Paracas Peru – well worth a couple of nights!
Paracas Peru is one of them places that a lot of people skip when travelling in Peru, well don’t! It is fair to say that there isn’t much there at all, but what is here is quite phenomenal! Desert blows over lands with mysterious cultures and into the rich pacific ocean that is teeming with bird and marine life, and just offshore Peru’s very own mini Galapagos, the Islas Ballestas.
Paracas Peru and the Alien Skulls!
So the first really interesting thing about this place is the Paracas civilisation that lived here around 3000 years ago! That’s a long time but their remains were unearthed back in 1928 and caused some crazy theories to be thrown out there, like ALIENS! The skulls of the people are way different to ours, elongated, and alien looking. The theory widely used is the Paracas were cranial manipulators, shaping the skull at a young age, forcing it to grow in a particular way and shape. This theory is mostly based on historical data collected from other civilisations, but there is people who think otherwise!
Recently there was an article on the net saying that initial DNA testing of some Paracas skeletons had revealed that the DNA is not normal. Well that is a statement, the DNA does not belong to the same evolutionary path as humans! That is crazy! Check out the yahoo link, click here!
The Desert Coast
Get on ya bike and ride – or an ATV/quad bike if you’re a bit lazy. This is how you can escape into the unforgiving orange wilderness of the Paracas Peninsula. The peninsula is located within the Paracas National Reservation, a huge park of 335,000 hectares, and covering ocean, coastal areas and tropical desert. The Paracas Peninsula offers beautiful views, a very well put together interpretation centre and a lot of wildlife, especially sea birds. There is a large colony of Flamingos in front of the centre, but a tip is take some binoculars, sometimes you can’t get close, especially at low tide.
I took the bicycle route, but be warned, doing this with a hangover is not good! I was not in the best of shape and actually just made it to the ranger station to use his bathroom, I was sick as a pig! Anyway, after getting the remaining mojitos out of my system I enjoyed the rolling waves and seabirds under the blue sky. I cycled on to the small village of Lagunillas too, it is simply half a dozen restaurants and the many fishing boats that bring the fresh fish in every day. I hung out here watching the many pelicans hanging around for any scraps from the tourists plates. I was also shocked too by the amount of dead animals as I pushed my bike along the shingle beach, there was many sea birds and also sea lions. I never had anyone to ask but I assume they were on the wrong end of an annoyed fisherman’s poisoned bait. The fishermen see the Sea Lions as a pest, taking easy pickings from their nets but damaging them at the same time. A sad conflict where there is only one loser, the sea-lion.
In fitter circumstances I would have cycled to a couple more lookouts but in my fragile situation it was not possible, I will learn one day!
The Islas Ballestas
A must see here in Paracas, inexpensive and an outstanding opportunity to see more birds than you will ever see in your life. It is an explosion of life on just a few islands out in the Pacific, and just 20 minutes boat ride from the mainland. I headed out on the 8am trip, one of two choices, the other at 10am. It was a good time too.
The boats are really good, I was quietly surprised, and with some big ass engines they can cruise at quite a speed, no hanging in choppy waters. The first stop is the dock where thousands of Pelicans hang out, I have never seen so many, and apparently in breeding season there is even more. Awesome sight.
A short distance along the coast was another of Paracas’s mysteries, the Paracas Candelabra. This is a 595 feet tall geoglyph etched into the desert hillside thousands of years ago. Again there is no one answer to who put it there or even of what it is. To the average person it does look like a candlestick but other suggestions consist of a trident, the hallucinogenic plant Jimson Weed, or even simply a sign to sailors, it can be seen up to 12 miles out to sea.
From the coastline of the Paracas Peninsula we sped out to the Islas Ballestas themselves and we were greeted by the squarking of many kinds of birds, going about their daily lives on the rocky home. The Ballestas was once a big money machine for the fertiliser industry, the bird guano, or poop, was in such large quantities here that it was collected in its tonnes and shipped around the globe. Now the guano, as it did for thousands of years, builds up once again and the Islas Ballestas is a protected place. There is also lots of sea lions here too, but again in pupping season the numbers swell and swell. I loved seeing the small hum bolt penguins too, awkwardly, but at the same time impressively climbing the steep and jagged rocks form the sea to their high perched nests.
We slowly motored around the islands, our well spoken guide filling us in on what we were seeing, including impressive natural arches and the remnants of the guano business that existed. The sea lions were all in lazy mode and we also spotted really strange-looking star fish, the guide said they were called Sun Fish, they did just look like the shape of the sun!
Why 8am was a good time to go? Well we were treated to the mass exodus from the island of hundreds of thousands of sea birds going off fishing. It was a sight that I couldn’t believe. Cormorants and Blue Footed Boobies were making up the majority. In wave after wave they left the high island slopes and slowly descended to a few metres above the ocean, flying in formations making an endless zig zag shape across the ocean’s surface.
This was at the end of our time at the island so we motored alongside the birds in flight. Seeing birds alongside the boat, in full flight mode too was brilliant, and so good for a photo. There was so many!
I thought the treat was over when we changed direction and headed back to Paracas but there was one last treat in stall for us – Dolphins. The dolphins are a regular sight, always hanging 100m or so off the coast, used to the boats too so they come and play. They were in their tens at least, and the young ones were jumping for joy. Definitely a gotta-do thing here in Paracas Peru!
The Facts and Figures – Paracas Peru
- Where to Stay: I stayed at Kokopelli Backpackers – check out my review (coming soon).
- Paracas Peninsula by Bicycle: I hired through Kokopelli – around S/.25
- Paracas Peninsula by Quad Bike: A fun alternative to muscle power – S/.40-50
- Paracas Peninsula Park Fees: S/.10 (buy a combined Islas Ballestas ticket S/.15)
- Isla Ballestas Tour Company: Pisco Travel (www.pisco-travel.com)
- Isla Ballestas Cost: S/.35 +S/.4 port fee (booked through Kokapelli)
- Isla Ballestas Park Fees: S/.10 (buy a combined Paracas Peninsula ticket S/.15)