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October 26th 2009
Published: October 31st 2009
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Pisco - 7:00am

I am still struggling to get a solid night´s sleep over here - I´m not sure if it´s all the noise (car horns beeping, dogs barking, roosters crowing, etc - or if it´s to do with having a heightened alertness to ensure that I respond quickly to situations of attempted kidnapping, theft or earthquake.

It´s about 7:30am when most of the group board a bus to take us to a little port town where we will then board a boat to take us to the Ballestas Islands - those staying behind have been or will go to the Galapagos.

The Ballestas Islands are a group of three islands that have an abundance of wildlife, mostly birds, and an absence of humans due to the lack of their being any fresh water as there is very little rain here (vegetation as a result is also absent).

We take a high speed boat out to the islands which ensured some chilly wind blasts and splatterings of very cold water! Along the way, we spot several dolphins - one was right beside the side of the boat where I was which was awesome to see up close. There was also sea lions and an array of birds either heading out from or returning to the islands.

One bird, whose name I can´t remember, had flocks of all numbers flying in unison in a single line - when one would rise to avoid a wave, the rest would follow like dominos, even if the wave was of no threat to them.

Before we reach the ´Bird Islands´, we pause our trip to gaze upon what looks like and has been dubbed ´Él Candelabro´ (The Candelabra) - a massive carving in the side of the island´s mountain which is approximately 300 meteres high and 70 metres wide - very similar to the lines and pictograms in Nazca. There is no understanding of how or why the image was done nor when as no other artifacts have been found near the site that could be used to date the image. Also, as there is no rain and very little erosion, the image has only been minimally impacted upon by erosion.

The first thing I take in when reaching the Bird Island is the smell; that and the sound of the many, many birds here. The compounding guano is evidenced all over the place and we are warned when looking up, not to have our mouths open - stains from past incidnets can be seen on the tour guide´s spray jacket.

Aside from the birds, penguins and sea lions also call this place home with the species sharing common areas but they also have their own areas - like the sea lion cave and beach.

The photos (will) speak for themselves but to see an entire hillside black from the concentration of the birds was surreal- the birds circling overhed reminded me of the Alfred Hitchcock film ´Birds´, an aptly titled film.

However, my favourite animal was a young sea lion that struggled several times to get onto the rocks with the rest of the family, slipping back into the water a few times - clumsy, like me!

On returning to the ésplanade´- a collection of cafe´s, restaurants and street vendors - I was delighted to see a bano (toilet) as I had been holding on about two minutes into the trip which was hard what with the cold air and all!

Again, I was asked to pay to use the facility but with only a S./100 note, the toilet nazi let me in, much to me relief.

Before leaving the small seaside village, we came upon one of the many strays in the area. He was almost furless but for a small tuft of fur on the tip of his tail and some strands on his face and he was very skinny. Taking pity on the poor mangey mutt, I gave him a biscuit and some of the cake I had bought which he devoured quicker than any other dog I´ve known. The others in our group also fed him some scraps so that he was at least able to have energy to beg for food again.

On the bus to Nasca, feeling quite pleased with myself that I had a poor animal, I suddenly realised, the cake I fed him contained chocolate. Dog´s can´t digest chocolate?! Let´s hope that he´s OK or at least, he went quickly and no longer has to rely on scrummaging food from bins or begging from tourists - RIP, Mangey.

Our next stopover en route to Nasca is a small town called Huaccachina (Whack-a-cheena) - an oasis in the literal sense being a lake/pond in the desert.

Here we will have lunch but first, we are all going on a Mad Max looking dune buggy, able to sit all 9 of us in (plus the driver).

The sensation of going up and down the sand dunes, some were VERY steep, can be likened to a roller coaster. Without rails/tracks and with sand flying at your face constantly.

Zooming around in an open vehicle in the middle of the desert was in stark contrast the being in a speed boat, zooming across the ocean with a very cold wind blasting in your face only hours before. Except for the zooming part of course!

We stop atop a dune for a photo opportunity and are joined by another, smaller, buggey containing two fellow tourists. The two lads take our group photo and we thiers and they inform us that they are going sand boarding down the dunes. We soon discover that we too will be sliding down the hot sand on a waxed up board, similar to a skate board, only bigger.

Further along, we stop at the peak of a small dune and are told that this will be the first of our sand boarding locations. Lying flat on our stomachs, elbows tucked in with legs up and out, we´re pushed down the slope. Second last to go, I´m excited and confident that I can do this, no worries. After all, 6 other had gone before me so I could see how it was done and none of them had any issues....

Ten metres or so down, following inspection of the video replay (thanks Kath), I attempt to steer by shifting my body weight to the left and in the process, dig my left shoe into the sand, turning the board sideways which dug into the sand, causing the board to flip in spectacular form, rolling several times which was enough to ensure those watching were laughing. A lot. At me.

Trudging up the dune from where I stopped to retrieve my board, I realise that, thanks to my air vented pants, I have sand everywhere. EVERYWHERE people! I am also covered in sand where the recent application of sunscreen has allowed the sand to stick to my face, neck and arms. Further reason for me to be laughed at but I can see the funny side and laugh as well.

I make up for my sensational failure on the second run - such was this achievement, it can be compared to the sporting success of the Maykaybe Diva trifecta, Australia winning the America´s Cup back in ´82/3 (?) or more commonly accepted, the Steven Bradbury Gold Medal win.

Megan, haiving lost her hat on the way down, shouted up to me to please pick it up. Wanting to make the previous run obsolete, I knew what had to be done - but could I do it with so much to gain, and to lose?

Tears of joy well in my eyes at the recollection of the moment, arm outstretched, hurtling towards a black speck in the sea of sand, right arm outstretched with only my left thum and forefinger securing me to the board and with timing and precision of a leopard, I snatched the cap from the sand, lifting it in the air as I continued my descent down the hill, where I would be welcomed like a champion.

Cheers and applause filled the normally silent desert air as I stood tall (figuratively) and returned the cap to Megan - I was redeemed!!

Ihave this on video Mark and Col (and any other doubters) - I know what you´re thinking, "exaggerated story". Wait and see...

Returning to the oasis for lunch and a drink to rinse the sand out from my mouth, I migrate towards the swimming pool in an attempt to rinse all of the sand off me. The pool was so full of chlorine, that I couldn´t open my eyes underwater without them burning - I guess that´s better than untreated water!

Nearing Nazca, we stop along the highway and ascend a metal tower, similar in apperance to an oil tower in Texas, to take a close look at the Naza lines. Because of their size, we can only see two of the many images this close but tomrrow we´ll see them from the air!


1st November 2009

sand dunes....
hahahah i cannot wait to see that video!!! hope you're having fun - stay safe xx

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