After spending an amazing couple of weeks around the Sacred valley we had to make a decision which way to head next, did we go to Bolivia and see the amazing salt flats via lake Titicaca, or start making our way to Colombia. I know, life’s hard right? As it is getting towards winter here we based our decision on the weather so the north won. I was also struggling with the altitude so the thought of going higher made my head hurt.
We booked a slightly more expensive bus with Cruz del Sur as we had a 14 hour journey through the mountains to get to Nasca. The buses are more like getting on a flight as the security is just as tight. You also get a meal and a screen to choose your own films. This was a different class of bus than we were used to. Even though the seats recline back into a kind of bed, it was hard to sleep as the roads are so bad, still starting your journey in the mountains and ending it in the desert is pretty cool. Nasca
This was my first experience of
the desert so it was very exciting. We checking into our hostel, had a picnic breakfast and headed straight out to see the famous Nasca lines. These consist of 800 straight lines, 300 geometric figures and 70 animal and plant drawings across 500 square kilometres of desert, made sometime between 900BC and 600AD. The strangest thing is that no one really knows much about them.
The best way to appreciate them is from the sky and there are loads of tour companies offering flights in tiny planes but our budget did not stretch to that. We jumped on a bus to the mirador which is a metal tower which overlooks three of the figures, the lizard, the tree and a sort of frog. The landscape itself is impressive enough with vast open stretches of desert with rocky hills/sand dunes dotted around. It was hard to get a scale of how big the lines are from the mirador but still impressive to see some of the figures.
That night we visited the planetarium in the Nasca Lines Hotel. As well as a talk about the stars and looking through a gert big telescope, we watched a video projected onto
the dome which showed the layout of the lines and how they may be connected to the night sky. Through the telescope we could see Saturn with its rings around it and were able to take a photo of the moon close up. This was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen but other people didn’t seem quite as impressed as me. Huacachina
After a morning spent arguing with our hostel owner about whether or not being handed back our washing soaking wet was acceptable or not, we jumped on a bus to the town of Ica where we got a taxi to Huacachina. Our friend Darren had recommended going here and I’m glad he did as it was awesome. The town is essentially a resort in an oasis in the desert which is solely set up for tourists. If you are on a budget I would recommend staying in Ica as the food and accommodation is pricey. The sand dunes here are enormous, you feel a bit like Laurence of Arabia, but with dune buggies instead of camels. As we had limited time we opted out of the dune buggy/sandboarding and walked
around the dunes so that we could take pictures. We had endless amounts of fun running up and down the dunes, attempting to climb the big one (it was huge!), steve pulling me down them by my feet and trying to dodge the dune buggies as they raced each other. At times it felt like we were in the middle of the race in Star Wars. It was fun watching the buggies and the crazy things they attempt. They have a roll cage so I guess it’s safe but I was happy to pass. After getting sand in every orifice, we showered and went out for some overpriced food and a few pisco sours, my new favourite drink. Paracas
Our next stop was the town of Paracas, to visit the Islas Ballestas. These are known as the poor mans Galapogas and as we are running out of money this will have to do for now. We were not disappointed as for only 30 soles ($10) we were taken out on a two hour boat ride to see the islands. You are not allowed to go onto the islands but from the boat you can
see boobies (and yes we giggled every time), cormorants, humbolt penguins and sea-lions. The sea-lions popped up to say hello as we were sailing across the water and seemed to escort us to the islands. One inquisitive baby sea-lion came over to say hello and it looked like it got a telling off from its mum. Other people saw dolphins and at the right time of year they have whales passing as they migrate but we were not so lucky. The islands are used to harvest the bird poo called guano which is scraped off the rock and used for fertiliser. It must be worth a lot of money as it is one of Perus biggest exports.
In order to keep seasickness at bay I have discovered the wonders of Dramamine, however it completely knocks me out. Knowing this it probably wasn’t a good idea to hire bikes to go to the national park. The bikes we hired were terrible and the park is huge so we didn’t get to see a lot of it but what we did see was impressive. It is set on a peninsula with various beaches but the desert comes right down to the sea. The sand and rocks are a strange red colour, giving the impression of being on the surface of Mars. At certain times of the year there are flocks of flamingos, we saw just one, not sure what he was doing there on his own? The park has a great little museum, explaining why the area is so rich in wildlife and why it is important to protect it. This is very much needed here as the beaches are filthy and fishermen are known to use dynamite in the water, which probably explains why we didn’t see any dolphins.
The upside of the fishing Paracas means that the seafood restaurants are cheap and super fresh. We ordered an arroz con mariscos which is similar to paella but with the most amount of seafood I have ever seen on one plate. Steve ordered a soup which came with a whole crab, a huge scallop, and entire fillet of fish and mussels. It is not often that I am defeated by food but we didn’t even manage to eat half of it.
We are travelling at a pretty fast rate as we have a flight booked from Quito to Bogota so its not so easy now to keep up with our blog. Next stop Lima and the north coast.
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