Paracas and Islas Ballestas

Trip Start Aug 12, 2010
Trip End Sep 23, 2011

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Zarcillo Paradise

Flag of Peru  , Ica,
Friday, October 8, 2010

Hello everyone,

From Lima we reached the fishing village of Paracas. We are here to visit Isla Ballestas, a great place to spot Sea Lions, Hambolt Penguins, Seals, Peruvian Puffins, and guano-producing birds like cormorants, boobies and pelicans, all present in thousand-strong colonies. We did plan to stay in the nearby town of Pisco before we heard from a local that it had been hit by an 8.0 strong earthquake in 2008, resulting in the town being destroyed and now poverty stricken. As we had arrived in Paracas on Holy Day it was extremely busy with all hotels and hostels in town fully booked, we did however found a nice hotel close to the bus stop.

The next morning we took a tour to Island Ballestas to see the wildlife. On the way the boat stopped by the coastal Geoglyph. This geoglyph which is carved into the cliff side is believed to be more than 2300 years old but there are many stories on how it come about. The carvings are much deeper (45-60cm) than those of Nasca (5-10cm) and there are many conspiracy’s on how they were made. Many say that it was created by the school children of the village and was used as a holy sight and an area of spirituality, whilst others believe that along with the Nasca lines they were created by aliens. It is said that there are 240 geoglyphs and 1000 lines within a 100 km radius, between Paracas and Nasca.

The ancient Nasca Lines were made by removing sun-darkened stones from the desert surface to expose the lighter soil below. But who constructed them and for what reason? And why bother when they can only be properly appreciated from the air?

As mentioned before it is believed that the lines were created between 900 BC to 600 AD, with additions by the Wari in the 17th century. Maria Reiche, a German mathematician believed the lines were an astronomical calendar mapped out by sophisticated mathematics. Others theorise that the lines were ritual walkways connected to a water/fertility cult, giant running tracks, extraterrestrial landing sites or representations of shaman's dreams brought on by hallucinogenic drugs. All these are just conspiracy theories as nobody is really sure why and how they appeared.

After a short trip we arrived at Islas Ballestas. Our boat took us slowly close to the shore where we could see an abundant of huge pelicans, puffins, small penguins, and guano producing boobies. Guano is layers of sunbaked, nitrogen rich seabird droppings which have been deposited over millennia on the Islas Ballestas by resident bird colonies - in places we were told that it is 50m deep.

Guano's reputation as a first-class fertilizer dates back to pre-Inca times, and in the 19th century it was Peru's principal export. Nowadays, because of the depleted bird numbers there is now a licensed extraction every 5-8 years. The workers will spend 4 months on the island extravating the guano before it is shipped off to the four corners of the world.

We then saw many lazy Sea Lions bathing on the rocks and the bays of the island, as well as penguins walking around at the top of the platforms. We were told that come the summer months of January there would be thousands of Sea Lions on the bay looking for a mate to breed with, but for now they were resting and warming up after the harsh winter.

After we arrived back on shore we had a few hours to waste before catching our coach further South to Huacachina, Ica. So in the good old Thomas and Hollie style we went to a restaurant on the sea front and eat a whole fried fish with rice and a drink, yummy!!!

All our love

Thomas & Hollie
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