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Field Notes Close to home or in a far away jungle, there is always something marvelous to see.

Pisco, Paracas and Islas de Ballestas

PERU | Sunday, 28 March 2010 | Views [472]

Lotsa birds, lotsa guano, Islas de Ballestas

Lotsa birds, lotsa guano, Islas de Ballestas

The only reason to travel to Pisco is to visit the Islas de Ballestas in nearby Paracas.  Pisco is dirty, dusty and not even actually on the bus route.  Buses drop you off on the Pan American . . . unless they have forgotten you.  In that case you go to Ica and get dropped off on the return to Lima.  This we know from personal experience.

With much of the town it is difficult to tell whether the buildings are being torn down or constructed.  Our hotel, Hostal Villa Manuelita, was pretty good and right off the plaza.  We were accosted immediately by Felice, a tour organizer who tried to sell us the world.  All we wanted was a boat to Islas de Ballestas for a fair price.  As it turned out all the prices are about the same and everyone if funneled to the same boats in the port town of Paracas.  

We boarded a collectivo (mini-van) early Sunday with 16 others from different hotels and took off.  Paracas has better restaurants but not much lodging, so both towns share the wealth.  Islas de Ballestas was a major guano mining area before the advent of chemical fertilizers.  So many birds roost there that the guano reaches depths of 50 meters.  Today it is a sanctuary for seabirds but every 7 to 10 years when the guano gets too deep it is opened to mining again. Most of the people on our boat were more excited to see 'the Candleabra'  and the sea lions than the birds but Connie and I were in our element.  Where else could we see Humboldt penguins, red-footed cormorants, gannet-like Peruvian boobies and our favorited, Inca terns?  We skipped the ride back to Pisco and ate lunch in one of the seaside restaurants instead, my first Peruvian ceviche. Back in Pisco it was Palm Sunday evening, the beginning of Semana Santa, a major holiday week.  On our way to dinner we got stuck in a parade with Christ on a donkey, young girls (presumably virgins?) in white dresses, a band and a traveling altar.  The Franciscan friars who came with the Conquistadors certainly did a good job.

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