Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Thursday, February 04, 2010

National Marine Sanctuary, Paracas, Peru

The tour started at 7.30 AM and Galinna, our guide was on time as usual. Happy as always, she had her driver take us to the center of town and we had breakfast at a local stall. Not much to choose from but the freshly squeezed orange Juice and a pressed cheese sandwich did us just fine. The town of Paracas just woke up, too. It being a Monday the trash was especially heavy from last Sunday night celebrations. Not a special Celebration, mind you, but a ton of trash on the ground, in the ocean, in the few flowerbeds, basically strewn all over. We saw it Sunday when we visited the “Party” on the boardwalk. On Sunday night the noise level was huge. The party was on with the music blaring, the paper cups strewn and the beer flowing freely. We left the beach area on Sunday in a hurry, for folks like us downtown Paracas, the little it is, was just in bad taste. We ate Sunday night at a recommended place and the food was fair. Best in town, it was said. Well, it was the best we could do.
Today, Monday the clean up was on and the boat to the Marine Park, a biological Sanctuary for marine animals, and a National Park of Peru was well organized. A lot of people showed up, I did not know that so many tourists were about. My guess would be about 400 people total. We stood in queue to get in rather smallish boats. 20 people to a boat the loading was a bit chaotic but we finally left.
First stop was the Candelabra, a huge figure dug into the sand on the side of a hill, facing the Ocean, marking what ? Nobody knows who carved this sign into the sand but speculation runs from a marker by an early statesman to mark the territory, to a sign carved by Pirates who used the harbor of Paracas as a hiding place, to a sign of a lost treasure map, etc. Nobody knows but the ideas run wild.

A bit farther after running the boat full speed across the wavy ocean, we arrived at the group of Islands that now house the Marine animal reserve. The Ballestas Islands are small, some even tiny and are covered in wildlife. Tens of thousands of birds and animals use these bits of rocks as a sanctuary. Sea lions, just finished having their baby cubs, now in the mating season are using every beach available. Penguins are walking about this far north as if they too, were on vacation from the cold in Antarctica. We saw cormorants, flocks of sea gulls, and so many different avian species that I cannot list them all. On the way back in, we saw 3 or 4 dolphins diving through the waves. This visit was very impressive, full of life, a good adventure in a small boat on the ocean. I liked what I saw, it was very educational. We took too many pictures but it was fun. The bird droppings, Guano, are now only collected every 5 years. Years ago they were literally hundreds of yards thick. Guano is an excellent fertilizer and wanted by most professional gardeners. Even today, after just 5 years the Guano is knee deep all over the rocks.
When we returned to town we had a trip booked to the National Reserve of Paracus, recommended as an addition to the Marine trip and we just waited with a cup of Matte de Coca until the next trip started. We were passed on to Carlos, our guide for the next 4 or so hours. We left in a small bus built in the 1960’s. The engine ran well but that is about it. Just outside of the town of Paracas is desert. There is nothing in this desert. No plant life. Nothing! I have a dilemma here, I find it difficult to describe nothing. The temperature climbed into the 90’s during the day but cooler breezes off the ocean helped. Yes, it can get hotter. There is no humidity. This is the driest desert of the world. The only road through this desert was built using clay and salt. Since it never rains, the salt works as a great binder and makes the clay hard. Paracas mean ‘Sand Storm” and yes, swirling hot winds create sand devils visible for miles. The mix of flat nothing to hilly nothing to mountainous nothing is startling. I am not used to this much nothing, I took some pictures yet it was hard to find anything to take a picture of.
Along the coastline the recent earthquake of 2007, 7.6 on the Richter scale, shook some huge blocks off the land and what was a formation called The Cathedral is now just a pile of rubble. Immediately at the line of ocean and land the winds are fierce. Condors come to visit, I am told, to vacation here and eat the placentas of the sea lions and the carcasses of the baby seals that did not make it. I did not see a condor, however. We walked around like tourists, herded by Carlos and the sand blew into the bus. Very fine it irritates the mucus of the nose, the throat and I am sure you digest it, too. Carol has a cough; which makes me wonder of the people that live here have silicosis. This area is rough on ones system.
We stopped for 1 hour lunch at a former fishing town which lives exclusively off tourists now. A hustle place where even going to the bathroom costs you -.50 soles and you get 3 leaves of toilet paper. Hand washing is a bottle filled with water, the sink has no faucets. Don’t ask me where the residue goes. I don’t want to go there. This town is immediately next to a small cove on a beach and everybody is encouraged to take a dip in the water. Young people sunbathed, many went for a swim, and little kids played in the sand. Carol and I sat in a shady spot and waited it out. No lunch, no swim, no ice cream; all to the amazement of the hustlers that tried to sell us everything.
We got back to town, paid our invoice at the hostel, picked up our luggage and got a ride to the bus depot; we are now off to Ica. Good bye Paracas, it was a stopover but not a place I would recommend except to see the Marine Sanctuary.

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