It is now significantly less wet, receiving between 3 and 8mm every year. Then we headed to the Catedral - once a stunning arc rock formation, this crumbled with the earthquake in 2007. The sea was stunning though - the sand is grey coloured, a mixture of black coal deposits in the Pacific and white shellfish shells being battered by the waves and mixing together. As we carried on around the coast, the scenery looked like a cross between the Sahara desert, the surface of the moon and the Outer Hebrides. (Iīve thought about that for a while...) We then headed to lunch, finding the only bit of shelter in the small fisihing hamlet of Laguinillas - I had a banana, not of the Cavendish variety, but with a think skin, a peachy-coloured flesh and seeds
(Iīm rushing now, bigger update coming tomorrow,internet time running out) We headed back to Pisco, where I wrote a recommendation in Jimmy the travel agentīs book. He turned out to be jolly helpful, showing me the way to the collectivos to get me to the Panamerican highway, from which I could get a bus to Ica, with the plan to get a bus to Arequipa tonight. The first two bits of this all went rather well, to be honest - I was starting to get the hang of this taxi stuff! However, arriving in Ica I visited 3 bus companies who all told me that there buses were full to Arequipa for tonight. Twas a bit of a shame, but in the end I booked one for tomorrow night - I will head to Huacachina tomorrow for some sandboarding! Iīve also gone for some tour adjustments I think - Iīm going to skip Chile altogether because it is too expensive, and head into Bolivia for a bit longer. I havenīt decided where yet!
Ica is a wonderful place. It feels exactly how I imagined a South American town to be: tiny taxis bombing around the road, beeping their horns; a central square with people of all ages enjoying themselves; hustle and bustle past tiny street cafes with people trying to invite you in; shops open late into the night; salsa dancing in open spaces - itīs all here
What arenīt here, however, are any of the hostels in the Rough Guide book! With the light beginning to fade I asked for a room at two hostels, and there was space in the second - this will be the second night of luxury in a twin room, by myself! This one was a few quid cheaper though which is always good.
I dumped my bag, and headed straight for a restaurant. I decided it was it was time to experience South American fast food, so I heaed for a Kokyīs and ordered the beef saltado. I donīt think you can ever go wrong with that: strips of beef, chips, peppers, tomatoes and onions all fried up together with a soy sauce kinda thing. You get loads of it, and itīs served with rice and three sauces - a red one, a yellow one and a green one. They were all a little bit spicy for me, so I stuck with the ketchup.
Iīm going to try and get these photos up as soon as I can - they are SICK.
Love to everyone at home,