After driving seeing the beautiful Nazca lines, we drove 137 miles/ 220kms northwest to Paracas after receiving recommendations from a few Chilean friends, one of who told us he stayed in his car outside the Hilton and would pop in to have showers and breakfast!! We weren’t naughty enough to try that.
We decided to stay in Hostal Backpackers with the lovely Berta as owner. I liked the look and feel of the hostel, and the rooms were very dainty, built like those little sun houses that are dotted along English coast lines (ok, effectively it is a shed but a very pretty one at that). We paid 35 soles/8gbp for the both of us with wifi, a shared kitchen and a shared bathroom with nice hot showers.
The next morning we went to visit the Islas Ballestas with guaranteed sightings of penguins, sea lions and lots of birds. Tick, tick and tick, we were lucky to see all three and it was a gorgeous trip. I can imagine in the summertime when the sun is high and bright the trip must be amazing, it was overcast and a little bit chilly when we went but it was still worth it. If you’re in the Ica area and fancy a little down time, I would recommend Paracas. I can imagine that it is much busier in the summer months so it might be a bit harder to find a deal, but it is a nice little trip.
On the way to the islands, we saw El Candelabro, a geoglyph which is believed to be an homage to the San Pedro cactus used for it anaesthetic properties by the Nazca people who performed advanced surgeries on the brain. The year that it was created is still unknown, and there are other theories that it was created by aliens or José San Martín as a symbol of masonry. It never ever rains in Paracas (even though it looked like it was going to on the day of our trip) so the Candelabro remains intact, apart from parts where silly people walked on it and left their foot prints.
The islands are still used today for Guano harvesting which is a big money maker for the Peruvian government. People spend three months collecting as much as they can with the tours going over, but without setting everyday. The male sea lions were a little bit temperamental on the day so kept biting each other, for me it was the penguins who stole the show. I love the way they walk! They were hobbling around and one looked like a school teacher being followed by his or her pupils.
We ate at the Boulevard Cancho at Cevicheria Sandra which served a menu for 15 soles (it was originally advertised at 20) and then we were off to Lima.
Coming up: Thoughts on Lima and how it surprised me.
(More photos to come of the islands, the internet is being very stubborn tonight).