The last day the group was together was our last day in Cusco. Brenan's friend Julia had to leave early from Cusco and fly back to DC. When we flew from Cusco to Lima we lost the Queen's sister and brother-in-law and their daughter. They decided to stay in Lima for an extra three days instead of coming with the rest to Paracas for four days. Brenan decided to spend his last day in Lima with them before he flew home.
Paracas is a small beach town about 3 ½ half hours south of Lima along he coast. It has become a major tourist destination with a couple of new 4 and 5 star hotels built since 2009.
We were met at the airport by Martin who had a very nice van for over 3+ hour drive to Paracas. We had managed to gather lots of snacks and water for the drive.
Pan American Highway
We did manage to have a flat tire about 2 ½ hours into the trip. Martin changed the tire with his backside hanging out into the Pan American Highway.
Hotel San Agustin
We had picked the hotel by using Trip Advisor and had no idea what to expect. The only criteria that were voiced by some members of the group were that it was nice, was on the beach and was quiet. The hotel met all the requirements. All the rooms faced the sea.
The sunsets were beautiful.
The pool was very long but it always had lots of birds and lots of bird doo-doo.
The restaurant was right at the pool and the food was OK.
We were a short walk from the El Chaco - the new boardwalk where we could find lots of restaurants and loads of souvenir shops. We were off season so there was virtually no one here. I would imagine it could get very crowded in season. This is the first sign you see at the start of El Chaco. The Fisher family added something to the sign.
I would suspect that the lowest bidder did the sidewalk.
This area I guess is subject to Tsunamis. The sign translates as Threat Zone.
This was a five layer cake like thing for sale on the beach. I had to try it and it was awful.
The town had lots of stray dogs or at least dogs that spent a lot of time outside.
Food in Paracas
Pukasonocco Arte y Ristorante: We found this restaurant as some of us wandered around the first day. It was not on the beach so we assumed it would be less touristy. It was ranked #6 of 63 restaurants in Paracas. It was run by an artist and his family. The art was displayed everywhere. The art was not very good but the food was excellent - mostly vegetarian.
El Arizal: This restaurant was located on the El Chaco and we selected it because the Queen's nephew made friends with the waitresses that try to get people to come in. It was ranked #13 of 63 in the town. We had a great time. The staff was fantastic and we danced with them and even took menus and went out on the boardwalk and tried to get people to come in. The food was better than the first night and that was very good!!!! We actually went back to eat on our last night and the staff remembered us.
Punto Paracas: We just had lunch here after coming back from sightseeing one day. We just had some pizza because that is all we wanted. It was not very good. Located on the boardwalk this restaurant was rated #35 of 63.
Johnny and Jennifer: The Queen's brother and nephew ate here. It was next to the one we ate at after returning from sightseeing. Rated #49 of 63 and they could see why. Service was poor and food was awful!!!
Fruzion: This was rated #5 of 63 places in the town. We did not eat there since we had a late lunch after sightseeing but we did go for smoothies and they were very very good.
Paracas National Reserve and Peninsula
This park is the only marine reserve in the country and is a UN World Heritage Site. It is pretty much all desert and covers over 800,000 acres.
The Paracas culture was an Andean society existing between approximately 800 BCE and 100 BCE, with an extensive knowledge of irrigation and water management and that made significant
contributions in the textile arts.
La Catedral arch is a massive rock formation off the coast which was unfortunately destroyed in the devastating 2007 earthquake, but it's still a beautiful sight to see.
Playa Roja is a red sand beach, which is a product of the erosion of porphyry rocks found in the hills of the Paracas Peninsula.
Ballestas Islands of Little Galapagos
The boat ride to the Ballestas Islands leaves from a dock next to our hotel. Although this is not the crowded season there are constant boats leaving for the two hour trip.
We were told to take some warm clothing since we would be getting wet and it would be windy and the boat could rock and roll on the way back.
One of the first sites you see on the land from the boat is a giant geoglyph about 150 feet tall. The origin of the geoglyph is not known but there are lots of theories. It resembles the Nazca lines that are seen from the sky that are located on land south of where we are. They were done between 500 BCE and 500. Although many people have studied them no one has come up with the reason behind them. There are over 70 Nazca lines in Peru.
The islands have many seals and sea lions who live on them.
We rode around the islands..
There are also tons of birds of all different kinds including penguins who come on the Humboldt Current. We did not see any penguins as it was not the migrating season for them.
The islands are covered with a thick layer of guano, or bird excrement, which Peru harvests every seven years as lucrative fertilizer. It is highly effective due to its rich nitrogen content, 20 times more than in cow manure.
The islands were 100 feet taller before 10 million tons of guano had been dug off in the last 30 years.
There were no bathrooms on the boat and in the photo I caught Matt peeing in the boat.
This is the view of our hotel from the boat at the end of the trip.
Dune Buggy Rides/Boarding in Huacachina
About two hours south of Paracas is Huacachina a quaint, quiet and cute oasis of with a lagoon and backdrop of amazing sand dunes anywhere you turn to look.
This is the group waiting for our dune buggy ride. We all could fit on one of them.
That is not our dine buggy but one of the local cars that were seen riding around.
This is part of the group in the buggy.
Here we are at the start of the trip in the middle of the sand dunes. They seemed to stretch on forever.
The dunes go up over 1500 feet and we were riding up and down them at some pretty fast speeds and left the ground at times.
At one point we stopped and we were each given snow boards. They were pretty primitive and there were not straps to hold your feet on - just some Velcro ones. We were told that we would go down two levels and the driver of the dune buggy would meet us at the bottom. We went down the first one and decided it was so much fun some of us climbed up to do it again.
The Queen's brother had a nasty fall on his second ride and one collar bone was sticking out of his shoulder. He had broken his collar bone.
The ride back in the dune buggy was very painful for him and we bounced up and down the dunes for 20 minutes. We then got in the van and proceeded to the town of Ica we had come through to go to the hospital there. Only one person could go in and elected the Queen's nephew's wife who was a nurse although she could not speak Spanish. She kept texting us saying they wanted to operate but she would not allow it since it was the dirtiest hospital she had ever seen with bloody sheets and people moaning and bleeding the emergency room area. Peter, the Queen's brother came out with a sling and lots of meds for the pain and we headed back to Paracas. Obviously he needed to go to a doctor in Lima the next day when we left or leave to go home for a doctor in US.
In Ica when we were there we managed to see a parade…
… and a funeral procession…