Published: April 28th 2006April 14th 2006
Stayed at San Isidro Hostel - very good place, swimming pool, friendly staff, TV and HOT showers!
Dropped off at the Pan American junction whis must be why they call it Cruces Pisco - literally in the middle of no where! There was a bit of confusion at the stop - cause I was like "THIS IS IT"? Mean while the line of those waiting to get on was getting longer by the second. I was assured by a passenger that this indeed was Pisco so I hesitantly deboarded the bus and asked for our bags, then had to run to the otherside of the bus to get them which is basically in the middle of the road. Sean thought I vanished for a bit - my arguement is that if he'd study his Spanish he would have know what was happening... just kidding.
Paying respects to Dracula´s third bride: Paracas and Pisco
Date: 9 April Monday
(Sean guest writing...) The Peruvian election concluded on Sunday - nobody won - so we figured Monday was a good day to explore beyond Lima and see a bit more of Peru, taking a bus to the port of Pisco, a
stopping off point for the Paracas national reserve.
That meant taking a bus a few hours south down the Trans-American highway. The landscape along this stretch of highway is quite remarkable - basically huge desert dunes or stretches of bare rock, all right next to a brilliant blue ocean. There are occasional oases where rivers flow to the sea where there are cultivated fields, but these don´t last long. Occasional primary-coloured advertising billboards next to the highway look like they have been randomly teleported onto Mars.
But there is no lack of people - whole settlements of crude, home-built houses or lonely single shacks almost all the way along the highway, until you wonder at the optimism of people thinking this arid sliver of the planet is a promising place to live. Esther was a little shocked at some of the sights we saw - and a little more shocked when we got off at the stop for Pisco, which was basically nowhere along the highway, just a few shacks. Turns out you get a taxi into the town proper, which we promptly did once we worked out where our bags had gone (the bus unloads luggages on the other
Pisco itself was a little smashed in as well at first sight - but there were signs of comparative prosperity - most of the roofs have metal prongs extending out of the rooftop concrete, which I think basically makes it easier to retro-fit another floor once you have the money. The town centre also turned out to have a beautiful church and municipal building I think was the town hall.
We stayed at the San Isidro hostel which was very civilised and the staff very helpful - there was even a little swimming pool! After a sunset stroll around the town we relaxed with a beer there - I thought I saw a weird multi-armed creature in a palm tree outside, but with the aid of our laser pointer was able to ascertain it was only some discoloured fronds blowing in the evening wind.
The next morning (Tuesday) came our trip to the Paracas reserve, with some fellow tourists, including a Welsh girl and English guy - with stories of being tear-gassed in Ecuador - a couple of UK guys who have been travelling all the way down the Americas from Canada on and a German called Britta who
has been spending the last few months studying monkeys deep in the Amazon basin.
The first part of the trip was a boat ride to the Ballestas Islands - which are basically big hunks of guano with many thousands of nesting birds and sealions. We were warned in advance about being dive-bombed as our boat approached - I even bought a hat on that basis - but we were unmolested. Saw and heard some remarkable things - the sealions had a whole chorus going on. Some abandoned guano-mining facilities also, at least I think they were abandoned. Would not have been a fun job.
On the way we passed an enigmatic three-pronged desert etching on the mainland called the ´Candelabro´. This may be prehistoric, along the same lines as the Nazca Lines we were to see in a few days, but it also might have been drawn as a sign to later English and French mariners or it may even be a giant Masonic symbol - General San Martin the liberator of Peru being a mason, sort of putting a claim on the land? Spooky stuff.
In the PM came our trip to the Paracas reserve itself. When you imagine
a reserve you might think of trees, plants, animals, that sort of thing, but it is basically the complete opposite. It is a peninsula of beautiful, bleak desert with a steady wind blowing across it, a desert on the sea. This was great except for the fact we spent almost all our money on my new hat so we were a little dehydrated by the time we came to the Cathedral, a great stone arch on the water. There were new cracks in the rock on the cliff we observed it from, so it may not be there in its present shape too much longer.
We stopped for a rest and luckily were able to afford some coke and chips to keep us going a little longer. Esther gave me a hard time about buying a whole ´litro´ of drink but there are times, like being in the driest place on Earth, when you have to be extravagant. Being back in Pisco seemed a hundred times more domestic and friendly compared to the Paracas reserve, Went to an internet centre to check on an Amazon order (I keep trying to get birthday presents for someone and it keeps going wrong)
Paracas National Park entrance
they have a look out point where you can glimse birds on the beach but it's forbidden to walk beyond the vista point
and then realised I didn´t have my cash card with me anymore. Instant panic - Esther said she got palpitations - and we ran across the square to the bank where we withdrew some Sols earlier. It´s because they give you the receipt before they give you your card back in foreign parts (in UK it´s the opposite so once you get the card back you´re on your way) - I already lost my credit card in California that way. Anyway, the bank manager had it waiting for us wrapped in piece of paper. Phew... We were about done for the afternoon after that.
Later we had drinks with Britta, hearing stories about life in eastern Peru - five days down water from the nearest big town. No creature in the fronds that night, which was reassuring. A week into our trip we also managed to get some laundry done - on the house! We felt guilty giving them half a ton of the stuff.
Wednesday was a relaxing morning ambling through Pisco centre, looking at some remarkable photos of Peruvian customs in a beautiful but semi-derelict cultural centre with pigeons flying around inside it. When I signed my nationality
as UK in the visitor´s book the woman attendant said something in Spanish about Dracula - I thought at first she was saying I looked like Dracula, which is a bit of a low blow. It´s true my tanning is going slow, but still... Then she mentioned something about an English woman called Sarah Ellen. We got the bottom of it later via a Google search: basically the third bride of Dracula, an English woman from Blackburn called Sarah Ellen is reputed buried here because nobody else would have her, knowing of her vampiric nature. Back in 1993, on the 80th anniversary of her death, there was mass hysteria here as it was thought she would rise from her grave. See the story here: langston.com
But she has yet to rise, so instead in the popular imagination has switched to the side of the angels, and the grave is festooned with flowers and stickered laudations as people seek miracles from her. We visited the tomb in Pisco´s pretty graveyard, shown around by a friendly attendant. Many other foreigners have ended up here over the years - I found a Chinese name within a minute of looking around - but
cracked Earth from the latest
tremor in the area which meant we couldn't enter the catedral down below as of about 10 days prior to our visit - muy peligroso
it is this one that has seized hold of Pisco´s collective mind. What that says about England´s image abroad I´m not sure.
Then we got a bus further down the coast to Ica, and then onto the remarkable dune oasis of Huacachina. For more on that, read on...
There are more photos below