When we got off our bus in Ica we met a tour guide working for the bus company. He offered us a tour to the Ballestas islands and the Paracas national park for around €25 each. There was another girl there at the time so for the three of us together he did a deal (well, he let us think he was doing us a deal!). After that he dropped us to our hostel where he knew everyone so we knew he had to be legitimate. He was to pick us up at 6:30am to bring us Paracas where we would get our boat to the islands.
We decided to stay in Huacchina a small oasis town just outside Ica. Its so small you could do a lap of the place in 10-15 minutes. In the middle of the town is a small lagoon and surrounding the town are rolling sand dunes, hundreds of metres high. It was set up with one purpose alone. Tourism. Somebody had a bright idea to get all the ‘gringos’ to come to this small town to party and sand board. It worked and the place is full of every nationality but mainly all Israeli.
The town has a few restaurants and one in particular sells tea in a tea pot! It was the first time in South America that we didn’t get a cup of hot water with a tea bag on the side. The place happens to be owned by and English girl so there would be no excuse for bad tea really. She also sells marmite which Michelle tried. She kind of liked it but I can tell you honestly it is disgusting. The marmite discussion comes up regularly when we meet English people and I can now officially say, from my point of view, it’s horrible!
Our guide arrived on time the next morning to bring us on our tour. The Ballesteros Islands are also known as the ‘Poor Mans Galapagos’. The Galapagos tour is very expensive and some would see it as an unnecessary cost while travelling. Honestly if we had the money we would do it but it’s something you’d have to save hard for. The Ballesteros Islands are right up our street! You get to see some of the same animals and it smells just as bad too. The islands are inhabited by thousands and thousands of
birds. Their ‘poo’ is worth a fortune and seen as the best fertilizer in the world. 50kgs of guano is worth $100. They only collect the guano every 10 years and the government control it so as nobody steals it. On guy lives on the island for two months, on his own, guarding sh*t, until the next guy comes!
The islands were very good and we got to see lots of Seal Lions, penguins, giant crabs and star fish. There were lots of different type’s of birds too including Pelicans and we even saw a Vulture. We stayed there for 40 mins before returning back to Paracas. Here we met our guide again and he took us on a tour of the national park. At the end of the tour he took us to a sea food restaurant right beside where the fisherman were bringing in their catch. As we were on the pacific ocean they had a wide variety of fish. They brought out a tray of fresh fish for us to choose from. There were Sea Bass, Crabs, Scallops and some other strange fish I’d never seen. I had a strange decision in front of me. I
had never before ordered fish because, well, I don’t like it! They had chicken but I felt obliged to eat the fish. I ordered Scallops as the came covered in parmesan cheese. Michelle ordered Sea Bass. I got a plate of about 10 scallops and I actually liked them. Maybe I could be converted! Michelle’s Sea bass was very good too. The restaurant was set right on the beach with the pacific waves crashing up on it. The view and scenery was amazing but unfortunately the had the prices to match it. It was €25 for myself and Michelle, which in this country could buy us two or three evening meals out. It was worth it though as it was a beautiful setting and the fish was straight out of the sea.
While sitting there I realised it was a day of firsts for me. First time in the Pacific Ocean and first time ordering fish. There must be something in the water! South America has been full of firsts come to think of it. Red wine, Glaciers, Sand boarding, canyon’s, the list goes on. It’s hard to believe that we have only three weeks left here. We are
already feeling sad about leaving here as it has been so good all the way through. The South Americans are really friendly and helpful, we’ve met so many people from all over the world (mainly Ireland!), made new friends, eaten new foods, seen so many different things that making a top 10 list would be impossible, although we will try! We are now starting to really look forward to New Zealand. On June 11th we arrive in Auckland. Just the other day we booked our first two nights accommodation there before picking up our campervan. We also splashed out and got the two best tickets we could to see the All Blacks v France. Peru and South America isn’t over just yet. We have one final hurdle to get over yet. The Inca Trail. Any trek we have done before was to prepare us for the Inca Trail. The second day of the Colca Canyon tour certainly did that. We are also looking forward to cheering on the ‘goys’ on Saturday and hoping Leinster and particularly ‘BOD’ win the ‘Heiner’ cup for Ireland. C’mon the goys!
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