Our first stop after spending time in Lima was Paracas (Quechua word for sand rain). A small coastal town about 4 hours south of Lima. The little town of 3000 residents is big destination for tourists, whether Peruvian, or from around the world. We arrived by bus early in the afternoon on a Sunday to what looked nothing like a bus terminal. It was simply a walled area with posts and a tin roof. Undaunted, we grabbed our bags, found out where our hostel was, and started walking. Within minutes of leaving the terminal, we knew we were in a tourist town. There were people standing along the sidewalk waiting to sell tours, places to stay and places to eat. The main strip had many shops, hostels and hotels. We arrived at our hostel (Paracas Backpackers House) and were warmly greeted by the owner who showed us around, and took us to our room. The hostel was considerably bigger than the one we stayed at in Lima, a nice place with lots of other guests. Luc and Sydney quickly found the hammocks and made themselves comfortable socializing with travelers and the hostel’s resident cats.
In and Around Paracas
Once settled in, we took a walk around the town. There was a boardwalk along the beach that housed many outdoor beach side restaurants and shops. The restaurants had a wide variety of local cuisine, such as Lomo Saltado, and Ceviche (raw fish mixed with lemon juice, onions and other spices), as well as food for the less adventurous like hamburgers, and fried chicken. Monday was spent at the beach and walking around the town. At one point, we saw a pelican on the beach and tried to get a closer look for pictures. Turns out it was only there because there was a local feeding it. He asked if we wanted to feed it and take pictures, so naturally the kids went up to feed the pelican. We’re not sure what exactly happened, but I guess Sydney got a little too close, and the pelican nipped her on the arm. Luckily it was only a tap, and we were able to laugh about it. Of course, feeding the pelican wasn’t free, and the man asked us for money. We only gave him a tiny amount, which didn’t satisfy the man. We promptly responded with “he bit our daughter!” and walked away. The man mumbled and went on his way with “his” pelican.
Tours of the Islas Ballestas and Pacaras National Reserve
Our hostel offered various tours of the area. We started out with a 2 hour boat tour of Islas Ballestas, which is part of the Paracas National Reserve where many animals call home, including dolphins, sea lions, Peruvian blue footed boobies, Humbolt penguins, and so much other avian and aquatic wildlife. Seeing these animals in their natural habitat was beyond amazing. There were thousands upon thousands of birds from varying species flying over us and sitting on the cliffs. We also learned that every 7 years, “farmers” go to the islands to collect the guano (bird poo), which is then used to make fertilizer to feed the crops. We saw what the locals call “maternity bay” where the mother sea lions take care of their babies. The male sea lions were scattered all over the islands, mostly resting. Apparently it’s a lot of work mating with 15-18 female sea lions in one season. We also got to see El Candelabro (the Candelabra), a mysterious 500 ft candelabra (or trident as some people have theorized) dug into a sandy hillside (see video below). It was definitely worth the 45 soles each ($18.00 Cdn). The following day, we took a 4 hour bus tour through the land portion of the Reserve. The land portion of the Reserve is approximately 117 406 hectares. Again, this was a spectacular site. Our first stop was to a small museum where we learned of some of the history of the land. Archaeologists have found remains dating as far back as 6500 BC. The bus then took us to 4 different beaches with a stop in a regional fishing port where we stopped for lunch. This was obviously a seafood lunch (for Mark anyway). The rest of us enjoyed rice and chicken. Three of the beaches are open to the public. The forth is called Playa Roja, or Red Beach. The name is due to the red colour of the sand. The red is caused by erosion from the nearby cliffs of Punta Santa Maria. The rock on these cliffs is called pink granodiorite, which contains solidified magma inside. It was quite amazing to see the contrast in colours between the sand.
Thursday was a rest day spending time in and around our temporary home talking with other travellers. Since we enjoyed the boat tour so much, we decided to do it again on Friday.
All in all, Paracas was an amazing place to visit, but 6 days was a little too long. We could’ve seen and done everything we wanted to do in 3-4 days. Oh well, no regrets. We’re learning as we go. Keep on scrolling down to see more pictures from our time in Paracas.
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