Peru's other side (by MAPG)

Trip Start Aug 11, 2009
Trip End Feb 19, 2010

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Flag of Peru  ,
Thursday, October 29, 2009

After counting for the remaining days until the 2nd of November, the day that marked the end of our Latin America adventure with a flight to Los Angeles, we decided to squeeze in one night / one day trip to the Paracas Peninsula. Thanks to its beautiful white-sandy beaches (for Peruvian standards), Paracas became a popular destination for wealthy people. Hilton Double Tree House & other luxury resort rose like mushrooms, eager to fulfill every desire of Porsche Cayenne owners looking for a refuge from busy Lima.
So how did we fit in the picture? It wasn't for the expensive accommodation this time (although I'd like to consider myself a rich Lima citizen one day), but for the more spectacular marine park, Peru's largest. The latter consists in a number of rocky islands - home to hundreds of species of birds and many sea lion colonies -, spread around a reddish (iron oxide) dunes landscape. Getting there wasn't easy. After getting off the Lima-bus, we jumped on a mini-bus to Ica, once a promising city, that now lies devastated by a 2007 earthquake. From there we shared a collectivo (normal 5-seat station wagon) together with 2 others. At the end we were 2 EUR richer, but damn proud we did let the greedy taxi-drivers rip us off.
Because the islands are a bit too far to swim for, the ONLY way access is possible, is through a 2 hours tour on board of a 400 HP speed-boat, together with 30 other "starving" photographers. Surely, at the travel agency you get told, that the company's own boat is the fastest, safest, and does not carry more than 20 people. In fact most tourists (unless you're one of the Cayenne owners) are forwarded to a hub-agency, as the douzine of different tour-operators doesn't manage to fill up an entire boat. But if the travel agent even speaks a broken German and throws in some goodies, we even decided to go for the hole nine yards. That implied renting a mountain-bike as a part of a do-it-yourself tour through the on-shore section of the park. The latter proved to be delightful for GT.
And now back to the boat trip. Everything starts with great views on the giant & enigmatic Candelabre figure. There are many theories ranging from Nazca art, through a map drawn by pirates to indicate buried treasures, to aliens. Fact is, nobody knows from where it came and what it signifies since it was discovered in the late 19th century.
The trip continued to the rocky formations coverd with birds (among which dwarf penguins) & tons, even hundered of tons of their poo. Access to the islands is stricly forbidden, althogh I don't imagine cues building up given the layer of poo. Still, once every 5 years, some 200 people are granted the gift of living of the islands for four full months. Guess why? Well it proved out that the poo is a great fertilizer, so companies are allowed to collect it. Everything except the smell is incredible. At the base of the cliffs, colonies of sea lions rest. Well, we actually only saw the females and the pups, as the male were out fishing.
After returning on shore, we eagerly hit the road for the surface section to the park. 12 km of track was waiting for us. Easy to say, but the front wind and the ascending landscape made it extremely unpleasant. On top of that, there was abundant truck traffic even on the perimeter of the park. The iron oxide exploitation prevailed over ecology. To make the best of this amazing park we suggest renting a car.
Nevertheless, we had great views of the Pacific, unique red beaches, and a bunch of flamingos. Back on the Trans-American Highway to Lima we had a laugh about it.
PS: Don't miss out on the great value marine buffet on the esplanade in Paracas.     
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