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  • Day6

    There are some lessons learned from that day trip:
    - Being a sea lion must be the best life!
    - I have never seen so many birds in one place
    - Sometimes a desert doesn’t always consist out of sand only. Let’s taste it to figure out it’s actually salty!
    - if you are lost in translation with other European people, basic Spanish might be the best common language
    - the next vacation will definitely include more beach days!Read more

  • Day31

    Nachdem wir gefrühstückt haben und noch eine Weile nichts getan haben, halten wir uns an der Straße zwischen Ica und Huacachina ein Taxi an, denn wir wollen nach Paracas weiterfahren. Da wir herausgefunden haben, dass das mit dem Bus ziemlich kompliziert ist und auch kaum billiger ist, versuchen wir es nun auf diese Weise. Der erste Preis, den der Taxifahrer uns nennt ist uns mit 120 Soles viel zu hoch und wir überlegen, doch mit dem Bus zu fahren. Letztendlich kriegen wir den Taxifahrer allerdings auf 95 Soles runtergehandelt und erreichen nach etwas mehr als einer Stunde Fahrt das im Sandsturm verschwindende Paracas, direkt an der Küste. Der Ort wirkt (vermutlich wegen dem Sandsturm) komplett ausgestorben. Außer ein paar Hunden ist kein Mensch auf der Straße. Wir checken in unser Hostel ein und "erkunden" dann, während wir versuchen, unsere Weiterfahrt nach Lima für morgen zu sichern, die "Stadt". Das ist recht schnell erledigt, also gehen wir wieder auf unser Zimmer und lesen etwas. Unsere Tour für morgen zu den Islas Ballestas und dem Reserva Nacional de Paracas haben wir gleich im Hostel gebucht. Wir essen nur noch etwas zu Abend und gehen dann auch bald ins Bett und lesen noch etwas. In der Stadt ist eh nichts los.Read more

  • Day32

    Nachdem wir gefrühstückt haben (wir hatten dafür knapp 40 Minuten Zeit zwischen den Touren) werden wir von einem Bus abgeholt und fahren in den Nationalpark von Paracas. Unser erster Stop ist an einem Museum, in welchem die Geschichte des Nationalreservats und die geologischen Gegenenheiten anschaulich erklärt werden. Leider haben wir dafür nicht genügend Zeit, da wir uns vorher durch den Sandsturm zu einem Aussichtspunkt gekämpft haben, an dem Flamingos zu sehen sein sollten. Zwar waren dort auch Flamingos zu sehen, allerdings aus etwa 300 Metern Entfenung - wir konnten also nur erahnen, dass es sich um Flamingos handeln muss. Der Rückweg zum Museum war noch beschwerlicher, da uns der Wind mitsamt Sand direkt ins Gesicht peitschte. Unser nächster Stop ist am Mirador "La Catedral de Paracas". Dabei handelt es sich um eine natürliche Felsformation, die bis 2007 ausgesehen hat, wie eine Kathedrale. Beim schweren Erdbeben 2007 ist diese Sehenswürdigkeit allerdings zu großen Teilen zerstört worden. Von einem anderen Aussichtspunkt nur wenige Meter entfernt können wir auf einen wunderschönen Strand herabblicken, der laut Guide wegen der hohen Wellen allerdings ziemlich gefährlich ist. Unser nächster Stop ist an einem roten Strand (die Farbe kommt wohl durch vulkanische Gesteine zustande), laut Guide gibt es auf gesamten Welt nur fünf davon. Kurz darauf gehen wir in einem (sehr) touristischen Fischrestaurant essen - zwar ist es ziemlich teuer, es schmeckt allerdings auch köstlich. Wir machen nach dem Essen noch ein paar Fotos und fahren dann zurück nach Paracas.Read more

  • Day81

    Today was moving day with our bus leaving at 12:10pm so we were in no rush to do anything. We went for breakfast which again was made fresh when we sat up to the bar and it was great scrambled egg, coffee and juice.

    We packed our bags and vacated the room around 10 to sit out and wait to get a taxi.

    Our bus was only an hour or so to Paracas but they still fed us. We had Chinese style rice and chicken (similar vibe to the night before) and chocolate cake for desert. We barely had time to finish lunch and an Inka Cola before we arrived in Paracas. It was a 10 minute walk to the hostel so we didn't bother with a taxi but that didn't stop about 10 beeping their horns at us whilst walking and screaming out the window 'taxi taxi'.

    The hostel was only a stones throw away from the beach so once we had set our bags down in the room we changed into our beach attire and headed out for some sunbathing. It still gets pretty chilly on the coast when the sun goes down so we headed back for a shower before dinner.

    I was craving a nice burger and chips for dinner and luckily the number two restaurant on trip advisor was a burger joint! We ordered food and smoothies which came out in a giant goblet along with giant straw to go with it. It was like a meal on its own!!

    We headed back to the hostel after for some Suits on Netflix and an early night.
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  • Day9

    An early start today for the tour that we had booked with the bus company when we arrived. The tour is of the Islas Ballestas and Paracas National Park which look stunning. We were outside for 7:30 with some more delicious bread rolls for breakfast. We waited around 15 mins and there was no sign of anyone so we were getting pretty anxious, the boats leave at 8am and we really didn't want to miss it. We were also beginning to be pestered by the tour guide next door again! Rich ran over to the bus station in the end, missing out on the amazing little bulldog that belonged to the hostel owners riding a skateboard (did I mention he was wearing a Bulldogs jacket too! Amazing!) he seemed to keep wanting to escape and we realised we had I seen it last night running around the town, I don't think the mother of the young boy who kept letting it out was impressed lol.

    Rich came back and said they are running late but will be here, our names are on the schedule and the boat will leave late if necessary. So we waited again, and now it got to 8:15, still waiting 🤔
    We were getting pestered again and I got put on the phone to an apparently English speaking person to try and communicate. I had no idea why I was on the phone and tried to explain that although we had no ticket for our tour, it had been arranged and we didn't want to buy one. He wasn't happy that I didn't want to and asked why I had rung...I got a little bit short with him at that point and handed the phone back. We just grabbed our stuff and left at that point. We headed back to the station and when we got there we basically found out that there are two hostels with our name and even though I had written down the full name of ours, they had gone to other one. So they had gone already. Yay!! 😡

    The woman was very apologetic and after some time waiting she said she had arranged for us to go on the 10am tour (the last of the day) and then we would have a private guide for the national park instead, so thankfully all was not lost!
    We were ushered to the boat terminal close to the time ("Vamps! Vamos!") by a guy who word of English. Was pretty confusing getting organised there and sorting out tickets, alot of him talking in very fast Spanish and us just sat staring and looking dumb. Duolingo doesn't quite prep you for that lol. Got sorted in the end though and left with a group of Peruvians under the assumption we would meet him back there after (that's what I got from the gestures anyway 😳).

    We got on the speedboat and set off. Was pretty awesome as the swells out of the harbour are quite noticeable and very even so it felt a little like a ride. A bit annoying as all the local Peruvians kept standing up in front (British style courtesy isn't something people here practice much and we are still getting to grips with the different attitude) but we realised late on that if we stand too, we tower over everyone so can't really complain.

    We saw from the boat an amazing carving in the sand that has stood for centuries despite the wind. It is called the candelabra and is believed to have been made by the same people who moved on to Nasca, however there quite a bit of speculation as it is hard to say for sure. Really is an amazing structure and the scale of it can't really be captured too well in a photo.
    Then on to the Islands. What can I say...birds, birds, birds, many birds!!!!! We saw Pelicans, blue footed Boobies, some birds that kept dive bombing the water spectacularly, like bullets, and the best thing of all...Humbolt Penguin's!!!!!🐧 🐧 not many, but they were waddling around in the adorable manner that they do 😍

    Was really amazing to see them all clustered and flying over, some of the rock faces looked black because they were just covered. Although most were white with guano...very very pungent guano. The smell of that and the fumes from the engine did make you feel a bit nauseous. It was worth it though and the guano has played a really important part in the history of the place, being worth so much to locals as fertiliser it was almost a mini gold rush here and there are still people who live on the islands now for this purpose (although there is a lot less guano now). It is so precious that no one else can step on the islands and they have permission to shoot you if you try 😱

    There weren't just birds on these islands either, we saw seals and sea lions too! Some of them with pups. Most were lazing on the rocks and being noisy but we caught a few swimming too and having fun. So nice to again see all this wildlife, actually in the wild.

    After the boat trip we were Greeted by a different guide, Abraham, who spoke pretty good English which was great. He showed us to his car and we set off for the national park, only a very short drive away. Once in the park I think we're all a little blown away by the scale and alien landscape of the place. Sandy desert in every direction with amazing dunes. We drove over a road that looked like tarmac, but which is actually salt, and enjoyed the sometimes bumpy ride over the sand. We went up dunes so steep you could not see over them, which was a little scary, bit great fun going down 😆

    We kept going over or appearing around dunes and new spectacular views would just appear. It honest looked the surface of Mars, a mx of golden and red sand, some smooth, some speckled with little rocks. And then the biggest surprise of all...we go over a crest and there is the sea! There is a large bay of beautiful green/blue ocean that just sits alongside the beautiful golden sandy desert. Such a stark contrast and one of the reasons for the name of Paracas, which in the language of the locals beforehand, means sun and rain.

    We headed to the bay for lunch and dined right by a small beach on a patio that although sat in the sun, was a little chilly due to the strong winds they have there (desert air con as Abraham puts it). Rob had Creviche, Richard Chicharruni and I had fish in a tomato sauce. It was pretty great, although mine was more soup like than expected.

    Next up we headed to the red beach, the only one in Peru. The colour is due to the iron oxide which you can see in some of the dunes around the place too. He pointed out how there are four colours on this beach, yellow sand from desert cliffs, red sand on the beach, the white froth of the waves and the deep blue of the ocean. It was stunning, such an amazing place and I'm not sure where else you get views like this, hopefully the picture attached gives a good glimpse.
    We next went up high to take more photos and saw some huge Condors, which are a relation of the Andean Condors, soaring almost level with us. Again another stunning view, one way desert, the other way sandy cliffs and sea.
    Our final stop was in part of the park containing lots of visible fossils. The park was underwater around 4 million years ago and the fossils are EVERYWHERE! Some really awesome long spiral shells and we found a couple of perfect small cockle type fossils too, of the whole cockle! We found some Quartz crystal too, all just lying on this vast sandy, once underwater desert.

    It was time to leave after this and we all noted that we would certainly love to go back there and try out the dune bugging, looked so much fun!

    The afternoon was spent wandering back to the town (past a cyclist being chased by several stray dogs), eating some very artificial looking, bright green, mint choc chip ice cream and then buying me some gringo pants before enjoying a beer to some great cheesy music medleys that Rob was definitely not enjoying as much as us.
    Next up was a short bus ride Ica, on which we discovered the extent of the recline of the standard seats (like 60 degrees) and was again looked after by a bus hostess who also used her time talking to us to help her improve her English. She was very good and it was nice to be able to help and receive some help back too 😊
    Read more

  • Day35

    From this small fisher town we went by speedboat to the Ballestas Islands. These islands are full of thousands of birds, sealions and a few penguins. We were quite lucky to see some of them. The islands are a good alternative for people who do not have the time or money to go to Galapagos (they are also called "The Poor Men's Galapagos"). The tour was 50 soles each and took 2 hours. It was great despite we have been on Galapagos as well!

    On the way from Paracas to Huacachina, "Peru Hop" took us to the National Reserve which was very impressiv too! Through sandy landscape, we stopped at an amazing costal view outlook and went to a red beach. This comes from lava of an underwater vulcano.
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  • Day89

    We took a guided tour from the town of Paracas into the National Reserve. It's a really interesting place, a dry, empty desert meets the ocean with some fantastic beaches, cliffs and dunes.
    After visiting some of the best parts, including one of the only red sand beaches in the world, we stopped of at a tiny fishing port for some lunch and to play with the massive flocks of birds around the bays.

  • Day20

    Our final day started with us being picked up at our hostel in Ica for the Ballista's Islands your in Paracas. The ride was 50 mins away and we brought all of our stuff since we were not coming back. It was a 2 hr boat tour. A few mins out of dock we ran into a pack of dolphins. We stayed there for a few mins and then traveled farther out of port. Eventually we reached the end of a peninsula, where there is a giant image drawn in the rock/sand face. It's still there due to the lack of rainfall and lack of wind on that particular face. Nobody knows when it was out there or by who, but it's been there since at least 1860, and it might be a lot older. When we reached the islands you could see thousands of sea birds. It was fun looking at all the birds, and we got to see wild penguins! They live so far away from Antarctica. There were also quite a few sea lions that called the islands home. After the boat tour, they had some sort of boardwalk in which we found lunch and waited for the bus. Finding the bus stop was an interesting task. There were no signs and people were giving us vague directions in Spanish. We finally went to this construction site that was closed off and near where we thought it was. It turned out that, that was the place we wanted in the end.Read more

  • Day222

    Fr, 07.04. Nasca & Ica/Huacachina
    This country surprised me even more from Nazca onwards: for me, Peru was always about high mountains, high altitude from 3,000m and more, thus cold, rainy and unpredictable weather incl hail and snow as well as the potential danger of altitude sickness; Inka temples and Andinian people.
    Arequipa was despite almost winter time already quite hot but at least still mountaineous. Nazca was now only at an altitude of 200m and with 30-38* only the beginning of roughly one hot summer feeling week at sea level.
    After around 10h I arrived in Nazca at 6am. There is not too much to see in the town itself and most people including me only shortly pass by to see the UNESCO World Heritage Nazca lines. These are gigantic lines in the desert from a Pre-Inkan culture that can only be clearly and all seen from the air. However, as I did not want to spend $90 to see 23 lines I decided to visit the 11m high tower for 2S and 3S bus ride located on Panamericana Sur that was created by the German Maria Reiche. The tower is indeed directly located on this highway 25km north of Nazca somewhere in the middle of nowhere and you can easily see the 3 figures 'Manos' (hands, 45m), 'Arbol' (tree, 84m) and 'Lagarto' (lizard, 110m). As already mentioned, there are 23 in total on a surface of 50km2, with the smallest being 39 and the biggest 290m. I arrived there quite early around 07:30am as first and only one, spent around 45m there including breakfast and dixi toilet and then took the next 2,5h bus to Ica.
    The lines were kind of interesting to see but I really don't understand the hype about it and was glad that the Mirador was on the way and hardly cost me anything ;)

    Ica or the oasis Huacachina are the place with the biggest sand dunes and only desert oasis in South America. It is the perfect for action 4WD races in dune buggys up and down dunes the size of mountains and my 1h trip was absolutely amazing, better than some rollercoasters and we had a speed of up to 90km/h along the up to 100m high dunes ;) Similar to Namibia and Australia you can also do sandboarding here.
    My hostel was also superb: super small family run by a mother and her daughter incl scrambled eggs for breakfast, hammocks, Spanish music etc for my nice budget of max 20S/roughly 5,50€ - plus, as I am travelling in low season it was almost empty apart from 2 Belgian guys so that I was upgraded from a 4 to a 2-bed dorm which I finally used on my own :)
    Before I went to the a.m. sand dunes we also visited some other places in this tour such as the town itself. Ica is also known as 'Tierra del sol enterno' as the sun is shining all year round and it is always warm. That is the reason for all buildings at Plaza de Armas being yellow, the two obelisks representing the 2 pre-Inkan cultures Nazca and Paracas. There is also a popular church and temple which have both been destroyed by a strong earthquake in 2007, a fact you can still see today.
    After that we were informed about the Pisco production, Peru's typical national drink and tasted the original as well as 7 other flavours (2 red, 2 white ones, Pisco Sour, 2 cream ones). The typical Pisco is btw only cultivated in the 5 regions Arequipa, Ica, Lima, Quitos and Trujillo. Ui, tasting 45% alcohol in the heat of 38* around 2:30pm was maybe not the best idea for me being such a small tiny, not really alcohol consuming person but strangely enough my stomach felt better afterwards, it must have killed everything :P
    We then went to a Panaderia to taste local sweets and pastries before visiting the 'Parque de las Brujas' (witches park) in the only 15-20 people village Cachiche listening to interesting witches stories and seeing palm trees shaped as animals. There you will also find the 400y old 'Palma de 7 cabezas' (7 headed palm tree) which can otherwise only be seen in North Africa.
    And then we were already in the oasis and a.m. adventure - it was really good, the only thing to complain about is all the plastic garbage - Peru is already trying to improve that with waste separation, bins and signs but is still at the beginning.

    Sa, 08.04. Ica & Paracas/Islas Ballestas
    After a delicious egg breakfast I continued to Paracas in the morning, now being like Lima at sea level. Paracas is a super sweet small village directly located at the sea, its main income is fishing + tourism and it is especially known for the 'Islas Ballestas' - an island group often also called 'The Poor Man's Galapagos'.
    It is an island group roughly 20m by boat from Paracas in the Pacific Ocean and home to thousands of birds such as pelicans and Inka terns as well as mammals such as penguins, sea lions, dolphins. Fortunately, the islands are protected, you are not supposed to walk or swim there.
    This being said I had a lot of luck on my morning tour: after 5m already there were 10-12 dolphins swimming right next to us, we then saw a lot of sea lions jumping out of the water, dozens of pelicans and passed the peninsula with the 300m big cacteen drawn into the desert sand, similar to the Nazca lines and Paracas' landmark. The islands and rock formations were incredible, I have seldomly seen such an awesome natural spectacle with so unbelievably many birds and sea life - there were so many of them you could hardly see the rocks and we even saw a lot of baby sea lions, such an incredible experience :)))
    After that we continued from the harbour to the national park 'Reserva Nacional' through incredibly big and high stone dunes. There we first saw the 'Playa Roja' (Red Beach), then 'Playa Lagunilla' as well as 'Playa La Mina' - super beautiful beaches and landscapes and at the last one we could also finally say 'Vamos - a la playa' and spent almost 1,5h swimming and relaxing there ;)

    So, 09.04. Paracas & Lima
    As Paracas is such a small village or rather a bay there are unfortunately not many bus companies. However, the usually really expensive but biggest, most known and quite popular amongst both tourists and backpackers company 'Cruz del Sur' had a super good offer for only 36S which was even the same price than the local Peru Bus so I decided to take the luxus variant this time for the 4h bus ride to Peru's capital Lima. Well, the seats are a bit wider and more comfortable, the blanket is thicker (but also needed with these fridge temperatures) and there is even a TV on every seat incl headphones - which doesn't help a lot when the person in front of you is in a 180* position and they also weren't punctual - so I could not really understand the hype and dearer prices of this company, especially as the buses in Peru are in general very good. Concerning the landscape there were yellow sand mountains on the East and dunes with sea view on the West.
    In Lima itself I stayed 4-5h at the bus terminal before heading further north into the trekking heaven and thus high mountain area Huaraz; I am anyway not that interested in the capital and might be able to still meet Benjamin on the way back (the upper north is unfortunately still blocked and I might have to fly from Lima). Moreover, 'Semana Santa', the Holy Easter Week would start which would certainly unfortunately result in higher prices everywhere plus I was hopefully not yet declimatised ;)
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